Introducing The Flint and its Initiator: Emmanuel Quartey

A couple of weeks ago, I got an email with a very long text about WhatsApp marketing in Accra. Sure, I am a social media fan, but marketing and WhatsApp are not exactly my areas of interest. Still, I read the entire article and said to myself, something like: “I need to know more about this high quality initiative taking social media so seriously in our local context”. So, I contacted the initiator and asked him a few questions. Here is my interview with Emmanuel.

1. Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Emmanuel Quartey, and up until very recently, I was the General Manager of the MEST Incubator (which funds and supports early stage tech startups) in Accra. I consider myself primarily a product designer, but to be honest, I find the “what do you do” question increasingly difficult to answer these days. For money, I’m currently doing product design and digital marketing consulting. Otherwise, I’m working on The Flint, and saying “Yes” to all sorts of inbound requests from founders and VCs to chat about some a broad range of topics. So in summary: I write, I design, I figure out how to get people excited about things on the internet, and I have conversations with interesting people who’re working on interesting things.

2. Why do you do what you do?

I do what I do:

  • Because I want to know how and why things are. I get a special bone-deep thrill from understanding how things work, especially human systems. When this happens, I want to tell everyone about what I learned.
  • Because I’m fascinated by the relationship between the words of ideas, and the world of made things. I’m driven by the desire to understand how it is that some ideas make the leap from a mind to “reality,” while others get smothered immediately.
  • Because I feel I’ve been incredibly lucky and privileged, and I feel an obligation to make the opportunities I’ve had available for as many people as possible.
  • Much of this is motivated by my mother, whose life has been defined by service to others.
  • I’ve been very motivated throughout my life by school – I’ve had incredible teachers and the attended institutions with very strong missions. Primary school was St. Paul Methodist in Tema, whose motto was “Knowledge is Power”, High school was SOS-Hermann Gmeiner International College, whose motto is “Knowledge in the Service of Africa”, College was Yale, whose motto, “Lux et Veritas” means “Light and Truth”…It sounds corny but that underlying message of learning and sharing knowledge means A LOT to me and drives a surprising amount of my thinking and actions.
  • Even more, I am motivated by fear and anger. Fear because there are these horrible forces out in the world and I worry that we’re not equipped to withstand them. Anger because we could be so much more. We could be SO much more.

3. What is The Flint?

On a very practical level, The Flint is an online publication about technology in Africa, aimed primarily at non-technical African entrepreneurs who’re eager to leverage technology to achieve more. I meet so many people pursuing fascinating ideas, but they lack the exposure to simple tools and processes that’ll help with user acquisition, recruitment, etc etc. Technology can be a productivity-enhancing multiplier for literally everyone, but too much of the knowledge is trapped in highly technical writing aimed at tech startups.

More conceptually, The Flint is also a vehicle for me to explore ideas around digital media. I believe that in the future, literally, every company will be a digital media company. By which I mean that every company will be in the business of acquiring, translating, storing, and distributing information. Manufacturing? Files (information) of objects will be transmitted (distributed) to be printed (translated) on site. Housing? Airbnb owns no property and yet manages the flow of information to put millions of people into millions of homes. Sports? Sports teams are already experimenting with placing fitness trackers on athletes and repackaging those statistics into content that is consumed by sports fans.

I genuinely believe this is the direction we’re heading in, and I very much want to understand as much as possible about how digital media entities work. What better way to run one myself? It’s very much an exercise in working and learning in public – in addition to the interviews, I’ll be sharing updates on what I’m learning while building The Flint. I’ll learn a ton and hope people will be interested in learning along with me.

4. The name clearly is about sparks, what fire to do want to light?

Racial justice means a lot to me. I want us to wake up to the fact that we have the tools to become masters of our own destiny. It begins by changing our relationship to our work – whatever “work” means to you from a chore, to craft. We need to 1) become craftspeople and domain experts in everything we do, and 2) we need to TEACH EACH OTHER how to level up.

We need to learn how to do hard things.

5. How do you see Ghana today and where do you see Ghana in 5 years?

Oh, goodness! Ghana leaves me both incredibly excited and intensely frustrated. I think Ghana is genuinely something special on the continent. I think our tiny nation has often proven that we have a remarkable ability to lead the way for the entire continent, and I think we’re dimly aware of that fact.

I don’t know where we’ll be in 5 years.

