The war in every man




Photo: Men watching a game of football in Ponsomtenga, Burkina Faso (Aug 2014). 
Words also by Nana Kofi Acquah. 

The tragic hero is everyman.  The frog in him finally buries the prince in him; if he’s not lucky.  Days come when he can’t dare raise his eyes to look into a mirror because he knows the frog is poised and ready to barrage him with overwhelming evidence of his worthlessness: They both know what he’s done and where he’s been. Everyman knows what he’s done and where he’s been but must he allow that to define him? Is a man separate from his actions? Do the acts make the man? Do his whys matter?

Everyman needs his world to believe he’s the prince he claims to be. He needs his spouse to know he can be trusted with her hopes, her fears, her heart- her all. He needs his children to know he is beacon and bright enough to point them in the way they should go. The crave for a resounding echo of his manliness and royalty on the lips of those he loves and respects is not just an ego thing. It’s an identity thing; for it is dangerous for a man to come to believe he is the frog croaking at him in his mirror, when he desperately yearns for affirmation that he is the prince.

 When the frog’s croaks crack through his night and desperate hours, the force of its hatred yanks everyman into the darkest corner of his cell; and the venom in the frogs voice weakens his will until he slumps in a defeated heap him in the faraway corner of his prison… and once again, he will need all the energy he can muster to come back out into the light, knowing full well that the frog will return. And deep down, it isn’t as much the return of the frog that scares him as his fear that he might finally believe what it says. It is sad to watch a man live his life, who has made peace with the frog in him.

So who is everyman? 

Everyman is spirit. Everyman is dirt. Therein lies his problem and his hope. 
He’s as comfortable in mire as a swine because mire’s what he’s made of; and yet he strives for the heavens like an eagle because he’s every bit spirit. But how can spirit and clay dwell together?  Can fire and water share space? Can morning and evening sit at table? 

 Everyman deliberately must choose a side in the war that rages on in him. It’s wise to choose the side that’s bound to win. 
The frog is loud. Its croaks will threaten to drown you many times over but the frog is mortal. The frog dies- with his struggles, addictions, accusations, guilt and nightmares. He dies. But spirit lives on. 


The spirit in everyman is the very breath of The King. The spirit never dies. It only goes back home. Must the prince not return to his king and his kingdom? And would you not he returned victorious? I am every man…  and I choose to be prince.

What Africans are doing to Africa






Recently in the news, I heard that a prominent Ghanaian politician had died.  I had run into him in a hotel a couple of weeks prior and nothing about him said he was ready to kick the bucket.  When I saw him sitting in that lobby, and later on when I heard the news of his passing, the only thing I remembered was a conversation I’d had with my headmaster in Tema Secondary School years ago.

I’d visited the headmaster to lobby for a refund of some money the school owed us. We all feared our headmaster, popularly known as Headie, because he was generous with slaps and he had palms the size of a racquet. There was this story about how he’d slapped a female student who’d been playing with the school’s piano at midnight in the assembly hall, and the force of the slap had made the girl menstruate instantly.  I didn’t know if the story was true but I definitely didn’t want to find out for myself.  But on this day, I was broke. Everybody was broke. And the school was owing us. The boys had started chanting aluta songs in the dormitories but nobody dared go to the administration block. I was fed up with the cowardice and announced to everybody that I was going for my money. That’s how I ended up in Headie’s house.

He was pleasantly surprised to see the chapel prefect. He welcomed me warmly and offered me a seat. I began by thanking him for being the best headmaster we’d ever had, I thanked him for the oranges he had supplied us at dining from his own farms free of charge and also for the new television set we had at the assembly hall. He laughed and said well, the oranges did come from his farm, and they were in deed a gift for us but the television had been donated by the politician because he had caught him with a female student on the campus. The politician came to donate the television the morning after he’d been busted. We laughed. My headmaster had a wicked sense of humour. What I didn’t tell him was that one of the many girls the politician had been chasing on campus was my own girlfriend; and she had told me herself. Most of those girls were underage. We were just kids.  When he died, the praise singers got to work again and the fact that he had been a serial pedophile, womaniser and a corrupt man was never mentioned; even though he’d always had quite a reputation. Africa’s in the state it is because the late politician described above is not the exception. He’s the norm. He’s representative of about 80% of the men we call honorables, and on whose shoulders our communal destiny rests.

