Category: Features


Ghanaians Tortured and Killed in Arab Countries

When Gadhafi was president, Libya was one of the preferred and favourite place for Ghanaians, not only because it was easy to get a job but also because Libya was a gateway to Southern Europe. Things have changed a lot after Gadhafi’s overthrow and death. Most Africans now run the risk of being killed in Libya.  These past years, some travel agencies have lured innocent boys and girls to travel to some Arab countries including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Lebanon, with the promise of receiving office jobs, factory jobs, driving top executives etc. With massive unemployment in Ghana, the offers look attractive. But those who travel to those countries realize that the persons who accompany them there have sold them into slavery. They hand them over to agents and receive the total amount in exchange for these innocent Ghanaians. Most of them are girls who are sold further to become maids or house-helps. This is where all their problems and frustrations begin.

Once in the homes of their masters and mistresses they work several hours most often with little or no salaries. The intention is to make them work to make up for the amount they paid to buy them from the agents. They are treated as slaves in the various households in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Lebanon. The hardship and torture these girls go through are very serious and regrettable issues that have flooded the social media. The audios and videos appearing on social media in recent times are heartrending. They are helpless and urgent cries for help. The narration of the hardship and torture these Ghanaian girls are going through are brutal and shocking. Ghanaians are not alone in this. There are other Africans in similar situations. Many have lost their lives.

One particular audio that will send shivers down the spine of anyone, is a calamitous narration from a Ghanaian girl in Saudi Arabia. She looked through the kitchen window and found to her utter dismay, fear and shock, that the maid in a neighbouring house was hanged on a ceiling with her own sponge by the master of the house. Before her unfortunate and untimely death, she had spoken to the narrator on a mobile phone. According to the narrator, both husband and wife were driving out so the maid in the house had to rush out of the kitchen to open the gate for them to go. She went back to the kitchen. Meanwhile the three children in the family, walked towards the gate. The youngest child put her fingers between the gates in an attempt to open it. The older child saw this and quickly banged the gate, smashing her little fingers inadvertently, breaking the little bones in her fingers. This incident precipitated the hanging of the Ghanaian maid.

In another extremely strange, horrifying and sad incident which happened in Kuwait, the maid had forgotten the rice to burn on the stove. The man and his wife were highly infuriated when they saw the burnt rice. They locked the maid in a room for two days without food. The girl managed to escape through the window and reported the issue to the police. The police called the family to report to the police station. Surprisingly, the girl was handed back to the man and his wife to take her home. When they arrived home they beat her severely and hanged her with her own net sponge. When she finally died, they cut her into pieces and packed the remains in a sack and threw it away. How wicked! In another development, a maid who was serving a family in Lebanon, refused to listen to the instructions of her host family because she had not been paid for a year. They tied her hands and legs and poured hot water on her. Does this Ghanaian maid deserve this?

The government is fully aware of the inhuman treatment being meted out to Ghanaians who are lured to seek greener pastures in the Arab countries. Action is being taken to track down the agents who sell these girls into slavery.  Right now as I write, one of these so-called agents has been arrested with five innocent girls in Madina in Accra as he attempted to smuggle them to Saudi Arabia. They all had in their possession Ghanaian passports with Saudi Arabian visa. This has been a very lucrative business for the agents because they charge the girls a certain amount, and they still receive payments from the Arab agents when they hand over the girls to them.

These girls go through sexual abuse and physical mutilation in the very houses where they work and these abuses can become daily occurrences. Very often these girls are locked in the house with no chance of seeing the sun. Such girls have no access to radio and no way to communicate with the outside world. So assuming the government of Ghana brings an aeroplane to take the girls back, many of them may not even be aware of such an opportunity. Such girls die and no one hears about it. A Kenyan girl was lynched by the master and mistress of the house. Quite surprisingly, the master of the house called the Kenyan embassy to report that the girl had hanged herself. The ambassador ordered the body to be flown to Kenya for autopsy and burial.

I want to suggest few solutions to this problem. The first solution is that the Foreign Affairs ministry must send strong directives to the ambassadors of those Arab countries in Ghana not to give visas to agents who come to them with passports belonging to other people. Also travel agents who are involved in this slave trade business must be fished out, arrested and jailed. The ministry of information must launch a campaign towards warning Ghanaians of the dangers in travelling to find non-existent jobs. The ministry must do this aggressively through the mass media (newspapers, radio and television) and social media. Lastly, to the government of Nana Akufo-Addo, please heed to the cries of Ghana’s innocent youths who are suffering and wailing in the Arab lands where hundreds die needlessly.

Is Mecca not in Saudi Arabia? Is it not considered a holy place where Muslims from all walks of life, both black and white, go on a religious pilgrimage? Then why this double standard on part of the Arabs? Why the hatred for African workers? Will help ever come from the Ghana government? Time will tell.

By Stephen Atta Owusu
Author: Dark Faces at Crossroads
Email: stephen.owusu@email.com

Captain Mahama’s murder and the hypocrisy of Ghanaian society

State funerals are events usually reserved for really important figures in Ghanaian society such as heads of state, but on Friday that honour was bestowed upon a murdered young soldier named Captain Maxwell Mahama, with the event broadcasted nationally and watched by Ghanaians worldwide online. So what did the young soldier do to deserve such an honour? Did he give his life protecting others? No. He was given the honour of state burial because he was brutally murdered by a mob who mistook him for an armed robber.

Captain Mahama and his family

Now Captain Mahama is not the first person to have been accused of armed robbery and then subsequently murdered. In Ghana, an accusation like that usually carries a swift death sentence at the hands of a mob if the police are not at hand. And this is also NOT the first time pictures or videos have surfaced on social media depicting what I’ve described above. Mob justice in Ghana has a long history. As a young child I remember people running out with sticks and stones and whatever they could use as weapons when they heard kronfour! (thief). Whether you were guilty or not made scant difference. A painful death is certain if the police do not intervene, and when they do intervene, in most cases it is to recover a dead body.

Like many Ghanaians, I was enraged when I heard and saw what had happened to the captain. That someone had been murdered again by a baying mob in such a brutal manner and wondered how long such atrocities would go on in the country. But I would later feel conflicted by the blatant hypocrisy I was witnessing in the aftermath of Captain Mahama’s murder, and this is why – the media attention that the murder garnered, and Ghanaians’ reaction to it. It seems like Ghanaians couldn’t comprehend that something so terrible should happen to a man who was serving his country. Especially one with a wife and two young kids. In fact, pictures of Mahama’s family were heavily circulated on social media and across national media platforms in Ghana, as if to drive home the horror of what had befallen the captain. Numerous GoFundMe pages were set up to raise money for his young family left behind, and the Ghanaian government not only posthumously promote Mahama to Major but they also set up a GH¢500,000 trust fund to look after his family, with the president of Ghana Nana Akufo Addo publicly donating GH¢50,000 of his own money to the trust fund.

