Tag: Ghana


Ibrahim Mahama presents a portrait of Ghana at his first exhibition in London

The Ghanaian artist Ibrahim Mahama, 29, has joined White Cube in London. He is the first artist born and based in Africa signed by the gallery. His arrival follows the departure of the British duo Jake and Dinos Chapman, who left White Cube earlier this month after 20 years with the gallery to join Blain Southern, and shows the continuing internationalisation of the White Cube roster.

The memory of objects

Mahama’s debut exhibition at White Cube, and his first solo show in the UK, opened to the public on 28th February. It includes five wall hangings made from the jute sacks which are used to transport goods in Ghana. Their history illustrates the complex trade networks of the global economy and post-independence Ghana.

Made in Bangladesh and India, the sacks are imported to Ghana and used to move cocoa beans, one of

Ibrahim Mahama, Crop Estate (2016) (Image: © the artist. Photo © White Cube (George Darrell))

the country’s leading exports, to the ships which will transport them to international markets. Because cocoa beans are a fragile luxury export, the sacks will move the product first and only once. They are then used multiple times to take crops such as rice, millet and maize around the country for domestic consumption. Finally, they are used to shift coal. Mahama and his collaborators acquire the sacks at the end of their working life, sewing them together to create massive tapestries which the artist has draped over buildings in Ghana such as theatres, museums, luxury apartments, and social housing projects, among others, and abroad (for the 2015 Venice Biennale he covered two external walls of the Arsenale with 300-metre-long hangings).

On some of the wall pieces at White Cube, Mahama has also added fragments of the tarpaulin which is first used to cover food transport trucks in Ghana and then recycled to protect metal objects such as engines. In another tapestry he has added discarded leather seat covers from trains, alluding to the deterioration of the railways in post-independence Ghana.

“I’m interested in looking at the artistic and political implications of these materials. What happens when you pick several different objects from different places with specific histories and memories and put them together to form a new object?” Mahama asks.

Shoe repairmen

Another cycle of work focusses on the wooden boxes used by shoe repairmen in Ghana to hold their tools. Working with a team of collaborators around the country, Mahama has assembled thousands of these boxes, exchanging them for new ones built by his assistants. At White Cube, Mahama has constructed a massive wall out of these boxes, carefully slotting them together with no external supports. Every time the piece is dismantled and re-assembled elsewhere, its “composition will change,” explains the artist.

Ibrahim Mahama, Diesel Room. Non Orientable Nkansa. Sekondi Locomotive station 1901-2030 (2016) (Image: © Ibrahim Mahama Photo: Ibrahim Mahama)

The boxes contain a multitude of objects such as the original tools used to repair shoes and the slippers worn by the repairmen to do their work as well as new objects inserted by Mahama’s assistants, for example, old issues of the Economist magazine. “The wall contains a narrative of post-independence society,” explains the artist, and deals with issues such as political crises and gentrification: many of the boxes were originally made with materials found on building sites or in houses slated for demolition to make way for new developments. “A lot of residues come out of those spaces,” says the artist.

“The boxes represent the failure of a system, a failure we haven’t yet acknowledged. The structures of global capitalism shift things such as the cosmopolitan life of the city and the structures that are built around it.” Now they have a new life as a work of art in a high-end gallery. “The potential of these structures when you look at them beyond the chaos and the crisis is also interesting,” says the artist.

Also on display are archival photographs of a paint factory set up by the Ghanaian State, then privatised

Ibrahim Mahama, Exchange Exchanger (still), (2013-16) (Image:
© the artist. Courtesy White Cube)

in the 1990s, and later abandoned. Mahama found the images in the factory when he set up a studio there for the shoe box project. Also at White Cube, a two-screen film shows the installation of Mahama’s massive jute-sack tapestries on buildings such as the National Theatre in Accra. Drone footage surveys the sites from above while hand-held cameras follow Mahama’s collaborators as they laboriously carry the massive objects up to the roof.

This ongoing project has often been compared to the work of “wrap” artist Christo. But, Mahama finds the comparison lazy. “You can’t reduce art just to aesthetics and what you see. There is a deeper, political meaning to it.”

