Ibrahim Kamara and Jide Adetunji flew out to Tema and East Legon, along with photographer Terna Jogo to produce stills and video images of a pioneering community of skaters and surfers, as well as a wider collective of musicians, visual artists and designers.
In the weeks following their return to London, and before the launch of their live Ghana showcase, People’s Stories Project spoke with Ibrahim and Terna about their post-trip impressions and their plans for a second creative episode within the continent.
PSP: There’s something you posted on Twitter when you got back from Ghana. You said, ‘Africa has opened my eyes’ …
Ibrahim:Yeah, 100 per cent. When you grow up over here there’s some sort of perception of Africa that it’s broke and that sort of thing. When we say we have a struggle over here, we don’t really. There are people over there that are reallystruggling, but they don’t use that as an excuse to do something bad. We’re here complaining about the maddest things, while over there, let’s say they struggle with getting the internet, but they’re still making things happen.
PSP: Was it Accra that you went to specifically?
Ibrahim:We went to Tema, then East Lagon in Accra. You could go there with very little and have enough to do a lot. People there would tell us that the average salary is around 150 cedis a month – and that’s for your family. That’s nothing! How is that even possible? Everyone there was just hustling. I mean everyone. Left, right and centre.
PSP: How did that energy make you feel?
Ibrahim: I think it just showed me that we really have no excuse in London … Even though I don’t have excuses for things anyway but that was like …
Terna: … I don’t want to hear it …
Ibrahim: That’s it! I don’t want to hear excuses from no one! Over there people were selling sweets, selling water, clothes … washing your car windows … everything …
Ibrahim: What Prince is doing is going to inspire so many Ghanaians. He shoots everything with an iPhone …
PSP:(To Terna) The last time you were in Africa was Nigeria when you were 3. How did you feel being in Ghana?
Terna: I think on the way there I didn’t look or seem excited….
Ibrahim: I don’t know what she’s talking about. She was dead excited.
Terna: I was, but I was thinking I just can’t believe this is happening. I thought, when I see the orange dust, I’ll know I’m really in Ghana. You know, in the UK, Africa is always portrayed as this mythical place. It doesn’t seem like anywhere else in the world, but you go there and it’s just normal. I don’t know what I was expecting but people are just living their lives there – the same as anywhere else.
PSP: Was it always going to be the three of you on this trip?
Ibrahim: No. When we first spoke with you about travelling, you said we should choose a photographer. Terna was doing our social media but she does photography and I wanted to give the opportunity to someone who’s worked with us rather than just giving it to a random person.
PSP: Did you have a strong idea of who you wanted to meet out there?
Ibrahim: We actually met up with different creatives, so we covered musicians, visual artists, a fashion designer, photographers as well as the skate and surf collective. Certain artists that we covered reposted us, and other creatives saw that. By the time we’d finished, if you were a creative from Ghana, you would know what GUAP was by the end.
PSP: So now your name’s getting established out there…
Ibrahim: Definitely. There was a guy from the skate collective who’s going to start writing for us. He says he basically wants to do what we’ve just done and to tell the stories of what’s there – through writing.
Terna: It was interesting as well because I was asking some of the creatives that we met who their inspiration was in Ghana. A lot said there was no one doing what they were doing. It meant that we got to document the people who were going to be big pioneers. All their inspiration came from outside of Ghana – and now they’re the ones leading the youth. Our slogan is Lead the Revolution, and they are literally on that. Like Prince Jyesi [co-founder of Boxed Kids]. He’s so unique and he said the person who inspired him is photographer Joshua Kissi, who’s American and Ghanaian.
Terna: …and they all have youth projects out there…
Ibrahim: They use those side projects to re-invest back into Ghana’s creativity. In the collective they even have a Surf Ghana house where, if you’re creative and you’re from another part of the world, you can stay there for a certain rate. Part of the profit goes to their charity to fuel young skaters and creatives.
PSP: Does the older generation get this scene?
Ibrahim:No. All the people we met are doing revolutionary stuff for Ghana. Even the music artists. There’s Joey B who’s taking the lead on the alternative African music scene …
Terna: …and it’s not Afrobeat…
Ibrahim: … Yeah, it’s alternative to Afrobeat and right now he’s helping direct that sound in Ghana. We also met up with Rio Boss who does alternative RnB.
PSP: You’ve got another trip planned for the continent. You said you’d like to go east this time.
Ibrahim: Yeah, Rwanda or Tanzania maybe. I think that’s where my mind’s going right now. East would be good. I just want somewhere with good internet – and actual stories to tell. That’s the thing. The creatives we chose in Ghana showed that no matter what country they’re from, you would think they’re lit… and that’s what I want to be able to do wherever we go. Our readers might not necessarily know who they are, but they’ll know that they’re good.
PSP: Were the people you met as interested in you as you were in them. Not just GUAP, but you as individuals?
Terna: There was just a mutual understanding.
Ibrahim: Really, we’re all inspired by the same things right now, and we’re all influenced by the same kind of stuff, so no matter where you go, youth culture makes us unified. Me, and Jide were playing FIFA with Prince Jyesi in his house. We’d do that in London. Youth is like a universal language.
Terna: I think the best thing about this is that GUAP’s audience is in the diaspora and to be able to have the people telling these kinds of stories actually be African makes it feel authentic. There’s so much you could do out there. We were having all sorts of ideas.
Ibrahim: Yeah, it was proper good. Proper African. When we landed we knew we were exactly where we’re meant to be.