Now don’t get me wrong, this is a fantastic response but what I was conflicted with was the fact

President Akufo-Addo signs Mahama’s book of condolence

that other victims of mob justice in Ghana never received this kind of celebrity attention, generosity and sympathy from the media and the wider Ghanaian public. How many times have we seen pictures and videos on social media of people who were lynched in Ghana because they were suspected of being thieves? Did we care about those people? Did the media give those victims and their family any publicity to highlight their tragedy? Who circulated pictures of the families who were robbed of their loved ones? Where are their GoFundMe pages? Where are the trust funds from the government to help take care of the families they left behind? In fact two days after the murder of Captain Mahama, a man was also set upon and beaten to death by a mob in Krono Odumasi in the Ashanti region. His crime? He was suspected of stealing a mobile phone! Who cried for this man? Where was the media outcry and the public outrage over his death?

It makes one wonder – did Captain Mahama’s death matter more because he was soldier and also a relative to former president Mahama? Is that why there was such a huge public outcry? Then by that reasoning his life was worth more than others who have died at the hands of violent mobs in Ghana. Did those who wept and mourned for him and his family also cry for other victims who had died in the same way previously? Why was he given a state funeral and the countless others weren’t? Were their lives not as important? As he was laid to rest on Friday, his family echoed the publics’ call for a monument to be resurrected in his memory, because in their words, they wanted him to remembered as a hero. But as unpleasant and harsh as the truth might be, Captain Mahama was not a hero. Who did he die protecting? He was an innocent man who was brutally murdered. Yet a monument is be resurrected in his name to remind Ghanaians of that terrible event on May 29th 2017.

If we as Ghanaians are attaching such weight and importance to the death of Captain Mahama, but not to others who have died like him, then what does that say about us as a society? That your death matters only if your someone in society? When have we heard of Ghana police arresting people involved in lynching so quickly? Yet in Captain Mahama’s case those suspected of taking part have been arrested and charged with murder! Why is there justice for Captain Mahama but not for others? Will the proposed monument bear the names of those who have also been violently killed by mobs in Ghana? Had Captain Mahama been an ordinary citizen , would the reaction to his death be the same? The terribly sad answer is probably no.

By Yaa Nyarko  (@yaa_fremah)

My Improbable Graduation: From A Tiny Village In Ghana To Johns Hopkins

When I was about 5 years old, my father passed away and life took a dramatic turn. My uncles from my father’s side took all his properties, per the custom in my village in Ghana, so each of my father’s seven wives had to find ways to provide and take care of their children. My mother struggled to get enough food — mainly beans and vegetables — to make even one daily meal for myself and my six siblings. She would make our food as spicy as possible so that we would have to drink a lot and fill our stomachs with water.

But during these difficult years when I was in primary school and junior high, my mother always made sure I went to school.

Primary and secondary school are not free in Ghana. At the beginning of each school term, my mother asked the headmaster if I could start classes while she tried to get money to pay the fees. I still remember one time, when I was 7 or 8, the school authorities got tired of her excuses and kicked me out of school.

The next day, Mom took her most precious clothing and traditional beads, which she had hidden in a trunk, and sold them for less than half their value. She used the money to pay my school fees. It was only about $10. It doesn’t sound like much, but that was a lot of money in that time.

I was confused. Why hadn’t she sold her belongings months ago to buy food for us? Her unselfish act made me regard education as a necessity.

Mwinnyaa, at 2 or 3 years old, grew up in a village in Ghana. Courtsey of George Mwinnyaa

My mother’s sacrifice has been my anchor and source of strength ever since. My mom knew — and I later recognized — that education is more important than food. As a child, I realized that all the people in the village who could provide good food, school uniforms, books and shoes for their children had some form of education. I knew from that point that I could change my destiny if only I was able to succeed in school.

I completed high school, but it was nothing like high school in the United States. I never saw a computer. My school had no electricity; it had no library, gymnasium or cafeteria. I was picked on and beaten up by the other kids because I could not afford a school uniform.

In my senior year, my classmates and I had to take the final national exams that determine whether we could attend college. We knew even before starting the test that most of us would fail because our schools didn’t have the staff and resources to teach us properly. Out of over 200 classmates, I was one of only seven who passed all seven subjects. But none of us earned scores high enough for admission to the public universities in Ghana. Still, to our classmates, we were heroes just for passing.

What would I do next?

During high school, I had served as a community health volunteer through the Ghana Health Service. I did receive money for my work, but that was not the only reward. As a volunteer, I carried vaccines to rural villages, sometimes walking for miles to deliver them. I felt satisfaction and joy as I administered the oral vaccines to infants and children, knowing that they would be protected from diseases that had killed many children.

But I wanted to be able to administer injectable vaccines. I wanted to help provide checkups and counseling for pregnant women. I wanted to be able to organize better preventive health services in these villages.

Even though I could not get into any university, I was able to qualify for a community health worker certificate program. It took two years to complete and was quite an intensive program.

I hoped that becoming a community health worker would help me achieve what I could not as a

In 2003, Mwinnyaa was a junior high school student. “I didn’t have a school uniform, and the shorts I was wearing had two big holes at the back,” he remembers. “That is why I wore the oversize jacket, even though the weather was hot, to cover the holes.”
Courtesy of George Mwinnyaa

volunteer, but I soon realized that the care I could provide was not enough. I spent some time working with a medical team from Canada that visited remote villages, and I was amazed at the level of interaction with patients. They tried to explain a person’s condition, whether drugs would help or not, and more. I vowed that if I ever got the opportunity to continue my medical education, it would be in Canada.

I asked a Peace Corps volunteer I had met to help me prepare a resume so I could apply for school. Little did I suspect that a year later, we would be married. After her two years of service, we moved to the United States derailing my Canada plans.

Education in America

We moved to Nevada. I got a job as a custodian in an elementary school and tried to enroll in a university, but the school wanted my high school transcripts. They were impossible to get. High schools in Ghana don’t keep transcripts, just final exam results. I finally found one small community college that offered a placement test in lieu of high school transcripts.

This was a turning point. I felt I had another chance to change my destiny.

