Red Clay Tour - Airplane Yard
Hey guys, it’s been a while I posted about a trip and that’s owing to the fact that I don’t really travel much. Yesterday, I took the weekend as an opportunity to make a trip to a place I’ve heard a lot about. If you’re from around Tamale, I’m sure my cover image was a give away of the location. Anyways, we (myself and @nhaji01) went to Red Clay yesterday for a local tour.
There’s a lot of history behind the place and I’m going to try as much as I can not to bore you with details of the history, but I think it’s an important aspect of the place, so I might still chip in with the history a bit.
Red Clay is a kind of an art space established by Ibrahim Mahama, an international artist from Tamale, Northern Ghana. Ibrahim himself is a painter and sculpture artist but his perception of art is that art extends just beyond coloring and painting things. He believes there’s art in everything and Red Clay is basically a representation of his way of expressing the art in his mind.
The most popular thing you’ll hear about Red Clay is the airplanes. Well, abandoned and out of commissioned airplanes, if I’m being specific.
Ibrahim did a beautiful thing with these airplanes. He basically bought the airplanes and had them driven to Tamale, Northern Ghana. It’s not everyday you see an airplane on a road used by cars and motorbikes, so the transport of the airplanes to the site piqued the curiosity of the inhabitants of the community Red Clay is located at, so people started coming in to see what was going on at the site.
Old out-of-commissioned airplanes don’t really scream beauty though, do they? He turned these out-of-commissioned planes into classrooms for kids. It is his belief that teaching kids about art opens their mind to a dimension of thinking not very popular here - appreciation of art.
The older generation here don’t really appreciate art because they don’t understand it. So Ibrahim is using these airplanes as a classroom to expose kids to art at their very early ages. He has also left the art studio unfenced and open to the public for this same reason. If people here don’t understand art at all or value it in any way, you can imagine they’d be 100% reluctant to pay to see it like it’s done in museums.
First thing we did on the tour was take a look around the Red Clay environment or compound itself which was mostly an airplane yard. We looked around and inside and the airplanes. I haven’t been on an airplane before of been this close to one until today.
We met some students from a Senior High School around here who came with their teachers as an excursion or a school trip, so we hanged with them and enjoyed a tour of the airplane. The students were allowed into the plane in numbers of 10 per batch, so whiles we waited outside for our turn, I took it as an opportunity to take some shots around the plane.
I focused on the airplane’s door first because I noticed the tour guide opened the door in a bit of an old fashion. Not like we do with other vehicles where you insert a key and simply turn the key to unlock the door. The key for this one was bigger. The door is open already, so I’ll use what’s on the inside part of it to explain how it works. Do you see that two-way knob with the red arrow pointing in a certain direction? The door is opened by a similar two-way knob on the outside that you grab and turn in the direction of the red arrow to unlock it.
At the entrance of the plane, I can see the inside of the door on the other side.
I’ll show you a different shot that reveals what the outside of the door looks like on the other side, so maybe that’ll help you understand better. If you’ve seen or been in a plane before, you’ll find it silly that I’m trying so hard to explain what the plane’s door looks like, but I’m doing it because if I were a reader that hasn’t seen or been in one before, it’s probably one of the questions I’d have going through my mind.
There’s a stairway to climb into the plane, but I wondered if this plane always used this stairway because it didn’t look like the plane’s own staircase. It looked like it was custom made after the plane got here, because most planes I see in the movies have like a stairway that sort of comes out the door once it’s opened. I don’t know. I also just realized I forgot to ask about this during the tour.
Next thing, I paid attention to the wings and propellers. I’m not sure I should call this a propeller still, because there’s almost nothing inside it, aside evidence that it used to be a propeller. But even though you don’t see much in there, you can tell from the void left in there that a lot goes on in there when it is fully functional. This plane had short wings with large propellers, unlike another one I’ll be showing you later. The propeller on this side seemed to have only one fan but the one on the other side had two.
This was me standing between the two propellers on the other side’s wing to give you a perspective of how big those actually are.
This other plane that was standing right next to the one I just showed you had longer wings with just one small propeller. I’m sure the length of the wing and propeller sizes gave each of the planes different advantages over each other.
Last thing I looked at on the plane was the tyre. Even though the tyre was flat, it’s size could still be appreciated. I mean, I always knew the tires were big, but I never had anything to compare to. It’s about a car tyre’s average size.
I almost forgot to talk about the Air Conditions standing at the base. You probably have questions. I’m sure you can tell that this plane’s air condition doesn’t work anymore, so you can imagine how hot it must be for kid’s sitting in there to be able to learn at all. Well, after Ibrahim brought the planes, he installed these manual Air Conditions there to ventilate inside it, and also electrically wired it to provide light, and installed normal class room chairs so the kids could study inside it. You can see the high school kids we came with sitting inside with the chairs.
That was a lot of talk about the planes. Let’s talk about something different that was in the airplane yard too. This railway here was constructed from details of a railway in an image from the 80s I’ll show you later. Until today, I had never seen a railway before, and only dreamt of it if I ever made it to the parts of Ghana where trains work - in the Southern part of Ghana.
There was also a decommissioned boat which you’ll see just as you’re leaving Red Clay. There’s not much to say about the boat because there wasn’t much exploring to do on it because it didn’t have much to explore. It did give me an idea of how big those could be though because like the airplane, this was my first time seeing a boat like this.
There was a train itself, in case you were wondering how there are train tracks but no train, . By the time the tour got around to the train, it was Red Clay’s closing time so we didn’t go around there. You can see the train far behind me in the picture of the boat.
Last thing in the airplane yard we saw was the Field of golden spikes. This particular field was actually created by a different artist, not Ibrahim. The field is made of metals with spikes on the edge and flags hanging on it. Some of the spikes had circular blunt ends, whiles others were pointed.
The artist’s artistic process was inspired by the nature of houses people used to build around here (in the Northern part of Ghana) in the 80s and 90s. Houses had walls with glasses imbedded at the top of the walls for security purposes to keep thieves from scaling the walls. That was what the sharp-pointed spikes on the top of the standing metals represented. Now, people build their houses without the glasses imbedded on top of the walls, but have found other security measures to use, and that is represented by the spikes with the circular bob blunt ends. The state of the art here has declined because the art is open to all and kids are very touchy.
Almost everything there was fascinating to me because it was a completely new experience. I also have not seen train railways or an actual train before, and neither have I seen a boat of the sort I saw today. And even though they were all old and broke down, it gave me an idea of what these things really look like in person, as I’ve only seen most of them in the movies.
This is only a first part of the tour and it covers what was on the outside environment of Red Clay. I’ll be talking about the art that was on the inside and the history behind them in another post tomorrow. I’ll give you the picture below as a teaser. Thanks for your time, I hope you enjoyed this one.