January 2016


An interview with Ghanaian author Frances Mensah Williams

Growing up between cultures, because the country you live in is different to your ancestral roots, can be a challenging journey of self-discovery. That’s why for me, reading From Pasta to Pigfoot by Frances Mensah Williams, was a complete revelation.

Author Frances Mensah Williams (c) MisBeee

Author Frances Mensah Williams (c) MisBeee

Here was a novelist who skilfully articulates these insecurities about identity and deftly weaves them into an engaging story about cultural awakening.

If only this book had been around when I was growing up!
The novel, published by Jacaranda Books Art Music, charts the experiences of 20-something Ghana-born Londoner Faye Bonsu who grapples with understanding her place as an Anglo-Ghanaian.

Her understanding of herself is tested when her infuriating boyfriend Michael challenges her constantly about a heritage she knows very little about. When she decides to find out about her Asante roots, she realises there is much more to her than she previously thought.

 

Frances takes some time out of her busy schedule to share some insights with me on her book. She explains in the first of three YouTube vlog instalments here, why food features so heavily in the novel.

In part two, she explains why a book on the experiences of a British-Ghanaian living in London is every bit as authentic as a piece of ‘African’ literature set in a rural African country.
And in the final instalment here, she talks about a From Pasta to Pigfoot sequel, set for publication in April 2016, and a possible TV adaptation.

 

From Pasta to Pigfoot is Frances’ first novel but the Ghana-born author is a seasoned writer who has penned two non-fiction books. She is also the chief executive of award-winning UK-based human resource company Interims for Development, and is the publisher and managing editor of website and online magazine ReConnect Africa.

Frances’ other accomplishments include an inspiring TEDxTalks presentation at the beginning of the year entitled Where is home. And the bookworms among you will recall she launched From Pasta to Pigfoot at literary festival Africa Writes 2015 in July.
By Kirsty Osei-Bempong (@MisBeee)

I Am A Child of Destiny

Copyright ©2016 Adwoa Asiedu

Nobody can steal your joy

It’s yours!

See your days of sorrow have ended.

I declare a new season of laughter.

Happiness and Success is your portion this year!

Forget the former things,

See the Lord is doing a new thing!

Called by a new name

Marked with his Shekinah Glory

Take up your position and declare:

I am a Child of Destiny.

By Adwoa Asiedu

 

Pop-Art Kingmaker: Introducing Dennis Owusu-Ansah

Over the past few years we’ve seen an explosion of African print and culture in the mainstream. From the epidemic of ‘Angelina’ dashikis to the notorious need-to-see-to-believe ‘Ghana-Must-Go’ bags going for thousands of pounds and being billed as ‘high fashion’, you don’t need to go far nowadays to catch an essence of Africa. Even so, 2despite seeing a hint of kente here and some semblance of an adinkra sign there, it was easy to find aspects of African culture appropriated and you didn’t see much evidence of those who are considered royalty in western black culture catch onto the African trend.

 

So when a portrait painting of Nicki Minaj dressed completely in beautiful traditional kente and rechristened ‘Nicki Maame Akua Amponsah’ began to filter across our timelines and bleed down our social media profiles, many sat up and took notice. The painting went viral, and more pieces of art depicting the biggest and best stars of our age adorned in African garments were gradually unearthed. On searching for the artist responsible, all roads led to the New York Bronx.

 

4

Dennis Owusu Ansah

For there resides Dennis Owusu-Ansah – a 26 year old New Yorker visual artist of Ghanaian descent who is a producer of pop art highlighting the beauty of African culture using popular personalities as his muses. His work has seen a burst in popularity and intrigue. However, superimposed upon his work’s viral nature is a serious motivation to drive aside the misconceptions many have regarding Africa.

In a recent interview with CNN, he notes how an unfortunate incidence of ignorance triggered him to get to work with his paints and use his artistry to challenge perceptions of Africans. “After witnessing my friend get teased by a group of men for wearing a kente cloth on our way to church, I figured something must be done to change the perspective of people who are not familiar with the African culture,” he told CNN. “They had no idea what my friend was wearing. One of the guys shouted ‘that man has a blanket wrapped around his body like it’s winter time.’ I saw this incident as an opportunity to educate people about who we are, and what we stand for through my art.

His ideas fall in line with the much acclaimed T.I.N.A. (This Is New Africa) adage advocated by Ghanaian musician Fuse ODG, who tirelessly pushes the agenda that Africa needs to be depicted in a better, more glorious light than Western society tends to throw upon it. “Africa isn’t only about what the media portrays on television, [but is] a continent rich in history, diversity and traditions” Dennis opines.

 

And what better canvas upon which to depict that richness in culture than the biggest and 1most-celebrated stars of young black culture today. The works of Dennis Owusu-Ansah burst with bright colour, bold statements on a background of elegance and with a foreground of opulence. How can someone fail to be captivated by the sight of Meagan Good wearing an extravagant gele, or rap behemoth Rick Ross adorned in the vestments of a Nigerian chief? How can you not be enamoured with the sight of Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs & Jay-Z, usually spotted in the cleanest of suits and urbanwear, dressed in the finest Nigerian and Ghanaian apparel – depicted as West African royalty.