I was nervous as I started classes in January 2014. I considered myself to be the weakest academically among all the students. In the elementary school where I worked, I saw that all the students had laptops. How could I compete with these American students? I was fully discouraged. I felt that if any of these students studied for two hours, I would have to put in three times that effort to master the same material.

When I got my midterm exams and papers back, I first thought, “Oh, the professor has made a mistake; this cannot be my test score.”

My scores were 95 percent, even 100 percent.

After my first semester, I transferred to a larger community college and continued to perform well. For the first time, I felt as if I was free from the limitations imposed on me by the environment and circumstances in which I grew up.

Mwinnyaa met the woman who would become his wife, Leslie, in Ghana when she was a Peace Corps volunteer.
Family photo courtesy of George Mwinnyaa

My next plan was to transfer to the local university to complete my undergraduate studies. But then I found out about a scholarship from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation for community college students transferring to a four-year university. This scholarship encouraged its applicants to apply to top schools in their field of interest. For me, that was public health — and Johns Hopkins University.

I didn’t believe I had a chance in a million of being accepted into such a school, so I applied to another school known for its public health program: the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. I was accepted by both schools but did not get the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation scholarship. So Hopkins and North Carolina were out. I would instead go to the local university where I would get in-state tuition and a partial scholarship. My plan was to continue working as a custodian to help pay the bills.

But there was an unexpected twist. About a week after I was admitted to Hopkins and the University of North Carolina, both schools offered me a full scholarship. The door of opportunity opened again.

Still, I was afraid. I feared leaving behind my first American friends, my first American home, to go to a new place where nobody knew me.

I began school on Aug. 15, 2015. Last month, I graduated from Johns Hopkins University with a Bachelor of Arts in public health studies.

May 24, 2017, was the end of a long journey yet the beginning of a new chapter full of promises, difficult questions and deliberations. As I heard my name and began to walk across the stage, I wondered: How is this possible? In Ghana, I was not qualified to attend even a two-year college, yet here I am walking across the stage, graduating with honors, shaking the hand of the president of Johns Hopkins University.

I briefly thought: Maybe this is one of those good dreams that I will soon wake up from.

In America, I have learned, dreams can turn into an unexpected reality.

George Mwinnyaa, now 29, lives in Baltimore with his wife and 2-year-old son. He plans to start a master’s program at the Bloomberg School of Public Health this fall.

Article via NPR

Massive Inter-party Applause as Nana Addo relegates Galamsey to History

Governments have come and gone, presidents and heads of state have come and gone, ministers responsible for lands and mineral resources have come and gone but none of these were able to stop galamsey or relegate it to the abyss of forgetfulness. Indeed Nana Addo has done what all the others could not do. The reason why this illegal mining could gain roots, thus becoming untouchable and unstoppable was that, influential people including top executives, politicians, chiefs and even top police and military officers, all had a stake in the galamsey by condoning, and conniving with young boys to do illegal mining for them.

Galamsey which was a crude form of the statement, “gather them and sell,” is an illegal mining activity by both young and old with the full support and connivance of big and influential men in the society. This illegal activity started long before Ghana gained its independence. Ghana happens to be the 10th leading producer of gold in the entire world and 2nd in Africa. This illegal mining activity became a blessing and a curse and this will be explained in detail in the article. The curse far outweighed the blessings due to health hazards, environmental degradation, the destruction of farm lands and the indiscriminate pollution of water bodies.

Mining itself is a major economic activity in many developing countries. In Ghana, small-scale mining was once a respected traditional vocation. In the late 80s, the government officially legalized small-scale mining. This decision brought to the fore some challenges, including the mechanism by which the government granted concession to peasants. The process was very cumbersome and slow, thus compelling many to mine illicitly. Galamsey began in earnest and boomed from regime to regime, only to intensify during Mahama’s regime. Since then galamsey became a source of livelihood for those who live near the legal mining communities. They were motivated to enter the illegal mining due to unemployment, poverty and increase in price of gold in the world market. As a result many people including the jobless have swarmed the mining areas to engage in galamsey. Even those whose cocoa trees could not yield much, have abandoned farming and joined the galamsey business.

Ghana is naturally well endowed with fresh water sources. The abundance of water sources was an envy of most countries that have no such water sources. Sadly enough, these illegal miners are busy polluting and destroying our enviable, fresh and drinkable water sources right under the very noses of governments, local authorities and concerned Ghanaians. Environmentalists and climate scientists have consistently warned the local population that if the destruction and pollution of the water sources persist, within the next 20 to 30 years, water will have to be imported from other countries. These shameless and illegal miners do not think or are even conscious of any precautionary measures to be taken to abate the nuisance. The mighty river Supong which runs in Asiakwa in the Eastern region is a pathetic example of continuous pollution. Supong River which once provided cool, clean and extremely refreshing water to drink has now turned smelly and yellowish. The river is now filled with mud, algae and weeds.

The situation became worse when the Chinese travelled to Ghana in their numbers and directed their journeys towards the gold mining areas in the Ashanti, Western and Eastern regions. Their presence was much felt during the rule of former president Mahama. Majority of them joined the illegal mining. Some of them were fronted and aided by Ghanaians to register small scale mining companies. Since they had a lot of money, they were able to pay the local chiefs for land to be released for their mining activities to begin. Even cocoa farms were sold to them to be destroyed for gold mining purposes. Heavy machines including excavators and tipper trucks were brought from China to help in their search for gold. Soon they began to destroy more farms and water bodies with cyanide and other dangerous products used to fish for the gold.

Concerned Ghanaians protested against the Chinese involvement in galamsey and small scale mining. The Chinese met the anger and protest of Ghanaians with force. So far not less than ten Ghanaians have been shot dead by the Chinese and not even a single Chinese was put before court. The gaping holes created by illegal mining have trapped and killed many children, women and farmers. Yet they are heavily protected by police and retired soldiers in military uniforms.

Small scale mining and not galamsey could have been an important source of livelihood for relatively low-income Ghanaians, as well as highly significant for the economy as a whole. Sadly enough, this area has been taking over by Chinese in contravention of the Mineral and Mining Act 206 and Act 703. These Acts outline clearly that small scale mining is strictly reserved for Ghanaians. If the law says so, why then do we allow Chinese citizens to enter and completely take over small-scale mining? The Chinese are smarter. They put Ghanaians in the fore-front to register the companies on their behalf.

