Tag: @Dr_Jabz27


Victims of Necessity: The Kayayei & The Sexual Health Minefield

There is a saying that starts off by claiming ‘necessity compels a butcher to kill a cat’. For many underprivileged girls from Ghana’s Northern region, necessity has pushed them to leave their homes to head for the bright lights of the cities – a move they have theorised would give them a better shot at life. And yet, for many that move turns out to be a case of necessity fuelling a jump from frying pan into fire. Necessity powering a jump into a situation of increased stress and pain for negligible gain, a situation of homelessness and vulnerability. In Accra, over 50,000 such stories roam the streets. These young ladies are called Kayayei.

The term ‘Kayayei’ (a conjugation of the Hausa word ‘Kaya’ which means load/burden and the Ga description of females as ‘Yei’) is a term which describes groups of young women who traditionally have migrated from a rural community to one of Ghana’s urban hotspots in search of work and better employment prospects. These women tend to be used for manual labour, as porters exploited to carry goods to and from markets and lorry parks in Ghana’s cities.

Despite their desire for better prospects, they often work in poor conditions, for minimal income. asfafaMigration from home usually means a young girl finds herself propelled into a new surrounding without her community ties, cut off from the channels of family assistance which may have otherwise helped to support her. This lack of support leads to many Kayayei sleeping on the streets, despite having largely migrated from the North in search of a better life.

It is this precarious lifestyle, this tragedy of circumstances, which leaves many of the Kayayei vulnerable to the vagaries of urban life. Without a roof over their heads, many are taken advantage of. Studies and investigations have regularly found these young ladies vulnerable to rape and gender-based violence. Some inevitably fall pregnant, while some contract STIs. The urban dream quickly descends into a metropolitan nightmare for many of the Kayayei, creating a situation which is a black mark on the fabric of a country which can pride itself on being one of West Africa’s success stories when it comes to contraception and female reproductive rights…

1268589_546764448712806_163300384_oAs pregnancy takes you out of the earning game, many resort to underground illegal abortions in an attempt to preserve their earning potential. Others take matters into their own hands, by attempting self-termination using various concoctions and items such as herbal mixtures for oral ingestion, leaf insertion into the vagina or even drinking things such as detergent or a solution of ground glass mixed with sugar. Reading that would have made you wince, thus removing any surprise you may have otherwise felt when you hear a director of a Kayayei association claimed approximately 25 Kayayei died from unsafe abortions between January and July 2016. That is 25 too many in 21st century Ghana.

Those are just the reported numbers – how many more have died anonymously and mysteriously due to unsafe abortions, or as victims of sexual assault? In a country where maternal mortality remains a monumental problem, the lack of protection of this community and the lack of education leads to risky behaviours and even riskier consequences. Many do not have the financial means, or the educational background, to appropriately deal with the card they have been dealt in this world. Dina, a 27-year-old Kayayei in Accra, told VICE’s women’s interest channel Broadly, “I have had so many abortions and I did all eight on my own. You feel severe pain when you take the medicine. One time I felt like dying, my body was so weak, I couldn’t move and I lost so much blood I thought I would die. I am too afraid to tell anyone when I’m pregnant so there was no medical attention.”

Though Kayayei life remains arduous, there are still hopeful signs for one of Ghana’s most marginal marie-stopes-international-photo-story-body-image-1477061187female communities. Marie Stopes International, a reproductive health charity, is working with the Kayayei community in Accra to provide contraception, education on sexual health, and family planning advice, as well as HIV/AIDS treatment and gender-based violence support. For Kayayei like Gifty, the support has been invaluable. “I said to myself that this will change my life and it has. I had a five-year implant fitted,” she said.“Now I can take care of my existing children.”

Another initiative Marie Stopes International has piloted involves holding weekly community-based shows which help inform the Kayayei about their rights, while offering education on contraception and the need for testing for sexually-transmitted diseases. The Ghana Police Service’s Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit (DOVVSU) has also begun to meet Kayayei informally via small group discussions, to encourage the reporting of violent crime in their community and educate them on their rights.

