News Brief

#Goals: Nana Oforiatta-Ayim Is the Ghanaian Creative Preserving Africa’s Artistic Past

For our last installment of #Goals, we speak to Ghanaian arts historian, writer and filmmaker Nana Oforiatta-Ayim about her efforts to preserve Africa's artistic past, and assure its future.

During the month of August, we’ll be highlighting aspirational folks who are setting major #goals and achieving them, and asking them to share their stories and insight to help motivate us all to “live our best lives.”

These athletes, artists, fashionistas, scholars, entrepreneurs, and more, are a reminder to us all, that dreams are valid!

Previously, we spoke to Nigerian mental health advocate Funmilade Adeniyi-Taiwofor our final installment, we speak with Ghanaian art historian Nana Oforiatta-Ayim. Read our conversation below.

Ghanaian art historian, writer, and filmmaker Nana Oforiatta-Ayim is one of the foremost architects of the contemporary African arts scene. As the creative director of Accra’s Gallery 1957 and director of the cultural research initiative, ANO, Oforiatta-Ayim is building a flourishing arts ecosystem. OkayAfrica spoke to Oforiatta-Ayim about her efforts to preserve Africa’s artistic past and shape its future.

Akinyi Ochieng for OkayAfrica: When did you first discover what you wanted to do?

Nana Oforiatta-Ayim: From a very young age, I knew I wanted to write, I’ve always been an avid reader, and writing became a way to make sense of the world. I became interested in film after working with filmmaker Chris Marker on a film Les Statues Meurent Aussi, which I helped translate from French into English. I entered the world of Art History after my first degree in politics and Russian. At the time, although I was working for the United Nations, my interests centered around arts and culture and most of my friends were artists, I realized that the arts were for me a more potent tool for transformation than politics. I got more and more into the idea of changing narratives through art.

How do you think your background in politics and Russia has affected the way in which you view your work now?

I’m interested in the way that art can transform societies. When I studied Russian [history], I was mostly interested in the Russian Revolution, the revolutionary nature of Russian literatures and arts. I think we’re going through something similar here in Accra right now.

Right now, in Accra, there are new manifestations of art and new communities in the process of formation. That dynamism and conversation is rapidly coming together to create a crucible, a catalyst for change, that mirrors our economic and political changes.

You’re a quintessential "Jill of all Trades." You’re a writer, an art historian, a filmmaker—do you think that being involved in all these mediums has detracted from your work, or has it enhanced its quality?

It makes life harder in that you never get to rest. When you finish with one work, you immediately go to another. It’s hard to juggle three or four different things, and in a way, I wish I was a one-activity type of person, because my mind and body are never at rest. At the same time, each realm somehow enriches the other and gives each more dimension.

What is your proudest accomplishment to date?

Getting a book deal for my novel, The God Child, a coming of age story that will come out next year and will be published by Bloomsbury.

You’ve racked up numerous accolades from the 2015 Art & Technology Award from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the 2016 AIR Award, and were named by OkayAfrica as one of 12 African women making history. Has this recognition changed you or the way you perceive your work?

I wouldn’t say it’s changed me. It’s nice, of course, to have some degree of recognition—some degree of acknowledgement, that your work resonates in the world. But I don’t go to bed thinking about what people said about my work today. I go to bed thinking of what I need to do next. I don’t think I have an external impetus so much as an internal one. Whatever happens on the outside, I’ll still be driven by the same thing on the inside.

How do you identify which projects you feel compelled to develop and the ones that are better left to others?

I’m still figuring that balance out, to be honest. Especially with ANO, there’s lots of things I’m doing right now that I should leave to others or that I’m trying to find others to do much better than I could myself. The cultural institution building here in this country is still so new and young. It’s not like London where you can find a person to do this or that, you know where to go. I think we’re still forming who we are and what we’re doing, so a lot of people end up doing a lot of it themselves. So I don’t have the luxury to leave things to others right now, but we are trying to create that cultural infrastructure.