The situation in the mining areas had gotten out of hand. Cocoa trees and other crops were being uprooted and destroyed by the Chinese to give way to galamsey and small-scale mining. The environment was being destroyed, water bodies were being polluted, gaping holes were being abandoned in the forest, abandoned holes have ensnared and killed many and the Chinese are gunning down and hacking people down at random. Several complaints and protests were launched by concerned Ghanaians for an effective leader and government to emerge to save the mining areas from illegal miners.

Happily in January 2017, a courageous leader, a visionary, a disciplined and an incorrupt man, Nana Addo Dankwah Akufo-Addo was sworn in as the fifth president of Ghana. One Friday in

galamsey ‘queen’ Aisha Huang

Kumasi, few months after assuming power as a deputy Minister for lands and mineral resources, Madam Barbara Oteng Gyasi disclosed in Kumasi that the NPP government would soon apply force and technology to fight illegal miners and warned those involved to refrain  from the practice.

Her message fell on deaf ears. Military men and police officers were deployed to the mining areas and with the help of detective devices they were able to drive illegal miners away and all their excavators and other equipment were seized. A die-hard, stubborn Chinese woman named Aisha was arrested three times for illegal mining despite the government’s ban. She was released three times because she blackmailed the powers that be with tapes and videos she commissioned Chinese women to have sexual encounter with Ghanaian power brokers. After her startling revelations, she was arrested for the fourth and this arrest may probably be the last and she may either be imprisoned or repatriated to China.
Already majority of Ghanaians are applauding Nana Addo for his determination to relegate illegal mining into the abyss of forgetfulness and to ensure that small scale miners conform to the laws. The government has a great job on its hand to clean the polluted water bodies and to fill all the gaping holes to prevent further accidents.

By Stephen Atta Owusu

Ghanaian-British Entrepreneur Runs U.K.’s 1st African Fine-Dining Food Brand

While African cuisine may be extremely popular locally, it is yet to be appreciated globally in fine-dining. In addition, lovers of African cuisine often find it difficult to access real African food overseas.

It is this under-representation that motivated Adwoa Hagan-Mensah, a Ghanaian-born British entrepreneur, to incorporate real West African cuisine in to London’s food culture.

For Hagan-Mensah, who now owns East Jollof London (EJL), a highly successful luxury catering company in the U.K., her story is of turning passion into a profitable venture.

Her Beginnings

Samples of cuisines prepared by Eat Jollof London. Photo credit: Eat Jollof London

Speaking to Face2Face Africa in a recent interview, Hagan-Mensah explained that the idea to start a catering company came when she was in college in the U.K.

As a foreign student, Hagan-Mensah had to work hard to make ends meet since she needed money for her school fees and general upkeep.

So she decided to start cooking and delivering food to fellow students as a part-time job. Hagan-Mensah started with British cuisines but would occasionally throw in some West African staples for a change.

Eventually, she realized that students from other countries had a real appetite for West African dishes, and this gave her the courage and inspiration to start the first Ghanaian street food stall, Jollof Pot, in London.

“At university, I paid my rent cooking and delivering pre-packed West African dishes to students,” Hagan-Mensah says. “It was then I realized my passion was in West African food and catering, and [I] have never looked back.”

For Hagan-Mensah, her mother, who taught her how to cook at a tender age and continued to have her cook during school holidays, serves as her chief inspiration for West African dishes.

“To this day, I am unable to cook small for small numbers. She inspired me to be inventive with Ghanaian ingredients and she continues to be a huge inspiration to this day,” Hagan-Mensah adds.

Her Big Break

In 2012, Hagan-Mensah appeared on BBC2’s program “The Restaurant,” a popular British reality TV series where a group of couples compete for a chance to set up a restaurant financially

A waitress at Eat Jollof London. Photo credit: Eat Jollof London

backed and personally supported by French chef Raymond Blanc.

Jollof Pot, which she co-founded with her husband Lloyd Mensah 15 years ago, has since been renamed Spinach & Agushi and has street stands at Portobello Road in Notting Hill, Exmouth Market in Farringdon, and Broadway Market in Hackney.

All these outlets operate under the umbrella company Eat Jollof London, which specializes in corporate events and weddings.

By offering luxury catering and fine-dining services, Hagan-Mensah is paving the way for West African cuisine to be given the Michelin star treatment it deserves.

Unique Cuisine

A chef preparing food at Eat Jollof London. Photo credit: Eat Jollof London

According to Hagan-Mensah, Eat Jollof London serves both the millions of Africans living in the U.K. as well as foreign clients who want to have a taste of real West African cuisine. A lot of her African clients want to enjoy the real food flavors they grew up with — albeit with a look and taste that is different from home cooking.

“Our chef spent a lot of time tweaking traditional dishes and adding the EJL flare to each dish. [The] presentation of each dish is also a very important aspect of what we do,” says Hagan-Mensah.

Among the many unique West African dishes that EJL prepares, jollof rice is the most popular, with Hagan-Mensah revealing that they had to bring in chefs from several West African countries, including Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, the Gambia, and the Ivory Coast, to help reinvent the dish.

Hagan-Mensah is currently considering opening branches in Ghana and Nigeria. She has also established the Ghana Super Club, a bimonthly dinner, to taste traditional Ghanaian flavors in Kent.

Article via Face2FaceAfrica

A Servant of Rhythm From Ghana, in Texas

On the morning of the 20th annual African Cultural Festival at the University of North Texas here, Torgbui Midawo Gideon Foli Alorwoyie, the festival’s founder, was doing last-minute errands. There were drums to gather, programs to pick up from the printer, costumes to procure. For these annual events, he is his own promoter, his own publicist, his own street team.

“I do everything myself,” he explained from the driver’s seat of his minivan. Deep blue scars on his cheeks — marking him as a Midawo, or high priest, of the Ewe cult of Ghana’s Volta region — bent as he glanced between two different cellphones. A thick chain with a gold medallion in the shape of Africa glinted on his chest.

Mr. Alorwoyie leading a rehearsal at the University of North Texas in April. Credit Allison V. Smith for The New York Times

Mr. Alorwoyie (pronounced al-or-WO-yee), 71, is a rarity in American academia: a master drummer from Africa who is a tenured professor of African drumming and dance, disciplines that are difficult to categorize within Western musical theory. And in his own country, he is one of the few musicians working arduously to pass on traditions in danger of disappearing.

Mr. Alorwoyie also carries the title of Torgbui, or paramount chief, in his region of Ghana, responsible for administrative decisions and rulings on certain judgments; an herbalist (a large bottle of gin at his home, stuffed with long roots, was repeatedly offered to a visitor for its healing properties); and a stern taskmaster to his performers and students.