Education is power, and it is this sentiment which seems to be the most effective way of helping the Kayayei take back control of their destinies and make the most of their current situation. The outlook may be bleak – but collaborations between this forgotten community and organisations with the resources to make a difference, can help make that outlook brighter. Bringing the issues of this marginalised group to the forefront will help towards Ghana meeting the new development goals. Many find themselves in this community not by way of desire, but by way of necessity. For this group of hardworking young ladies, access to contraception and adequate support will not only save lives, but it can form some sort of foundation which can help give them a better chance at building a better future. And that’s something every single woman in Ghana deserves. This is a right which the government should recognise as a necessity.

By Dr Jermaine Bamfo (@Dr_Jabz27)

Anthony Joshua’s African Dream

He’s dominated everyone he’s come up against in the confines of London’s O2 Arena, but now the champ is broadening his horizons. Anthony Joshua, and his promoter Eddie Hearn, believe the time is right to begin thinking about going global.

His next fight in December will be his first professional fight away from the O2 which has been anointed 112310881-6505030b-d631-4f9d-b7f2-85ae41bd968awith the moniker ‘the Lion’s Den’. If he gets past that fight in Manchester, plans are already afoot for him to make his American debut at some point next year. Eddie Hearn wants to turn Anthony Joshua into the ‘Watford Globetrotter’ and have him defend his titles worldwide as he continues his ascent to become a global boxing superstar.

 

While locations in Asia, the Middle East and the Americas have been suggested, AJ has designs on emulating his hero Muhammad Ali, as he dreams of making one of those fights take place in Africa – more specifically in Nigeria, where his heritage lies, or in Ghana which has a rich boxing history.

“It’s been done before. It made massive news and was history. I think that would be massive. I would not turn that opportunity down,” AJ told the Mirror. “I’d like it to be in Nigeria or Ghana. Either one is good for me, anywhere. There’s no way I wouldn’t fight there. It would be class, the whole history of it. It would work.”

Joshua has a glittering array of potential contenders lying in wait such as Wladimir Kitschko, David Haye and Deontay Wilder. Here’s hoping we see one of those golden world-title boxing events of old akin to the ‘Rumble In The Jungle’ or the‘Thrilla in Manilla’ taking place on the shores of Ghana one day in the near future.

By Dr Jermaine Bamfo

A NIGHT WITH THE COMPOZERS 4 – December 2016

Their ascent has been rapid; the waves made over the course of the last few years imperious in magnitude. Having exploded onto the scene in 2013, this eclectic team of four incredibly-talented young Ghanaian musicians have become the standard in urban music live acoustics and instrumentalism. Charlie, Nana, Stephen and David have supported Nigerian music behemoth Wizkid and Ghana’s finest rapper Sarkodie, as well as regularly collaborating with Fuze ODG to name a few. In 2016 alone they have had the pleasure of performing on the same ticket as rap royalty Lauryn Hill and have rubbed shoulders with legitimate royalty in Prince Harry.

Regardless of where they perform and who they perform with, there is one jewel in the Compozer/Decadence Entertainment crown which gleams bigger and brighter with every passing year – one hallmark event at which their swelling number of fans can congregate to vibe, dance, sing along and get hyped as the Compozers come home to do what they do best. That event is A Night With The Compozers.

The first ANWTC in North London was an incredible event and each year the Compozers have slammed into their home event with increasing ferocity, ingenuity, creativity and vibrancy – proving that their finger never leaves the pulse of the musical landscape as they manage to put their inimitable spin on music from all eras. The fourth iteration of ANWTC promises to be the best yet!

Taking place at O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire on December 19th, ANWTC4 will be a show-stopping experience that will guarantee an amazing show for all in attendance. From a psychedelic stage and on-screen visuals, to bombastic tunes which will not fail to get you moving, you will not be disappointed!

Tickets for ANWTC sell out notoriously quickly so if you are going to be in London in December, you are advised to get your tickets now for what promises to be THE musical event of the Christmas season!