In my culture, we say there is no honour in vilifying the dead so I’ll quickly move on to focus on the living.  Yesterday, I said on Joy FM’s “Ghana Connects” and  in a subsequent interview that President Mahama inspires likability but not confidence and it’s enraged a lot of NDC people but what I didn’t say was that I, Nana Kofi Acquah, actually did vote for President Mahama and because I did, it is my responsibility to hold him accountable. I won’t wait for his term to end. I won’t wait till it is too late. I will constructively criticise him and urge him to rise to the high calling my vote has placed on him.  Ghana and Africa is in a dire place now. There’s the threat of terror, war, famine,  and now Ebola all around us… and this is no time for weak leadership.  When does the jokes end? When do we get serious? The current state of affairs in Ghana is like a driver who siphons the fuel meant for his vehicle and comes back wondering why the vehicle isn’t moving? 

If you think I am pessimistic or discouraged, you are mistaken. My faith in the continent is unshakable. It is what makes me rise every morning to face the sun; and I can tell you for a fact that there is a lot of light in Africa. Look to the light. Look to those men and women who make a difference everyday with their unwavering faith and attitudes of excellence in the passionate pursuit of their dreams- the same dream: To make Africa rise.  To prove that the black man can actually handle his own affairs. There are a lot of Africans, mostly young, who daily prove stupidity is an education problem not a genetic one. These people prove daily that if the African can change their attitude, they can change their world. 

Africa can rise but not when it prefers to sleep. Africa can rise but not when it’s afraid to hold its leaders accountable. Africa can rise but not when our leaders are quite content to sit on gold and beg for brass.  Africa will rise from the day we stop blaming slavery, colonialism, apartheid and everybody else. We cannot change what other people did to us but we must question what we are doing to ourselves. Africans must start taking responsibility for the state of affairs on the continent. We must question the sources of people’s wealth. We must stop celebrating Africans who spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on cars so they can park them next to rubbish dumps. We must start hooting at civil servants who live in houses and drive cars they obviously cannot afford based on their salaries. We must stop teaching our children that the only way to progress in life is to bribe your way through every hurdle. We must stop treating education as an end and start questioning our doctors, engineers, planners, scientists and professors on exactly what they have been able to achieve with their education?  

Africa must rise and it must start with every single one of us.





We are the Americans of Ghana




(When I asked these guys, members of the same gang, if I could take their photos, the leader said: "Don't bother. When you photograph me, I won't appear on your camera". 


The first time I felt my camera was an obstacle was in Yaounde, Cameroon. I was documenting the fake drugs business. The canker's eaten into every aspect of Cameroonian society. We could find fake copies of popular anti-malaria drugs everywhere from open markets to the pharmacies in government hospitals.  I was keen to do a great story but anytime I pulled my Canon 5d Mark III out, people panicked and shut me out.  In those moments, my phone was a more useful tool than my very expensive cameras and lenses were.



(A prostitute drinks a sachet of water, at the entrance to her room)


It was after that assignment I decided to go back and give the Fuji cameras a try. I had owned the X100 in the past and had done great pictures with it but I had never seen it as worth using on paid assignments.  Fortunately in the world of technology, the speed of development is unprecedented so I ordered a Fuji XE-2 and a couple of lenses, to see for myself, if this small camera was now improved enough for me to take on crucial assignments; and I was positively blown away.



(A photo of a prostitute's room. It was so dark I had to use a flash and seeing the sandals of her child, arranged along with hers, at the foot of the bed on which she plies her trade was heart breaking. No child must be allowed to grow up under these kinds of circumstances. )

Sometime this year, I was on assignment in Ghana’s cultural capital- Kumasi, where the Asantehene reigns with his famous golden stool. A few metres from where the famous king resides is a totally different world. Here, I met underage prostitutes who have barely turned teenage, to helpful pimps who want to reduce abuse and control the spread of disease, to junkies who have almost totally lost it with no help in sight to help them deal with their addiction, and gangs who commit armed robbery and other offences in Kumasi but hide out here by day. 


(A child walks past a brothel)

Violence in these communities is rife. It is not a safe place to go with a camera. More so, a fat camera like the Canon 5D or 1D. I was fortunate to have my Fuji XE-2 with me and these pictures were made with them. Even with the Fuji, I got thrown out of a couple of places and was fortunate I wasn’t physically assaulted. I had to steal most of these shots.