He even remixes the names of his subjects when he posts their portraits, fully integrating them into the fabric of African culture – so we have had the pleasure of being introduced to characters such as ‘Sean Puffy Nana Antwi Combs’, ‘Meagan Omotola Good’, ‘Chief Shawn Ugonna Jay Z Carter’ & ‘Chris Kofi Sarpong Brown.’

 

Just like Peniel Enchill in January 2015, Dennis Owusu-Ansah is a Ghanaian artist who is taking the world and social media by storm at the turn of a year. “I’ve been getting positive comments from people all over the world,” he told Okayafrica in a recent interview. “It’s good to hear people you’ve never met tell you that your art puts a smile on their faces. Comments like that motivate me to work harder every day.”

5The artistry of Dennis Owusu-Ansah has given those who may not be too familiar with African culture a bridge over which they can cross in order to appreciate the power and the nobility which resides within. How better to showcase the best of African culture by using some of the most recognisable stars around – using those with the biggest social media followings and the biggest fan nations to spark a strong desire to learn more about authentic and genuine African culture. The movement of African awareness now has another member added to its ranks, as Dennis continues on his mission to challenge misconceptions by bringing Africa to the world at large and making Africa accessible through contemporary pop art.

Follow Dennis Owusu-Ansah on his Instagram page @denny_ow for updates and visit his website densahcollection.com to check out his artwork and fashion collection.
By Dr Jermaine Bamfo (@Dr_Jabz27)

Ghana’s Gitmo dilemma

In the same week that Ghana’s interest rates soared to an eye watering 17.7%, a US Embassy official admitted Ghana would be sharing the upkeep costs for two Guantanamo Bay ex-detainees.

Mahmud Umar Muhammad Bin Atef (left) and Khalid Muhammad Salih Al-Dhuby (right)

Mahmud Umar Muhammad Bin Atef (left) and Khalid Muhammad Salih Al-Dhuby (right)

Yemeni Mahmud Umar Muhammad Bin Atef and Saudi-born Khalid Muhammad Salih Al-Dhuby were transferred on 6 January by the US to live in Ghana for two years.

The transfer followed an agreement between the two countries that reportedly has been going on for a year.


Truth and lies

Daniel Fennell, head of public affairs at Ghana’s US Embassy, said on TV3’s ‘Hot Issues’ programme that upkeep expenses were being shared by the two countries.

No sooner was that information circulating, Fennell then reportedly retracted his statement, falling in step with the

President Mahama has denied that Ghana is footing the bill for detainees' stay

President Mahama has denied that Ghana is footing the bill for detainees’ stay

official government line in Ghana. The country’s president John Dramani Mahama has denied that Ghana is footing any part of the bill or that he received $300 million for the detainees’ stay.

More revelations are emerging, namely that these men’s involvement in terrorism was downgraded to a minimal threat. According to the Wall Street Journal, the US misled recipient countries. It seems Ghana wittingly or unwittingly accepted this advice without conducting independent checks.

No doubt most Ghanaians are outraged. Ghana enjoys an international image as a friendly and safe country compared to some of its neighbours. In such uncertain times when countries such as Burkina Faso and Egypt most recently, and latterly Nigeria and Mali faced terror attacks, preserving that haven of relative tranquillity is paramount.

Whether you believe the men, who were interred for almost 15 years without trial, pose a threat to Ghana or not – the process taken to agree their transfer to Ghana is dubious. These men are reportedly self-confessed terrorists with Atef believed to have trained at an Al Qaeda camp, according to Joy FM and Wall Street Journal reports.

Yemen in particular, where Atef is from, is considered to be a hot bed of terrorist activity. This is probably why US president Barack Obama recently signed a defense authorisation bill barring detainees from being transferred to Yemen.

 

Republicans v Democrats

The Republicans are currently trying to push through a moratorium to prevent more detainees leaving the prison because they are considered a risk. And yet the official line from Ghana’s government remains that these men pose no threat and are under 24 hour surveillance.

Guantanamo Bay

Guantanamo Bay

Seems contradictory….. Why monitor them if they are considered low risk? And if they are so low risk why hasn’t the US taken them in? US law prevents the country from accepting these detainees. On top of that, there would be a public outcry.

Closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility has been an Obama pledge. So it’s unsurprising that he is keen to dispense of the prisoners even if – to some – it looks as though he is exporting terrorism.

The two prisoners, the first to be sent to a sub-Saharan country, are also the first of 17 due to leave the prison in early 2016. Obama is under pressure to reduce prisoner numbers below 100. With 17 due to go, the total facility population will drop to 90, according to online publication defenseone.com
Some have been already been sent to Uganda and Cape Verde off the west coast of Africa, and Georgia and Slovakia in Eastern European, according to multiple media reports. But where are the rest going to and can Ghana expect more?

