Under the Baobab Tree with: Nana Kofi Acquah
Do you have a "mission" as a photographer and if so what is it?
My mission is to inspire new conversations about Africa through my photographs and writings. I want to challenge perceptions, confront stereotypes, inspire hope, celebrate the beautiful people and experiences I consistently get the privilege of witnessing everywhere I turn in the motherland.
What is your favourite photo you have taken & why?
I have a photo of a kid in yellow clothes, with a yellow wall behind him (below). It’s a happy picture. I like it very much but the truth is, all my favourite photos are stuck in my head.
There have been many instances where I missed a moment or opportunity because I was lazy. I had no card in my camera, low battery, no camera, was too slow so missed the shot etc… and those photos are permanently stuck in my head. They tend to be the photos I think about the most – the ones I didn’t get to create. I don’t know what that says about me but getting the photograph gives me closure.
Yellow On Yellow, Nana Kofi Acquah.
You speak very passionately about Africa. What is your biggest wish for the continent in the next decade and how do you see this becoming a reality?
When Africa gets to the point where it is led by people who were born after independence the continent will thrive.The single strand shared by all of Africa’s leaders is that they were all born under colonialism or apartheid or some such system. There’s something about being colonised that takes away from you the ability to think for yourself because somebody else, sitting somewhere else, thinks for you. Africa’s current leadership is a crisis. It is a case of the blind leading a convocation of eagles.
Until the quality of leadership changes, nothing will change on the continent. I have witnessed bad leaders wipe away a thriving economy in one day with dumb policies and infantile decisions. We cannot move forward if every time we take one step forward, we take three backwards. I am an eternal optimist and my stubborn take on hope stems from my knowledge of the African people. We are a resilient, intelligent, hardworking people. When you see an African who is lazy, aimless and stuck, they’re often the victim of bad colonial education or war. This is a continent where the average household wakes up at 4 am to go out there and hustle.
What are the current perceptions of women in Africa and how do you aim to change these with your photography?
Women are the crown of life. They make everything better.They light up the world. I am grateful for the women in my life. The reason why the African Woman requires special attention is because the mountains she has to climb over are huge. In art and culture, she is presented as this prehistoric survival with scarifications and bare breasts, a glorified beast or a breeding machine; with some load on her head, a baby tied to her back, and a train of children following her. In the news, she’s presented as a victim of rape or war, a wandering refugee and everything negative.These prevalent images will do damage to anybody’s sense of self-worth. What I try to do with my work, is to admire, celebrate and enjoy the African Woman without objectifying her. When the dominant imagery of the African woman changes, the world’s perception of her will change.
Ghanaian model and Aduna Feel Good Triber Angela Suraji in Upper East Ghana, Nana Kofi Acquah.
You are a true supporter of Aduna's baobab mission and even personally invested in Aduna. Why is this?
You know when you’re not in the mood to dance but then the DJ drops your favourite song? My Aduna experience was like that. When Aduna's Co-Founder Andrew reached out to me, it was supposed to be just another assignment. I ended up becoming an investor because Aduna is a brilliant solution to the poverty problem in the north of Ghana, where it is endemic.The land is close to the Sahel so it’s very dry for most of the year. I know first hand how difficult these women’s lives are, especially during the dry season, which also happens to be when the baobab fruits are ripe. Since the trees are wild, they are considered the property of the community. What this means is, whoever wakes up early to pick the most fruits, makes the most money. Hearing their stories reminded me of a life I had forgotten about. I saw a business that was directly putting money into the hands of these women. Aduna strikes at the very roots of poverty with an effective solution. Not many businesses can say that.
Baobab or moringa. What's your favourite and why?
Baobab. There aren’t that many sweet things in life one can eat guilt-free.