October 2015

The story of ‘Akuaba’

In Kojo Antwi’s song ‘Akuaba’ he describes the beauty of a woman he’s seen – the slimness of her nose, the whiteness of her teeth, and then the best feature of all, her figure, which he compares to that of an ‘akuaba’. Now to those of you not familiar with Ghanaian culture, ‘akuaba’ is a fertility doll who’s legend and tradition is still very much a part of Ghanaian culture today.



69301-FIGUASAN_1466ALegend has it that there once lived a woman called Akua who was unable to conceive. Because Akan society is matrilineal, it is extremely important that Akan women are able to give birth, preferably female children to carry the family line. So women who are barren often find themselves ostracised in their communities. The story goes that Akua visited a fetish priest who carved her a wooden doll to carry on her back. Akua took the doll home and cared for it as she would a real baby. She was laughed at by those in her village, who referred to the doll as Akua’ba’, meaning Akua’s child. Soon Akua fell pregnant and gave birth to a girl and it is said that from then on women adopted the practice of carrying ‘akuaba’ on their backs in order to conceive.


Genuine akuaba figures are female, carved to represent the Akan ideal of beauty; a flat disc like head featuring a high oval forehead, slightly flattened in actual practice by moulding a new born infant’s cranial bones on a round stone. The rings on an akuaba’s neck represents rolls of fat, which in Akan culture is a sign of beauty, prosperity and health. Small scars are made below the eyes for medicinal purposes to protect against convulsions and a small delicate mouth is set low on the face. Akuba figures also serve as protection against deformities and even ugliness – when a woman is pregnant she’s warned against looking at anything or anyone unattractive lest it influences the features of her unborn child. Most akuaba have abstracted horizontal arms and a cylindrical torso with simple indications of breasts and navel, with the torso ending in a base rather than legs.


Though carrying akuaba on your back to conceive is not as widespread as it was in the past, the practice is still carried out in

A woman carrying 'Akuaba' on her back

A woman carrying ‘Akuaba’ on her back

some part of Ghana today. If  a woman wanted to conceive, she would visit a local shrine accompanied by a elder female family member. A carving would then be commissioned by the local priest, who would then give the doll to the woman, sometimes along with traditional medicine. The woman would then carry the doll on her back tied by cloth the way a real child would, and she would also feed and bathe the doll – by doing this she’s thought to have a better chance of having a beautiful healthy baby. Once the woman conceives and successfully gives birth, the akuaba is often returned to the shrine as a form of offering to the spirits for granting them a child. Families sometimes also keep their akuaba dolls as a memorial if the child died.

Today akuaba figures are mass produced, often used a souvenirs or decorational pieces in the home. However its symbolism is still prevalent, with parents often buying these dolls for their daughter to play with, in hopes that it will influence child-bearing in their adult lives.


By Yaa Nyarko (@yaa_fremah)

Creating Ghana’s first food bank


Food for All Ghana campaign, a food recovery organization in Ghana, along with The Matic Foundation, will be attempting to put Ghana in the Guinness World Record book as they attempt to break current world record for the longest table on UN world food day on the 17th October.


The current record of 1508m is held by Saudi Arabia and the group intends to break this record to raise awareness on the economic impact of food wastage in Ghana and also to raise funds towards the building of West Africa’s first food bank in Ghana.


The founder of Food For All Ghana, Elijah Addo states that, “Europe has over 500 food banks and America has equally over 374 food banks where the vulnerable in society gets recovered food. Considering the inefficiencies in our food supply chain, building a food bank to create sustainable means of nutrition for the vulnerable in society is the way forward.”


Ghana lost over five hundred and eighty four thousand metric tonnes of food in 2013, meaning each Ghanaian wasted more than $1 worth of food in a day. Meanwhile over 35% of Ghanaians cannot afford a plate of food in a day.


Mr Addo added, “We entreat all individuals and corporate bodies to join us in making our motherland proud as we set and dine on the  1600metres table on the Osu Oxford Street on 17th October. “
The event is supported by B&FT, YFM, YCares, Maggi, Bella, Sandra Ice Cream, Sadia and SAVE FOOD. More information on the campaign can be found here.

Heroine, Leader and Rebel – the story of Queen Nanny

Have you ever seen a $500 Jamaican dollar bill, sometimes referred to as a ‘nanny’? Well if you haven’t, there’s something pretty special about it – and that special thing is the portrait of the woman that graces it – Queen Nanny of Jamaica, the Ghanaian born rebel, Maroon leader and national heroine, famed for her struggles against the British colonial empire during the 18th century.


a $500 Jamaican dollar bill

a $500 Jamaican dollar bill

Much about what is known about Queen Nanny was passed down orally, as written sources about her are few and vague. But it is generally believed that Nanny was born in what was then the Gold Coast, and came from the Ashanti tribe. There are contradictory views on how she arrived in Jamaica – some say that her village was captured in a tribal conflict that resulted in her and some family members being brought to Jamaica as slaves. However, others believe that Nanny was of royal blood and came to Jamaica as a free woman, even bringing along slaves with her.