 

Keeping mum

Those with authority in Ghana have been economical on these details. Under Ghana’s laws, people considered to have terrorist connections are barred from entering the country. So why would Mahama not only flout this legislation but also deny Ghanaians the right to this knowledge?

Most Ghanaians learnt about these revelations through US’ Fox News. Even with the cat out of the bag, the Ghanaian government is inadvertently stoking up fears and conspiracy theories by saying very little.

Joy FM revealed that those in Ghana’s security council (the interior and foreign ministers) were not fully aware of Mahama’s plans. Many have questioned why the Ghanaian public was not deemed important enough to be told. Possibly because the government knew the response would have been not too far away from the current reaction…Sound familiar? Didn’t Ghana follow a similar route in its reported involvement in Ebola testing in the country?

 

Friend or foe?

So what’s in it for a Mahama? Well, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has commended Ghana for its role in image.imghelping to combat Ebola. Taking on these ex-detainees may be another way Mahama can curry favour with the West and the international community …..even if it is at the expense of Ghanaians. Afterall, this may be his last few months as president….elections are scheduled for 7 November 2016.

Of late, Mahama has been saying the decision to take in the ex-prisoners was out of human compassion and because of Ghana’s alliance with the US. But wasn’t Ghana’s first president Dr Kwame Nkrumah a founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in 1961? And wasn’t one of the tenets of that organisation that members were not for or against any major power bloc?

With evidence emerging that the US may be have misled recipient countries, I wonder how Ghana’s decision will impact national security and that of her neighbours. Could the presence of these men have repercussions for Ghana politically or dissuade current or future investment?

It is unclear how much access these men have to the wider Ghanaian public or what level of surveillance there is on their telephone and internet activities. We are not clear what happens after their two years expire. Do they gain Ghanaian citizenship? Do they go home? Or can they invite their families over?

What we do know is that Ghanaians are struggling to survive as utility and fuel costs soar and Dumsor continues to blight the country.

Don’t Ghanaians deserve to be put first in their own country? Afterall, doesn’t charity begin at home?

By Kirsty Osei-Bempong (@MisBeee)

BBC World Debate Live From World Economic Forum

BBC World News’ The World Debate is coming live from the World Economic Forum in Davos this week. A high level panel including Federica Mogherini, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs & Security and David Miliband, President & CEO of the International Rescue Committee, will debate the continuing crisis at Europe’s borders as it tries to control the influx of migrants and refugees.

The show, The World Debate: Davos: Europe at a Tipping Point? will be broadcast live on BBC World News at 1000 GMT on Friday 22nd. Presented by Lyse Doucet, Chief International Correspondent BBC World News, the debate which airs on BBC World News and BBC World Service will examine whether Europe’s passport-free open borders can survive in their current form.

Davos annually plays host to the world’s most powerful politicians and business leaders as they discuss solutions to the world’s problems. For this high-level debate Lyse will be joined by a panel of political leaders and opinion formers to debate whether European solidarity is being put to the test as the countries struggle to agree on common solutions.

 

The panel includes:

I. Emmanuel Macron Minister of Economy, Industry and Digital Affairs, France

II. David Miliband, President & CEO of the International Rescue Committee

III. Federica Mogherini, EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs & Security

IV. Witold Waszczykowski, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Poland

V. Chair: Lyse Doucet, Chief International Correspondent, BBC News

 

Broadcast details:  1000 GMT, Friday January 22nd on BBC World News. Also on BBC World Service on Saturday January 23rd at 2000 GMT.

UK Blog Awards 2016 – please vote for Me Firi Ghana Blog!

The Me Firi Ghana Blog is up for the Lifestyle and Most Innovative Award in the UK Blog Awards 2016, and we need your help to win!

In 2014 , we were the only representative of Ghanaian culture at the awards ceremony. In fact we were the only representative of African culture to make the final shortlist of 28 from 900 plus blogs who entered the competition and were amongst the top 10 blogs in the Arts and Culture category and the and amongst the top 3 most innovative blogs in the UK.

Last year we again made the finals in the same two categories. So will be 2016 be third time lucky??

The Me Firi Ghana Media Blog is constantly pushing boundaries, striving to bring you content that educates, entertains, inspires and most importantly connect our readers to the vibrant culture and history that is Ghana. Our fantastic team have writers have written some truly amazing articles in 2015, and we hope to do even better in 2016!

The public vote for the awards is underway from now to 25th January 2016 and it is our hope that with your help we will be able to pick up an award this year. As we’ve entered two categories you can use the drop down menu at the bottom of the page to select any of the 3 categories.

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You can vote for us by clicking on the following link:

http://blogawardsuk.co.uk/ukba2016/my-entry/mfg-media-blog


Lets go!