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‘Escape from Pretoria’ director, Francis Annan open to doing a film on Kwame Nkrumah

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What does it take to capture the most daring prison escape of all time into a film? Although that sounds like a dramatic hyperbole for Francis Annan, he admits that there hasn’t been quite an escape like the one he captured in ‘Escape from Pretoria’, a biopic prison-break thriller set during the anti-apartheid era in South Africa.

According to Annan, writer and director of the film, “It is the first time that I have seen someone actually make a contraption to actually open doors with keys, and also use the mind in that way. So it is the most unique prison break that has ever been committed to film, one could argue. Also the Pretoria prison was a white-only political prison, and to my historical knowledge, the only one anywhere in the world. So that also adds some unique elements to it.”

‘Escape from Pretoria’ is based on the true story of Tim Jenkin (Daniel Radcliffe) and Stephen Lee (Daniel Webber); two young white South Africans who were branded as ‘terrorists’ working covert operations for Nelson Mandela’s banned ANC. They were incarcerated in Pretoria Central Prison’s maximum-security wing in 1978. With breathtaking ingenuity, meticulous surveillance, and wooden keys crafted for 10 steel doors, they make a bid for freedom.

Francis Annan in a quick talk with Daniel Radcliffe and Daniel Webber during the filming

Francis Annan in a quick talk with Daniel Radcliffe and Daniel Webber during the filming

For Annan, it was important to be faithful to the meticulousness of the story as a writer and director:  “When you direct something you haven’t written, you can be a sort of new lens, and you are not bogged down in the details of this works or this doesn’t work, because you have that objectivity which is what everyone is striving for. And yet, when you write as well as direct, you can put a lot of the aesthetics of the film in the script.”

He recounts when the production went over budget while filming: “I had to go home at night after shooting to rewrite scenes and change the location to a different part, where the set was already built, so we didn’t have to spend more money to build new sets. So being able to have the whole film in my head, rather than communicate with a writer who then goes off for two days and then gives his notes, made it more of an efficient cycle which helped with schedule and budget issues.”

The film debuted in Africa through the TNT Original catalogue, which offers a brand-new, original movie premiere the first Saturday of every month from July 4.  Francis Annan hopes that the voyeurism involved in looking back into the era of apartheid and the fight against racism would draw audiences in Africa to engage with the film.

The release of ‘Escape from Pretoria’ comes at a time when the world seems more united against racism than ever.

“With Black Lives Matters, what has been interesting is that, slightly different from the civil rights movement in the sixties, we are seeing huge crowds of Caucasians as well as Asians in big protests in European countries and Central Asian countries. So that collective universality, where it is not just one ethnic group but all ethic groups, is similar to what we have in the film, where middle class young Caucasian men were even sentenced to prison for what they believed in.  That kind of universality of everyone speaking out against racism, I think is a common theme between what is happening now and the story,” Annan opines.

A scene from the Prison

A scene from the Prison

As the grandson of the famous Justice Daniel Francis Kweipe Annan, Speaker of Ghana’s Parliament from 1993 to 2001, Annan is well aware of the many rich stories waiting to be told from Ghana. One particular story seems to be calling his attention the most.

“Someone has approached me about a Kwame Nkrumah project. They wanted to make it into a TV series but I am a big proponent of film. I am very interested in stories like that and even that of Jerry John Rawlings or my grandfather. Kwame Nkrumah particularly is a story I am still looking at how an iconic feature film could be made out of, ” he hinted.

Although increasingly, there is more and more content from Ghana and the rest of Africa, Francis Annan believes it is important for the continent to find its unique voice and lens in telling its story to the world!

“One thing you find with the increase in content is that, if you don’t have a new lens, a new voice, a new language or a new way of saying things, you can be making 15 series and they all look the same, and people get increasingly bored. So what you find out now is that people are looking for something new.  In terms of international voice, Africa is maximally untapped. 

We have a strong history of telling stories of allegory, subtext, metaphors and folklore. So we have the power in terms of our stories, and we have to package and clean it up and show that the African voice has something to offer in terms of a new and interesting lens on what could otherwise be an old and already hackneyed genre or story. I think the more we do that, the more we can reach out internationally.”