I hope we’re at a place where we realize we, collectively, need to be so much more serious about so many more things.

6. What is your best advise to someone who wants to create change?

I’m hesitant about answering this question but:
Courage is contagious. If you see something that isn’t right, say something, or do something about it to the extent of your ability. Someone once said that courage isn’t the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. When you step up, you give other people permission to do same. They agree with you, but they were waiting for someone to say it first. “If not you, then who? If not now, then when?” – Hillel the Elder

Find your tribe. Chosen families are powerful. Find your people who resonate on the same frequency as you and let them nourish you. It’s important to note that your tribe might not be your biological family or members of your school or religion. You might have to go far afield, but find them.

There will never be a perfect time. Planning can quickly become procrastination. Do it, even a small version of it. Do it now. Throw the bottle into the sea. Your people will find you, no matter how faint your signal.

Do cool things. Tell people about it. Repeat. People will mimic you. That’s how change happens, I think.

7. What do you want to promote? (a book that changed your life, what someone who wants to write for The Flint needs to do, go to grad school, don’t go to grad school etc.)

I’m very eager for people to contribute their knowledge to The Flint! The Flint wants to become a community of makers and craftspeople creating and sharing knowledge with each other.

If you don’t have the time to write, don’t worry – reach out to me and if I think your story will be instructive for others, I’ll write it for you. The things that make a good story for The Flint:

  • It reveals new facts or data that people would be surprised to know
  • It teaches a process/framework that can help a group of Africans do more
  • It involves technology in some way (note: “tech” can be as simple as a telephone)
    People can pitch ideas at emmanuel@theflint.io

Thank you for sharing, Emmanuel! I especially liked how you linked change not just to start-ups and entrepreneurship, but to civic courage and speaking up.  I wish Emmanuel all the best with his fiery, new project and hope you also like The Flint!

My Children Speak Three Languages: Here Are My Thoughts About It

My brother reads to my children. In Swedish.

In our family, we speak three languages: English is the common language that all of us speak, then I speak Swedish with the kids (which my children’s father can understand some, but cannot speak it), and the children’s father speaks Fanti, an Akan language ( which I only have a basic level of understanding and proficiency) with them. People around us speak either English or Fanti or other dialects of Akan, in school, my daughter is taught in English. We Skype with my Swedish family in Swedish maybe once a week.

Swedish is hence the language my children hear the least of.

My thoughts around teaching them my language are:

  1. It is extremely important to me they speak my mother-tongue. It is the lauguage in which I can express myself best and it is the carrier of my culture. My children speaking Swedish is non-negotiable and I am envisioning them speaking Swedish fluently as adults, on a level high enough it would not immediately be possible to tell they did not always live in Sweden.
  2. If I, their mother, speak Swedish, they will too. I therefore try and speak as much in Swedish with them as I can. Honestly, I constantly disappoint myself and end up speaking English much more than I intend to, but I try to be forgiving, switch to Swedish when I realize I am rattling on in English and say to myself that “tomorrow is a new day…”
  3. To increase my children’s Swedish vocabulary, we read books every day. I try to read to them every night I am home for about 45 minutes (5 nights a week). We have many children’s’ books in Swedish, but I also do direct translations from books in English (and the one in French!). We also converse around pictures in the books.
  4. Mixing languages is ok. The Multilingual Children’s Association agrees and calls it “harmless and temporary”. If my children speak mixing English and Swedish, and they do that quite a bit, I might translate to Swedish in my response to them. For instance,  they might say: “…and kaninen [the rabbit] fall down”,  I can respond “Ja, den ramlade…” [Yes, it fell]. But I don’t want to coerce them into speaking Swedish as I don’t want there to be any ill-feeling towards the language. At times that means I will be speaking Swedish and they will respond in English. Good enough.
  5. We spend at least one month in a Swedish-speaking environment every year. I think it is sometimes good to be emersed in the language and “forced” to speak (but I am not contradicting myself, the force that comes naturally from speaking to someone who prefers Swedish is very different to be made to speak to someone who speaks both languages).
  6. I take help from technology. When my children play iPad games or watch movies, I make sure some of them are in Swedish. It is also a great way of adding the cultural aspect of life in Sweden such as current favorites Barnen i Bullerbyn and Astrid får en lillebror.
  7. I think of next steps. However, I realize my children lack some specific vocabulary, for instance, words for play in Swedish (My child: “Hello, let’s play HIDE AND SEEK”, Swedish child: *blank face*), so I would love to organize playdates for them with Swedish speaking children. I know a few here in Ghana and am aware of a Swedish family moving to our town soon. Likely my Swedish would improve with some more practice as well!