Ibrahim Mahama: Fragments is at White Cube Bermondsey until 13 April

Article via The Art Newspaper

GHANA’S BLACK QUEENS REACH SEMI-FINALS OF WAFCON 2016

In case it escaped your attention a very important football match took place this weekend involving Ghana No it was not the Black Stars in action but the Black Queens, Ghana’s women football team

They defeated Mali a 3-1  on Saturday to book a place in the semi-finals of the 2016 Women’s African Cup of Nations in Cameroon.

Linda Eshun, Samira Suleman and Elizabeth Addo scored to hand the Black Queens all three points in their last group game, with Binta Diarra fetching Mali’s consolation at Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo in Yaounde.

With a 3-1 win over Kenya and a 1-1 stalemate with Nigeria prior, Ghana came into Saturday’s game requiring a draw in the least to make the last four.

Mali, in the other hand, had their job cut out as they needed nothing but a win to sail through.

Defender Linda Eshun put Ghana in front in after 37 minutes, capitalising on a blunder by Mali goalkeeper Goundo Samake to make it 1-0.

The Black Queens scored again 30 minutes later.

Following a neat buildup involving Juliet Acheampong and Portia Boakye, Samira Suleman had the easiest job of tapping in from close range.

Captain Elizabeth Addo made it three for Yusif Basigi’s ladies from the spot after she was fouled by Oumou Tangara.

Lala Dicko, nonetheless, pulled one back for Mali three minutes to full-time.

Ghana will face hosts Cameroon in the semi-final tomorrow, same day Nigeria take on South Africa in the other game.

The Black Queens, who are three times losing finalists, are in search for their first title at the championship.

Best of luck to Ghana’s women against Cameroon!

Skin-lightening is a $10 billion industry Ghana wants nothing to do with !

Come August, Ghana will begin implementing a new ban on hydroquinone, the primary chemical in many skin-bleaching products. The ban is the latest salvo in a backlash against skin-bleaching that pits longstanding racial stereotypes against a growing beauty industry.

Ghana is one of just three African countries—along with Cote d‘Ivoire and South Africa—to regulate skin-lightening products, and its Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) says the ban is a matter of public safety. Hydroquinone is widely considered a potential carcinogen and products containing it are already banned or restricted in Japan, Australia, and the European Union (though the efficacy of those bans is up for debate)

There is abundant historical precedent for using chemical products to achieve a lighter skin tone, but the practice has in recent years seeded a booming—and controversial—industry. In 2012, India alone used 258 tons of skin-lightening cream (such creams have recently caught on with men there). In Lagos, Nigeria, one survey found that up to 77% of all residents use skin-lightening creams. Demand for such products is currently being driven by the Asia-Pacific market—led, interestingly, by Japan—but they are also popular in parts of Africa, the Middle East, the Caribbean, and Latin America. A 2009 report from Global Industry Analysts declared skin-lightening a $10 billion industry; as of last year, GIA was projecting that number would hit $23 billion by 2020.

While skin-lightening has some negative physical side effects—cancer aside, bleaching creams can cause rashes, itchy and flaky skin, and permanent scarring—the hydroquinone backlash has deeper roots. Skin-lightening is seen as a direct byproduct of colorism, a form of discrimination that deems lighter skin “better” than darker skin. Historically, colorism has led to disparities in everything from social treatment to employment, and has even been documented as a factor in US prison sentencing.

Perhaps the most infamous example of this is the “paper bag test,” a practice in American slavery whereby slave owners would compare slaves’ skin color to a paper bag—lighter-skinned slaves worked indoors while darker slaves were sent to the fields. More recently, 2011 documentary Dark Girls highlighted the lingering presence of colorism in the media, and its effect on black women’s sense of self-worth. Outside the US, skin tone continues to be associated with class in many regions, particularly formerly colonized spaces like India and the Philippines.

