As a young girl growing up in Accra, artist NYAHAN TACHIE-MENSON discovered her passion for art quite early. Her mother, a collector and supporter of the arts, made their home a space for Nyahan and her siblings to paint, draw, and create. Since art requires no rules or restrictions, it quickly became her favorite subject in school and led her to eventually get involved with the CHALE WOTE Street Art Festival.
She first participated in the festival as a visual and performance artist with Tema International School in 2014 and then as a graphic designer and digital artist in 2016. Now, at 19-years-old, Nyahan is in her second year at Parsons School of Design in New York (U.S.) pursuing a degree in Integrated Design. Nyahan’s work explores conflicting belief systems by combining them as a means to question and disrupt existing structures. This year, Nyahan helped create Clapback, a young African women-centred magazine that boldy bears the tagline: “African girls popping off.”
Nyahan vibed with ADA to share more on her processes of being a young woman creating disruptive digital art.
CHALE WOTE: CHALE WOTE is all about deconstructing and combining things to create something new. I really related to that, and I think that is what really got me involved. This year’s theme was Spirit Robot and I designed the advertising flyers and learned so much in the process. I was given ample room for theme interpretation and in collaboration with Mantse Aryeequaye (Art director at ACCRA [dot] ALT) and Melvin Clottey, an amazing graphic designer, we created the final products.
Spirit Robot: I’ve always been interested in indigenous works from African cultures and a lot of those things are destroyed. We don’t know what our people really created. Mantse really sparked my interest and introduced me to cosmograms and I did some research and found Congolese cosmograms,Vodun practices across West Africa as well as Haitian Vodou. Combining these, I also used Ga Samai symbols informed by the ethnic culture of James Town – the Ga Mashie – as the location of the festival. Together the collage forms a comprehensive narrative, one that functions across the continent into the African diaspora.
Art + religion: Within the research for Spirit Robot, I explored various traditional beliefs systems across the diaspora and in Ghana. My family is Christian and I was raised as such, but Christianity does demonize and dismiss traditional religions. It’s a difficult thing because I feel like I can’t completely let go of my Christian religion nor can I let go of traditional practices. By using traditional aspects in my art I have found a hybrid of sorts.
Clapback Magazine: Yaa and Kanchelli, two peers from high school, originally approached me to create visuals for Clapback Magazine. That evolved into the three of us becoming the core group working on the magazine. The purpose of the magazine is to start a woman-centered movement reclaiming the narratives of the African continent. Our story from our perspective. The content is centered around saying how we feel about different things, creating a safe space for Africans and inciting conversations. Our goal is to publish bi-annually and we recently released the first issue.
Target Audience: While we want everyone to be a part of the conversation, right now we’re aiming for Africans (people on the continent). The diaspora is thriving, but there is no help for people on the continent. Access is hard.
We ask ourselves: who is this going to impact the most and how do we reach people throughout the continent?
We’re still thinking of things we can do in Ghana to increase knowledge exchange. Often the elite in Ghana forget that our country is divided by class and we exclude so many who have something to offer. Everyone is valuable. We want to democratize Clapback. Not make it a platform for certain Africans, we want to homogenize.
Reclaiming the Narratives: We want Clapback to be a collective platform for Africans to reclaim their narratives. We started gradually by telling our own stories. Even in academia, our stories are being told by other people who know nothing. There are westerners telling the stories of the continent from an outside perspective. We believe in perspectives, but there needs to be a balance. Stereotypes are perpetuated and only one version of Africa is being told. We need to change that. Africa is so diverse, even within countries. Take Africa for what it is and stop trying to force it to be one thing.
Story by LEELAH LOGAN