(Prostitution here is purely economics and most of the ladies have other jobs to help them survive.)

Yes, I came back with enough photographs to show that much needs to be done in this city; and across Ghana. HIV/AIDS is over 30% among prostitutes, men who sleep with men and drug users even though the national rate of infection is less than 2%. The culture of denial and stigmatisation is the main reason why infection thrives in these circles. As long as we live in denial, we cannot win the fight against drugs, AIDS, robbery, violence and prostitution in our communities.


(One of the many faces of young men who are heavily addicted to drugs; but with no support systems, his end is quite obvious)

I was chatting up a gang, and one of the guys showed me the tattoo of a pistol on his arm; and told me “We are the Americans of Ghana”. I had never heard that expression before, and I was quite saddened by his comment because I knew he wasn’t talking about being Obama, the first black president of America, but rather the thugs hiphop music often glorifies and main stream media actively portrays as THE image of the young black man in America.


(A woman unties a knot as she gets ready to sell food in her community. Of course, not every woman here works as a prostitute; but most do and quite a number combine it with other regular jobs to help them rise out of poverty and give their children a better future).

Fortunately, I don’t always have to photograph underage or overage prostitutes and gangsters. In fact about 60% or more of my assignments are about documenting the lives of ordinary and extraordinary Africans thriving to create something remarkable with their lives; and wherever I go now, there will be an iPhone, a Fuji (or some other small camera with big sensor) with me and the passion to tell the stories of the people I meet, the best way I know how.

(Since I'm not a big fan of tragedies, I will end this post with a portrait I made of Alhaji in Kunbungu, near Tamale.  It will break his heart when he learns that quite a number of the young women who migrate from his region end up either being forced by a gang or economics into prostitution just to survive in the big cities of Ghana).

 Have a wonderful day.

The French Nigerians



I deliberately left for Kinshasa with no expectations. I have friends in Accra who are from Kinshasa. I didn’t ask them questions. A lot of what I knew about the Democratic Republic of The Congo (Formerly Zaire) and popularly called Doctor Congo, was what I had been fed by the media and literature over the years. I was about to see the country for myself for the first time and I wanted to be true what I saw.

To be fair, this is a country with a very dramatic life story. Starting from the greedy, gluttonous Belgian King Leopold II who began the rape.  “The Butcher of Congo”, as he was called, killed and mutilated (chopping off heads and genitals) over 10 million Congolese during his anarchic 23 year reign. 

Dead, living, free, or in prison on the orders of the colonialists, it is not I who counts. It is the Congo, it is our people for whom independence has been transformed into a cage where we are regarded from the outside… History will one day have its say, but it will not be the history that Brussels, Paris, Washington, or the United Nations will teach, but that which they will teach in the countries emancipated from colonialism and its puppets... a history of glory and dignity.” 

The quote above are the words of Patrice Lumumba, the first democratically elected president of the Congo. He was overthrown and assassinated by  Mobutu and the Belgians with UK and American support mainly because of his Panafricanist stance and friendship with the Russians.

May be, the most popular Congolese president of all time is Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu wa Za Banga. Mobutu was notoriously corrupt. By the time of his death from advanced prostate cancer in Morocco, he was believed to have stolen between 4 to 15 billion US dollars from his country. He died richer than his country.

Unfortunately, the only country Mobutu really enriched is Switzerland, where he put most of the stolen money in anonymous accounts, making it impossible for either his family or his country to reclaim.

Currently, a second Kabila sits on the throne. The first one, who overthrew Mobutu was assassinated in 2001 by one of his bodyguards.  With this kind of history in mind, it was hard for me to go to Kinshasa with any expectations but what I found, in most ways, surprised me positively.

I found a people who have taken their destiny into their own hands. I found a culture where both life and death were celebrated in high octaves. Kinshasa summed up for me, the resilience of the African people, in spite of the poor quality of leadership the continent’s been plagued with in our post colonial history. 


The people of Kinshasa love life and colour so much, they call themselves the French Nigerians. You must visit Lagos and then Kinshasa to understand what they mean. The Nigerians might have their Nollywoods and hyenas but who doesn’t know the Sapeurs of the Congo and the Vodacom Reality TV show? Who doesn’t know the music of the Congo?  