So far, the pushback against skin-lightening has been slow, in part because such products are still big business. (In the US, Unilever manufactures Fair & Lovely, a skin-bleaching cream with wide distribution in Southeast Asia). Celebrities like Cameroonian-Nigerian singer Dencia have been lambasted for pushing skin-lightening products, and even Snapchat has come under fire for using retouching filters that appear to make people whiter. But actual regulation has been slow.

This means Ghana, a country of 26 million, could be setting an important example, at least symbolically. “From August 2016, all products containing hydroquinone will not be allowed in the country,” FDA spokesman James Lartey told Starr FM last year. “From 2016, the acceptance for skin-lightening products is going to be zero.”

Article via QuartzAfrica

Ghana kicks off visa-on-arrival for all African Union travellers

Ghana has kicked off offering visas upon arrival to all African nationals, a step towards creating a continent-wide zone of free movement.

This, shortly after the African Union announced they will be launching an electronic passport, or e-passport, at the next AU Summit tabled to take place in Kigali, Rwanda, in July 2016.

These e-passports will initially be available only to heads of state, government ministers and permanent representatives of member countries at the AU.

Ghana rolled out its new visa-on-arrival on Friday, 1 July, allowing citizens of 54 African Union (AU) member states to get visas for up to 30 days upon arriving in the country.

While the move could lead to increased air traffic across the continent, South African Airways airline operator Gloria Wilkinson told Ghana’s Citi Business News that the West African country would have to ensure its security measures were tight to prevent possible abuse of the system.

Gershon Mosiane, Forum of Immigration Practitioners of South Africa (FIPSA) chairperson, echoes Wilkinson’s sentiment with issuing e-passports to all AU members.

Speaking to CapeTalk on Monday, 4 July, Mosiane said the AU’s e-passport ambitions might be admirable, but that “security threats like terrorism” have made implementing the passport more complicated.

“Would we in South Africa allow someone with a terrorist history be allowed to come into the country” using the all-access e-passport, Mosiane asked.
Regardless, the move from Ghana to issue visas-on-arrive, as well as the AU’s new e-passport plans marks a step towards the AU’s Agenda 2063 policy document, which includes the abolition of visa requirements for all African citizens in all the continent’s countries by 2018.

Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama announced Ghana’s new visa policy in his state of the nation address in February, saying that the measure would “stimulate air trade, investment and tourism.”

AU Commission chairperson, South Africa’s Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, agreed saying she was convinced “many other African countries will follow suit, in the interest of achieving an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa.”

Ghana is a hub on the African continent, as it marks a halfway point to other destinations globally, from SA. In August last year, SAA launched a route between Accra, Ghana and Washington DC in North America.

Now, AU member state passengers on this route can obtain a visa-on-arrival to explore Ghana when on a lengthy layover in the West African country.

Ghana already allows visa-free travel for citizens of countries belonging to member states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)—a regional economic bloc consisting of 15 countries including Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy.

Article via traveller24

This cardiologist travelled to Ghana to save the life of a man he had never met

The hospital he arrived at didn’t even have a place for doctors to scrub their hands.

A cardiologist from Cardiff dropped everything to travel to Ghana to save the life of a man he had never met before.

Cardiologist Professor Nick Gerning at the airport with and his friend, Dawid Konotey-Ahulu

Cardiologist Professor Nick Gerning (right) at the airport with and his friend, Dawid Konotey-Ahulu

Professor Nick Gerning works at the University Hospital of Wales. A mutual friend showed 52-year-old David’s angiogram pictures to him after David fell ill with a major heart condition.

When Prof Gerning saw the pictures he said he couldn’t believe the patient was still alive.

“His arteries were a shocker,” he said. “How he was still alive with the extent and severity of the disease, I don’t know.”

Prof Gerning arranged for David to go to the Heath hospital but his visa application was refused by the UK Home Office. So, the cardiologist flew out to Accra in Ghana to insert a stent.

Prof Gerning, who is originally from Ghana, explained: “I really thought he wasn’t going to survive. The clock was ticking.

“When I got to the intensive care unit there he had only been given aspirin.

