No Water, No Road, No Toilet, No Vote!


It's election season again in Ghana, and as I cycled through Langma, I noticed glossy political posters making shiny promises pasted all around this poor community.

Langma is the quieter sister of Kokrobite. It has a number of really lovely holiday resorts and attracts a lot of tourism; and that is the Langma I was used to, until I decided to pay attention.  


I saw some young people carrying water on their heads or wearing their empty basins like scarves. I asked them where they get their water from, and they introduced me to Awusavi- a pond of murky brown water. 

Awusavi is the ONLY water the people of Langma have. The only water source.


I asked Hannah if she will be voting this year. She replied: "This year, no water, no road, no toilet, no vote".


Luck is not that consistent

Salamatu Seidu is the midwife and In-Charge at Fufulso CHPS- 
Last Sunday, I got into a conversation with a friend who'd just gotten married. For his wedding day he's prayed for a sunny day in the heart of winter. Everybody around him laughed. They showed him the weather forecast and sneered. The had to eat their words, as they watched the sun shrine throughout his special day. He had other fantastic stories of faith and divine provision and he finally ended with these words: "That must be God's blessings- luck can't be that consistent".

Not everybody in my life has the sun shining right where and when they want it. In fact, some are going through the darkest nights of their lives. I have watched friends bury their spouses, battle disease, fight to stay sane, bury parents, survive affairs, survive accidents, fight for justice and the list goes on. In fact today, I am headed to Takoradi to join a bosom friend bury his dear mother; one of the most loving people to ever walk the earth; and another one just showed me his new baby via whatsapp.

I see light- brightest light everyday. I also see night- pitch black and scary. And everyday, one gives way to the other. Night becomes day and day becomes night. 

I believe life is like a well-crafted book with a complex plot, full of rising and falling action and unbearable suspense. Unfortunately, most people give up way before the book is over.  The end if before it gets to the end. Get to the end. It all makes sense after it's done and you turn the tapestry.  That's when we see where all those strands and colours were leading to.


Water Bearer (I)

I've been traveling through Ethiopia, Kenya and currently, Ghana by road documenting the lives of women. This photo is from Larabanga, Northern Ghana.  


Fatherhood is like flour

Fatherhood is a lot like flour. When we think of making great cakes, the flour isn’t the most exotic, exciting ingredient on our minds. But get that wrong, and what you end up with is certainly not a cake. 

Photo and words by Nana Kofi Acquah @africashowboy on Instagram.

The man who hated his mirror

[In this photo, boy surfs with a plank of old wood. Kokrobite, Accra, Ghana #Sonya7r #sonyzeiss1635]

There was a man who didn’t like how he looked so he changed his mirror.  He didn’t like how he looked in the new one too so he shattered it with his fist, and bought another mirror. The new mirror also didn’t make him look good so he threw it out the window and finally concluded that mirrors don’t like him so he was never going to buy a mirror again.

Some people break their mirrors if they don’t like what they’re seeing. Others settle for photoshop, content to live a lie.
What wise people do is,  they accept what they can’t change, and change what they can.  


In summary, all I am saying is, if you don’t like what you see in the mirror, change you! Not the mirror.

Let's rock 2016!

May 2016 align you with the blueprint of your life
May the winds and tides favour your every course
May your footprints sparkle with kindness and grace
And may your lips drip each day with balm and honey

May you always find the courage to be true to self
And may  the closets of your heart and mind  hold light
May your actions end wars and your words bring peace
And may you always bring hope where there is despair.

May you always  wear good health like a garment
May you always be able to tell true love from fake
May you only invest your strength in what is  fruitful
May you be why someone breaks through in 2016

Nana Kofi Acquah on CNN's African Voices

http://edition.cnn.com/videos/world/2015/08/07/nana-kofi-acquah-african-voices-spc-a.cnn

Braiding Hair- Mallam Market

For those who feel abandoned by me, I ask your forgiveness. I am posting more on Instagram nowadays. Just look for @africashowboy, and enjoy the many posts. Cheers, Nana

The war in every man




Photo: Men watching a game of football in Ponsomtenga, Burkina Faso (Aug 2014). 
Words also by Nana Kofi Acquah. 

The tragic hero is everyman.  The frog in him finally buries the prince in him; if he’s not lucky.  Days come when he can’t dare raise his eyes to look into a mirror because he knows the frog is poised and ready to barrage him with overwhelming evidence of his worthlessness: They both know what he’s done and where he’s been. Everyman knows what he’s done and where he’s been but must he allow that to define him? Is a man separate from his actions? Do the acts make the man? Do his whys matter?