He has a key link to the evolution of American Minimalism: In 1970, the composer Steve Reich traveled to Ghana and studied with Mr. Alorwoyie for a month. “Drumming,” Mr. Reich’s groundbreaking piece for nine percussionists, was written after his trip.

At several rehearsals on the University of North Texas campus earlier this month, Mr. Alorwoyie guided a student drumming and dance ensemble that, for the festival concert, would be accompanied by five Ghanaian percussionists as well as Mr. Alorwoyie’s wife, Memunatu, 46, a former principal dancer in the Ghana Dance Ensemble in Accra; several former students who regularly return to dance at his events; and their daughter, Gloria, 11, who has been under her mother’s tutelage since birth.

Lither and quicker than many men half his age, Mr. Alorwoyie exuded a fierce calm during rehearsals. For many rhythms, he stood next to the atsimevu, a massive drum played with sticks. Tapping against its hull to establish a beat, Mr. Alorwoyie called drummers and dancers into action, activating changes in the patterns and movements with nods or shifts in expression. When not playing, he paced like a general, hands on his hips.

Some Ewe rhythms have a slippery, collapsing quality, an amorphous relationship to any easily recognizable downbeat. Mr. Alorwoyie’s lead patterns directed the dancers, but when another

Memunatu Gariba Alorwoyie, the former principal dancer of the Ghana Dance Ensemble, during a rehearsal with the University of North Texas student ensemble. Credit Allison V. Smith for The New York Times

drummer took over the atsimevu, Mr. Alorwoyie stepped into a dance with his wife; their playful steps around each other were like marital shadowboxing. As complex as the rhythmic patterns are, they go hand-in-hand with movement and song — the dancers and drummers serve one another.

“African music is not something you just listen to,” Mr. Alorwoyie said in an interview in his office, its walls covered in awards, degrees and newspaper articles about him dating back decades. “The answer is the dance.”

Mr. Alorwoyie left Ghana in 1976 and took a position as a visiting lecturer at SUNY College at Brockport. After stints at the American Conservatory of Music and the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago, he joined the North Texas faculty in 1996. The School of Music there is one of the nation’s largest, with an extensive percussion program. According to John Scott, the chair of the search committee that hired him, Mr. Alorwoyie is the first — and still the only — tenured African drummer at an American university.

“The first year he was here, all of a sudden he says he needs money to buy cloth to make clothes for the ensemble, so they look like an African ensemble,” Mr. Scott said. “‘O.K., where are we going come up in the budget with clothes money for an ensemble?’ But you manage to do it.”

The rhythms Mr. Alorwoyie plays and teaches belong to a language that has been stored in generations of memory, rarely recorded or preserved. Ewe songs are forms of communication; in some cases, phrases like “the lion is coming” are reinterpreted as drum patterns, part of an alarm system that existed among villages. (Some songs, Mr. Alorwoyie says, routinely contained criticism of different families in a community.) Without a written history, traditional Ghanaian drumming (of which there are thousands of tiny variations) is part of a family of African song forms that don’t fit easily into Western pedagogical models.

Mr. Alorwoyie with the atsimevu, a tall drum that is used as a lead instrument in many Ghanaian songs and rhythms. Credit Allison V. Smith for The New York Times

“There was a time when ethnomusicology was in some places not really integrated into music programs,” Mr. Scott said. “It was sort of the bottom of the pecking order; there’s a whole strata of musicians who looked down on ethnomusicology and ethnic music: ‘Oh, we don’t want to deal with this, it’s not art music.’ Just like the people who looked down on jazz and said, ‘This is not real music.’”

Kobla Ladzekpo, who taught for 38 years at the University of California, Los Angeles, and Abraham Adzenyah, who was at Wesleyan University for 46, are both master drummers from Ghana who enjoyed strong support from their academic communities, but neither ever had a title above adjunct professor.

“African traditional performance arts have no conventional place in higher education schools of music or music conservatories,” said David Locke, the chair of the music department at Tufts University, who has known Mr. Alorwoyie for four decades and collaborated with him on a research project on the Ewe drum language that resulted in a 2013 book. “I wouldn’t necessarily think that bias is actually capturing that, it’s more of a historical condition that seems to make natural sense. On the other hand, there is a lot of prejudice and misunderstanding of African arts and performance arts and African ways of life.”

Without a notational system, the rhythms must be passed directly from generation to generation.

“There’s not a classroom that’s going to teach you,” Mr. Alorwoyie said. “In the villages and towns and cottages, you’re not going to see nobody teaching nobody how to drum.”

He and the performers he brought to Denton for the festival are part of the group trying to transmit this fragile knowledge. “It’s here,” said Godwin Abotsi, 37, a Ghanaian drummer and dancer who lives in Fort Collins, Colo., pointing to his head.

In December, Mr. Alorwoyie and several of his students traveled to New York for a performance of “Drumming” with the ensemble Mantra Percussion at National Sawdust, presented by World

Mr. Alorwoyie, center, dancing at National Sawdust in December 2016. Credit Stephen Speranza for The New York Times

Music Institute. The Ghanaian ensemble presented traditional compositions and dances, alternating with Mantra’s performances of works by Mr. Reich. For “Drumming,” the two groups played in tandem, with Mr. Reich’s piece fitting like a skin over a complex rhythmic skeleton led by Mr. Alorwoyie. The staggered bell pattern that anchors many Ghanaian rhythms became a beacon amid the phased bongo cycles of Mr. Reich’s composition — an indigenous form cradling a modern one. (Through a publicist, Mr. Reich declined to comment for this article.)

Even in Africa, the sacred songs and rhythms that Mr. Alorwoyie teaches are struggling, with the drummers and dancers of Ghana’s national ensemble earning salaries that barely sustain them. Hiplife, a form of popular music heavily influenced by reggae, has some strands of traditional drumming, but in general those traditions are not highly valued by younger people.

“It’s associated with the past, it’s associated with rural areas, you don’t make money from it,” Mr. Locke said of the traditional style. “You go to a funeral, and the D.J.s have their sound systems, and they’re blasting the music at very, very high volumes, and the traditional folk are playing their traditional drums right next to where the D.J.s are set up. It’s like the Industrial Revolution versus the preindustrial world.”

Mr. Alorwoyie Credit Allison V. Smith for The New York Times

Mr. Alorwoyie travels to Ghana several times a year to attend to affairs that concern his chieftaincy, but he also is attempting to pass his library of music on to people who can sustain it. Rather than update the old patterns, he said that at this point in his life, he must return to the rhythms he knows; history demands it.