If you are worried of missing out on champagnes at every party when you leave Lagos, don’t worry. In Kinshasa, they drink it pubs, 3 bottles at a go.  In Nigeria, Fela Kuti said, even when his people are suffering, they are smiling. In Kinshasa even when you are broke, you dress like that African prince in Coming to America. 
 Welcome to Kinshasa. Welcome to Francophone Lagos.


The car that broke my heart


I once had a car that any key could unlock. Of course, at the time I was buying that Nissan, I totally assumed it’ll  respond only to the key I’d been given- My key- until I lost it one day, and my mechanic decided to try his key. He had a bunch of keys that day and most of them, very easily unlocked my car. 

I felt betrayed by the car I loved. I felt it had no loyalty to me. I had bought that car when no one wanted it, and at not so low a price. I had made it look cool and sexy and smooth to drive.  I loved that car. It had cost me everything to acquire but could I ever trust her?

I realised that as long as the car was parked in my yard, I had little to worry about but anytime I took it to town, I got jittery.  If I had to step out for a while and grab something from a shop nearby, I got worried. If some one came over and said something nice about my car, I got worried.  Every little thing got me worried.

Trust is not something most people think about when they think about love. The young tend to believe as long as there is good chemistry, and wild laughter and great sex, then nothing else matters.  

Like a seed sown on shallow, loamy soil their love blossoms quickly… and then they hit a rock. The seasons change. The feelings wane. A job opportunity or school admission relocates one and forcefully wedges itself between the two of them.  One falls sick or gets broke or pregnant or arrested or lost… and then they realise, there is really nothing to hold on to. It is just hard to love someone, who never won your trust or whose trust you never won.

The issue with trust is, there is no quick way to earn it. You can’t just shove a million cedis into someone’s face over a counter and they pick it up from the shelf and wrap it for you. Trust is earned, one kind decision at a time. Trust is earned one tough decision at a time. Trust is earned one apology at a time. Trust is earned one thoughtfulness at a time. 

Sex sizzles and fizzles as quickly. If that is all you ever wanted, that is fine but no human being was created just for sex. Our total value is more than the functionality of each of our organs. We were created for companionship; to be by each other through all of life’s changing seasons. Yes, we are supposed to have mind-blowing sex and never ending laughter along the way but in the end, all laughter must cease. Every music fades at some point. When the light goes out, can I still feel your breath? Will you hold my hand in the dark and let’s find our way out together?

Trust is everything, when all you have left is nothing. Trust is everything, every time.

Photographer & Writer: Nana Kofi Acquah
Model: Nancy Everett
Location: Sandpiper, Langma


All give some - Some give all


He scribbled AGAMA LIZARD boldly on the black board. 

“Do you know that the lizard breaks off its tail when it is being pursued or feels threatened?”  Our teacher quizzed. “HUH??!!” was the general response. Nothing else he said that day sunk in. Can a lizard actually break off its tail? How does it do it? Our young minds questioned.  That day, immediately the bell rang for break, we decided to go find out for ourselves if it was true. We went behind our classroom block, where we knew for sure we will find lizards on the walls. We started chasing a particular one. As the chase got intense, the lizard actually did break its tail off; and the broken bit started wriggling so fast, we didn’t see where the lizard passed again. 

I only found out recently that Caudal Autotomy is the name for this tendency among lizards to break their tails to distract predators. The other thing I have found out is that most politicians are just like lizards.  They won’t sacrifice an arm or a leg. They won’t sacrifice their money or their lives; just their tails- because they can easily grow a new one.

I look at the state Africa is in, and I can’t help but pray for a new breed of politicians whose passion will be the proper development of their nations. We need politicians who will sacrifice everything they have, to fulfil the manifesto and promises they made when they were asking to be voted for. We need a few good men and women with a conscience and a vision and loads of hutzpah. 

Most Ghanaians; and Africans in general don’t ask for much. Honestly, they don’t even expect much of their leaders. All they need is reliable supply of electricity, pipe-borne water, and food in their stomachs.  Throw in a few holidays where they can go have fun at the beach and they’re happy. 