Everyman needs his world to believe he’s the prince he claims to be. He needs his spouse to know he can be trusted with her hopes, her fears, her heart- her all. He needs his children to know he is beacon and bright enough to point them in the way they should go. The crave for a resounding echo of his manliness and royalty on the lips of those he loves and respects is not just an ego thing. It’s an identity thing; for it is dangerous for a man to come to believe he is the frog croaking at him in his mirror, when he desperately yearns for affirmation that he is the prince.

 When the frog’s croaks crack through his night and desperate hours, the force of its hatred yanks everyman into the darkest corner of his cell; and the venom in the frogs voice weakens his will until he slumps in a defeated heap him in the faraway corner of his prison… and once again, he will need all the energy he can muster to come back out into the light, knowing full well that the frog will return. And deep down, it isn’t as much the return of the frog that scares him as his fear that he might finally believe what it says. It is sad to watch a man live his life, who has made peace with the frog in him.

So who is everyman? 

Everyman is spirit. Everyman is dirt. Therein lies his problem and his hope. 
He’s as comfortable in mire as a swine because mire’s what he’s made of; and yet he strives for the heavens like an eagle because he’s every bit spirit. But how can spirit and clay dwell together?  Can fire and water share space? Can morning and evening sit at table? 

 Everyman deliberately must choose a side in the war that rages on in him. It’s wise to choose the side that’s bound to win. 
The frog is loud. Its croaks will threaten to drown you many times over but the frog is mortal. The frog dies- with his struggles, addictions, accusations, guilt and nightmares. He dies. But spirit lives on. 


The spirit in everyman is the very breath of The King. The spirit never dies. It only goes back home. Must the prince not return to his king and his kingdom? And would you not he returned victorious? I am every man…  and I choose to be prince.

What Africans are doing to Africa






Recently in the news, I heard that a prominent Ghanaian politician had died.  I had run into him in a hotel a couple of weeks prior and nothing about him said he was ready to kick the bucket.  When I saw him sitting in that lobby, and later on when I heard the news of his passing, the only thing I remembered was a conversation I’d had with my headmaster in Tema Secondary School years ago.

I’d visited the headmaster to lobby for a refund of some money the school owed us. We all feared our headmaster, popularly known as Headie, because he was generous with slaps and he had palms the size of a racquet. There was this story about how he’d slapped a female student who’d been playing with the school’s piano at midnight in the assembly hall, and the force of the slap had made the girl menstruate instantly.  I didn’t know if the story was true but I definitely didn’t want to find out for myself.  But on this day, I was broke. Everybody was broke. And the school was owing us. The boys had started chanting aluta songs in the dormitories but nobody dared go to the administration block. I was fed up with the cowardice and announced to everybody that I was going for my money. That’s how I ended up in Headie’s house.

He was pleasantly surprised to see the chapel prefect. He welcomed me warmly and offered me a seat. I began by thanking him for being the best headmaster we’d ever had, I thanked him for the oranges he had supplied us at dining from his own farms free of charge and also for the new television set we had at the assembly hall. He laughed and said well, the oranges did come from his farm, and they were in deed a gift for us but the television had been donated by the politician because he had caught him with a female student on the campus. The politician came to donate the television the morning after he’d been busted. We laughed. My headmaster had a wicked sense of humour. What I didn’t tell him was that one of the many girls the politician had been chasing on campus was my own girlfriend; and she had told me herself. Most of those girls were underage. We were just kids.  When he died, the praise singers got to work again and the fact that he had been a serial pedophile, womaniser and a corrupt man was never mentioned; even though he’d always had quite a reputation. Africa’s in the state it is because the late politician described above is not the exception. He’s the norm. He’s representative of about 80% of the men we call honorables, and on whose shoulders our communal destiny rests.

In my culture, we say there is no honour in vilifying the dead so I’ll quickly move on to focus on the living.  Yesterday, I said on Joy FM’s “Ghana Connects” and  in a subsequent interview that President Mahama inspires likability but not confidence and it’s enraged a lot of NDC people but what I didn’t say was that I, Nana Kofi Acquah, actually did vote for President Mahama and because I did, it is my responsibility to hold him accountable. I won’t wait for his term to end. I won’t wait till it is too late. I will constructively criticise him and urge him to rise to the high calling my vote has placed on him.  Ghana and Africa is in a dire place now. There’s the threat of terror, war, famine,  and now Ebola all around us… and this is no time for weak leadership.  When does the jokes end? When do we get serious? The current state of affairs in Ghana is like a driver who siphons the fuel meant for his vehicle and comes back wondering why the vehicle isn’t moving? 