“If I am trying to teach something else creatively,” he said, “I’m going to lose those very important messages.”

With this sense of reverence comes a teaching style in which anything less than what is expected is unacceptable. At a dress rehearsal for a festival performance, Mr. Alorwoyie gave a thorough dressing-down to both undergraduate students and veteran Ghanaian drummers.

“Why are you talking?” he asked sharply, after entering the backstage area and finding his dancers and drummers joking around at a moment when he wanted them to be entering for a procession.

The ensemble fell silent. Mr. Alorwoyie — who is said to have been born with his fists curled tightly, marking him for life as a servant of rhythm — led them onstage, his body bouncing lightly to the beat of the squeeze drum under his arm, his eyes fixed intensely upon his charges.

Article via The New York Times

Esther Afua Ocloo: Ghana’s inspiring businesswoman

Esther Afua Ocloo launched her entrepreneurial career as a teenager in the 1930s on less than a dollar.

She quickly became one of Ghana‘s leading entrepreneurs and a source of inspiration around the world. Yesterday, on what would had been her 98th birthday, Google dedicated to her a ‘doodle’ illustration.

In addition to her own business, she taught skills to other women and co-founded Women’s World Banking (WWB), a global micro-lending organisation.

On its website, the WWB microlending network says it lends to 16,4 million women around the world, managing a loans portfolio of over $9bn.  Known as “Auntie Ocloo”, Esther dedicated her life to helping others like her succeed.

“Women must know that the strongest power in the world is economic power,” she said in a speech in 1990. You cannot go and be begging to your husband for every little thing, but at the moment, that’s what the majority of our women do.”

How she started

As a high school graduate with only a few Ghanian shillings given to her by an aunt, she bought sugar, oranges and 12 jars to make marmalade jam. Ocloo sold them at a profit, despite the ridicule of her former classmates, who saw her as an “uneducated street vendor“.

Soon she won a contract to supply her high school with marmalade jam and orange juice, and later managed to secure a deal to provide the military with her goods. On the basis of that contract, she took out a bank loan. In 1942, she established a business under her maiden name, “Nkulenu”.

Ocloo then travelled to England to take a course in Food Science and Modern Processing Techniques at Bristol University. In 1953, determined to grow her business with her newly acquired knowledge in food processing and preservation, she returned to her homeland with a mission to help Ghana become self-sufficient.

Nkulenu Industries still makes orange marmalade today and exports indigenous food items to markets abroad. In 1962, the company relocated to its present location at Madina, a suburb of the capital city, Accra.

Award-winning leadership

Besides working on her thriving business, she also set up a programme to share her knowledge with other women who cook and sell products on the streets.

”You know what we found? We found that a woman selling rice and stew on the side of the street is making more money than most women in office jobs – but they are not taken seriously,” she said.

In 1990, she became the first woman to receive the Africa Prize for Leadership. She proposed alternative solutions to the problems of hunger, poverty and the distribution of wealth – championing the development of an indigenous economy based on agriculture. In 1999 interview  she said:

Our problem here in Ghana is that we have turned our back on agriculture. Over the past 40 years, since the beginning of compulsory education, we have been mimicking the West

Esther Afua Ocloo

“We are now producing youth with degrees who don’t want to work in the fields or have anything to do with agriculture.” She added.

Ocloo died in 2002 after suffering from pneumonia. At her state burial in Accra, former president John Kofi Agyekum Kufuor said: “She was a creator and we need many people of her calibre to build our nation”.

She was a real pillar… worthy of emulation in our efforts to build our nation. Her good works in the promotion of development in Ghana cannot be measured.

Former Ghanaian President Kufuor

Google also recently celebrated  Jamini RoyHassan Fathy, and Abdul Sattar Edhi with their own doodles.Yesterday would have been Esther Occlo’s 98th birthday. In her honour Google changed its homepage logo in the United States; Ghana; Peru; Argentina, Iceland; Portugal; Sweden; Australia; Greece; New Zealand; Ireland and the UK to a “doodle” – or illustration – of her empowering the women of Ghana.

Article via Aljazeera

YƐN ARA YƐ KASA NI: LEARNING TWI, FANTI, ITALIAN AND ENGLISH

I was speaking about languages the other day, and it was interesting to see how people approach language and the reason behind it. I said I speak four languages. Truth! But I can read and write only two of them – English and Italian. I can speak and understand Fanti and Twi, but there’s so much work to be done around them because I don’t understand all things – i.e. proverbs.
My knowledge of these languages has been subject to needs and circumstances beyond my control for the most part.

Take English for example, I learnt it because I needed it for university. When I got accepted to study in England, that was a necessary move. When it comes to Italian, I had to learn it because my parents moved me to Italy when I was 8 years old. I had to go to school and live there (against my will lol) so I had to learn it. Before the age of 9, Twi was the only language I spoke fluently. I started learning and understanding Fanti properly when I started living with my dad (he’s Fanti, he refuses to speak Twi lol). I’d speak to him in Twi and he’d respond in Fanti! Some people argue that Fanti and Twi are the same, but they are not, although they are both Akan languages. I often think about them as Spanish and Italian: they both come from Latin, but have evolved differently. If one speaks Italian, one can kinda figure out some Spanish and be alright.

I think from the age of 10 or 11, in my household we spoke all four languages interchangeably (I had a little English going because my parents spoke it to my sisters and I sometimes).

In all this learning, credit goes to my parents for making sure I did not lose our native language. I have friends whose parents chose to speak only Italian or English to them. Some parents were tapping into their children’s knowledge to learn the language themselves – i.e. Italian. I believe the intention was great, but the result not so much because some friends ended up losing the ability to speak and/or understand our native languages.

I definitely want to work more on my Akan – Twi in particular. There are concepts that can never be translated into a Western language, because Western philosophy and ontology are different from Akan ways of being; and I think, because language is the medium through which concepts and ideas are formed, one can never understand a culture fully, unless one knows the language. I think Twi sounds fun and hilarious, Fanti sounds sweet, maybe that’s why some Takoradi boys got girls for days but anyway I digress.

Interesting fact: I don’t know how to count numbers in Twi. I’m learning now.