Date: Monday 19th December 2016 – 7PM

Venue: O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, Shepherd’s Bush Green, London W12 8TT

Tickets go on general sale from 9am on Friday 9th September 2016

By Dr. Jermaine Bamfo

Uber Launches In Ghana!

trotroGhana is a wonderful country. And one of the biggest parts of Ghanaian life is transport. You can find anecdotes about practically any mode of transport, from car, to boat, to the humble tro-tro which has been a loyal medium for many. The landscape of Ghanaian transport has been changing over the past few years, with work underway to drag Kotoka International Airport into the 21st Century, as well as the much-acclaimed ‘made-in-Ghana- cars manufactured by Kantanka and work all across the nation to improve the roads and travel infrastructure.

Now, one of the biggest travel sensations in the world is finally arriving on the shores of Ghana. 0c838fdf-fbd8-44d4-942b-039b7cbe577bAt midday on Thursday 9th June 2016, Uber finally arrives in Ghana as Accra becomes the 8th sub-Saharan African city to utilise the acclaimed ride service! The cab-hailing behemoth will commence operations with immediate availability of its UberX cars, and hopes to expand its fleet nationwide just as we have seen time and again in territories all across the world.

Uber is a cab-hailing smartphone app which allows passengers to summon cars at real time and at affordable prices. It’s rating system, easy-to-use app and good service has taken the world by storm, allowing Uber to have a presence in more than 460 cities worldwide. Already, Uber’s research has seen that there is a great demand for its service in Ghana. Uber Technologies Inc. have moved their focus onto Africa in recent times and are steadily expanding their services across the continent. Ghana is the 5th sub-Sharan African country it has added to its global network, with Tanzania hoping to follow later in June.

uber-750x400Uber has seen the demand for its services on Ghana’s shores, and the increasing way technology is being embraced to help improve living. Accra has been selected to be the starting point for Uber in Ghana, with its thriving population of 2.27 million having access to efficient transport through its ride-sharing platform from June 9th. “We see Accra as a natural fit!” proclaimed Alon Lits, who is Uber’s general manager for the Sub-Sahara territory. “Accra is a bustling, connected city that Uber is proud to be launching in. Its people are willing to embrace innovation and technology, and love products that are cool, exclusive and offer a new experience. We are able to deliver just that – safely, reliably and affordability”

So if you’re in Accra, download the Uber app now and await launch. Follow @Uber_Ghana on zvfasfatwitter for more details!

*Note: Uber are offering 6 free weekend rides (up to the value of GHS 20 each) on launch weekend, from midday on Thursday 9th June to midnight on Sunday 12th June. Here’s how to redeem the free rides:

  1. Visit m.uber.com or download the free ‘Uber’ app on your SMART phone ( iPhone, Android, Blackberry 7, Windows Phone)
  2. Sign up and activate your 6 free rides with the promo code: MoveGHANA
  3. Request your ride

By Dr. Jermaine Bamfo

Meet Watly: The Three-Pronged Solution to Africa’s Biggest Needs

When you think of rural Ghana, and the rural Sub-Sahara, the big issues can usually be distilled into three components – a need for clean drinking water, a need for sustainable sources of power, and a need for internet connectivity. Take a second now to imagine a machine that can turn contaminated water from a river, ocean or even sewage into drinking water, while at the same time generating enough electricity to power itself with surplus, and connecting everywhere within a kilometre radius to Wi-Fi.

160503160150-watly-ghana-environment-test-super-169It sounds too good to be true. And yet Spanish-Italian start-up Watly have managed to create just that! The Watly machine is a car-sized solar-powered water-purification machine which can service 3000 people, and aims to provide to rural African communities the three fundamental pillars of modern civilisation: electrical power, clean water and internet access. It is ‘H’-shaped to follow the Sun throughout the day. An incredible technological feat, it works by capturing solar energy through photovoltaic panels that line its shell, before converting that solar energy into electricity through an internal 140kwh battery.

 

“The only thing it needs to run are dirty water and a lot of sun”, says Marco Attisani, the 160503162032-watly-team-in-ghana-super-16944-year old founder and creator of the Spanish-Italian start-up Watly. Ghana was chosen as the host of the first trials, with Watly machines having been provided to many villages to see just how useful and effective they are.