“When they opened the lab I looked around and thought ‘what am I supposed to do here’. I asked for somewhere to scrub my hands and they said there was no such thing so I sprayed alcohol on my hands. I started the procedure and it was much worse than I thought. I had no backup and there wasn’t event a resuscitation trolley.

“The screening was terrible and it was the most complex thing I have done in my whole career, under the worst conditions.”

After almost four hours Prof Gerning successfully inserted the stent and following the experience

After a successful operation

After a successful operation

he was unable to speak for the entire evening due to the intensity of the procedure and circumstances.

And while he did not even have the right tools for the surgery he said he didn’t allow negative thoughts to cross his mind.

He said: “I’m trained to think I’m going to win the fight and I kept thinking I would get out of it with a live patient. David has two young children who are the same age as my children and when it all ended successfully it was a great sense of relief.”

David’s family were waiting outside the hospital, praying as the surgery was taking place.

“I didn’t think twice about going,” Prof Gerning added. “I just had to do everything I could to save his life.”

‘Homegoing’ by Yaa Gyasi, Born in Ghana and Raised in the U.S.

Yaa Gyasi

Yaa Gyasi

Yaa Gyasi, whose debut novel sold for at least $1 million last year, was 20 when she stepped into the haunted dungeon of Cape Coast Castle for the first time. It was 2009. She had just completed her sophomore year at Stanford University and was spending the summer in Ghana, the country she left as a toddler.

Her tour guide explained that at the height of the slave trade, British officers—and the black women they married from the Gold Coast—had lived in comfort in the upper chambers of the whitewashed castle. Meanwhile, in the reeking dungeons below, men, women and children waited for the slave ships that would take them across the ocean.

Ms. Gyasi, who is black, snapped a photo of a wooden door that led from the dungeon to the beach. Above it was a sign that said: “Door of No Return.” Suddenly, she felt angry. She had never heard her family talk about the castle, or what it represented.

“It’s conveniently left out that there was this complicity on our side, too,” said Ms. Gyasi, who is now 26 and lives in Berkeley, Calif.

Her debut novel, “Homegoing,” begins with two half-sisters in 18th-century Ghana. One marries a British officer and lives with him high in Cape Coast Castle. The other passes through the dungeon below. Sweeping across more than 250 years of history, the book follows the descendants of both sisters—one family in Ghana, the other in America—devoting one chapter to a member of each generation.

The book is due June 7 from Alfred A. Knopf. The publisher is printing 50,000 copies before the release date, a large number for a literary debut novel.

“ ‘Homegoing’ will break your heart over and over…and leave you optimistic and in awe,” Nichole Solga McCown, a bookseller for Bookshop Santa Cruz in Santa Cruz, Calif., wrote in a review for the American Booksellers Association’s Indie Next List.

Ta-Nehisi Coates, author of last year’s runaway best-seller and National Book Award-winner on race in the U.S., “Between the World and Me,” tweeted: “Finished Yaa Gyasi’s ‘Homegoing’ yesterday. Thought it was a monster when I started. Felt it was a monster when I was done.”

Ms. Gyasi was born in Mampong, a small town 160 miles north of Cape Coast. She moved to the U.S. at age 2 when her father was working on a Ph.D in French language at Ohio State University. The family moved to Illinois and Tennessee before settling in Huntsville, Ala., the summer she turned 10.

She was a precocious reader, devouring Charles Dickens and Charlotte Brontë and racing through the young-adult medical dramas of Lurlene McDaniel.

Most of her friends and classmates were white, and, though she didn’t realize it at the time, so were most of the authors she read, both in school and at home. (The Francophone-African texts her father studied didn’t yet interest her.)

“Growing up, one of the things I found most difficult was trying to figure out where I fit in, particularly because while my family is black, obviously we aren’t African-American,” she said. “And because I grew up in predominantly white spaces, I think it could be difficult to figure out how to navigate America’s racial tension.”

When she was a senior in high school, she read her first book by a black woman: “Song of Solomon” by Toni Morrison.

“It felt as much as a religious calling as you could probably ever get in the secular field,” she said.