If you have experiences with a multilingual life, I would love to hear your story!

Thanks to Charlie’s comment and Nadja’s facebook post which inspired this post!

This post is part of a series of posts about parenting

Parenting in a New Environment

I am bringing my children up in an environment that is very different from how I grew up. Is that a problem or an added richness to their and my lives? 

Maybe I have to start with what the differences are between my rural Swedish upbringing on the island of Gotland in the 1980ies and my girls’ in the industrial city of Tema, Ghana today:

It is much warmer for once, ok, ok to be more serious, they are exposed to more inequality, malaria mosquitoes, carbohydrates, direct sun, rigid school from an early age, time on iPads, and religion than I was and that I would prefer for them. However, they also have access to more extended family on a regular basis (my parents were mostly on their own) meaning a calm and regular schedule not depending on my workdays or moods, they speak several languages, while I only spoke Swedish until English was introduced in class 4. They eat less processed foods as that is not affordable in Ghana and know from our chicken and rabbit farms how meat gets on the table.

The behavioral culture in Ghana differs from the culture in Sweden in most ways from how to greet someone (a lengthy conversation including nicknames, hand holding, asking of family vs. “hej”) to how to behave as a child (don’t speak until spoken to vs. do what you want, you are a kid!). Generally, while I am still learning how to behave – I imagine it is good to know that contexts matter.

I do not usually worry much about this, mostly because as you can see, I think it evens out pretty much. Every time and place is different. Knowing different cultures is a definite advantage in every way. But as a parent, sometimes, like today, I just long for the 1980ies Swedish playful daycare “dagis”, no pressure, no religion or threat of the cane, meatballs and potatoes with a glass of milk for lunch, stuff I know and understand for my children.

Photo: Selma and Ellen getting a weekend lesson in plucking a hen from their cousin and his girlfriend who live with us.

This post is part of a series of posts about parenting.

My #2016bestnine on Instagram

Last year I increased my presence on Instagram and ended up with 244 posts which were liked a whopping 6971 times! Thank you!

(and if you are not part of the 800+ people who follow me yet, I am @KajsaHA there too!)

You apparently like:

  1. Me graduating with a Doctor of Philosophy Degree in African Studies from University of Ghana
  2. Me taking a selfie with an umbrella and a yellow Ginko Biloba tree at the Mall in Washington DC (steps away from where people did NOT assemble for someone’s inauguration last week)
  3. My daughter Ellen zipping up my dress.
  4. Smiley husband and I on a night out at the National Theatre.
  5. An intimate sibling embrace.
  6. Girls being silly in new swim caps.
  7. Garden marvels (it is palm nut kernels!).
  8. Long shadows on one of the shortest days of the year.
  9. Live broadcast technology that allows my mother in Sweden to follow my graduation in Ghana (see #1)

Comment on what you want to see in 2017!

 

Sunday Reads are back! #KajsaHASundayReads

sundayreadsThis week I read:

  1. First things first: Bank of Ghana orders Swiss Gold watches for half a million USD.
  2. This touching article about Serge Attukwei Clottey and how he keeps the memory of his mother alive. (If you never read my Ashesi colleague Eli Tetteh’s piece on Clottey, do!)
  3. A passionate support for feelings by one of my favorite contemporary thinkers Martha Naussbaum, brought to us by the brilliant Brainpickings site.
  4. About our time: Post Truth Politics by the Economist.

This Swedish article I wish was available in English for all (ok, more folks) to read:

5. A fantastic article on the modernity of Swedish writer Sara Lidman’s work in the 1950s, by literature prof Anneli Bränström Öhman.

This week I watched this video, because: Standing ovation even before he said teachers are underpaid!


 This post is part of my #KajsaHASundayReads series. Inspired by personal role models, Ory Okolloh Mwangi and Chris Boatman,  I want to share articles I read with my followers on a somehow regular basis. 

