Joseph Ankrah

Joseph Neeobeng Ankrah was born in Liverpool in 1942.

Joe has been passionate about art since he can remember. At 13 years old he won a school art competition and his photograph and winning piece of art was published in the Liverpool Echo. As a Black boy, being published in the paper with a victory was a real moment for Joe and played a part in inspiring his artwork throughout his career.

Joe has always been driven by the lack of Black faces seen in our museums, galleries, and publications and strives to give them a place. In a world where it seemed like Black people didn’t exist in our culture, Joe painted them and brought them to life. This passion to shine a light on the beauty of Black people still motivates him today. Joe is versatile artist and works in many styles and mediums including oil, acrylic, pencil, pastels, ink, watercolour, and sculpture.

As a teen Joe was inspired to pursue a career in boxing after his Mum took him to the cinema and he saw a news clip during the interval about Roy Ankrah, a Ghanaian featherweight boxing contender. To Joe’s surprise, Roy Ankrah was his Uncle. Roy was nicknamed “”The Black Flash”” and “”Mr. Perpetual Motion”” because of his fast hands and crafty footwork. He was so proud to see his Uncle on the big screen he set off to become a boxer.

At 16 years old, Joe’s boxing coach recognised that he had the stamina and skills it takes to be professional boxer. However, Joe had not disclosed to his coach that he was born with a rare and complicated hole in his heart. When he underwent the pre-fight medical they discovered his condition and his dreams of being a professional boxer came to an abrupt end.

With his boxing career over, Joe found himself on the Liverpool docks being offered a job on the ship ‘Journalist’ as a crew member. Joe had the most amazing adventure of his life at sea. The ship sailed for eight months, stopping off at wonderous and exotic places such as Egypt, Mombasa, Tanga, and Sudan. It was one of the most enriching times of Joe’s life.

When Joe returned from sea he trained as a coal miner and worked in Sutton Manor coal mine for two years. Whilst working he used to sing Doo Wap songs after working in the coal mines he decided to form an all-Black male harmony group named ‘The Chants’.

On the 12th October 1962, Joe went to the Tower Ball room in New Brighton to see Little Richard and The Beatles perform. He went backstage after the performance and John Lennon introduced himself and asked if he was in a band. Joe told him that he had formed an acapella group, ‘The Chants’ and John asked him and the band to come to the Cavern the following week. Joe and John fast became friends and used to meet up for a cuppa in Liverpool city centre at a cafe near the Metquarter.

The Beatles provided musical backing for ‘The Chants’ at their first gig at the Cavern and several more. They were signed with Brian Epstein and soon embarked upon an exciting musical journey taking them to perform all over Europe. They were once invited to a civic reception at Liverpool Town Hall to join The Beatles and the Liverpool Lord Mayor and Mayoress. Joe continued to sing and form groups throughout his career and was also the founder of ‘Ofanchi’ and ‘Pyramid’.

Joe is a man of many talents and has helped countless people in the community learn to sing, create art, and how to truly express themselves. He lectured at Liverpool University teaching Black Music History for several years and remains an inspiration within the community. Joe currently lives in Liverpool with his partner Savitri.”

Exhibition 9.