It is only in Ghana (Africa) that experts plant trees in harmattan, chop down forests to plant trees, don’t water the young trees they’ve planted, and justify and laugh about it when they’re interviewed on TV.  How can we as a nation be taken seriously when we explain inflation as a condition where dwarves spiritually snatch our money? Where is the seriousness? 

I keep encouraging the good people I know to consider politics; instead of just focusing on their careers. It is burdensome when you let the incompetent lead. It is troubling to listen to some of our leaders talk. You’d think they’d left their brains at home on their way to work. 

Africa doesn’t need leaders who will give a bit. We don’t need leaders who will give a lot. Africa needs men and women who rise to their calling and give it their all.  This is the only way forward. Africa at the moment, isn’t even playing catch up. In a lot ways, we still haven’t even taken off; and yet we have a long way to go. 

Anytime I talk about where we’re failing as a nation,  someone is always in a hurry to let me see how others are worse off. Since when did failing states, autocratic-buffoon states, oil-money looting states, the president-is-richer-than-the-country states become the benchmark? Since when did we sink so low, no level of corruption and incompetence shocks us anymore?


Africa needs leaders who will give it all.

(Photos are from the beaches of Kokrobite, in Accra, Ghana... and aren't necessarily related to the text.  Pictures and words are all copyrighted to Nana Kofi Acquah @africashowboy).

What Ghana needs for her birthday


It is largely rumoured that towards the end of his life, Nkrumah once said: “If I’d known that what Ghanaians wanted was milk (and not development), I would have made sure it flowed through their taps at home”.  I have had the privilege of interviewing the daughter of his personal driver, and one of the soldiers who actually overthrew him, a few others from that era. All wished he was still alive. They realise it was better he gave them streets and schools, water and electricity, factories and houses; so they could always afford to either make or buy milk.

I remember seeing a placard from the coup that over threw him with a large inscription: “Nkrumah latrine boy. Who born dog?” At the time when Ghanaians sought Nkrumah’s overthrow, they strongly believed he was the reason the nation wasn’t moving forward. They felt the Tema Motorway was too ambitious and unnecessary for a country with just a few cars. They wondered why he will construct such a huge dam for a population that was barely five million. They felt he was spending too much of Ghana’s money on other African countries. They hated him to the core. Today, we love him to bits. A lot of his decisions didn’t make sense to Ghanaians at the time he made them, but today, we are still harvesting from those precious seeds he sowed. 

Kwame Nkrumah was a visionary, not a politician. His focus was not personal gain, it was national and continental development and freedom. When he spoke, the world listened because he spoke as one with spine. He was a man of strong convictions and he lived by them. He lived by those words: “Forward ever, backwards never”.  He created a country that the rest of Africa looked up to, and even though most of Ghana’s glory seems to have faded, his name is still revered all across the continent and the rest of the world. 

As I sit in this Lagos apartment and pen these words, I can’t help humming the lyrics that got the band Wulomei into trouble: “Sisa ehee, ni oya oba, yaak33 sisa’momo ak3, nk33 ehia mie, k3 ef33 emadje mi”; which translates: “New ghost departing, please tell the old ghost that we’re in dire need of his assistance”.  The call for the spirit of Nkrumah didn’t start in 2014. Fact is, there hasn’t been another like him, and it shows; on our streets, in our homes, in our wallets and in our politician’s secret safes and bank accounts.

After Nkrumah was overthrown, the spectrum of leaders we’ve had has ranged from intellectuals who spoke plenty big English but suffered from analysis paralysis,  to arse worshippers from the famous “fa wo to b3 bye golf” era, to malnourished tyrants who still can’t stop booming, to three generations of smilers, who sometimes seem to forget they are actually supposed to be running a country not advertising toothpaste. What every single one of these post Nkrumah leaders has lacked is hutzpah: The courage and vim to just do what needs to be done; even if it will make them unpopular in the short term. They’re specialised in the art of baring their teeth but lack the courage to bite, where and when it matters.  

You listen to some of our parliamentarians talk (forget the bad grammar. Not everybody went to a good school); you listen to their analysis of problems, you listen to their propositions, you listen to their arguments… you watch their demeanour and you ask yourself: “What are these ones too doing there?” But they are there because the ones with the most ability, don’t make themselves available. We’re happy to soothe our pain with a few rants on Facebook, we curse them on Twitter, we laugh at them on Whatsapp and board the next available plane when the kitchen gets too hot. 

