Africaniwa is made up of ‘lived experience storytellers’ who use lived and living experience stories as a tool for social change and social justice. North Halifax Partnership has been proud to work alongside Africaniwa on various projects over the years. From ‘The November to Remember’ photo exhibition exploring African soldiers who took part in WWll, to online sessions looking at how waste from Western countries ends up in Africa.
Who are you and what is your background?
My name is Adelle A’asante. I’m a mother of three young children, a social entrepreneur and a raconter by birth. I come from a long lineage of storytellers, women who many nights sat by the fireside somewhere in West Africa, just to tell stories. Today, I live in Halifax with my young family, a place I now call home but also many many miles away from my home country; Ghana, where I trained and practiced as an Optometrist.
I am the co-creative force behind the social enterprise; EnT Foundation, where we use diverse forms of creativity as a tool to promote social cohesion. Inspired by our own lived and living experience, tenaciously navigating a very hostile environment, as African migrant women in the UK, this organization was born. Quite simply, I’m a co-creative force with nature, creatively moving against the gradient in fulfilment of the change that I aspire will come through me and not to me.
What is Africaniwa and how did it begin?
The name of our organisation EnT, is the abbreviation for the word ‘Ese ne Tekyerema’ which means the teeth and the tongue in the Twi language. It is an Adinkra symbol for friendship and interdependence. This name was inspired by a story I would hear many years ago from my grandmother, which I would tell my son when at age 3 years, he came back from nursery to say, he was the only brown boy at the setting. Clearly, as a migrant mum that was not my lived experience growing up as a child somewhere in sub-saharan Africa, but as I mindfully reflected on my son’s narration, I sensed the stark absence of identity, presence and representation in the school environment which l was determined to do something about. As a result, the EnT Foundation, under whose umbrella we run the Africaniwa and our other creative spaces was born.
Africaniwa is a sacred virtual space, held somewhere in Calderdale’s airspace, the last Friday of every month. Africaniwa was coined from two words; Africa and ahwehwεniwa ( meaning lenses) together, these two words form Africaniwa which means; Africa’s lenses.
We believe no lenses are neutral and so according to the wise words of my grandmother; Akosua Otenewa Onyamaka; “Sε w’ankasa wo tirii ho a, yε yi wo ayi bᴐne”. This also means; if you do not tell your story, be sure someone else would and they might not tell it right. The African for the first time, owns the script and changes the narrative at Africaniwa. At Africaniwa, we hold the space for a different kind of an expert, one not born out of years of academic research but an expert born out of the lived and the living experience. One who would illuminate their reality and challenge perceptions.
Together with the rest of the tribesmen and women, we hold this space to challenge the hierarchy of knowledge systems whilst promoting the validity of the lived and the living experience. A place where ordinary people across the African World, use their stories, as a tool for social change and social justice.
So the last Friday of each month, we hold the space of Africaniwa; a visual lived experience storytelling forum. A safe space, where everyone is welcome, to connect, learn, unlearn or relearn the African story, from the African by the African.
Any plans for the future?
Believe me, these are interesting times to be alive because as a Black African woman, I was always handed a script. A Script that said, my culture is loud, colourful, flamboyant but empty and it’s surprising that I’ve gone back to this same culture and therein, found solutions to some of Calderdale’s problems and the world beyond, in an ever changing climate.
These are very interesting times to be alive because the future is already here but not evenly distributed. By sharing our stories through the space of Africaniwa, we endeavor to create an equitable economy in places where you’ll find some of the most vulnerable intersections of our human family. We are proud of our legacy Project; CHOCOLATE HAS A NAME. The projects which for the first time in 130 years since Ghana has been growing cocoa to be used as desserts for the tongues of Europeans, seeks to incorporate cocoa processing and its value addition into the everyday learning experiences of children in cocoa growing communities.
This is mitigation and adaptation in cocoa growing communities in an ever changing climate. This year we plan to further develop Kokoo Mindfulness, our wellbeing storytelling space, where we engage in mindfulness, through the aromatic portal of cocoa, improving your well-being, whilst paying it forward to cocoa growing communities. We are currently developing workshops where we would use the sacred and the fine art of storytelling to make climate literacy more accessible. We feel incredibly privileged to have worked with groups and communities such as the Todmorden Climate Challenge College and Calderdale Creates who have shared in some of our climate storytelling spaces.
How can people show support / get involved with Africaniwa?
At Africaniwa, we believe our understanding of the world should be centered around the human story and so it’s always one person’s story but in that safe space, as they share their story, it becomes a shared story but most importantly, our shared humanity. We believe that when a people and their stories are forgotten, their humanity is lost!
So with outstretched arms, I wish to invite you to join the tribe, the last Friday of every month. Don’t just follow us on social media, we invite you for an immersive experience with Africaniwa on all social media platforms and learn more about our other creative spaces at EnT Foundation.