When GayLynn Ribeira, an art student at Brigham Young University, heard the amazing stories of the pioneer Saints in Ghana, she knew she wanted to create their portraits for her bachelor of fine arts illustration project. In the fall of 2005, she began to pursue a way to do this. The result was a grant allowing her and three other art students—Jesse Bushnell, Emmalee Glauser Powell, and Angela Nelson—to spend May and June of 2006 in Ghana. BYU faculty member Richard Hull oversaw the project. The five gathered stories and images of not only pioneer Saints but newer members also. The wealth of information found its way onto canvas in the months following the trip and onto the walls of the B. F. Larsen Gallery at BYU in October 2007. Following is some of that artwork.
“It is good to be a member when we are at home or among people,” says Adjoa Amoa-Ampah, who is studying to become a doctor. “But a true Latter-day Saint woman can still call herself a member when she is alone. The Church is sometimes misunderstood, so it is important for me to be an example of the truth.”
“Gratitude and love emanated from him,” the artist wrote of Brother Johnson of Cape Coast. “He taught the gospel for 14 years, and over a thousand people were ready for baptism when the missionaries arrived in 1978. He is a man who consecrates his life and soul to God. He inspired me to strive to make the Christlike attributes of love and charity a part of my being.”
Named after President Gordon Bitner Hinckley, Bitner Johnson is the son of Brigham Johnson and the grandson of Joseph William Billy Johnson.
Bishop Kofi Sosu and his wife, Linda, of Kumasi strengthen their family through regular family prayer, scripture study, and family home evening.
In 1983 a poverty-stricken woman with a severely malnourished child came to Latter-day Saint doctor Emmanuel Kissi for help. Dr. Kissi had food items sent to him by the Church to treat those with malnutrition. At no charge, he gave her rice, corn, beans, and cooking oil. The woman fell down in gratitude before the doctor. Dr. Kissi raised the woman up by the hand and said, “This food has been sent to you from God. You must give all your thanks to Him.”
“It was like we found a long lost sister,” artist Angela Nelson wrote of returned missionary Emma Boateng. “She was our guide in Kumasi and still had that missionary glow about her. Emma was studying journalism, attending institute, had concerns and hopes about dating, and was trying to keep the gospel the center of her life. She was going through the same experiences as we were as young single adults.”
After his mission, Kofi wanted to return home, but his father had disowned him. He felt impressed to go anyway. When he arrived, his father saw him and said, “Stop.” So he stopped.
“Who are you?” asked his father.
“I am your son.”
“Yes, your son, Kofi.” At this he saw tears running down his father’s face. His father stood up and embraced him.
“Oh, my son, my son. I am so sorry. I know you did the right thing. I have accepted you as my son.”
William and Charlotte (members of 30 years) have grown in the gospel together through many years of hardship and joy. Through it all, they are becoming one with God and with each other. They hold hands to show their love for one another—something William learned from the couple missionaries who taught him to pray and to know that he is a child of God.
This peaceful beach has been the site of hundreds of Ghanaian baptisms.
Theodora is a third-generation Latter-day Saint in Cape Coast, thanks to the faith of her grandmother who joined the Church and taught her children and grandchildren the gospel. As a new Latter-day Saint, Theodora’s grandmother took it upon herself to sweep the meetinghouse, fetch buckets of water to scrub the floor, and make sure things were clean before church.
“When Brother and Sister Kaku invited us into their home in Cape Coast, I felt like I was walking into my own home in Utah,” wrote artist Angela Nelson. “My favorite part was after the commotion of dinner, all the children gathered around their parents with scriptures open. I will never forget being with this family and watching the children look to their parents for guidance and their parents turning to the scriptures for answers.”
Of this portrait of Hannah Bafuh, a Latter-day Saint in Kumasi, the artist said, “I tried to capture her brilliant, animated personality.”
“It was like watching a dance; they were in perfect sync with each other,” wrote Angela Nelson, describing how the Boateng family made the food staple, fufu, from the cassava root. “One would raise the pole high and bring it down with a loud thud while the other would quickly gather the cassava in a ball just in time for the other to pound it again. There is also a rhythm in their daily life, a diligence in keeping the commandments. Time here is measured in relationships, in helping friends and family, not in objects obtained. I see a steady resolve to be consistent—especially in their testimonies.”