If you think I am pessimistic or discouraged, you are mistaken. My faith in the continent is unshakable. It is what makes me rise every morning to face the sun; and I can tell you for a fact that there is a lot of light in Africa. Look to the light. Look to those men and women who make a difference everyday with their unwavering faith and attitudes of excellence in the passionate pursuit of their dreams- the same dream: To make Africa rise.  To prove that the black man can actually handle his own affairs. There are a lot of Africans, mostly young, who daily prove stupidity is an education problem not a genetic one. These people prove daily that if the African can change their attitude, they can change their world. 

Africa can rise but not when it prefers to sleep. Africa can rise but not when it’s afraid to hold its leaders accountable. Africa can rise but not when our leaders are quite content to sit on gold and beg for brass.  Africa will rise from the day we stop blaming slavery, colonialism, apartheid and everybody else. We cannot change what other people did to us but we must question what we are doing to ourselves. Africans must start taking responsibility for the state of affairs on the continent. We must question the sources of people’s wealth. We must stop celebrating Africans who spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on cars so they can park them next to rubbish dumps. We must start hooting at civil servants who live in houses and drive cars they obviously cannot afford based on their salaries. We must stop teaching our children that the only way to progress in life is to bribe your way through every hurdle. We must stop treating education as an end and start questioning our doctors, engineers, planners, scientists and professors on exactly what they have been able to achieve with their education?  

Africa must rise and it must start with every single one of us.





We are the Americans of Ghana




(When I asked these guys, members of the same gang, if I could take their photos, the leader said: "Don't bother. When you photograph me, I won't appear on your camera". 


The first time I felt my camera was an obstacle was in Yaounde, Cameroon. I was documenting the fake drugs business. The canker's eaten into every aspect of Cameroonian society. We could find fake copies of popular anti-malaria drugs everywhere from open markets to the pharmacies in government hospitals.  I was keen to do a great story but anytime I pulled my Canon 5d Mark III out, people panicked and shut me out.  In those moments, my phone was a more useful tool than my very expensive cameras and lenses were.



(A prostitute drinks a sachet of water, at the entrance to her room)


It was after that assignment I decided to go back and give the Fuji cameras a try. I had owned the X100 in the past and had done great pictures with it but I had never seen it as worth using on paid assignments.  Fortunately in the world of technology, the speed of development is unprecedented so I ordered a Fuji XE-2 and a couple of lenses, to see for myself, if this small camera was now improved enough for me to take on crucial assignments; and I was positively blown away.



(A photo of a prostitute's room. It was so dark I had to use a flash and seeing the sandals of her child, arranged along with hers, at the foot of the bed on which she plies her trade was heart breaking. No child must be allowed to grow up under these kinds of circumstances. )

Sometime this year, I was on assignment in Ghana’s cultural capital- Kumasi, where the Asantehene reigns with his famous golden stool. A few metres from where the famous king resides is a totally different world. Here, I met underage prostitutes who have barely turned teenage, to helpful pimps who want to reduce abuse and control the spread of disease, to junkies who have almost totally lost it with no help in sight to help them deal with their addiction, and gangs who commit armed robbery and other offences in Kumasi but hide out here by day. 


(A child walks past a brothel)

Violence in these communities is rife. It is not a safe place to go with a camera. More so, a fat camera like the Canon 5D or 1D. I was fortunate to have my Fuji XE-2 with me and these pictures were made with them. Even with the Fuji, I got thrown out of a couple of places and was fortunate I wasn’t physically assaulted. I had to steal most of these shots.

(Prostitution here is purely economics and most of the ladies have other jobs to help them survive.)

Yes, I came back with enough photographs to show that much needs to be done in this city; and across Ghana. HIV/AIDS is over 30% among prostitutes, men who sleep with men and drug users even though the national rate of infection is less than 2%. The culture of denial and stigmatisation is the main reason why infection thrives in these circles. As long as we live in denial, we cannot win the fight against drugs, AIDS, robbery, violence and prostitution in our communities.


(One of the many faces of young men who are heavily addicted to drugs; but with no support systems, his end is quite obvious)

I was chatting up a gang, and one of the guys showed me the tattoo of a pistol on his arm; and told me “We are the Americans of Ghana”. I had never heard that expression before, and I was quite saddened by his comment because I knew he wasn’t talking about being Obama, the first black president of America, but rather the thugs hiphop music often glorifies and main stream media actively portrays as THE image of the young black man in America.


