August 2021 — Multi-Disciplinary
South African photographer Mpho Mokgadi and Swiss journalist Philippe Stalder will spend four weeks in Accra, Ghana in August 2021 on a research trip. The duo are developing a project investigating the trade system underpinning the Swiss chocolate industry.
Switzerland is known for its world-famous chocolate production. What is not widely publicised however, is that Ghana earns only a small percentage of the revenue from this industry despite producing a large percentage of the raw material.
During a state visit to Switzerland last year, the Ghanaian president Akufo-Addo announced that his country intends to stop selling raw materials to Europe: “Ghana no longer wants to be dependent on the production and export of raw materials, including cocoa beans. We intend to process more and more of our cocoa in our country with the aim of producing more chocolate ourselves,” he said.
Philippe and Mpho’s research project centres around the process of transformation Ghana will have to go through in order to outgrow the entrenched and historically imbalanced dynamics of this trading system. They explain that, “If properly implemented, this decision would not only have a signal effect for other African economies but would also force the Swiss chocolate industry, and thus the entire country, to rethink its relationship with the continent. The decision is therefore highly relevant both globally and nationally.”
The duo are interested in documenting this process of transformation in all its facets. “We want to accompany, portray and collaborate with actors from the Ghanaian agriculture industry as well as civil society on their way through this transformation process in order to make the lessons learned accessible to a wider audience,” they explain. During their trip they intend to connect with Maxwell Ampong, a business advisor to Ghana’s General Agricultural Workers’ Union (GAWU), and Lydia Aményaglo, a young Ghanaian entrepreneur who moved from Berlin to her grandmother’s cocoa-farm in Ghana, to start a small cocoa-processing business.
While the project is still in its formative stage, Mpho and Philippe plan to produce multimedia documentation of the protagonists in the cocoa production and transformation process. They will use photography, audio-snippets, interviews, written text and archival documentation. The duo also plan to collaborate with local artist Eric Gyamfi and his colleagues in order to better understand their perspective on the matter and to spark cultural exchange. They will also engage with farmers and share information about the Swiss chocolate consumer market. Back in Switzerland, Philippe and Mpho plan to present the project to the Swiss end consumer in the form of a freely distributed zine as well as a public exhibition in Zurich. Further plans include a possible museum exhibition and a photobook.
Mpho Mokgadi was born in Pretoria, South Africa and currently lives and works in Zurich, Switzerland. He completed the Advanced Programme in Photography at the Market Photo Workshop (MPW) Johannesburg. Since 2013, he has been featured in various online art magazines and has participated in group exhibitions at galleries and art fairs. In 2015 he collaborated with Swiss-based collectives Kunstverein Zurich and Ortreport on the research-based publication UP UP: Stories of Johannesburg’s High-rises. During a Pro Helvetia residency in Switzerland, Mpho developed the self-published photo-zine titled It’s kind of a difficult task. IN SITU was his first solo gallery exhibition at ROOM Gallery & Projects Johannesburg, and in 2017 Mpho was awarded the SA Taxi Foundation Award top 5 and was a finalist of the Absa la Atelier Art Competition. Mpho was selected for the 11th Edition for The Bamako Encounters Exhibition in Mali (2018) and in 2020 he was nominated for the Gabriele Basilico Prize for Architecture Photography.
Philippe Stalder is freelance journalist, author and podcaster based in Zurich and Berlin focussing on sociopolitical investigations and news reporting. He has worked for publications such as Tages-Anzeiger, Vice, Neue Zuger Zeitung and Limmattaler Zeitung. Philippe completed the two-year international Erasmus Mundus Master’s programme in Journalism, Media and Globalization from Aarhus University and University of Amsterdam.