Third Time A Charm? Reporting from a #DayatDVLA

This year, my driver’s licence expired and needed to be renewed. I made my first visit to DVLA in April, payed the dues for the renewal, but did not get to complete the process. I left with a scribble on my application and used it until July when the scribble expired and the “capture machine” was restored. In July, I completed the application process and left with a temporary license. This week the temporary license expired, so I got on the dirt road to DVLA (see photo below) again. Here is my story.

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When I entered, I was shown to room 7 by a man in a yellow very saying “Lion Security” (more on that later). The room has a number of desks and about half of them are covered with boxes with licenses marked with “February 2015, March 2015” and so on. I would guess there were a couple of thousand licenses there waiting for their owners. I asked if I could take a photo for the blog, but was asked not to. I was immediately told, “Oh, your license is not ready”. I was asked to sit down while my temporary license was extended.

Instead I walked past crowds of waiting people to the head of DVLA Tema, Mr. Osei-Bio’s office (see photo below) to get an update on the issues we discussed in July. The same issues I had filed complaints about to his predecessor in April. Mr. Osei-Bio looked tired and did not recognise me until I sat down and introduced myself. He then smiled and answered all my questions with patience. These were my issues:

– Card printing delays

-Lack of information, possible solutions I listed in my first complaint were:

  • a central reception
  • signs and step-by-step instructions
  • personel wore uniforms or at least name tags
  • fees were clearly pasted on the wall (online onlyvehicle licensing fees are available, not drivers’ licensing fees).

– Security personnel instead of information staff.

 

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I was told all the printing is being done in Accra and is dealing with a two year backlog. This was confirmed when I later when to pick up my extended licence and was asked “When did you first apply? 2014?”. My friend Jacob that was mentioned in the April post also had had his temporary licence renewed since 2014. I again explained what a hassle that is to us drivers: having to spend several working days just to check on a license that we have all payed for, not having a valid ID (banks do not accept the Temporary license). I was told now the extension is not three months, but until the end of the year. By then, they believe the printing of the backlog of card will have been done. My extension reads 30/12/2016. However, why can the printing of licenses not be done in Tema ( and all the other DVLA districts) so the day that you come to renew your licence, you also leave with your new license? The cost for manpower involved in extending licenses for years and handling licenses must well exceed a few card printing machines? Add to that cost the productivity loss for all of us “coming and going” and being robbed of our legal identification.
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The lack of information was even greater this time. The electronic signboards were not working (see black screens on the building in the last photo). The audio message was off. No central reception had been created. Rather the “Customer Service Centre” at the gate was closed and replaced by two aggressive security men. No visual step-by-step instructions exist anywhere. However, I saw prices for services being posted on the wall, and I thought to myself: now that is an improvement from July. Exactly what I asked for!

[Prices]

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But it was not so. The prices on the wall is for a new initiative of “Premium service” where you supposedly get served quicker by DVLA. As the regular prices are not displayed anywhere, I can’t tell if it is a good deal though. (Also what is versions 1, 2, 3 for replacement of license?) Why create a premier service if you cannot perform the basic service?

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I told Mr. Osei-Bio that when DVLA does not paste information anywhere, see defunct electronic screens on the admin block on the photo above, they play us customers in the hands of connection men or the security guard I met when walking in. The security guards have been there for about a year and serve both as information givers and security. However, the onsite bank is guarded by a policeman with a weapon. I questioned why DVLA Tema need 6 security men on post? Mr. Osei-Bio said this is normal, all establishments need security. Perhaps, yes. But even more, do we not need information? To me, it seems that when drivers in and around Tema come back for the second-third-fourth-fifth time to get something they have payed for, they have every right to be angry and demand change. Is that why the security is really needed?

When I was leaving I wanted to record the speaker to prove there was no customer service announcement and also take a photo of the closed customer service unit. I had asked for permission to take photos by Mr. Osei-Bio when I was in his office and while he denied my request to take photos indoors, he said I could take photos “outside, on the premises”. My mistake was not asking security at the gate. Quickly they came up to my car and escalated the situation from me taking a photo and asking about the customer service announcement that was no more, to them screaming “Do you know there is security here” and “Who asked you, WHO ASKED YOU TO TAKE PHOTOS?” Their aggressiveness was uncomfortable and unnecessary and was not appeased by me saying I had a meeting with Mr Osei-Bio (“Mr. Osei-WHO?”) and had his approval. They forced me to park my car and walk back to the building and what for Mr. Osei-Bio to come. To me this buttresses my point above on an organization that cares more about protecting itself than being of assistance to its customers.