Listen to interview with Francis Annan below

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Asari Music highlights new single ‘Like Dat’, balancing college with music and more

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Week-in week-out I get to interview one of the many faces in showbiz and this week on Ameyaw Meets, Asari Music is the one. She’s a young, upcoming and very talented Ghanaian-American singer – who in case you haven’t heard, is out with the hottest song you might hear all week. (more…)

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People & Lifestyle

I single-handedly popularized Shea Butter in the United States – Margaret Andega

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According to Margaret Andega, a Kenyan entrepreneur in Atlanta, she was the driving force behind the commercialization of Shea Butter in the US during the late 90s. (more…)

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People & Lifestyle

He went from cooking on Instagram to owning a food truck in Atlanta and more… the story of Quabena’s Kitchen

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The COVID-19 pandemic birthed many opportunities for people all over the globe. For one Ghanaian living in the US, the pandemic reconnected him with his passion which has now become a full-time job.

Quabena’s Kitchen shared with me his story about how he went from cooking for family and friends, to sharing content of his cooking on Instagram page at the height of the pandemic, which has now transformed into a thriving catering business in Atlanta, Georgia.

Quabena’s Kitchen services now include a food truck providing Ghanaian and West African delicacies to Africans and non-Africans alike, with ambitions of a restaurant on the cards!

Watch this exciting story on Ameyaw TV below:

Read Also: The chef behind Fufu Pizza is about to open Afro-Fusion Cafe in Atlanta

 

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The chef behind Fufu Pizza is about to open Afro-Fusion Cafe in Atlanta

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US-based Liberian professional chef, Chauncy Yarngo caught the attention of the world with his amazing creations such as fufu pizza, fufu taco, plantain burgers and more. (more…)

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Fashion

Why Ghanaian-American Jeffrey Ampratwum is the menswear expert to watch in fashion!

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At the start of the Victoria era, early 19th century – the English began to tone down the royal style dressing of the French army, namely those adorned in prestigious regalia and heavy embroidery. It was a sign of English nationalism and sparked a new wave of appearance in men. A few decades later, the suit was born and heavily influenced those in Italy and America. The British and the Americans have a rich revolutionary history, of course, and coincidentally the British colonized the African country – Gold Coast – until 1957 when they declared their independence and changed their name to Ghana. 

 

As part of an independent Ghana, a host of individuals began to exercise new freedoms and venture out of the country into new territories. Many Ghanaians set their eyes on American travel and a wave of trail blazers left the country and settled in the infamous New York City. For most, it was an opportunity to plant new seeds in the hopes that their children would be afforded even more opportunities for a prosperous life.

 

One of these children of the diaspora is Bronx-born Jeffrey Ampratwum. The only child to Kate Bampoe and Eugene Asante-Ampratwum Mpere, who met in the Bronx after immigrating from Ghana. The dynamics of having African parents and being raised in a heavily eclectic environment gave rise to Jeffreys style and prose. More importantly, we can honestly say that there are only a handful of Ghanaian-Americans living in the states that can exhibit a special presentation that reflects both their African heritage married with the esthetic of their nationality. We recently caught up with Jeffrey to discuss how his early influences provided him with a framework to now become such a strong force in the menswear industry in fashion.

 

Jeffrey. 

AD: Jeffrey, Ɛte sɛn?

 

Jeff: Haha, Eye.

 

AD: I had to test your Twi really quick! You know most Ghanaians who are born in the states dont have a clue about the language unless its spoken fiercely in the home.

 

Jeff: You are 100% correct with that. Ha. But for me, I was lucky in that my mother took me to Ghana before I even knew how to use words. So, in actuality, Twi was the first language and vocabulary I learned, and in essence, English is my second language. So, Im really decent when it comes to using Twi. Im a cheat code! But keep that quiet. Ha.

  

AD: How much of the remnants of the Ghanaian culture factored into your approach to your style and presentation?

 

Jeff: When I was younger and in school, particularly in the Bronx – it wasnt always your proudest moment to be from Africa or to say your family was African. Part of the silly embarrassment was perhaps from the narratives that were spinning on television. Americans were being indoctrinated with visuals of feed the children” which only highlighted the extreme poverty in a few Africans countries. The images and broadcasts were all the same, for decades. So called philanthropist and humanitarians took camera crews into ravaged areas and televised starving children for us to see here in the states. I believe that had a profound effect on young boys and girls born from African parents.

Jeffrey

However, as for me – I always looked at being dark skinned and being deeply rooted into my African culture as a super power. I liked the idea of being different, even though all the kids in all my classes were also children of immigrants. They just couldnt grasp the concept of it at that time. So, from there, it was showtime. My Uncle, Joseph Ken Mintah – was the pioneer as the first in the family to travel to the states – he had extreme style. My mother also is very detailed with her sense of jewelry and fragrances. I adsorbed it all. 

 

AD: Did you start dressing in traditional African attire? What do you mean exactly?

