Tuesday, 13 November 2018


In another life, Alia should have been finishing Senior High or be in the university already but she’s not complaining. In fact, she is very happy she’s made it to class five, and she says nothing is going to stop her from achieving her dream of becoming a teacher someday.
Alia was born physically handicapped, at a time when such children were often labelled “spirit children” and “given back to the gods” either by drowning, suffocation or abandonment in remote places. Families that lacked the courage to kill their disabled children often hid them from the eyes of society, not necessarily out of fear for the child’s life, but because of the stigma the whole family suffers. A family that has disabled members is not one that others would like to marry into or even do business with; as they are considered cursed.

In cultures like Alia’s, a child is the parent’s pension. In fact Alia’s father’s dream is that some of his ten children will become successful so they can build him “ a proper house” instead  of the mud one he currently lives in. This is his reason for pushing them all to go to school. His dream for Alia, though, is simpler:   “I want her to grow into an independent adult so she wouldn’t have to depend on anybody, especially when I am no more”.

Shot on Assignment for UNICEF Ghana. 

Monday, 20 March 2017

The Yellow Wig

The yellow wig is a big scarecrow
Raised to drive away newcomers
And all who dare to hold their noses
Disgusted at the stench from his lips
As he farts away tweet tweet tweet.

Photos and Poem by Nana Kofi Acquah

Friday, 20 January 2017

Ghanaian Culture: What Must Go, And What Must Stay?

A couple of years ago, a European photographer friend of mine started a photo project called The Last Kings of Africa. He moved from country to country, city to city, village to village documenting the last vestiges of ancient African royalty.  It saddened me to observe through his photographs, that so much has been lost. It isn’t only authentic African royal traditions that have been almost wiped out by Slavery, Colonialism, Christianity and Islam.  I believe the single most important damage done to Africa, is the wiping out of identity; and with that also, our confidence.

I grew up attending schools that had “Do Not Speak Vernacular” written all over school compounds, and students who were found to be speaking their mother tongue, got into big trouble. Today, I am struggling to get my three little children to speak my mother tongue or any other Ghanaian language for that matter. If I don't do anything about it, my grandchildren may have no idea what "koobi" is.  

As a people watching the total annihilation of everything that once defined us, I can understand the pride and excitement that occasions like the on-going funeral in Kumasi evoke; and I appreciate the passion with which we defend our culture; and we must defend whatever is left otherwise children like mine will grow up and become as bats (neither bird nor fox).

Our people say “The only thing that never changes in life is the fact that a woman’s breasts will fall over time”.  In other words, the only constant in life is change. I am advocating for slight changes to our cultures, in view of the times we live in, and the futures we want to create for those who will come after us.

For eons of years, it’s been the tradition in many cultures (not just in Africa), that the rite of passage from boyhood to manhood would involve the killing of wild beast or even a fellow human from another tribe.  In the Bible, this startling account is recorded in 1 Samuel 18 “David took his men with him and went out and killed two hundred Philistines and brought back their foreskins. They counted out the full number to the king so that David might become the king's son-in-law. Then Saul gave him his daughter Michal in marriage.”   He was asked to bring one hundred foreskins as brideprice and he shows off by doubling the number. Two hundred men, each one someone’s precious child, lover, husband, father, lost their lives because a young man wanted to get married.  Today, when I see a photograph of The Asantehene sitting on his beautiful throne, with his gold laden legs resting on lion’s hide, it disturbs me.  It may not even be a real lion. The lion may have been dead for thousands of years. It disturbs me because it reenforces our in-grained belief that greatness and masculinity must come at the expense of other lives, especially wild life. I believe that fundamental belief, is what leads bored dentists and young Trumps still trying to find their masculinity to pick up guns and shoot lions and other wild life. If I had the money, I would order a lion’s head sculptured from gold and offer that to the great king as his footstool.  Ghana, a country that had lions roaming around half a century ago, today cannot find even one live one. In fact, a lot of family totems are creatures that can’t be found today or are extremely rare to find.

Funerals is another area where I’d like to see some change. We don’t have to abolish the core aspects but can we tone down the opulence? I think royal funerals should go on for as long and can be as grand as a kingdom wants. If they can afford it, they should. It after all, is one occasion where the people come together. The challenge I have as a Ghanaian is, I see families sell off properties, heirlooms and redirect school fees and capital into lavish funerals, sometimes hoping there will be enough donation to help cover cost. Many families have been destroyed by funerals.  It is in light of the negative effects of lavish funerals, that I request that we set a royal example. What example can our leaders set, to make us know that it is better for us as a people, to invest in the living more than the dead? I am a firm believer in the fact that we can tone down without touching the grandeur, pomp and richness of even royal funerals. 

Finally, I’d want to say that we are a great people with rich history. We must never forget that. When I asked the famous Kenyan author, who also writes in his mother tongue, Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, how I can get my children to speak my mother tongue, his advice was simple: “Keep speaking it to them”.  In other words, as the leader of my family, I each day get to set example of where I want us to be headed.  Leadership must hold on to the roots for support but must always reach out to touch the sky.  Africas leaders, be they traditional or political must always show the way. Leadership cannot give a particular tune, and expect the people to sing something else. 
As important as it is to really know and showcase where we are coming from, it is even more important to ask “Where are we headed?”.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

No Water, No Road, No Toilet, No Vote!

It's election season again in Ghana, and as I cycled through Langma, I noticed glossy political posters making shiny promises pasted all around this poor community.

Langma is the quieter sister of Kokrobite. It has a number of really lovely holiday resorts and attracts a lot of tourism; and that is the Langma I was used to, until I decided to pay attention.  

I saw some young people carrying water on their heads or wearing their empty basins like scarves. I asked them where they get their water from, and they introduced me to Awusavi- a pond of murky brown water. 

Awusavi is the ONLY water the people of Langma have. The only water source.

I asked Hannah if she will be voting this year. She replied: "This year, no water, no road, no toilet, no vote".

Friday, 10 June 2016

Luck is not that consistent

Salamatu Seidu is the midwife and In-Charge at Fufulso CHPS- 
Last Sunday, I got into a conversation with a friend who'd just gotten married. For his wedding day he's prayed for a sunny day in the heart of winter. Everybody around him laughed. They showed him the weather forecast and sneered. The had to eat their words, as they watched the sun shrine throughout his special day. He had other fantastic stories of faith and divine provision and he finally ended with these words: "That must be God's blessings- luck can't be that consistent".

Not everybody in my life has the sun shining right where and when they want it. In fact, some are going through the darkest nights of their lives. I have watched friends bury their spouses, battle disease, fight to stay sane, bury parents, survive affairs, survive accidents, fight for justice and the list goes on. In fact today, I am headed to Takoradi to join a bosom friend bury his dear mother; one of the most loving people to ever walk the earth; and another one just showed me his new baby via whatsapp.

I see light- brightest light everyday. I also see night- pitch black and scary. And everyday, one gives way to the other. Night becomes day and day becomes night. 

I believe life is like a well-crafted book with a complex plot, full of rising and falling action and unbearable suspense. Unfortunately, most people give up way before the book is over.  The end if before it gets to the end. Get to the end. It all makes sense after it's done and you turn the tapestry.  That's when we see where all those strands and colours were leading to.

How Do You Uproot 500 Years of Racism?