She had imagined becoming a writer. Now she was convinced that she could do it. She made an early attempt at writing the book after that 2009 trip to Ghana, but she didn’t begin working on it in earnest until she enrolled at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She wrote without an outline—just a family tree drawn on letter-sized paper, taped to the wall of her apartment.

She had never felt like she quite belonged in either Ghana or the U.S. “A lot of this book stems from…trying to figure out what things connect those two places and how I fit into all of that,” she said.

“Homegoing” is flecked with magic, evoking folk tales passed down from parent to child. One side of the family lives through slavery, Alabama’s convict-leasing system, the Great Migration, the Harlem Renaissance and the heroin epidemic to the present day. On the other side of the Atlantic, the novel explores uncomfortable truths about the participation of Ms. Gyasi’s Fante and Asante ancestors in the slave trade.

The book has structural and thematic similarities to Alex Haley’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1976 book, “Roots,” and its landmark TV series adaptation starring LeVar Burton as Kunta Kinte, a man sold into slavery in 18th-century Gambia. A remake of the “Roots” miniseries adaptation, which traces the family’s history well into the 20th century, is set to air on the History, Lifetime and A&E channels starting Monday.

“It’s ‘Roots’ for the 21st century,” said Ivan Held, president of G.P. Putnam’s Sons, which bid $1 million for “Homegoing” but lost out to Knopf. Ms. Gyasi, knowing that her novel would explore similar territory, said she decided not to read Mr. Haley’s book.

One of her characters is Marjorie, a daughter of Ghanaian immigrants in the U.S. After she is born, Marjorie’s parents mail her dried umbilical cord to her grandmother Akua in Ghana, so the elderly woman can place it in the ocean. Should Marjorie’s spirit start to wander, Akua wants her to know which place is home. At a spot not far from Cape Coast, Ms. Gyasi’s grandmother had done the same for her.

Artcle via Wall Street Journal

Shea butter ‘the women’s gold of West Africa’

Shea butter or ‘nkuto’ as it’s commonly known in Ghana, is a fatty natural herbal extract that has been produced by women in the north of Ghana for centuries, and in most cases providing them with their main source of income. Recently it has become an increasingly popular ingredient used in various skin and haircare products worldwide, boosting local economic opportunities for women in Ghana, especially in the northern region, which is one of Ghana’s most economically disadvantaged regions.

With the increased demand for shea butter by the international market, Ghana has become one of Shea butter-1the largest exporters of shea butter! However, like many other businesses, the shea butter business is not fair and square, which means that the local women working really hard to produce shea butter often don’t get to benefit from their valuable (and really expensive!) produce. This is obviously a problem and in fact a threat to how quality shea butter is produced the traditional way as people migrate to other regions seeking “better economic opportunities”. To help women profit from their work, several associations have been formed such as the Tungteiya Shea Butter Association, which works in partnership with The Body Shop. By joining an association women are often empowered through the provision of interest-free loans, training, storage facilities and quality control services to ultimately offer higher quality products at slightly higher prices.

shea butter-3Shea butter in most cases is manually processed from shea nuts found within the fruits of the shea tree (Karite tree). The shea tree can bear fruits for up to 200 years, making it a very sustainable natural resource! The processing involved in obtaining smooth unrefined shea butter as we know it, is a skill that has been passed down to women and girls in Ghana for generations. The entire process is fairly labour intensive, requiring excellent attention to detail and as such is completed in several stages. Once the women have collected the shea nuts from their farms, the nuts are boiled to help break their outer shells to release the seeds that are used to make the butter, before being dried in the sun. After the the nuts have been pounded and crushed into small pieces, they are carefully separated from the broken shells and roasted, before added to water and continuously mixed into a paste. Once the fat has been separated the paste, it’s whipped into a smooth butter. To see the entire process, check out YouTube for some great videos!