 

Jeff: Not exactly! But, being an only child really allowed for me to sit deep in thought for long periods of time. Being left-handed allowed for me to be extremely dexterous and detailed. And being raised solely by my mother further allowed me to pay attention to the importance of clothing and accessories – as she dressed herself each morning. It was the ultimate cocktail and I was already drunk with creativity. I started customizing all the clothes I had. By no means were we wealthy, so I had to manage just a few outfits for school.

 

My styling began when I would turn 5 outfits into 15 – so essentially, a 5-day school week became New York Fashion Week for me. I would airbrush my sneakers, turn Old Navy sweaters inside out for a fleece appeal, and cuff my jeans in 4 different ways depending on my footwear. This soon became a bad habit and made me late for school many mornings.

 

AD: You see, if you are late to school in Ghana back then – you might as well have sat by the road to hide from both your mother and headmaster! What was college like for you then?

 

Jeff: Right! Ha. It grew legs during my undergrad. Now all the pretty girls were around, I had more freedom to come and go, and more importantly – I had a stage to showcase my style. I joined a student club in the SEEK Program, and soon became the President and started hosting a string of events based around fashion. 4 years and a bachelors degree later, there were 6 fashion shows and 3 beauty pageants under my belt. Huge successes. I started to doubt my real educational reason for attending college, which was to become a dentist. Fashion was dancing on one shoulder and dentistry on the other. But somehow, I figured out how to still involve the two. My best buddy, Kenny – whom I met at the college on the road to become dentists – made it through. So, I live vicariously through him. And now, coincidentally – together we’ve developed a brand – a service of bespoke mens luxury shoes and women’s handbags, and ready to wear womenswear shoes as well. Named, Kenjeffreys. It is serendipitous because all of the products are sourced and handcrafted in Haiti and infused with Ghanaian culture. As Kenny is from Haiti, we properly employ artisans within the community and focus heavily on our social impact.

Following undergrad, I then began at FIT as student, really just trying to test my styling hand – and to learn more about the industry. While there, I came across extremely talented and knowledgeable fashion professionals that have really guided me. Namely, Sadia Seymour and Joseph DeAcetis. Both wildly experienced, patient and embedded with a wealth of information. Respectfully in womenswear and menswear. You cannot beat that, and I am grateful for it.

 

AD: That is strangely unique and admirable. Talk to us about how all those experiences and inspirations give rise to the Jeffrey or Che we see today and ultimately, where that places you in your field of fashion and menswear.

 

Jeff: Sure. Great point. I have been indoctrinated by the basic principles of creativity as an adolescent – with respect to clothing. That is extremely hard to shake. Innately, styling was my ultimate form of communication, seeing that I was a shy introvert. So now, I still revert back to those same feelings…. the feeling of home, warmth, memories, great food and innocent fun. My approach now is exactly the same in the sense that when I am dressing, styling or designing for someone – I am taking into account their entire repertoire and holding a mirror in front of them which reflects the items that they love most. It is a skill that perhaps only empaths are only able to exhibit.

 

Having the ability to read into thoughts and connecting with the motivating spirits that drives people – is a gift. I ran the New York City marathon three times, and the 2nd time I ran it in a tuxedo! It was my ultimate homage and pledging of allegiance to fashion. Ha.

WhatsApp Image 2022 05 18 at 2.20.33 PM

I also believe my extensive traveling experience has aided to the arsenal. Recent trips to Ghana always resets a creative instinct with me, as I look around and arrive back to a place of self-awareness. It feels right. My cousin Harry knows where to be to capture the real essence of the land. And, coincidentally enough, I am often back and forth to the UK as well. Savile row in London, England -as you know – is a menswear connoisseurs Disney Land. It is the traditional hub for the world’s best tailored-bespoke suits. Naples and Florence are a close second. However, sartorially, the British have etched their names in the fine-art making of the suit. I do though spend most of my time in Brighton, UK. Its where my love is and also like a second home for me. The culture there is infused with various styles and the community is inviting. The Duchess of Brighton-Hove, Lady Donna and her amazing friends will assure that you have a great time! 

 

AB: Finally, talk to us about your styling approach with respect to specific talent that you work with.

 

Jeff: Definitely. This is perhaps an area you cannot teach. It is learned with years of experience and even reading the room wrong most times. I tell my fashion students often that they have to continue shooting airballs at the basket. Get out the miss shots, now – and properly learn your subjects. For example, if I am styling a celebrity for the red carpet – several nuances are to be considered before arriving at a dress or a tuxedo. Such as, what stages in life is your talent currently in, how body conscious are they and what are they most nostalgic about. These (and some of my other secrets that I cannot give away) are the pillars to nailing great style, image and presentation.