It is said that Nanny and her ‘brothers’ Cudjoe (a famous Maroon leader who went on to lead several slave rebellions), Johnny, Cuffy, Accompong and Quao escaped from their plantation into the surrounding mountains and jungles. Whilst in hiding they split up to organise Maroon communities – it is said that Cudjoe organised a village that became known as Cudjoe Town; Accompong settled in a community that became known as Accompong Town, and Quao and Nanny founded a village in the Blue Mountains on the Eastern (Windward) side of Jamaica, which was later named Nanny Town.


Under Nanny’s leadership, Nanny Town and the Windward Maroons that lived there thrived and multiplied, and became a

A Maroon community

A Maroon community

troublesome thorn in the British side. Due to Nanny Town’s strategic location at the top of a ridge, surprise attacks by the British was virtually impossible. A master at guerilla warfare, she trained her troops the art of camouflage and there many oral accounts where such tactics were used to defeat the British in battle.

Nanny’s cunning skills as a military leader also meant that she was also able to organise successful raids on plantations, where they freed slaves, burnt down crops and stocked up on weapons. She’s credited with having freed close to a thousand slaves during her lifetime.


Queen Nanny was not just a military leader, but a cultural and spiritual one as she played a major role in the preservation of African culture and knowledge. She was known for her Obeah powers – obeah being a form of folk magic or sorcery that contained good and bad magic, charms and luck. Combined with her knowledge of herbs and traditional healing methods, which some attribute to her Ashanti roots, Nanny rose to become the spiritual leader of the Maroons.

monument-to-nannyToday Nanny is widely regarded as the only person to have been successful in uniting the Maroons across Jamaica. During her lifetime, she was hated by the British and early historians who wrote about her did so in derogatory terms, often portraying her as savage and bloodthirsty. Some sources cite that Nanny was killed in battle in 1733 by Captain William Cuffee, however others claim that she died an old woman in the 1760s. One can find of monument dedicated to her in Moore Town, Portland, Jamaica.


By Yaa Nyarko (@yaa_fremah)

Disability, Ghana and Stigma – a documentary

As storytellers, journalists and writers in whatever sector that we’re in, it’s important that we use our awareness and talents to bring the world back to what matters and share things that can be of benefit to our society. So I want to encourage everyone –  whatever you’re holding in, let it out and tell the story.


195585-thumbI visited Ghana this year from July till end of August, motivated by a strong passion and zeal to tell the story of the plight of those disabled in Ghana. Unfortunately, the negative mentality towards those who are physically or mentally disabled in Ghana is still very prevalent at present, with negative attitudes stemming from our very own culture, historical traditions and lack of knowledge. Most of the disabled people in Ghana are not put in the forefront of society, as they’re not given the rights that they so deserve. The laws are there but many of them are not implemented.


The Disability Persons Act 715 (Ghana) was passed into law in 2006, with the 6th section stating that owners/occupiers shall make their buildings accessible and disability friendly. Yet many buildings in Ghana including shops and hospitals are not wheelchairs friendly, and does not provide easy access for the disabled. In the past, there have been reports of deaf people dying because of miscommunication – they were given the wrong prescriptions as hospitals, pharmacies and clinics didn’t have sign language interpreters on site.


Now, what is gold if the very minority are ignored by the majority due to cultural stigma?


I implore anyone reading this to watch my latest documentary shot in Ghana ‘Ghana, disability and stigma’, about disability in Ghana. In it, I speak to renowned organisations and people that work with those with disabilities and their efforts to dispel the stigma attached to being disabled and combat negative attitudes.

Please support, forward to your other contacts and share – lets raise awareness about this pertinent issue in our motherland!


By Myriam Osei (@AngelPeaceJoy)

Website: ourworldbeside.wordpress.com/

Vimeo: vimeo.com/filmsthatmatters

NEW TALENT SPOT™ – a GFDW initiative


Ghana Fashion & Design Week®, is pleased to welcome to its NEW TALENT SPOT™ initiative space for 3 budding new graduate talents; Julia Shika Odamtten (Womenswear), Radiant Jackson (Menswear) and Michael Kofi Owusu (Menswear), from Radford University College (RUC) in Ghana. Selected for their outstanding effort in creative fashion design discipline, they have completed their Bachelor of Arts Degree education this year at Radford University College.

The anticipated GFDW 2015 event to be held at the Kempinski Hotel Accra, 23 – 25 OCT, will feature the selected graduates, alongside 2014 elected Graduate Designer Afuagfdw_newtalent_afua_biney_intro Biney, who is currently in development at the space to advance their business development in the industry as they set off to becoming new creative entrepreneurs, fully supported by GFDW under its New Talent Spot™ (NTS) initiative space.