So, what is the hype all about? As already noted, the benefits of shea butter are not a recent shea butter-5discovery as women in Ghana have been using shea butter for multiple purposes, such as protecting the skin from the sun and during the dry season for many many years! Shea butter has been shown to heal burns, sores, scars and stretch marks to mention a few. In addition, the use of shea butter as a daily skin moisturiser has several benefits resulting in smoother and softer skin due to its inherent protective properties and its abilities to stimulates cell renewal and repair rough and damaged skin. Did you know that shea butter can even be used to relieve pain and inflammation in some case? How can a single product provide such a wide range of benefits? It almost sounds too good to be true! But I promise you it works! How? Well, shea butter is naturally enriched with several different ingredients such as essential fatty acids, vitamin A, E, D and F and cinnamic acid, which protects the skin from UV rays.

Shea butter is not only applied topically but is also consumed by many. In some parts of Ghana shea butter is often used as a cooking ingredient in the preparation of certain dishes. Shea butter is also increasingly being used in the West and can be found as an ingredient in chocolate and margarine.

Have you ever used shea butter? How do/did you use it?

By Nora Mistersky (Ms_Nora_M)

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

Flying the flag for Ghana – meet fencer Yasmine Fosu

When one thinks about sports in Ghana, football, rugby and boxing are perhaps one of the first things that immediately jumps to mind. But what about fencing? Yes, fencing. Did you know that there’s currently a young female Ghanaian making waves and breaking barriers in that sporting field, representing Ghana at international competitions? And she’s only just turned 16!

Enter fencer Yasmine Nana Serwah Fosu, who has already competed in several national and international competitions, including the British Public Schools Championships, the Cadet European Championships, the Mediterranean Championships and the Commonwealth Fencing Championships, and now has the 2020 Olympic Games firmly in her sights.

byc SILVER MEDAL

Yasmine with her medal

And Yasmine is not just competing, she’s WINNING! At such a young age her list of achievements is extensive. At 14 she had already broken the North African monopoly on the sport by taking bronze at the African Cadet Championship in 2014, and was the first black African nation in any category in either gender to make podium at Cadtes U17, Juniors U20 and Seniors in the history of the sport.  She won gold at the Champion at Arms British Public Schools Championships U14 in 2014, and has claimed gold again at the 2016 Champion at Arms British Public Schools Championships U16. By special invitation of the Mediterranean Confederation, Yasmine finished 7th in the Mediterranean Championships, and she’s the youngest ever to finish 8th in the U20 Junior African Championships as well as the youngest ever to finish 10th in the Senior category at the African Championships. She won silver at the 2016 British Youth Championship U16. Oh, and she came 10th at the 2015 Commonwealth Fencing Championships in Cape Town. The 16yr old is currently ranked 116 in the world Seniors, the youngest person to rank that high.

Yasmine’s accomplishments at her age are made the more remarkable by the fact that fencing is a sport that requires not only physical training and strength, but also draws immensely on the fencer’s tactical skills, skills that take years to develop and hone. So to see her rank so high in the sport at her age is nothing short of amazing.

Yasmine in action

Yasmine (left) in action

Yasmine, who specialises in the épée form of fencing, discovered the sport at the age of 8 and by 11 she was offered a scholarship to start her fencing training at Plymouth College, which boasts Olympians such as Tom Daley. Following another scholarship to Millfield School, Yasmine turned down the opportunity to represent Great Britain, choosing rather to represent Ghana at international competitions. She’s had her fair share of bigotry, often being the only black African AND female in a dominantly white sport competing at an international level. But this experience has only made her stronger. Though she didn’t qualify for the 2016 Rio Games, Yasmine is determined to make history by representing Ghana at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, and at the rate that she’s going, we at Me Firi Ghana know this girl can!

By Yaa Fremah (@yaa_fremah))

Tech boon for children as Ghana puts autism on the app

Good job, high five!” enthuses Victoria Nyarko in her classroom at a community centre in the Ghanaian coastal city of Tema. It is Monday morning, and classes at HopeSetters autism centre – where shelves are filled with puzzles and learning aids, and walls covered in colourful posters and slogans – are a little different from normal.

The privately funded centre, which provides education for 18 autistic children aged between five and 15, is one of the first organisations in the country to use a locally designed autism aid app that uses audio and visual educational tools to help youngsters learn.