The solar energy generated through the solar panels helps produce clean drinking water by using a patented graphene-based filtering process. Watly’s purification process is based on the physical principle of vapour compression distillation. It is by far the most effective and powerful method of water purification available. Watly water quality is outstanding, absolutely pure, low mineralized and with a perfect pH balance. Water quality remains constant over the 15+ years of a Watly machine’s lifespan. One Watly device can deliver 5000 litres of safe drinking water each day!

 

160506154544-watly-hub-super-169It does not need to be connected to an electric grid. Watly produces off-grid electricity to power its own internal electronics (computers, multiple-screens, 3D printers and different telecommunication devices), as well as powering a charging station for external devices (portable computers, mobile phones, portable lamps, radios, televisions, household appliances). The free electricity generated by Watly is made available to people via multiple battery chargers and electric plugs. The battery also powers a connectivity hub, providing wireless internet to an 800-meter radius of a device.

 

Those lucky enough to trial the Watly prototypes have been astounded by the capabilities of the machine, and are incredibly excited by the prospect of having this little hub be an adrenaline shot to their infrastructure and quality of daily living.

A solar-powered machine such as the Watly is seen as potentially providing a boost to 160503154117-watly-ghana-children-super-169development in Ghana’s rural areas, as well as rural areas across the Sub-Sahara, where approximately 625 million people are without electricity and approximately 39% lack access to safe water.

If the trials are successful, the Watly team will look to begin a continent-wide roll-out of the devices. Founder Attisani will be presenting the final design to potential customers and investors in July, having already cited interest from leading mobile and energy companies. The team hopes to install 10000 Watly units across Africa over the next 8 years, which will help in creating about 50000 jobs on the continent. After the initial cost of build, Watly will run for free for up to 15 years, the company estimates. And in that time it will provide 3 million litres of clean water a year, enough for 3,000 people, electricity for thousands of devices, and Wi-Fi for a kilometre-wide radius.

160503161042-watly-tried-in-ghana-super-169The project has received 1.4 million Euros from the EU’s Horizon 2020 research funding program, and are planning to collaborate with NGOs and civil society on a local level. “No technology can change the world without a human factor” ,continues Attisani. “Local partners will care for the logistics, spread the word, play a role in education and leverage functionality.”
The Watly team also hopes that their devices will lead to a surge of economic growth in the areas which they serve, by becoming a launchpad upon which local entrepreneurs can start their businesses. Creating jobs, and helping bring much needed aid in the development of rural areas in Ghana and beyond, are just some of the advantages of a project which is aiming to bring the underdeveloped areas of Ghana and Africa to the heart of the 21st century.

By Dr Jermaine Bamfo (@Dr_Jabz27)

The Ugliest Day of Ghana’s Beautiful Game: 15th Anniversary of the Accra Sports Stadium Disaster

5354030820799_5043073398733There are very few things which unite the Ghanaian people like football. There is a visceral, all-encompassing passion when it comes to the beautiful game – not only in Ghana, but worldwide. However, with such a game which has played host to numerous moments of unspeakable joy and celebration, there have also been moments which have encroached upon the very darkest parts of the human condition. Racism. Abuse. And most of all, death. Death found its way to Hillsborough and Heysel in the late 80s. And on the 9th of May 2001, death found its way to the 40000 all-seater Accra Sports Stadium (aka Ohene Djan Stadium). This week marks the 15th anniversary of the Accra Sports Stadium disaster on ‘Black Wednesday‘ which claimed the lives of 127 supporters.

Speak to any football fan and they will tell you that there are certain matches which peak interest unlike most of the others. Liverpool v United. Real Madrid v Barca. In Ghana, when the Accra Hearts of Oak go toe-to-toe with the Asante Kotoko, it’s a very big deal.

In such matches tensions are high as the tribalism and passion of the fans thunders through the atmosphere. You can feel it. You can taste it. And that fateful day in May was the same. Every tackle met with cheers of derision and accomplishment in equal measure. Until one refereeing decision proved to be one bone of discontentment too much for some. Hearts of Oak had scored two late goals to race into a 2-1 lead. This led to fans registering their displeasure by launching missiles onto the pitch – chairs, water bottles, etc.