The question of drive is interesting because many of your projects, like the Cultural Encyclopedia, have long incubation periods. How do you sustain your vision for work with a long horizon?

With the Cultural Encyclopedia, for example, it’s been going for many years. I just think it’s something that’s necessary. Coming from the African continent, being a creative, and having a kind of vision of how things can be better is what you hold on to and what gives you the energy to continue despite all the obstacles day-in, day-out. You’re born in this certain context, so you have to do the best that you can to make it a better place. That’s what drives me. We’re each given our gifts and abilities, and with the things that I’m doing, I’m just trying to channel those in order to have the best possible impact I can while I’m here.

News Brief

#Goals: Meet the 24 Year-Old Activist Helping Nigerians Gain Access to Mental Health Care

For our latest installment of #Goals we speak with the 24-year-old creator of PsyndUp, the online directory linking Nigerians to mental health professionals.

During the month of August, we’ll be highlighting aspirational folks who are setting major #goals and achieving them, and asking them to share their stories and insight to help motivate us all to “live our best lives.”

These athletes, artists, fashionistas, scholars, entrepreneurs, and more, are a reminder to us all, that dreams are valid!

Previously, we spoke to Nigerian Paralympian Lucy Ejike. For our latest installment, we speak to Nigerian mental health advocate Funmilade Adeniyi-Taiwo. Read our conversation below.

Funmilade Adeniyi-Taiwo is the 24-year-old founder of PsyndUp, an online directory for mental health professionals in Nigeria, where people seeking help can connect with a therapist of their choice.

The site aims to eliminate the stress associated with finding certified therapists. Though therapists registered on the site are primarily located in Lagos and Abuja, Adeniyi-Taiwo hopes to expand the service to other cities across Nigeria.

This interview was edited and condensed for clarity.

Shayera Dark for OkayAfrica: What inspired PsyndUp? Did your education play any role in its inception?

Funmilade Adeniyi-Taiwo: PsyndUp was conceived after I attended two mental health awareness events in Lagos in 2016 organized by asktoks.com, a company that provides behaviour therapy for children with neurodevelopmental disorders. A prominent question that stuck out to me in both events was, “So where do we get help?” It occurred to me that maybe stigma might not be our only challenge with mental health in Nigeria, but also finding the right kind of help when you need it. With that, I decided, unaware of the various challenges I would face, to help people access the available mental health care we have in Nigeria.

Yes, my education played a major role. I studied psychology at the University of Toronto and have plans to become a clinical psychologist.

Why was it important for you to create PsyndUp?

It was important because simply talking about the difficulties in the Nigerian mental health care system won’t change them if we don’t take steps to improve it, no matter how small.

What has been the biggest setback you’ve experienced with PsyndUp?

Finding therapists has definitely been the hardest part. We’ve had to create our own network of psychologists by visiting hospitals, speaking to heads of departments and working with senior psychologists, who advise on what to look out for in terms of academic and clinical experience when registering psychologists. Psychiatrists on the other hand are easier to find. We still have to do the ground work of visiting hospitals but it’s easier to verify a psychiatrist once they are registered with the MDCN.

How does the “Find a Therapist” feature work?

Users who wish to access a therapist using the PsyndUp platform go to psyndup.com, click on Find a Therapist and tell us a little bit about themselves. The information gathered from the questionnaire is used to match people to a therapist close to them.

What benefits do users gain from registering on the website?

Users who register on PsyndUp get to ask questions on our online support community. Often times we find that people might just want to talk it out with someone who understands. By asking a question or sharing an experience with a challenge, you are able to reach others who potentially faced these experiences and can relate. It’s peer support, also a major facet of mental health care.

Mental illness is still stigmatized in Nigeria. How difficult has it been for PsyndUp to convince users to provide personal information online?

It hasn’t been that difficult surprisingly. A few people have asked us to ensure their information is not shared with anyone and we do just that. Also, we let users know who they’re speaking to when they contact us by email or message us online. It provides a real human feel.

