Is the Rex Cinema Saved?
An open letter to Save the Rex supporters
First of all, please accept my apologies for the recent delays regarding updates for our project “Save the Rex”. I have been hard at work in fulfilling the goals you so generously supported last year. I am happy to announce we have made substantial progress in saving the Rex, but I have also encountered some important setbacks.
When I set out to reclaim the Rex Cinema in Accra as a space for the creative arts, it was in a dilapidated state, and occupied by squatters. Enquires about the Rex pointed me to its supposed caretakers.
During our initial meeting, the caretakers agreed to participate in the Save the Rex campaign. I was given permission to restore the building, and in turn I agreed to pay a rental fee to screen Kwaku Ananse, granting them a percentage of the proceeds as well.
After our successful Kickstarter campaign, I began to refurbish the Rex, painting and patching portions in serious need of repair. These were important first steps towards making the Rex the space for the creative arts all of us want it to be. The caretakers were witness of this process throughout.
Unfortunately, they misrepresented themselves as caretakers of the Rex Cinema. They turned on me as I was about to start the final round of repairs on the ceilings and bathrooms with contractors, reporting me to the Ministry of Tourism, Culture, and the Creative Arts for trespassing. It is apparent now that they have limited, if any, authority over the Rex, and took advantage of our intention to restore it. Squatters have returned to the space, setting up a Church that refuses to allow further repairs, or to share the Rex with cultural initiatives.
I am fighting this battle alone so, I am deeply sorry for this setback.
Unfortunately, things are not quite as clear-cut in Ghana as they are elsewhere. It is much easier for people to misrepresent themselves here, and harder for the affected party to sue for breach of contract. While I was aware of the difficulties, I never imagined that people would resist the renovations that are ultimately for the good of the building, much less when we were already halfway done.
This is by no means the end of our project. I am working relentlessly with the Ministry of Tourism, Culture & Creative Arts to determine who is truly responsible for the Rex so we can resume the revival and restoration effort. I made my case to the Minister that saving the Rex would be an important first step in reclaiming spaces for Ghanaian cinema and culture.
I told the Minister that it is my hope, and that of the people who supported the restoration effort, that these spaces can host workshops, Pan-African film festivals, and concerts that support unique voices from the continent.
Our everyday reality is often depicted or determined by foreigners. It is time that we embrace projects that restore our right to have a voice, and a space to present our vision of reality in Africa itself. I am fully confident that I have her support to overcome all of the existing obstacles to complete our project of saving the Rex.
Rest assured that we will overcome this unfortunate setback, and will finally see our dream of saving the Rex fully realized. I have an unfailing commitment to our cause, and will work tirelessly to see it through.
I will honor your commitment, and fulfill all of my obligations with you. All I ask is that you do not lose your faith in my saving the Rex, because its what made a difference at the beginning, and its what will see it through.
Save the Rex,
Akosua Adoma Owusu
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