“Today we are doing the kitchen materials,” Nyarko says. “They like it because it kind of talks back to them … it communicates with them, and they like to touch it a lot.”

With its learning tools, SMS helpline for parents, and information centre, the app, believed to be the first of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa, is helping to further autism education and awareness in Ghana. Its creator, Alice Amoako, says the app provides teaching material that helps teachers and parents to improve communication skills among children.

4584 (1)

Autism Aid founders Alice Amoako and Solomon Avemegah

A neurological disorder characterised by communication and social difficulties, autism is believed to affect one in 68 children globally. Statistics for Ghana and other African countries are lacking: one study suggests one in 87 children under the age of three in Ghana is autistic.

Children with autism face discrimination and the same prejudices as people with mental illnesses, activists say.

Amoako and other teachers are hoping to change attitudes. While studying for a degree in IT at the Ghana Technology University, Amoako founded Autism Ambassadors of Ghana (AAG).

“I [visited] an autism centre and had interactions with the caregivers and children, and I realised there was a need to help raise awareness,” says Amoako, 24. “In my final year [at university], I had to do a project to complete my studies and we developed the app.”

Amoako and co-founder Solomon Avemegah developed the app last year, after winning a competition, the digital changemakers award, run by the mobile company Tigo. Backed by Reach for Change International, Tigo’s non-profit partner, the prize is designed to support social entrepreneurs in Ghana.

The app utilises the picture exchange communication system (Pecs (pdf)), using visuals to instigate communication in children. The program comes with image sections, sign language tools for those unable to communicate verbally, and even a list of local foods and transport.

“They can learn all kinds of things,” Amoako says. “We were able to modify it in such a way that it even has the list of Ghanaian foods. If a child wants to eat banku[fermented corn and cassava], for example, they can just click on the picture. We have the Ghanaian transport system with taxis and tro-tros [public minibuses], and we hope to include local languages on the platform in the future too.”

The app, which is free to download, lists autism centres and facilities in Ghana, and has a detailed autism awareness section. Raising awareness is critical in a country, and region, where people with any kind of disability can be banished from society and sent to “prayer camps” to be “healed”.

Marilyn Marbell-Wilson, a developmental paediatrician, believes the technology could improve children’s communication skills. “Children with autism can definitely do better with modes of communication other than talking,” she says.

“It makes it a more familiar tool because most of them love the phones and gadgets, so they wouldn’t look in a book or the normal Pecs cards … it can improve the neural circuits of communication and so definitely it makes a better tool for communication instead of just looking at the pictures.”

One of only three autism specialists in Ghana, as well as a member of the app’s helpline team, Marbell-Wilson says the program could help change attitudes and bring more autism cases to light.

4584

Children and staff at the Autism Awareness Care and Training centre in the Ghanaian capital Accra

“If a child is not developing typically, some parents or relatives will say, ‘Oh, this is spiritual, this is not medical’, so they will either hide the child or do something untoward to the child,” she adds.

“If the child is sick, having a tantrum or [doing] something peculiar [and] the parent doesn’t know exactly what to do, we are able to answer and give some help … I think that will be great for parents.”

Kwaku Offei Addo, whose four-year-old son, Joel, has autism, says: “He likes to use the phone a lot and it will be helpful catching up with words and identifying objects.”

Offei Addo meets other fathers of autistic children to discuss their experiences. He says it can be particularly difficult for Ghanaian men to deal with having an autistic child.

“[People think] it demeans your status as a man,” he says. “It was really difficult for me to accept [but] over time, with the effort, it has built me up to a level … I think of the positive things and it motivates me.”

To mark world autism awareness day on 2 April, AAG organised a march of more than 400 people through Accra’s streets. The Autism Society of West Africa recently held a three-day conference in Accra bringing together advocates from Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal.

“I think it is empowering people to take the information they know here out to their families, neighbourhoods and communities, and to start talking more about what they saw here,” said the society’s founder, Casey McFeeley. “It opens up the idea that it is OK.”

Article via The Guardian