WhatsApp Image 2022 05 18 at 2.20.33 PM 1 

If I am shooting for a magazine in a studio – its party time. If you are not dancing as a model or grooving as a photographer, you are are in the wrong business, per say! Haha. With me, you are very liable to hear everyone from Bob Marley, James Brown, MJ, and Jay-Z to Queen, Lady Gaga, Biggie, Nas and Beyonce all on the same playlist. I say that to say: I enjoy what I do in fashion, and I will always represent the joys of that. I believe that is what makes me an enigma in this industry. Always professional however, but make it subjective and inject areas of your creativity wherever you can. Particularly in menswear – I keep a very intimate and close pulse on traditional, casual and street styles of these sub genres – and study them gravely like the science they are. That all still comes from sitting deep in thought as I did
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Baaba Lin chats about her new single ‘Famame’, going solo and RnM amid more juicy bits

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US-based vocal sensation from years prior, Stephanie Baaba Lindsay recently made her official mark as one of the new and exciting voices to ignite the Ghanaian music scene under her new alias Baaba Lin and we couldn’t help but reach out for a session with her to play catch up on today’s episode of Ameyaw Meets.

The new song ‘Famame’ slots in an Afrobeat release which immerses listeners into the joys of one deeply in love, and tops it all off as the kind of dashing debut one would expect from a familiar face like Baaba Lin’s. All in all, it’s a smooth song effortless in reminding fans what they have been missing out on; the rebranded star’s radiant vocals!
But before all this new buzz, Baaba Lin was already a star. She was a part of the female group, RnM together with Denise, January and Tasha – the underdogs who went on to win the first ever Vodafone Icons “Divas Edition” back in 2011. The group also earned relevant nominations for “Best Group” at the 4syte TV Music Video Awards (2012) and Ghana Music Awards (2013) which made it the resounding success story of its time.

Today, the same legend lives on and Baaba Lin seeks to be the industry’s next underdog, and we get to ask her about her new debut ‘Famame’, going solo and what lies ahead for her this year amid more juicy bits.
Dive into the interview below and share your reviews with us after listening to ‘Famame’ here: https://linktr.ee/baabalinofficial

1. Hello Baaba Lin. Kindly, introduce yourself and brand of music.
Hello, I am Baaba Lin and my brand of music is Afrobeat & Afro-fusion.

2. And out of nowhere you’re out with a dashing new single ‘Famame’ to kickstart your solo career. Tell us everything there is to know about it.

Lol, it wasn’t out of nowhere. I took a hiatus from music after I had my son and just wanted to focus on him during his formative years, but I never left music. I was always writing and recording and waiting for the right time to return as a solo act.

3. How many years has this move to go solo been in the making?

I would say about 5 years, because I had always thought our group was going to get back together at some point, because we were great together, but I also realized that distance as well as our individual lives evolving will make that difficult. So, I started thinking of the solo route.

4. RnM was a big deal in its day, as some will remember. Mind giving fans closure on why you feel it disbanded after so many years? You all still talk?

Awwwwww, first of all, I would like to say, I love and appreciate our fans. I’m sure we all do as a group and I want to thank them for their continued love and support after all these years. It’s remarkable and I hope they will continue to support us individually. RnM disbanded like I said earlier, due to distance and our individual lives evolving. I was in the States, Tasha was in and out of Ghana and January was in and out of Ghana as well, so it was quite difficult scheduling around each other and thus we had to move on but with love and yes, we all still talk to this day and support each other. I love them so much.

5. Between then and now there’s been lots of lost years. What was going on all this while behind the scenes?

Well, I was being a mom, recording, writing, working and performing at small local events, you know, just lowkey.

6. The Ghanaian music scene may seem so familiar to you, yet so different to the likes of us and with streaming being a game changer, next to plenty new faces. How do you think you’d fit in?

The Ghanaian music scene has definitely advanced tremendously since our time because streaming platforms and social media wasn’t as big and prominent as it is now and there’s so many amazing artists out as well which is remarkable and I love that for us because it makes us as artist want to work harder and be better with our craft. So, I believe I will absolutely fit in just fine because it motivates me to hone in on my craft and keep bringing my audience and Ghanaians great music.

7. Before you go, what’s the remainder of 2022 looking like for you? More releases, features, an EP?

2022 is not yet over so expect more releases. I’m working on my EP but I don’t know if I want it out this year or next year either way, I will keep everyone posted and they can keep up with me on all my socials – Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, but it’s coming. And God willing a video as well. Fingers crossed.

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