Excerpt from ‘Crowds & Queens – The Art of Ablade Glover’ by Dozie Igweze
Shirley Du Bois
Shirley Du Bois was, at the time, one of the most influential people in Ghana. She was the head of the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, a close confidante of Kwame Nkrumah and the wife of the African American activist, W.E.B. Du Bois. She was intelligent, well-versed in African and African American culture and well-connected. She may have come to Ghana as the wife of the famous activist W.E.B. Du Bois, but she was no pushover.
Glover would not have known this, but many facets of Shirley Du Bois’ life experience ensured she would be open to art and ambition.
Glover walked into her office one morning and introduced himself.
‘I would like you to open my art exhibition,’ he explained to her.
She was bemused. ‘I have never met you. Why come to me?’
‘My friends at the Service all say you are the person to talk to if I want the exhibition to be successful,’ he replied truthfully.
She paused for a while. ‘I have to see your paintings before I decide,’ she said.
He agreed. ‘I can bring some of them to your office.’
‘No, no,’ she said. ‘I want to see the artworks in their natural surroundings. I’ll come to your studio and see the artworks there.’
They agreed on a date. She would come to the home of his uncle who was the Chief of La. His house was a big enough space to display all the artworks at the same time, and it was near his studio. He tried to explain how to get there. Eventually, they agreed that her driver would drive to the La police station and he would meet them there and take them to the place.
She visited as they agreed and went through the artworks. She wanted to know about the artworks and what led to their creation.
‘I like them,’ she announced. ‘I like them a lot. I would be happy to open your exhibition for you.’
The exhibition was everything he had envisaged. Du Bois came with her friends. She opened the exhibition and acquired one of the artworks. Her friends and the other collectors who came were also keen on the artworks.
‘What would you like to do after your exhibition?’ Du Bois asked. She was clearly impressed. ‘You should come work for me at Ghana Broadcasting,’
‘No, thank you,’ Glover replied. ‘I intend to do some more studying abroad, in England. That’s why I had to do this exhibition, so I can pay for the tuition.’
She was a little surprised. Most people would jump at a chance to work with her.
‘Are you sure?’ she asked.
‘Oh yes, I am… maybe when I return.’
‘Good luck,’ she said. ‘You have done a good job, and I wish you all the best.’ Then she left.
One morning, a week later, Dubois’ driver came to Glover’s home in La as he prepared for work. Mrs Du Bois wanted to see him. He was puzzled. She had collected and paid for her artwork. The driver took him to her bungalow, where she was waiting.
‘Would you like some tea?’ she asked.
He declined politely. He did not see the point in morning tea at that point in his life.
‘I have spoken to Osajefo about you,’ she informed him. ‘He will see you this morning.’
Osajefo was Kwame Nkrumah, the Prime Minister. He had taken the title of Osajefo as his native title and had become known to many Ghanaians by the title.
Glover was deeply uncomfortable with this plan to visit Osajefo. He was terrified. He had heard all the stories about Ghanaian politicians and their savagery. There were rumours about politicians killing each other and even worse, killing innocent citizens for sacrifice. Apparently, they killed people and drank their blood.
He had no way of knowing if these stories were true or not. He did not want to find out. He just wanted to be as far away from politicians as possible. But he could not tell Du Bois this. He could not say he was afraid he was going to be murdered by the prime minister. It just seemed absurd. But he had heard the stories. What would they do to him?
They drove to Flagstaff House, the Prime Minister’s residence and office. Flagstaff House was, at the time, a large bungalow that was right at the end of a long driveway manned by armed guards. They drove through a series of gates. At each gate, the guards would stop them, look into their vehicle and wave them on once they saw Du Bois.
They eventually got to Nkrumah’s office area and had to go through several offices before getting to his reception. Du Bois walked in to see Nkrumah while Glover waited nervously. She soon appeared with Nkrumah.
‘This is the boy, the young man I spoke to you about,’ she said to Nkrumah.
‘Yes, yes,’ Nkrumah stretched out his hand to Glover.
‘How are you?’
‘I’m fine, sir.’ He replied. He was not though. He was still nervous.
‘It has all been arranged’, Nkrumah said to Dubois and Glover. ‘The Secretary to the cabinet will give you a letter. Everything has been taken care of. Good luck, young man.’
He turned and walked back into his office.
Glover and Du Bois walked down a few offices to see the Secretary to the cabinet, Mr Okun.
‘Yes, I was told’, Mr Okun said to Mrs Dubois. ‘His letter is ready.’
He handed Glover an envelope.
‘Take this to the Education secretariat,’ Mr Okun told him. ‘They will attend to you.’
Du Bois offered to drop him off at the Secretariat, and they left.
As he walked into the Secretariat, he could finally breathe. He was not going to be killed. There was no sinister plan to murder him.
The head of the Secretariat read the letter.
‘Okay,’ he said finally. ‘When would you like to go?’
‘Go where?’ Glover asked.
‘The man looked confused.
‘You don’t know?’
‘Know what?’ Glover asked.
This is a letter from Osajefo granting you a full scholarship to study in the UK. Do you have a passport? When do you want to leave?’ he asked.
‘Oh, I can leave tomorrow,’ Glover replied. ‘I’m ready’.
He left the next week to the UK.