The graduates who have been under the carefully managed and capable hands of Mrs. Yvonne Ntiamoah, HOD of the Fashion Design Dept. during their time at RUC, expressed their excitement to be granted the unique opportunity for business development support at the NTS initiative space.

yvonne ntiamoahYvonne Ntiamoah says “ It is truly uplifting to see a new wave of creative talents graduating with the right skills to propel them further in their chosen career, and indeed very exciting to see that all efforts made are gradually yielding fruitful results, as we continue to move forward in creating the next generation of industry savvy fashion designers, equipped with the right knowledge of fashion as a business that can lead to a successful and fulfilling career in Ghana and Africa if approached and guided well”

Whilst Yvonne statements echoes the vision and mission at the New Talent Spot™ initiative space, GFDW also congratulates Papa Oppong, who is amongst the recent fashion graduates at RUC this year, whose creative talent was nurtured under Yvonne Ntiamoah at RUC, earning him the opportunity to be selected to join Macy’s fashion incubator in the USA for an external industry experience beyond Ghana.

GFDW 2015  event is supported by its renowned Sponsors and Media Partners including; Mercedes-Benz, Silver Star Auto Ltd. Ghana, Vogue Italia, Fashion One TV (USA) B&FT Newspaper (Ghana), ABN TV (UK), SPICE TV (Nigeria), AB2020 (UK), Neighbourhood Gong (Ghana), HauTe Fashion Africa (Online) FashionMag.com (Global Online), Business Day Ghana Newspaper, PulseGh, Time Out Accra and Raine Magazine (USA).

From Ghana with Love

Portrait of a Ghanaian woman, Eva, in London, 1960s. (James Barnor/Courtesy Autograph ABP)

Portrait of a Ghanaian woman, Eva, in London, 1960s. (James Barnor/Courtesy Autograph ABP)

In 1957, after over a century of colonization, Ghana gained independence from Britain. Just 30 years prior, in 1929, photographer James Barnor was born in the country’s capital Accra — then the Gold Coast colony — and over the course of a career that spanned more than six decades would become one of Ghana’s leading and most well-known photographers. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Barnor created a definitive portfolio of street and studio portraiture depicting societies in transition: images of a burgeoning sub-Saharan African nation moving toward independence, and a European capital city becoming a multicultural metropolis.

Jim Bailey and friends at a Drum party, Chorkor beach, Accra, 1950s. (James Barnor/Courtesy Autograph ABP)

Jim Bailey and friends at a Drum party, Chorkor beach, Accra, 1950s. (James Barnor/Courtesy Autograph ABP)

Ghana in the 1950s was experiencing a radiance of post-colonization as well as its “heyday of Highlife,” a fusion of traditional African rhythms, Latin calypso and jazz influences that would soon spread across Ghana’s borders to West Africa and beyond. Its rising cosmopolitan class in the capital of Accra was breathing energy into a multitude of areas — from fashion to food to art — and was a vivid reflection of the country’s post-independent attitude. Barnor captured all of this energy, playing at once artist, director, photographer and technician, by offering a well-rounded portrait of Ghanian life from many walks of life.

On Oct. 8, Autograph ABP and the gallery Clementine de la Feronniere will release the book “Ever Young” showcasing Barnor’s extensive archive, followed by a corresponding photo exhibition in Paris through Nov. 21.

In 1953, after completing his apprenticeship and running an open-air mobile studio for several years, Barnor opened his own studio called Ever Young, which transformed into one of Accra’s leading photographic studios. Six years later he moved to London in 1959, just in time to witness first-hand the cool Swinging London of the 1960s, and where he would begin to experiment with color photography. It was through this transition that Barnor would become, uniquely perhaps, the only African studio photographer to leave the continent prior to 1960 to study and practice in Europe.

Mike Eghan at Piccadilly Circus, London, 1967. (James Barnor/Courtesy Autograph ABP

Mike Eghan at Piccadilly Circus, London, 1967. (James Barnor/Courtesy Autograph ABP

Whether in Ghana or Britain, Barnor documented cultures in transformation, new identities coming into being — the fragmented experience of modernity and diaspora, the shaping of cosmopolitan societies and selves, and the changing representation of blackness, desire and beauty across time and space. His archive constitutes not only a rare document of the black experience in post-war Britain during the Swinging Sixties, but also provides an important frame of reference, overlapping and stitching together questions of the post-colonial in relation to diasporic perspectives in 20th-century photography.

Article taken from Washington Post. Full article and pictures can be found here

Black Lives Matter – A Poem


Take a look at the world we live in today

Take a look at humanity

Is this what we were made to be?

Is this a world that you and I are a part of?

Inequality, Discrimination and Hate has now become the norm.

Are people not more than just the colour of their skin ?

Maybe the issue lies From Within

Ask yourself:

Do I have love?


Raise a cry now for the lost lives

Black Lives matter

I refuse to be silent

Until the world start to realise

That Black lives matter.


Raise a cry for our brothers and sisters

Their blood are crying out.


Fear not, Our God is a God of justice.

Will he not fight for those who cry out to him day and night?

Fear not, Our God reigns!


by Adwoa Asiedu (@AdwoaAsiedu777)

Copyright ©2015 Adwoa Asiedu