The only thing that keep see hopeful at this time is how well I was received by Mr. Osei-Bio (“You  help me to do my job better”, he said) and how much people around me at DVLA agree when I speak up and say: THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE. I urge every one of you who read this to “adopt” a government agency, liaise with its leaders, and demand better service.

My Children on the Blog

So in-between blogging, researching, and teaching, I do have a private life. The main part of that life is my two children. I have mentioned them every now and then here on the blog, like when they were born: Selma in 2011  & Ellen in 2014, and in a post on our racialized lives “You are yellow and I am brown” and in a post on how to carry a baby Ghana style (one of my few videos). 

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However, I would like to write a little more here on the blog about my children, things we do together, and challenges we face as a family. I will do so under the category: Parenting.

While some might feel one should not “expose” children online, I see my online life as a part of my life and it feels strange to “hide” them away from my blog. Also as my children grow and frankly become more fun to hang out with, I think I have more to say about them, their activities, and about life with children more generally. I am mindful of that they are their own people who should get to tell their own story, but until they start their own blogs (oh, what a dizzying thought!), I think I can say quite a bit more without compromising their integrity.

If you have ideas on topics you’d like to read relating to life with children, do leave a comment!

Mzznaki Reps Ghana Well-Well!

Ghanaian bride-to-be Mzznaki Tetteh is getting married later this month, but the attention has already started. After Mzznaki and her fiancé Kojo Amoah posted their pre-wedding photos online, the pictures have gone viral and sparked conversation.

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The response on Mzznaki’s instagram has been lauded as classy.

 

“She is one of the best people I have met and I am so happy to take her to the altar”, says Kojo in an interview.

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After the nurse and her engineer fiancé got international attention: Dailymail Uk, Yahoo.com (a nice article on fatshamin online), Today.com, Metro.uk and even Swedish Elle!Screenshot 2016-06-09 00.37.55

 

Yesterday, Mzznaki came on TV and spoke to Joy News to a quite rude Israel Lareya. She told her story and on a direct question on how much she weighs (!), she kept her cool and answered “hundred-and-sexy!” (Do yourself a favour and please turn off before creepy Lareya asks about her lingerie!!)

On her instagram profile, now followed by 36 000 people, Mzznaki describes herself as “A nurse, A sweet girl who loves fashion, A student, An achiever”. I think she can now add to her list:

“A social media sensation and A confident and widely admired ambassador of Ghana”.

Problem Fatigue: Korle Bu, NIA, and Weija Dam

Often, the news cycle in Ghana excites me and seemingly puts pressure on people in charge. So far so good. However, at times, the news feel like projectiles that blow up too close to comfort and just keep coming BOOM BOOM BOOM without breathing space to the point of me and other people going “what is happening to us?”, “WHY?” or similar while throwing our hands in the air. 

This week, and its only Tuesday!, for instance we heard about:

All these problems are major, critical, and totally unacceptable. They all are not new, but historical problems that have not been adequately addressed. On radio this morning, the Korle Bu Hospital CEO Dr. Buckle said the surgery ward issue dates back to 2014  and the article on the identification card suggests the exercise begun in 2003, albeit is still not completed!

All these problems have multiple people (departments! ministries! experts!) working on them, seemingly not making much progress – or what do I know- but at least not solving issues!  For instance the identification card was here highlighted in a forum organised by a media house and the World Bank – why not championed by the parliament or the authority created for identification, I do not understand. It seems the problems are too big to get solved by public servants or politicians? Or they lack the skill, funds, or political will?

If so, solutions to problems are likely linked to more citizen engagement. But how do we get there? How do we make sure we channel rage, direct energy, and funnel ideas for solutions –  and not for apathy?

House Girl – A Film by Koby Adom on The Plight of Domestic Workers

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I recently linked up with Ghanaian filmmaker Koby Adom to learn more about his new project, House Girl, a short film dedicated to telling the story of the plight of young domestic workers in Ghana. I think we do not discuss the topic at all enough in Ghana and hence silently agree to, at times, terrible conditions for our country women.

When did you decide to make a film about house girls and why?

