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Interview MIKHA M.
Date NOV 2021

NANA AFRIYIE
      Hailing from Ghana, West Africa — human, photographer, and strategic designer Nana on breaking the mould of expectations, and on becoming a child through photography.

You know that feeling when you meet someone and they leave you with enormous energy that uplifts your soul? This is Nana, a force of positive energy; a trait he thrives on, in every stage of his life. Nana grew up in Ghana, Africa and despite the pressure of societal expectations, he was able to break from the norm, embracing change as an instrument for growth and self-reinvention.

In this conversation, Nana talks with us from Berlin, where he currently works and resides, describing it as “.. a place I can thrive, a fertile ground to be myself. I would describe Berlin as my very own metaverse of endless possibilities where creativity feels infinite.”

Ghana

Ghana © Virgyl Sowah

Berlin

Berlin © Mateo Krössler

LFV: Where did you grow up and what was that context like?

N: Like most African families, I grew up in one where the number of qualifications and job titles was the measure of success. I was not sure what I wanted to be except what others expected of me. My life seemed planned with few options between an economist, a lawyer, or a doctor. This perspective influenced most of my early career choices because I could never imagine myself in another career path. Life was static and never about growth or change. I was indirectly compared to family members who seemed successful. This fuelled a need to prove myself at an early age and to create my own opportunities.

“IT TAKES TIME AND COMING FROM A CULTURE THAT IS BUILT ON COMMUNITY AND LESS ON INDEPENDENCE, I STILL STRUGGLE WITH THIS NOTION.”

What made you decide to move to Berlin?

N: I took a leap of faith. At some point in time, I got frustrated about how mundane work had become in Ghana. I didn’t move because I was in search of a better life. My life in Ghana was fairly comfortable. I moved because I was curious and that curiosity has influenced most of my life choices.

What were the challenges, and cultural influences you have experienced?

N: I feel in love with the order and structure of Germany. I liked the fact that everything works once you follow the rules. I also found quickly that Germans like to mind their business - maybe too much and building relationships has been one of my biggest struggles. It takes time and coming from a culture that is built on community and less on independence, I still struggle with this notion.

NA_p01

© Nana Afriyie

“I LIKE THAT PHOTOGRAPHY MAKES ME FAIL TO KEEP SIGHT OF TIME - I BECOME A CHILD.”

Besides your profession, I know that you are also a photographer – what was your first encounter with art, and how did you develop an interest in photography?

N: I developed an interest in photography out of curiosity. I was an economics major who spent too much time in the visual arts class. I was fascinated with the idea of ‘creating’ and finding art gave me the freedom to do this. I like that photography makes me fail to keep sight of time - I become a child. 

NA_p02

© Nana Afriyie

How does living abroad influence your work and the way you see the world through your lens?

N: Living abroad has helped me adapt to a new way of thinking. Back home, I had commercialised my business and that killed the passion. When I moved abroad, I decided to pursue photography as a hobby and being in a new environment was a breath of fresh air. New locations, people and a wealth of opportunities to keep being that little child.

NA_p02

© Nana Afriyie

NA_p03

© Nana Afriyie

How would you visualize your nice memories of Ghana?

N: I like to believe the people I’ve met and grown up with shaped who I am today. I cherish the memories by keeping to my style of photography. This is what people back home appreciated about my work and I want to stay consistent.

“GIVE ME A PLACE TO STAND AND I WILL
MOVE THE WORLD”

Untitled-6

© Nana Afriyie

What gives you a deep sense of belonging?

N: Appreciation gives me a sense of belonging but I also like being listened to. It gives me a sense of value!

What does home mean to you?

N: Wow, Mikha. I just realized I don’t know what home means to me. I’ve built a life around my career and I'm still searching for my sanctuary.

In closing, can you tell us a mantra in your language that sparks your aspirations?

Apart from my name - “Afriyie” which translates - coming from somewhere pleasant, my mantra is a quote from Archimidies which says “Give me a place to stand and I will move the world”. For me, it means creating a place to stand for myself, but also for others.

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