The 13th Floor

The Incredibly Bizarre World of Ghana’s Horror Movie Posters

Horror movie posters from Ghana are amazing. Painted by local artists to promote roadshow screenings of bootlegged foreign movies, these totally unauthorized images have a rawness and power that the slick Hollywood promotional materials can’t touch.

In the 1980s and ’90s, “video clubs” sprung up all over the West African nation of Ghana. They screened bootlegged films from the U.S., Hong Kong, Bollywood, and Nigeria, rolling into villages towing a gas-powered generator, a TV, and a VCR.

The video clubs would hire local artists to paint promotional posters on flour bags. Designed strictly to get butts in seats, no imagery was too lurid, violent, or sensational for these placards.

Painters often changed scenes from movies, or invented new ones entirely, re-interpreting Hollywood films through the lens of visionary African folk artists.

By 2000, Ghana’s growing economy made home video technology affordable to most Ghanaians, so the video club screenings died out.

But don’t worry: Art collectors and hipster types like you and me “discovered” this strange genre of folk art. Gallery showings have been staged all over the country, giving recognition to the sometimes-unknown artists who created these amazing, vibrant images.

Original prints from the 80s and 90s can fetch up to $15,000 now. Worn posters stained by mud and dust are particularly prized, as they speak to these images’ unusual history.

Some of the original Ghanaian movie poster artists now paint bootlegged posters specifically for sale to Western art collectors. Although the original posters are more valuable than newer paintings, the artists themselves make way more money for the “fake” versions of their original bootlegs than the commissions they earned from the video clubs in the 1980s and ’90s.