Storytelling from the Margins: Accra’s Emerging Cinema Shifts National Memory

Filmmaker Mandiaya Sumani Seina poses for a picture with Elorm McCauley, music curator at ACCRA [dot] ALT, at the May Talk Party Series.

At the May Talk Party Series, two emerging filmmakers shared thoughts about creating presence for marginalized communities within contemporary forms of cinematic storytelling.  SELASIE DJAMEH and MANDIAYA SUMANI SEINI are creating films that speak about political and social norms that influence how Ghanaian identities are shaped. By focusing on the magic of women’s stories and the historical import of northern Ghana, these filmmakers are directly confronting who is included in the narratives (old and new) of the country and what it means to be Ghanaian.

 

yoyo tinz' SELORM JAY chops it up with musician and artist JOJO ABOT.

yoyo tinz’ SELORM JAY chops it up with musician and artist JOJO ABOT.

 

Wanlov the Kubolor comments on Selasie's film at the Talk Party Series.

Wanlov the Kubolor comments on Selasie’s film.

 

Mandiaya’s first film, The Forgotten Kingdom: Chronicles of The North, was especially insightful as it dealt with the rise of the Naa Gbewa Kingdom of the Dagbamba stretching over present day Burkina Faso, northern Togo and northern Ghana. The current political crisis in northern Ghana can be traced back to colonial invasions spanning hundreds of years. Mandiaya’s documentary comprehensively explores the story of Naa Gbewa, interviewing chiefs, historians and thought leaders across three West African countries. The film contemporizes what could have easily been boring academic banter.

 

Mandiata listens to comments during the Q&A following the showing of this film.

Mandiaya responds to comments during the Q&A following the showing of his film.

 

A young photographer waits before the beginning of the Talk Party Series.

A young photographer at the Talk Party Series.

 

As the film details, the territory was artificially demarcated during the first world war, when three foreign armies, notably the British, French and Germans invaded the Kingdom and dismembered it.  The film lays out this compelling narrative through accounts by current reagents and royal descendants of the king, Naa Gbewa. The next phase of the project will involve adapting the story for comic books to make the history more accessible to young people. The University of Ghana and the University of Development Studies are currently using it as reference material. Films like The Forgotten Kingdom also show how digital culture provides new ways of understanding Ghana through inscribing meaning and reproducing different forms of reality.

 

The films sparked an animated set of conversations among the audience.

The films sparked an animated set of conversations among the audience.

 

The ADA crew - Josh Tackie, Hamza Moshood, Nana Osei and Elom.

The ADA crew – Josh Tackie, Hamza Moshood, Nana Osei Kwadwo and Elorm McCauley.

 

An African City's creator Nicole Amarteifio snaps a photo with a friend.

An African City creator Nicole Amarteifio’s  selfie moment with filmmaker Ramesh Jai Gulabi.

 

Selasie Djameh, a student at NAFTI, is creating films that grapple with concepts of feminism, gender, sexuality and identity in Ghana. Ghana is polarized by patriarchy, the kind that does not account for women in history.  Selasie’s film, My Red, opens up the subject of menstruation and challenges how feminine blood is perceived by women and men audiences. ‘My Red” is about normalizing conversations around menstruation, in a society (and world) that has made it taboo to touch or interact with women during this sacred time or to discuss women’s monthly cycles, often re-emphasized through religious fundamentalism.

 

Selasie Djameh answers questions about her filmmaking process.

Selasie Djameh answers questions about her filmmaking process.

 

Visual artist Kwame Quaicoe visits Talk Party.

Visual artist Kwame Quaicoe visits Talk Party.

 

Lesede Moche takes in the art at Brazil House during the Talk Party Series.

Lesedi Moche takes in the art at Brazil House during the Talk Party Series.

 

Artist WORLASI in discussion with a friend at the event.

Artist WORLASI discusses the film screenings with another artist during the Q&A.

 

What became obvious during the Q&A with Selasie following the film screenings was that different forms of “cycle shaming” have shaped how we think of women (as tainted, impure, unclean, etc.). This can become internalized as trauma that defines womanhood as something to be ashamed of.  Selasie’s films are in direct opposition to those images of women that have been crafted within patriarchal systems of oppression and promote the marginalization of women. Chasing Sunrise is an example – Selasie’s 2-minute film explores the relationship between sisters, a narrative she conjured that intentionally absents men instead to focus on women-only storytelling.

 

Filmmaker Selasie Djameh

Filmmaker Selasie Djameh

Stories like that of Mandiaya and Selasie are reconnection projects, patching historical gaps and filling the tanks of our memory banks.

 

Story by Kwame Boafo

Photos by Kpe Innocent

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