My mother and I are always having very long conversations about our life experiences and she is very open with me. A few years ago, she shared a story with me of when she witnessed the brutality inflicted on a house girl over a period of time while still living in Ghana in her younger years. It was happening in one of her friend’s houses by her friend’s mother. Being very articulate, my mum’s very detailed description of the events started sparking clear images of what it would be like in my head. These thoughts were chilling and gave me goosebumps and I wondered if any such thing would happen in contemporary Ghana so I researched it.Screenshot 2016-01-10 20.02.31

I have always remembered the story till this day and I went back to ask my mother more questions on occasion because it was hard to wrap my head around it. Being raised in London, there were certain things I was oblivious to so parts of the story just didn’t add up or make sense to me.

So when the end of my film school education was approaching, I decided to explore this story further for my graduation film. I was also very out of touch with Ghana and wanted to be reconnected with it so this was the perfect opportunity to explore that too; through film.

 

What is known about the issue? What is yet to be documented?

Having lived in Accra for just over a year when I was a child (1996-1998), I remember house girls/ house boys as the norm. However, my perception of that role in the house hold was positive because of the person who helped my family back then. She was like my older sister or a cool young aunty who helped out. My mum treated her like she would treat my siblings and I, but with a lot more respect – My mum still speaks very fondly of her now calling her ‘an angel’ because she took a lot of pressure off my mum’s shoulders at a time when it was most needed.
Furthermore, I visited Ghana in August 2015 and stayed Screenshot 2016-01-10 20.05.22with family I have in Accra. My family members treated their domestic workers with total respect, so I was still in the dark as to what would cause anybody to treat a human being like that. So I did some research on it to find out if such brutalities still happen in Ghana and was pretty upset with what I found: an article by Kwaku Adu-Gyamfi on www.modernghana.com entitled Corpses Have More Respect Than House Maids. This was a Ghanaian website, speaking about Ghana. It wasn’t an outside perspective. Adu-Gyamfi also mentions it is an issue which is hardly talked about, because of the cultural history behind it. That is one of the reasons why I decided to write a script about house girls; To shine light on a situation which can spark a conversation so action can be taken to reduce, if not eradicate such practices in Ghana and Africa as a whole.

Adu-Gyamfi’s article was bold, but I believe there should be a lot more Ghanaian media outlets starting the conversation about the issue. By taking responsibility of the problem, African countries can avoid negative perceptions from abroad, which also prevents outsiders coming in to try and solve the problem.

What is your goal with the film, what do you hope to achieve?

I have two main goals with this film: Firstly, I want to make a fantastic film about something serious to further my career as a filmmaker. At this stage of our careers, young student filmmakers don’t usually make short films to sell or make money. At this stage we are focused on finding an audience for our art to further our careers. The best thing about the London Film School is that we are taught very rigidly how to make films in a tough but effective two-year Masters program. As a result, we come out the other end knowing how to make films without thinking too much about it. This now gives us the opportunity to focus on our art and craft. Adding magical things to a film which we figure out ourselves. I am using this film to tell a story which needs to be told in a magical way do get my point across – We aim to enter this film into film festivals globally to get a wide audience for it and eventually release it online for even more people to see.

Secondly, I want people in the western world to know more about Ghana and how far it has come as a nation. In the same breath I want Ghanaians to know that there are issues that still need to be resolved internally and I want to encourage them to do so. I want this film to show Ghana in all it’s glory but also show everybody one area which needs fixing; focusing more on human rights for everybody within it’s borders. Whether it is in established cities like Accra or villages outside of the major cities.

 

Promo picHow do you make sure you: an educated male living abroad gets it right?

 I am so happy you asked me this question because I worried about this for a long time. However, like I said I asked my mother a lot of questions as well as my family who live in Accra. They have all been very helpful in helping me shape the narrative of this story from a cultural stand point.

Also my personal tutor at film school put me in touch with Erik Knudsen, an experienced Danish-Ghanaian filmmaker who had previously made films in Ghana. He was very easy to speak to and was in a similar position to myself; being Ghanaian by parentage but could still be considered an outsider. Erik read one of the drafts of my script and helped me to think further into the culture of Ghana. He advised me to visit Ghana and learn how things work for myself rather than rely on the memory I have of it from 1998 and stories from others which weren’t my own experiences. This was fantastic advice, because I could really take in the spirit of the nation by going there.