By Benjamina E. Dadzie

Greed and corruption as corporate bodies and top executives in Ghana siphon off state funds

During the Atta Mills-Mahama led administration, there was massive back-log in non-payment of salaries of workers in Ghana. More than ten thousand nurses and teachers remained unpaid for more than two years. Doctors and pharmacists were also victims of non-payment of salaries. Many more workers are weeping for similar reasons. There is a problem of non-payments of monies meant for national health insurance scheme (NHIS) drug providers and also service providers and food suppliers for school feeding programme for so many years. Yet huge salaries paid to top executives each month get to their accounts without fail.

Indeed under the previous NDC government, a lot of financial wastage occurred in the system. Millions of Ghana cedis spilled like leaked oil and no action was taken by Mahama’s administration to retrieve these monies squandered by individuals and companies.

Former CEO of Cocobod Dr Opuni

Mahama’s government voted GHc1.8 billion to Cocobod to purchase 800 tons of cocoa beans. Dr Opuni, who was then the Chief Executive Officer, bought only 300 tons. He was never queried about what happened to the rest of the money until the NPP came to power. He was immediately relieved of his appointment and corruption charges were preferred against him. His dismissal led to a startling revelation of amazing salaries received by certain CEOs in Ghana. Some of these are more than three or four times the salary received by the President.

The CEO of Cocobod, Dr Opuni takes home a whopping amount of GHc77,000 which is 770 million old cedis monthly! This does not include allowances, free fuel supply and free accommodation. The CEO of Bank of Ghana earns GHc89,000 every month, allowances and other benefits excluded. Let us see the monthly salaries of other CEOs in other corporate organisations: the CEO of Ghana Revenue Authority takes home a cool GHc85,000 each month plus allowances and other benefits. The Boss of SSNIT is paid each month GHc76,000, while the Director and CEO of Agricultural Development Bank (ADB) pockets GHc85,000 as his monthly salary excluding allowance and other benefits. The boss of National Investment Bank (NIB), takes home GHc65,000 and the CEO of BOST receives GHc62,000. The list continues with the boss of Tema Oil Refinery (TOR) also receiving GHc52000. The CEO of Ghana Commercial Bank (GCB) is paid “only” GHc55000. The list is just endless. These above-mentioned CEOs have top security men in their homes who are either policemen or staff from top security companies. They have three or four cars at their disposal. They have cooks, drivers, gardeners and cleaners. This group of people are paid by the companies. I believe you all agree with me that with such huge salaries allotted to top executives, it is not surprising that the government was unable to pay certain groups of workers like doctors, nurses, teachers and others who have not been paid for more than two years.

Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) is a licensed distributor of petroleum related activities in Ghana. It is an agency responsible for the importation of crude oil and petroleum. When the GNPC was established to replace the Ministry of fuel and power, it was the objective of the government of Ghana to supply reliable and adequate supply of petroleum in Ghana and the discovery and exploration of crude oil in its territories. GNPC grew steadily in the area of oil production. However, after five years of the corporation’s existence, there was vast misuse of Ghana’s oil revenue on a large scale. There was complete absence of transparency and accountability in awarding oil blocks among others and denying Ghanaians the full use of the oil resource. A big chunk of the money accruing lands in the pockets of top executives. The top executives turned GNPC into a den of robbers, grabbing whatever money that came handy. Consequently, the chief executive of the corporation was arrested and tried at the fast track court on three counts of wilfully causing financial loss to the state to the tune of GH¢230,000 which he, on behalf of PNDC guaranteed a loan for Valley Farms a private company, and one count of misapplying public funds. He is said to have misappropriated GHc2million of GNPC funds to buy shares in Valley Farms. He was found guilty on all counts and sentenced to five years in prison.

Greed and corruption by the board of trustees at the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) have put the future of both formal and informal workers in jeopardy. According to the Association of Accountable Governance (AFAG), they foresee a bleak and miserable pension benefit for retirees. This is because the current board of trustees of SSNIT have sold and are aggressively selling off what is left of their investments. Where a chunk of the money will go is anybody’s guess.

Not long ago, workers shares in First Atlantic and Merchant banks were sold. The Trust hospital was sold and SSNIT Guest house was also put for sale. It is a known fact that National Trust Holding Company (NTHC) is a company that has been blacklisted by 2007 auditor’s report as unfit to manage public funds. It is, however, very unfortunate and disheartening that SSNIT has sold the scheme of the informal sector to NTHC, a blacklisted company. AFAG organized the workers in a mammoth meeting to protest against the board at SSNIT who are selfish and self-seeking at the expense of workers livelihood.

Indeed greed and corruption among top executives and corporate bodies have condoned corruption for a very long time. Ghanaians are waiting to see if greed and corruption will persist under Nana Addo‘s government or be relegated to history. Bribery, over-invoicing, gargantuan salaries and sole-sourcing are difficult problems hanging on the heads of Ghanaian governments like the sword of Damocles. Those guilty of such greed and corruption includes DVLA, the Police and customs and passport office. Very often, monies paid at these places are not backed by receipts. This means such monies land in the pockets of the personnel. A survey conducted by Ghana Integrity and anti-corruption consortium confirmed the afore-mentioned bodies as worst off when it comes to bribery and corruption. DVLA and the passport office deliberately delay the issue of driver’s licenses and passports. They have created around the offices those they call, ”goro boys.” These boys are working for the top officials. A driver’s license that will take you three months or more to get is obtained for you within a day or two by a ”goro boy” at five times the normal cost. Guess who gets all these monies. The top officials, of course.

Will the surprise visit by Alhaji Mumuni Bawumia to the passport office help to reduce corruption? Is Nana Addo eager and fully prepared to fight greed and corruption? Is he willing to prosecute the corrupt officials of the past government? Nana Addo’s government is just three months old and I believe all he can achieve or do to get all stolen monies into state coffers lies within the womb of time.

By Stephen Atta Owusu
Author: Dark Faces at Crossroads

Seth Dei, the Ghanaian investor behind fruit exporter Blue Skies

The businessman and art collector on helping create an economic success story and why Ghana has failed to fulfil its potential
Hidden behind high walls and the dusty, traffic-laden chaos of modern-day Accra, Seth Dei sits in pensive calm in his office. A cup of late afternoon coffee and three mini chocolate-chip cookies lie untouched in front of him as he studies his next move in a protracted chess endgame with his computer. “I’m winning, but I’m not sure how to finish,” he sighs.

Dei’s home in Accra © Jordi Perdigó

On the walls are a few pieces from the extensive Ghanaian art collection he has built up over more than three decades. Outside, a neatly trimmed garden with a verdant lawn and brightly coloured tropical plants offset the white walls and clean lines of his modernist house.