The police decided to fight fire with fire and in an attempt to disperse the crowd, indiscriminately Accra-Sports-stadium-stampedefiring tear gas, rubber bullets and flashbangs into the throngs of people. A recipe for disaster. People in pain and distress now found themselves in a warzone, and everyone made a frantic bid for the exits. Fans couldn’t encroach onto the pitch because of the 2-meter high wire fences which were adorned with barbed wire – similar fences which had been outlawed in Europe post-Hillsborough.

So the fans made mad dashes down the six narrow stairways which led to the exits. The bottleneck effect was brutal, fans crushing against each other in panic. Amidst the mayhem and the bedlam, fans trampled over each other, everyone desperate to save their life. In turn, 127 individuals lost theirs. And countless others sustained injuries of various severities.

Locked gates. Narrow exits. It took too long to relieve the crush. Chests prevented from expanding. Those who had fallen did not have space to get back up. People had been trampled upon, piled up against each other. When all was said-and-done, the battle list read painfully. 117 died from traumatic asphyxia – having their chests crushed inward resulting in suffocation. 10 more died from stampede trauma. 148 children of the deceased are being catered for by a Stadium Disaster Fund.

Black Wednesday was a logistical catastrophe of errors on an unbelievable scale. Aggressive police were too hack-handed in their attempts at crowd control. There were inadequate numbers of safety staff, inadequate access for emergency services. The stadium originally built in the 1960s was not fit-for-purpose for the new millennium – a poorly-maintained concrete dinosaur which simply could not cope with the worst that sport can have to offer. 37 Military Hospital was unable to house all of the dead – and so instead of the 106 surplus bodies being shifted to other mortuaries, they were kept on the compound in inappropriate temperatures; already in a state of decomposition by the time collections began for burials.

sffasfafafThe Accra Sports Stadium disaster on Black Wednesday still stands as the deadliest stadium disaster in all African history. It’s very ironic that the 15th anniversary comes just a couple of weeks after the new Hillsborough inquiry ended – just 8 less people died on Black Wednesday than Hillsborough and Heysel combined. Yes, an official Ghanaian commission blamed police on duty for inciting the stampede through criminal negligence. But unlike Hillsborough, there is no ongoing inquest, no active fight for justice. Even today, 15 years on, and despite renovation in 2007, the Accra Sports Stadium still falls short in terms of structural safety. Most of the recommendations from the government-appointed commission’s report following the disaster have been ignored.

But for a country which remains so football-mad, we need to do more to safeguard future sporting fans. The Ghanaian government needs to learn lessons from the West, which has made great strides in learning from their past disasters to ensure there is no room for repeat. The 127 need to be remembered – a safer, more fit-for-purpose sporting environment would be a fitting legacy. For nobody should leave home to go to a football match, cheering on their favourite team, and never come back home.

“As I made my way towards the staircase, I froze,” reported Accra sports journalist Yawme Ampofo-Ankrah in the aftermath of Black Wednesday. “I saw something I will never forget for the rest of my life…the most appaling look of fear and hopelessness was written across the faces of dying innocent young men. They were dying and ther was nothing anybody could do to save them.” We have the means, the will, and the lessons in our nation’s chapter to learn from the disaster and ensure that there is hope for the future. That there will not be another one of Ghana’s sons or daughters in such a predicament ever again. We can save them now. For as the inscription on the memorial bronze statue outside the stadium reads, ‘[We are our] brother’s keeper’.

By Dr Jermaine Bamfo (@Dr_Jabz27)

Dr. One – Bringing Sexual Health to Rural Ghana & Beyond

Healthcare provision is a big issue when it comes to Ghana and the African continent. There are many obstacles which prevent millions of people from getting healthcare which is on par with that received in the West – finances, lack of technology, an inadequately-trained workforce, lack of electricity and the various issues surrounding energy provision, etc. However, one of the biggest issues is the fact that there are large rural communities in Ghana and in various African countries that are situated in remote and hard-to-reach villages and towns. Places where a flood can shut down the roads for days and cut off supply chains. Places where an ‘act of nature’ could prevent healthcare professionals from reaching those in need in good time.