I know many Ghanaians in whom the spirit of Nkrumah lives. Young men and women who passionately love Africa, and Ghana. Young men and women have wrestled with the best of the world in academia, business, politics and art and have won and keep winning. This nation is blessed with many of those but they’re not making themselves available; and when the capable don’t make themselves available, it is the incapable who shall lead them. Nkrumah, first and foremost, made himself available.

So whilst we criticise those who currently lead; let’s respect the fact that they made themselves available. Their motives might be wrong, their vision may be poor, their intellects may be weak but at least they made themselves available. Can you be the change you want to see? Can you rise today because your nation demands your devotion? Can you get involved?


Happy Birthday Mother Ghana, Happy Birthday, Fellow Ghanaians.

All God's Children Deserve Justice



This morning, I woke up with a headache. I asked my wife if she could drop the kids at school. She said yes. I took one look at her tired face. I changed my mind. I wobbled out of the couch where I'd spent the night and went looking for a pair of shorts. It is just another day. The kids got into the car, and off we went.

The road from Kokrobite to the famous old barrier is not one designed for cars. It feels more suited for horses and antelopes. My kids were singing "Lala lala la" in many different renditions, which didn't necessarily harmonise with the clanging and tinkling sounds seeping out from the bottom of my car, as it kissed each pothole I couldn't swerve. Most mornings are like this.

In the midst of this monotonous morning, one big distraction happened. Up the hill that leads down to the old barrier, I saw a group of people gathered around a naked man lying in a gutter. I quickly sped on to prevent my kids from witnessing the horrible sight. Fortunately for me, they were too engrossed in their song.

On my way back, the size of the crowd had increased. A police man, on a dilapidated motorbike, who had sped past me had already arrived at the scene.  When I got there, he was talking about how three of these robbers had robbed and raped a young married woman in the neighbourhood recently.  He was furious that the guy was still alive. He started tapping his pockets, looking for something. Finally he ended our curiosity by saying he was looking for his pepper spray. He wanted to spray some into the thief's wounds so he can feel pepper. Shortly after his rants, the police truck arrived. They, obviously were disappointed that the thief was alive. One of them yelled at the crowd: "Why do you guys keep doing this? If you've caught a thief, why don't you just kill him? Why do you beat them half-dead and then dump them on us? If you had killed him, all we'd have to do is dump him at the mortuary!"

I asked the people around if any of them knew for certain that the guy was a thief. None knew for certain but they all agreed he definitely looked like one. They said he had been dumped in the gutter around 2am. He had been calling for Joyce to come to see him before he dies. I wondered who Joyce was?

I didn't hear him utter a word whilst I was there, so everything I heard, I heard from bystanders. One guy said he had been robbed recently; and if the Police hadn't arrived he would have dropped a cement block on the thief's head. He said most of these thieves come in the afternoon when the neighbourhood is quiet and everybody is at work. Another lady said this particular thief had come to spy the neighbourhood out recently. He had come to eat at one of the "chop bars" around and an old man, had warned them that the guy looked evil.

There are two main reasons why people take the law into their hands: When they can't trust the system; and when they know they can get away with it. I believe the pursuit of justice is innate and we all would love that the bad nuts in society are properly punished for their crimes but I hope more people will pause for just a second before they hurl a stone or knife at "a thief" and ask themselves: "What if he isn't a thief?"

About 17 years ago, I was nearly lynched at North Kaneshie, in Accra, where I had gone to visit my friend Patrick. I was in a batick shirt. A young girl screamed in my direction and said: "There he is! The Thief!" I had the presence of mind not to run and look at the girl. She took another look at me and said "Oh, that's not him but the thief is also in a batick shirt". Fortunately for me, that incident happened at noon, so she could properly make me out. Imagine if it had been at night. Imagine if I had panicked and started running. Imagine how many innocent people get killed in the gutters and streets of Africa everyday because someone mistook them for a thief?
Just for the sake of the one person who might be innocent, we need to stop this barbaric, lawless act of jungle justice.  All God's children deserve justice.

Half Rain




I spent my childhood in sunshine and occasionally in rain. On one weird day, we were playing five aside football on the pavements of L Road, Community 9, Tema. I don’t remember whether my team was winning or losing but I guess it didn't really matter in the end.