What role can technology play in spreading mental awareness in Nigeria?

Technology (social media specifically) provides anonymity when having mental health conversations and the opportunity to reach a large untapped audience. It also allows you connect with mental health practitioners and people who are passionate about mental health.

Nigeria has eight neuropsychiatric hospitals, which are mostly concentrated in urban areas. In what ways can relevant stakeholders harness technology to connect people—especially rural dwellers—in need of mental care to clinicians?

Relevant stakeholders should focus on developing collaborative mental health care, where primary care workers are trained to implement suicide intervention strategies, crisis intervention strategies and psychological first aid. It means they will be empowered to assess various conditions and determine the priority for referral to a specialist.

Also, deprofessionalizing the field would help as it takes six to eight years to train a competent psychologist and more to train psychiatrists. Technology could be used to train non-clinicians (community leaders, HR professionals, teachers etc) to manage mental health cases before they escalate to the level of having to see a clinician. This can take the form of psychological first aid, peer support, or counseling, which would help reduce the burden on the [health care] system.

What future plans do you have for PsyndUp?

I hope to solidify our on boarding and verification process, establish a strong network of therapists in Lagos and Abuja and use that network to reach the rural areas. This will undoubtedly involve ground work as well, so a mixture of the network and our physical efforts would shape this approach.

Interview
Merry-Lynn. Photo courtesy of the artist.

You Need This Merry-Lynn EP In Your Life

Interview: Rising R&B newcomer Merry-Lynn's Petrichor EP is a breath of fresh air.

Iyere-Eke Merrylynn Ehinomen, also known as Merry-Lynn, is a rising singer and songwriter based in Abuja, Nigeria. She recently released her debut EP, Petrichor, which presents a masterful blend of reggae and R&B with a modern twist across its six tracks.

Drawing you in with its resonant bass line and alluring vocals, EP opener "Skin," is a major head-bopper. Merry-Lynn pours her heart out over the rippling guitar chords singing "When you gonna call me baby?/ Or don't you think about me lately?" Before you know it you're midway through the sultry and euphoric cut, "Temptation," and fully locked-in to this musical experience.

In "Boy Tears" the young singer, who was born in 1997, graces us with vivid lyricism and audacious delivery as she rhymes "too" and "fooled," enriching each line with subtle nuance. She also enlists Nigerian hitmaker King Perryy on the melancholic heartbreak tune "911"—a remixed version of the original track that was released earlier in the year

Merry-Lynn's decision to work exclusively with Nigerian producer Veen on the project seemingly enabled her to truly experiment and find the distinctive sound that sets her apart from the crowd. Emotionally rich and enlightened, this tape is a smooth sonic ride for any lover of good music. There's no doubt that, with Petrichor, Merry-Lynn has delivered a reliably-solid debut.

We got to know the R&B newcomer a little bit more in a recent interview below.

Keep reading... Show less
popular
Tiwa Savage "Owo Mi Da" cover.

Tiwa Savage Drops Two New Songs 'Owo Mi Da' & 'Attention'

The Nigerian star has shared two new bangers—"Owo Mi Da" and "Attention"—a day early due to leaks.

Tiwa Savage has returned with not-one-but-two new singles, "Owo Mi Da" and "Attention."

While the tracks were originally slated to drop tomorrow, Wednesday, the Nigerian superstar rushed released them due to leaks. "You guys couldn't wait na so my songs don leak o .... FUCK IT OUT NOW," Tiwa wrote on her social pages.

The addictive and upbeat "Owo Mi Da" was co-written by fellow Nigerian hitmaker Olamide and produced by Pheelz.

Video: Tiwa Savage On Female Artists Having to Work Twice As Hard

The smoother "Attention" is a song aimed at a man who isn't taking enough notice of his woman. " I guarantee all the ladies will know the lyrics to this one word for word," Tiwa wrote about the track. It was produced by Blaqjerzee.

Keep reading... Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox

news.

popular.