 

As 2014 drew to a close, a group of public health experts and philanthropists congregated to think about how to improve contraception access and sexual health provision to women in these areas. A light-bulb collectively switched on, as they took inspiration from Amazon, the American electronic commerce behemoth which is pioneering the use of unmanned delivery drones.

 

A-drone-in-operation-at-the-Accra-Trade-Fair-Centre-800x445Enter Dr. One – a successful pilot program jointly funded by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the government of the Netherlands, which gained support from the Ghana Health Service. The Dr. One program has been using 5-foot-wide drones to successfully fly birth control medications, condoms and other medical supplies from urban warehouses to rural areas of Ghana which would be otherwise very difficult to reach. A healthcare worker waits for the drop at a predetermined area, picks up the supplies and then distributes them to local residents in need.

 

Delays in the provision of health treatments to rural areas have been eased by this program, with the drones delivering treatment to hard-to-reach areas.

“Delivery to the rural areas used to take two days,” said Kanyanta Sunkutu (public health specialist with the UNFPA) at the International Conference on Family Planning in Bali, Indonesia.

“It will now take 30 minutes.” Such has been the level of success, the program is now looking at options to expand into more territories in order to spread this sexual health revolution across the continent.

 

In a domain such as Sub-Saharan Africa, which sees less than 20% of women using modern Teen-Mums-Ghana-UNI190989-1200x800contraception, access to adequate and appropriate birth control is a big issue. It’s more pressing when you appreciate World Health Organisation estimations that approximately 225 million women in developing nations worldwide lack reliable birth control methods despite desiring to hold-off pregnancy or maybe not bear any children.

 

These kind of figures betray how much of an issue the lack of access to appropriate birth control is, with very high rates of unintentional pregnancy observed in these areas. Unintentional pregnancies are married to problems such as child pregnancy and marriage, as well as lack of female education (with young ladies falling pregnant and having to drop out of school to tend to their babies and generate income). Many young girls and women also find themselves seeking abortions following the confirmation of an undesired pregnancy. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that seeking an abortion in areas where adequate healthcare is scant and a lack of appropriate treatment exists, is a minefield fraught with danger – approximately 47000 women die yearly from complications related to such unsafe abortions.

 

145-ghana-girls-meetingThe pilot program in Ghana has been so successful and cost-efficient (with each delivery flight costing only $15) that the governments of several countries have offered to take over the program and pay for it themselves. Tanzania, Rwanda, Zambia, Ethiopia and Mozambique have all expressed interest in using the drones for family planning.

Programs such as Dr. One may seem uncomplicated, but their influence and power have a wide-ranging benefit both logistically and ideologically. Such invention could go a long way in helping Ghana and the continent bypass seemingly insurmountable obstacles to finally making the massive inroads required to improve African sexual health, reduce maternal/infant mortality and morbidity rates, and drag African healthcare to the standards its inhabitants deserve.

 

By Dr. Jermaine Bamfo (@Dr_Jabz27)

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)

Reggie N Bollie: The ‘X Factor’ of X Factor 2015

As the X Factor Live Finals of 2015 kicked off on ITV1, fellow finalists Che Chesterman and Louisa Johnson came out individually in turn, flanked by a parade of fighters carrying placards emblazoned with their names as they brilliantly sung their own battle cries. But the X Factor production team knew what they were doing when they left the best till last. Reggie N Bollie thundered through the crowd with a powerful and vibrant rendition of ‘Jump!’ This was their time to shine and they were going to enjoy their time in the sun.

 

craigdavid2_2602095a

Reggie N Bollie performing with Fuse ODG (far right) and Craig David (second left)

Reggie N Bollie’s duet piece was kicked off by a special appearance by our very own Fuse ODG. The stars had finally aligned as this was the joint performance that many had expected and desired the most: the premier flagbearer of the Ghanaian music scene in the UK allied with the newest Black Stars on the block, on the biggest televised musical platform in the country, live to millions nationwide. The epitome of ‘Ghana Stand Up!’