(A woman unties a knot as she gets ready to sell food in her community. Of course, not every woman here works as a prostitute; but most do and quite a number combine it with other regular jobs to help them rise out of poverty and give their children a better future).

Fortunately, I don’t always have to photograph underage or overage prostitutes and gangsters. In fact about 60% or more of my assignments are about documenting the lives of ordinary and extraordinary Africans thriving to create something remarkable with their lives; and wherever I go now, there will be an iPhone, a Fuji (or some other small camera with big sensor) with me and the passion to tell the stories of the people I meet, the best way I know how.

(Since I'm not a big fan of tragedies, I will end this post with a portrait I made of Alhaji in Kunbungu, near Tamale.  It will break his heart when he learns that quite a number of the young women who migrate from his region end up either being forced by a gang or economics into prostitution just to survive in the big cities of Ghana).

 Have a wonderful day.

The French Nigerians



I deliberately left for Kinshasa with no expectations. I have friends in Accra who are from Kinshasa. I didn’t ask them questions. A lot of what I knew about the Democratic Republic of The Congo (Formerly Zaire) and popularly called Doctor Congo, was what I had been fed by the media and literature over the years. I was about to see the country for myself for the first time and I wanted to be true what I saw.

To be fair, this is a country with a very dramatic life story. Starting from the greedy, gluttonous Belgian King Leopold II who began the rape.  “The Butcher of Congo”, as he was called, killed and mutilated (chopping off heads and genitals) over 10 million Congolese during his anarchic 23 year reign. 

Dead, living, free, or in prison on the orders of the colonialists, it is not I who counts. It is the Congo, it is our people for whom independence has been transformed into a cage where we are regarded from the outside… History will one day have its say, but it will not be the history that Brussels, Paris, Washington, or the United Nations will teach, but that which they will teach in the countries emancipated from colonialism and its puppets... a history of glory and dignity.” 

The quote above are the words of Patrice Lumumba, the first democratically elected president of the Congo. He was overthrown and assassinated by  Mobutu and the Belgians with UK and American support mainly because of his Panafricanist stance and friendship with the Russians.

May be, the most popular Congolese president of all time is Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu wa Za Banga. Mobutu was notoriously corrupt. By the time of his death from advanced prostate cancer in Morocco, he was believed to have stolen between 4 to 15 billion US dollars from his country. He died richer than his country.

Unfortunately, the only country Mobutu really enriched is Switzerland, where he put most of the stolen money in anonymous accounts, making it impossible for either his family or his country to reclaim.

Currently, a second Kabila sits on the throne. The first one, who overthrew Mobutu was assassinated in 2001 by one of his bodyguards.  With this kind of history in mind, it was hard for me to go to Kinshasa with any expectations but what I found, in most ways, surprised me positively.

I found a people who have taken their destiny into their own hands. I found a culture where both life and death were celebrated in high octaves. Kinshasa summed up for me, the resilience of the African people, in spite of the poor quality of leadership the continent’s been plagued with in our post colonial history. 


The people of Kinshasa love life and colour so much, they call themselves the French Nigerians. You must visit Lagos and then Kinshasa to understand what they mean. The Nigerians might have their Nollywoods and hyenas but who doesn’t know the Sapeurs of the Congo and the Vodacom Reality TV show? Who doesn’t know the music of the Congo?  

If you are worried of missing out on champagnes at every party when you leave Lagos, don’t worry. In Kinshasa, they drink it pubs, 3 bottles at a go.  In Nigeria, Fela Kuti said, even when his people are suffering, they are smiling. In Kinshasa even when you are broke, you dress like that African prince in Coming to America. 
 Welcome to Kinshasa. Welcome to Francophone Lagos.


The car that broke my heart


I once had a car that any key could unlock. Of course, at the time I was buying that Nissan, I totally assumed it’ll  respond only to the key I’d been given- My key- until I lost it one day, and my mechanic decided to try his key. He had a bunch of keys that day and most of them, very easily unlocked my car. 

I felt betrayed by the car I loved. I felt it had no loyalty to me. I had bought that car when no one wanted it, and at not so low a price. I had made it look cool and sexy and smooth to drive.  I loved that car. It had cost me everything to acquire but could I ever trust her?