Normally when it starts raining, it is natural to dash for cover. Even children do that. On that mystical day, half of us did run for cover whilst the other half looked at us, wondering if we were alright.

We were drenched but they were as dry as Harmattan’s backside. And then finally, it hit us all. It was raining only on our side of the pavement. How's that possible? How could only my left had be getting wet whilst my right hand stayed completely dry? How could my left foot be wet and my right foot be dry?

Ten of us went for dinner in Luanda, Angola. The dinner bill was 5,700 United States Dollars. Our chaperon pulled out a wad of $100 bills and paid it off with the coolness with which people in London pay for chewing gum. The very following day, I discovered that just a few kilometres away from where we'd had that dinner in Luanda, other citizens survive on less than a dollar a day. I saw people eating uncooked cassava and groundnuts for supper. They live on the same pavement but it rains only one side.

I have had the same kind of experiences in Accra, Lagos, Lome, Abidjan, Dakar, Ouagadougou, Bamako, Monrovia, Banjul, Kampala, Yaounde, Johannesburg and Zanzibar. It seems to rain only on one side of the pavement in Africa.

Oh Komla!


These are a portraits I made of you on your 41st birthday in Mauritius. That was a good day; unlike today.


May your soul rest in perfect peace, brother. We will always be proud of you. Always.

A dirge: On the ascension of Nelson Mandela

Today, 
We mourn your ascension
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.

Son of Mother Africa
Father of South Africa
Conqueror of Apartheid
Unprisonable Prisoner
Gracious Spirit
Way Maker
Warrior King…
Your mother is proud of you
And tonight she’ll embrace you.

Nkrumah, Ghandi, Teresa,
King, Malcom, where are you?
Welcome your dear brother
With a calabash of fresh palm wine
For he has a lot to tell you folk. 

Like incorrigible beggars
In the presence of plenty,
They looted and raped
And looted and killed
And looted and stole
Till they thought they
Were kings. Beggar kings.


For twenty seven years, 
You were shackled
Bound by weaklings
Who’d placed their hope 
In their chains and guns and dogs.
They labelled you terrorist
For they were terrified of you
Even when they called you prisoner 46664.

But with each day your mane grew back.
Your spirit stirred, patiently waiting,
Sharpening your claws on Robben’s walls
And then finally you roared.



They peed in their khakis
And dropped their cigars
As the false foundations
Of apartheid on which they’d stood
Crumbled like tired bread before their eyes.

At the mention of your name
At the smell of your presence
At the sighting of your shadow
Even before you roared, they died.

But unlike them you’re an eagle
You don’t feed on the dead
You, Gracious Spirit, are not a vulture. 


After you ‘d lashed them with your kindness
After your words had punched them
In the balls and they lay wriggling like a dying snake
You stretched out your arm to them.
An arm stronger than Shaka’s spear.
You stretched out your arm to them
Even before they could beg your forgiveness
You showed them how humanity must treat humanity.
You showed freedom is worth fighting and dying for.

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela
Today, we mourn your ascension.
We pray that many more like you will come.

Rest in perfect peace, Madiba
Live on Warrior King.
Rest in perfect peace.


Copyright: Nana Kofi Acquah 06/12/2013

A letter from a broken man

Dear Nana, 
I am an avid follower of your blog. I like your photography but I love your words even more. Your wisdom has blessed and kept me sane on a number of occasions and right at this time in my life, I think I am cracking from all the emotional and psychological pressure I am under. I don’t want to be counted among the African or black fathers who were not there for their children so I am hanging in there but it is tough.

To put it simply, I feel used. I am married to the first girl I ever fell in love with. We attended the same school, same church and she was my world and I was hers. Even though we attended two different colleges, we managed to make time to see each other as often as we could. We didn’t have Skype and Facetime but we both did our best to stay in touch.

I love my wife deeply. Two years after we got married, we decided it was time to have kids. Today, we have four. Our oldest are identical twins and partners in crime, aged 10. Our third child is 7 and our last one, 3. I love my children. They are such a blessing.

I’m sure you’re wondering why a man who claims to love his wife and children be having problems? Well,  I think I have reason to believe that my wife married me not because she was head over heels in love with me; but because she sat down and coldly made a calculated choice. I was a good choice: Responsible, healthy, God fearing, and fun. 