 

Craig David then appeared as the bass of ‘Million Pound Girl’ faded into the familiar strains of ‘Re-wind’ – and the capacity crowd of 10000 plus in the Wembley Arena lost their collective minds. Reggie N Bollie bounced off this legend of the music scene effortlessly, with Fuse gallivanting across the stage and drumming up support. It was at this moment that you knew something special was in the offing.The boys’ couldn’t actually do it – could they? What was once fanciful fantasy, now seemed like a legitimate possibility – a sentiment echoed by a certain Mr Cowell himself.

And so the votes were frozen and the finalists returned to the stage at the end of Day One of the finals. Louisa was first called, before Reggie N Bollie’s names were announced as the act to complete the final set-up for Sunday. Incredible scenes, the boys had now secured at least second place in the X Factor 2015!

 

The gap between the Saturday & Sunday evenings crackled with various views and opinions. It would be amazing if the boys couldmedium_aCyQfY0Hb9xhtbnd6Xn0LCbINobhrYaTtI_llHG0PyU win it, Ghanaians from grass to grace. But would a win benefit their careers in the long-run? X Factor has a long history of handing the winner a poisoned chalice, with many examples of acts who didn’t win becoming bigger successes revelling in greater freedom. But then it would be painful to lose at the final hurdle right? But can second place at the X Factor Final be considered a ‘loss?’ Debate here, debate there, debate everywhere.

 

Reggie N Bollie at the end of the day just couldn’t overcome Louisa Johnson, who throughout the finals showed a finesse and an embarrassment of riches when it came to vocal ability – with final vote data showing they had 38% of the vote compared to Louisa’s 53%. A ballad winners’ single did not help their chances, exposing the discrepancy in vocals. It was unfair that in previous years, three options for a Winners’ single were available for acts to choose from, recognising that one man’s meat is another’s poison – and yet this year, Reggie N Bollie struggled as they were shoehorned into an area out of the comfort zone they had consistently remained in from day one. Their poorest performances came with a drop in tempo – ‘Locked Away’ in the semis, which could have proved fatal even then; and the critical Winners’ single performance.

 

But as the confetti settles, the horizon becomes clearer. Firstly, second place may be nowhere when it comes to football, but when it comes to the X Factor, even third place can be king. As people such as Olly Murs, JLS, Fleur East and pop behemoths One Direction have shown, a place in the live finals alone can be a platform to success.

 

Reggie N Bollie for the past seven weeks have performed live on Saturday Night Primetime TV in front of MILLIONS of people cheryl-reggie-bollie-x-factorin the UK and worldwide. There are so many out there who would kill for that opportunity. They got to the final two not on the basis of judges votes (having never been in the bottom three), but on the power of the public! They got there because there are so many out there who fell in love with their humility, their vibrancy, their energy. That’s a massive accreditation of their act, and very encouraging for their future – they are boys in massive demand.

 

Whether you loved them with all your heart, or despised them because you considered them a ‘novelty act’, Reggie N Bollie were THE act you wanted to see! And that is what will define them in the annals of X Factor history. To re-iterate what I said in a previous post, among a cohort where we saw 12 shades of the same grey we’ve seen time and again every X Factor season since the beginning, Reggie N Bollie plastered our screens with explosive red gold and green! In dark times as these, they presented us humility and joy, bringing a smile to many faces and providing a brief escape from the vagaries of real life. They were the energy. They were the show-stoppers, the party. And most importantly for the big bosses, they were the entertainment.

 

xfactor_land73_2602761aNOBODY expected ‘Menn On Point’ to be performing on the same stage as One Direction, Rod Stewart, Coldplay and Adele at a world-renowned venue that is the Wembley Arena, packed to the rafters with 10000 people, streamed live into the homes of millions. Nobody expected them to win millions of votes over the series, and take at least 20% of the vote share from Week Four onwards and be second in the overall voting from Week Five right to the very end when Louisa was all that stood between them and winning the whole thing. Nobody expected them to be legitimately, honestly and seriously be considered winners. Not even Reggie himself, who had battled his own demons and doubts just a year ago and had grown so tired of the struggle that he flirted with the idea of pulling the plug on their whole act. And yet here they were. On a pedestal nobody expected them to climb, with the world as their oyster.