Screenshot 2016-01-10 19.51.59I also speak to my peers in the UK who also have African heritage (There are loads of us! Especially in London). We are all in the same position in terms of our knowledge of our respective motherland. One friend in particular, who is an actress shared an account of when her parents flew over a domestic worker from Nigeria to London and the brutalities happened here! I knew this existed, but I was horrified that people so close to me had actually seen and been through what my mother had told me. That is what really cemented my desire to make a film on this topic. I am big on human rights so something needs to be said about it.

I’m imagining filmmaking to be incredibly hard, tedious and expensive. Tell us of a moment in your filmmaking career that made it all worth it. 

ClosureWhile making my last short film ‘Closure’, I experienced the hardships that you mentioned. I didn’t sleep much because of everything that needed to be done. Once the film was financed, made and screened, I felt a great sense of pride from everything that came from it. I sent the film to a load of industry contacts and film magazines/ bloggers and the response was over-whelming. I got some good feed back from executives at big production and distribution companies like Lionsgate, Sky Movies, Warner Brothers and TWC. I also featured in an article on Indiewire, which is a huge online independent film magazine. This got me a lot of important contacts in this industry.

I also held a private screening for this film and over 350 people turned up to watch it and listen to our question and answer session. After all the hard work, it is great to know that people have appreciated your efforts and that people were affected/ influenced by the film. There is no better feeling than that and it makes all the hard work and challenges faced worth it.

Furthermore, I made a short documentary called ‘Deborah’s Letter’, which is about my little sister who was born with Spina Bifida and is in a wheel chair as a result. The film won the audience favourite award at the Cinema Touching Disability Film Festival in Austin, Texas. I also received a lovely message from the festival director that the film touched the entire audience. These are the moments filmmakers live for. To know that we have put something from our head to the screen and it has had an impact on others. It is an amazing feeling.

Finally, any word of advise for young creatives?

Screenshot 2016-01-10 19.54.02If you want to do something LEARN it! Take the time, money and effort and invest it into your craft. Be patient. A lot of people want instant gratification and I was one of them. I have learnt that working hard and learning the industry and the craft will take me so much further than if I went diving head first with no knowledge. Nothing wrong with diving but don’t do it with no idea of what you are about to fall into. Knowledge is power.

Secondly, just be bold. Don’t be discouraged to do something because nobody has done it before. The way I see it, that thing hasn’t been done before because God has left it vacant for YOU. Everybody who is important in the world today did something that logic would have discouraged. Listen to people but you don’t have to follow them. Listen to why they say you shouldn’t do it and use it as research to figure how you are going to do it. BE BOLD!

You can support the HouseGirl film on KickStarter and follow it of Facebook and Twitter for updates.

 

 

New Year, New Beginnings

File 2016-01-06 16 00 01Something about being human just clicks with new beginnings. They are chances to redeem our (wicked) ways and start fresh, kick off some new habits, become more productive and more…ourselves? As a educationist, the new year is not so much a new beginning compared with end of August when the new SCHOOL YEAR, but alas, I take what I can get.

This year, I aim to transform in the following six ways:

  1. Back to paper. There has just been too much screen time in my life lately. This needs to stop and one way of edging closer to this goal is my new paper calendar (see photo above). I always had one and stopped only a few years back when tech savvy friends were laughing at my Filofax.
  2. End justifies the means. No excuses towards the road to impact. I have a few fields I want to influence the world and nothing shall stop me. I will not need cheer or public acclaim, I just want my heart’s desire: to make a small impact with my short life.
  3. Less driving, more fun. After my car broke down last year, I had to live without it – and in some ways it was great. Yes, it does add uncomfortable minutes and sometimes hours to my commute, but also relaxation, connection and saving of resources.
  4. Dinner parties. I just love them, so why not have a few more of them in my life?
  5. Delegation. I want to do a lot so delegation becomes key. That means letting go of control and perfection for the benefit of more production and more time with my children at home, meanwhile the party must go on.
  6. More personal blogging. The trial I started last year went so well: both in terms of positive feedback and how writing the more personal posts make me feel.
  7. Charging for appearances. I have done my last free (non-academic) appearance. From now it costs money to hear me talk! I guess this is a version of delegation and getting stuff done. I had a few bad experiences with saying yes to free gigs last year, and will have none of that this year!

What are your new beginnings? And do let me know, if you want to attend a dinner party of mine!