The building in which he is sitting was built in 1957 for an English businessman. Dei found it too big when he bought it, and turned it into the now mothballed and sparsely furnished Dei Centre for the Study of Contemporary African Art, complete with a small library, and corridors and staircases lined with some of the 500 paintings he has acquired.

He hauls himself to his feet, and gestures to a picture opposite his desk of a market scene by Adiama that is part-painting, part-fabric collage. “He was part of the old school of artists in Ghana, who were timid about selling their works and not business-like,” he says. “They didn’t put much value on art.”

Dei, 72, is a posterboy for business in Ghana. He helped create Blue Skies, a fresh fruit-packaging

Sitting room of Dei’s home in Accra, Ghana © Jordi Perdigó

factory, which has become a frequent attraction on tours by dignitaries seeking symbols of the country’s economic success. He is now scaling back his involvement in a business with £90m in annual sales, supplying supermarkets in a dozen countries (including Waitrose in the UK) from its original factory in Accra, as well as others opened since in South Africa, Egypt, Senegal and Brazil.

His latter-day activities belie much of his working career and longstanding passion for supporting local artists. That is evident in the residential quarters next door, where he lives with his second wife. “Everything is made locally,” he says.

Born to cocoa-farming parents in the then Gold Coast and witness to independence from Britain during his schooldays in 1957, his focus was long on the US. He won a scholarship to Buxton, a boarding prep school in New England, and moved there aged 16.

He recalls his thrill at seeing the red autumn colours in his first September. In winter, “everything was white with snow, which I had never seen”.

With Ghanaian government funding, Dei studied at Columbia and Cornell in New York, before working in the life insurance sector. “I dealt with CEOs and CFOs. I observed the habits of American chief executives: they knew their businesses, kept fit, worked hard, had admirable self-confidence. You learnt from them,” he says.

Garden room © Jordi Perdigó

He married an American and spent much of his career in the US, but never forgot his roots. “I had always intended to come back to Ghana, or at least to Africa,” he says. “I realised it was difficult to be poor here: there are so many opportunities. You only have to drop a seed and in two weeks you have a plant. Depending on your ambition you can become a millionaire.”

When he returned at the start of the 1990s, his first ventures drew on his US financial expertise. “There was a gold boom and a lot of mining companies, and I figured they needed equipment and leasing services. But that required central bank supervision, and the rules were terrible. I could see it would not grow, so I sold the business.”

Then in 1997, he was introduced to Anthony Pile, a Briton who wanted to open a fresh fruit-packaging plant. “He was keen to find a local partner. Somebody told him to talk to me. We started chatting and he had convinced me within three minutes. It’s been a very good investment,” Dei says.

Asked to list the difficulties of operating, he quotes transport — perishable fruit must be shipped

Jazz Play’ (1997) by Glen Turner © Jordi Perdigó

by plane — as well as the erratic local electricity supply, something which, in the humid dusk, also presents a challenge for the preservation of his artworks.

And corruption? “We have not come up against it, and we would not participate,” he says. “We are doing a lot for the economy.” Blue Skies employs 4,000 local staff, pays substantially above the minimum wage, offers free cooked meals, medical help, maternity and paternity leave, and social responsibility programmes in local communities.

With Ghana just celebrating 60 years of independence, he reflects: “I feel we should have done better. We had many more assets than Malaysia or South Korea, with a lot more natural resources. But I see a slow realisation from the president down that we should have done better. Coups d’état were getting us nowhere. Democratic practice has introduced competition to government.”

He says he never had any interest in politics. “I cannot say something is blue when it is in fact red.” Instead, during his spare time, he threw himself into art collecting. He befriended many of the country’s artists, buying their work and sometimes being offered it. He points to a long canvas by Larry Otoo of a brass band in a remote village. “He came to me and asked if I wanted him to paint me something. This is it.”

Paintings by E Owusu Dartey and Adoley Nmai among others © Jordi Perdigó

Settling into an armchair in the entrance hall, Dei pauses before answering the question of why he loves art. “First and foremost, I look on it as history: what’s happened, what’s happening,” he says. “The artist is able to freeze-frame and look carefully at things you don’t normally pay attention to when you are walking around. You never noticed something, and, seeing the picture, you realise it’s beautiful. It makes you pay more attention.”

He gets to his feet, and walks across a courtyard, into the street and next door, where at the end of a small garden decorated by large stone sculptures, he had an Italian architect friend modify the former maid’s quarters into his living accommodation. Settling down in the study, among piles of CDs and videos, Dei says he still receives weekly management reports from Blue Skies, and is excited about new projects including a planned range of dairy-free ice creams in chocolate, mango, coconut and lime.

On the lounge table, flanked by sofas, are a series of antique wooden-carved slingshots from

Baule sculpture from the Ivory Coast © Jordi Perdigó

Ghana, Ivory Coast and Cameroon, which have been converted into ornaments. A full-length window opens on to a tiny, tranquil courtyard. Yet Dei craves still more space and light, and is completing work on a new home in the hills with a view over Accra. “I want more calm, where the air is cool.”

He is also winding down his art collection, expressing frustration that American academic partners did not provide any funding. He closed the centre to the public three years ago. “I got tired and I’m taking a pause,” he says. “If I kept doing this, I’d be broke.”

He says all options remain open, and recently discussed the sale of works in a meeting with Sotheby’s. His dream is to donate his collection to a new state museum of modern art, but for now, he questions the competence of government officials to take charge.

“We need a new museum of modern art. I think we can use the diaspora to build a nice little museum,” he says. He would like someone to approach the architect David Adjaye to prepare a preparatory sketch for a new venue, “to embarrass big institutions into contributing and building it”.

Even if he is frustrated with the slow progress, Dei has not lost his enthusiasm for art. He has just bought two pictures in a new high-end gallery nearby, itself a sign of changing attitudes. “It has opened the eyes of Ghanaians and encouraged younger artists to up their game. There is a buzz about art in Ghana now. I’m very happy.”

Favourite thing

© Jordi Perdigó

Dei picks out a 2006 painting of a saxophonist by Ghanaian artist Hacajaka. “When I look at this picture, it brings back lots of memories,” he says. “I listen a lot to jazz. It reminds me of when I graduated from college. When I was studying in the US, I heard some of the best jazz musicians: John Coltrane, Miles Davis.

“Miles Davis is my favourite. I heard him in Boston once and asked for his autograph, though he pretty much told me to get lost. There was a lot of experimentation with music . . . It puts me in a good mood. I’ll put this in my office in my new house.”

Articke via FT