Nana, I don’t know if I am making myself any clearer but you see, when we got married, we couldn’t take our eyes off each other. Sex was passionate and fulfilling. My wife isn’t the kind who comes up with the “I have a headache” excuses but sex, since we start having children, feels like a chore she has to perform. Something to get out of the way so she can pay attention to the more important stuff: her children.  

For the past 10 years, it’s been impossible to have my wife to myself. We can plan to go to the movies or go on a vacation but the truth is, the moment we step out of the door, she gets anxious and worried about the safety of her children.  We will be in the middle of a movie at the cinema and you will notice she’s lost concentration. Probably wondering if one of the kids had done their homework or taking their medicine. So yes, I have managed to have her to myself a few times but this is only in body. Her mind is always on the more important stuff: Not me.

Nana, can you relate? Do you think I should grow up and just perform my responsibilities? Am I a whiner? Are there any responsible men out there who can relate? I feel, my wife, as adorable as she is, was raised to be a super mum but a lousy wife. If I leave her, my children will never forgive me because she really is a wonderful mother to them but they have no idea how miserable I feel.

So when the children leave home and start living their own lives, will she finally make me a priority or will she turn her attention on her grand children?
For how long can I live like this? I have no intention of cheating but I feel really vulnerable when I meet ladies who seem to take a genuine interest in me.  Honestly, I am not having an affair or anything. I can’t bring myself to it but don’t you think it might be better if I get a divorce but fully support her and the children? At least then, it takes away the hypocrisy. It was never me she wanted. She wanted kids and someone who will help her raise them. Now she has the kids, and I will help raise them but at least, can I get my life back? 

Nana, I feel really sad sending you this email because this is the first time I have written or said anything bad about my wife. She’s a good woman; and an even better mother. Far better than the mother I had but I am hurting. I am hurting because I grew up unwanted and pretty much rejected and was hoping that in marriage, I will find someone who will genuinely love and care about me, for once. The wife I had before we had children is gone. She made me feel wanted. Today, I feel as unwanted as I used to feel in childhood.  My children are really blessed with a great mum but it doesn’t make the pain of feeling unwanted any less painful.

Nana, can you help???


Anonymous

Telling the truth about Africa with photography - Visual Arts - This Is Africa

Telling the truth about Africa with photography - Visual Arts - This Is Africa

Ancient Ways, Primal Instincts


It is not an unusual night. Tonight is like every other night. The lazy moon didn't even show up for work and the lousy stars are shining half-heartedly on the drowsy village like they always do this time of year. Even the crickets and frogs have called the night off. Two voices slip out of the blanket of darkness and reach our distant ears.

It is a young man poking a young woman’s ribs with his sweet words, as she struggles to muffle her giggles with her palms, right behind her grandfather’s hut.

 The old man is snoring violently in between his three wives, or so poor girl thinks.  Soon, she will learn the walls have ears, when her grandmother grabs her by the ears and drags her to the house of the man who made her pregnant.

A game that brings children into the world cannot be called a bad game necessarily; but there are customs and traditions and homages that must be paid. You don’t just walk into someone’s compound and pluck a flower? 

So, he must compensate the family for the theft. He must do the honourable. He must provide even more than the demanded bride price of six well fed cows, six pieces of original Dutch wax prints, three bottles of schnapps and one gallon of palm wine.  Then all will be forgiven. The two families will be joined. 

The child that is born will bear the father’s soul but will belong to the mother’s clan. It is the Akan way. The father meets with the elders of his clan and a name is conjured for this new member. If it lives beyond the seventh day, it is assumed the child has come to stay and must therefore be named; and happily welcomed. 

Child! Here, when you see water, call it water. When you see salt, call it salt”. The ancient words crack through the lips of the elder as he holds the child high up in the sky for all to see.

Colonialism imposed English, French, Portuguese, Arabic and other languages and religions on Africa. New lines were drawn, territories were redefined but underneath all that elaborateness, you can see the ancient strands. These photographs are from La Cote d’Ivoire. Truth is, they might as well have come from Ghana or Togo or Benin or even Nigeria.

I believe Africa will only find itself, when we take the discourse of African Unity out of the confines of white collared conference rooms and into the farms and villages and reconnect and salvage whatever is left of what once worked.

Have a great week. 






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