I realised that as long as the car was parked in my yard, I had little to worry about but anytime I took it to town, I got jittery.  If I had to step out for a while and grab something from a shop nearby, I got worried. If some one came over and said something nice about my car, I got worried.  Every little thing got me worried.

Trust is not something most people think about when they think about love. The young tend to believe as long as there is good chemistry, and wild laughter and great sex, then nothing else matters.  

Like a seed sown on shallow, loamy soil their love blossoms quickly… and then they hit a rock. The seasons change. The feelings wane. A job opportunity or school admission relocates one and forcefully wedges itself between the two of them.  One falls sick or gets broke or pregnant or arrested or lost… and then they realise, there is really nothing to hold on to. It is just hard to love someone, who never won your trust or whose trust you never won.

The issue with trust is, there is no quick way to earn it. You can’t just shove a million cedis into someone’s face over a counter and they pick it up from the shelf and wrap it for you. Trust is earned, one kind decision at a time. Trust is earned one tough decision at a time. Trust is earned one apology at a time. Trust is earned one thoughtfulness at a time. 

Sex sizzles and fizzles as quickly. If that is all you ever wanted, that is fine but no human being was created just for sex. Our total value is more than the functionality of each of our organs. We were created for companionship; to be by each other through all of life’s changing seasons. Yes, we are supposed to have mind-blowing sex and never ending laughter along the way but in the end, all laughter must cease. Every music fades at some point. When the light goes out, can I still feel your breath? Will you hold my hand in the dark and let’s find our way out together?

Trust is everything, when all you have left is nothing. Trust is everything, every time.

Photographer & Writer: Nana Kofi Acquah
Model: Nancy Everett
Location: Sandpiper, Langma


All give some - Some give all


He scribbled AGAMA LIZARD boldly on the black board. 

“Do you know that the lizard breaks off its tail when it is being pursued or feels threatened?”  Our teacher quizzed. “HUH??!!” was the general response. Nothing else he said that day sunk in. Can a lizard actually break off its tail? How does it do it? Our young minds questioned.  That day, immediately the bell rang for break, we decided to go find out for ourselves if it was true. We went behind our classroom block, where we knew for sure we will find lizards on the walls. We started chasing a particular one. As the chase got intense, the lizard actually did break its tail off; and the broken bit started wriggling so fast, we didn’t see where the lizard passed again. 

I only found out recently that Caudal Autotomy is the name for this tendency among lizards to break their tails to distract predators. The other thing I have found out is that most politicians are just like lizards.  They won’t sacrifice an arm or a leg. They won’t sacrifice their money or their lives; just their tails- because they can easily grow a new one.

I look at the state Africa is in, and I can’t help but pray for a new breed of politicians whose passion will be the proper development of their nations. We need politicians who will sacrifice everything they have, to fulfil the manifesto and promises they made when they were asking to be voted for. We need a few good men and women with a conscience and a vision and loads of hutzpah. 

Most Ghanaians; and Africans in general don’t ask for much. Honestly, they don’t even expect much of their leaders. All they need is reliable supply of electricity, pipe-borne water, and food in their stomachs.  Throw in a few holidays where they can go have fun at the beach and they’re happy. 


It is only in Ghana (Africa) that experts plant trees in harmattan, chop down forests to plant trees, don’t water the young trees they’ve planted, and justify and laugh about it when they’re interviewed on TV.  How can we as a nation be taken seriously when we explain inflation as a condition where dwarves spiritually snatch our money? Where is the seriousness? 

I keep encouraging the good people I know to consider politics; instead of just focusing on their careers. It is burdensome when you let the incompetent lead. It is troubling to listen to some of our leaders talk. You’d think they’d left their brains at home on their way to work. 

Africa doesn’t need leaders who will give a bit. We don’t need leaders who will give a lot. Africa needs men and women who rise to their calling and give it their all.  This is the only way forward. Africa at the moment, isn’t even playing catch up. In a lot ways, we still haven’t even taken off; and yet we have a long way to go. 

Anytime I talk about where we’re failing as a nation,  someone is always in a hurry to let me see how others are worse off. Since when did failing states, autocratic-buffoon states, oil-money looting states, the president-is-richer-than-the-country states become the benchmark? Since when did we sink so low, no level of corruption and incompetence shocks us anymore?


Africa needs leaders who will give it all.

(Photos are from the beaches of Kokrobite, in Accra, Ghana... and aren't necessarily related to the text.  Pictures and words are all copyrighted to Nana Kofi Acquah @africashowboy).

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