 

So people may speak about their lack of vocal talent all they want (and to be honest, a lot of that comes from people who have never listened to Afrobeat before, so we will allow them). However, the X Factor has always been billed as more than a singing competition. It’s been a competition to find people who have ‘it’ – that rare essence which captivates the masses,electrifies the public, wins hearts and captures minds. They may not have been crowned winners, but as talk of record deals and live appearances start to gather serious momentum, something tells me that in the long haul we will find that Reggie N Bollie do indeed have the ‘X Factor’.


By Dr. Jermaine Bamfo (@Dr_Jabz27)

Breaking Barriers: Giving Ghanaian Female Footballer’s a Right To Dream

At the turn of the 21st century, the Ghana national women’s team qualified for the Women’s World Cup, making the Black Queens the first Ghanaian national football team to debut at an international competition. It was another 7 years before the male Black Stars equalled the achievement by qualifying for the 2006 FIFA World Cup.

 

27-Dream-Academy-Ghana-Iain-SutherlandDespite breaking that glass ceiling, female football in Ghana has struggled to break down other barriers. Today, the women’s game battles thanklessly against stereotypes and opposition, as well as the financial burden which makes development of the women’s game such a difficult prospect.

 

Stories can be found all across Ghana of girls who enjoyed kicking a ball barefoot with friends, cousins, neighbours in the streets and the dust pitches, at school or after church, under the morning sun or in the dusk of evening. Girls who prefer their Ronaldo’s to their Rihanna’s, their Di Marias to their Dumelo’s; young ladies who would take Match Of The Day over Millionaire Matchmaker or would prefer a new pair of Adidas Predators over a pair of Manolo Blahniks.

 

But in Ghana many of these same girls face a tough choice between footballing passion and the aspirations of their parents or family members, or even society as a whole. A daughter’s choice to play sport remains very hard for many to accept. Girls have no business in a man’s world, they would have you believe. Some may propose that religion does not allow for a female to partake in a male pastime. Others would suggest that football makes a girl lazy, butch, unmarriageable material, barren – and to top it all off, the girl wouldn’t get paid well for the privilege anyway.

 

It’s tough to observe the fierce opposition to the prospect of a female footballer which still exists at a large scale in Ghana. Many 27-Dream-Acadely-Ghana-Iain-Sutherland1coaches of girl’s teams advocate that football offers a way out for many girls who are in communities where teenage girls get pregnant or run off to the capital to work as a hawker or sleep on the street. Football can also offer educational support, where it is noted that more than 65% of girls over 15 in the Northern Region have received no formal education (compared to the national average of 21%).

 

In a country where sport and education are traditionally dominated by men, the Right to Dream football academy is fighting against the dominance of male football and gender inequalities by helping provide young women a route to excel at both.

 

Right To Dream has opened the very first residential football academy for girls in Africa – providing lush green pitches and state of the art equipment and facilities to help young women cultivate their skill and aim for the stars. Right To Dream has also been offering scholarships to girls in Ghana and the Ivory Coast. In one round, 1000 girls from those countries took part in trials for the first nine places on the course. Parental scepticism was one of the biggest hurdles faced by the academy when it first launched, so scouts and employees had to physically attend homes of those lucky enough to be selected to attend, in order to explain to family members how beneficial an opportunity this is.

 

ghana.fans.533There are 15 girls at the academy, with two more at recently launched schools in Kumasi and Takoradi. Small but viable steps are being made to give girls a chance and a platform to live their dreams. Former Manchester United scout Tom Vernon, the founder of Right To Dream says that the academy’s programme “not only bodes well for challenging and changing the mind-set around women’s sport in West Africa, but I would hope [it] provides the catalyst for many more similar development opportunities for talented African girls across the continent

 

Right To Dream, which was first established in 1999, has operated an academy service for males since day one. Its structure has provided a safe and secure route to a possible footballing career. Abdul Majeed Waris was the first graduate of Right To Dream to play at a FIFA World Cup, with the honour of being one of the Black Stars to perform for Ghana at World Cup 2014. So the future is bright for the girls who are finding their feet at the new female academies. And with two US scholarships in 2015, the Right To Dream ladies are catching up to the boys and hopefully blazing a trail right through the barriers to the female game in Ghana and the African continent as a whole.

 

By Dr. Jermaine Bamfo