A Ghanaian writer, historian, and filmmaker, Nana Oforiatta-Ayim plans to launch an African art and culture encyclopedia.
She first dreamed up the “Cultural Encyclopedia Project” while pursuing her doctorate degree in 2009.
“I would go to the underground library vaults, and I would find theses that were so brilliant and interesting, and yet no one was looking at it and it is so valuable, she tells The New York Times.
“I would get completely sidetracked reading about things like the technology of kente cloth. And at the same time I was also thinking that the narrative that is told about Africa is still the backward narrative: no innovation, it’s ahistorical and stuck. Yet with everything I was reading, it was stories of innovation, of knowledge, of technology.”
With the aim of changing the narrative of African history and culture while preserving these creations, Nana Oforiatta-Ayim is already working on her project which will detail the art and culture from all 54 countries in Africa. Each country will have its own volume, starting with her native country, Ghana.
The New York Times reports that the Ghanaian volume will contain historical and contemporary Ghanaian art, literature music and more which will be internet-based.
She has a team of Ghanaian writers, musicians, filmmakers, photographers, and so on who are contributing their efforts to make the first volume a reality. For other volumes, Nana Oforiatta-Ayim is already working on a manual that would act as a guideline for the curation of arts and culture of other African countries.
“So if other countries are going to take it on, then we are going to have a manual like, ‘this is how we collect things, this is what we did wrong and this is what we did right.’ There is no reason that, once we have the manual, there can’t be five countries at the same time working. So what I am doing is building teams in different countries,” she said.
David Adjaye, lead designer of the National Museum of African American History and Culture whom Oforiatta-Ayim once worked for stated that the “Cultural Encyclopedia Project” is necessary for telling the African story. He adds that it will bring enlightenment about different African arts and culture to fellow Africans as well. According to him, East Africans don’t know about West Africans’ culture, and West Africans don’t know about North Africans’ culture, and North Africans don’t know about Southern Africans’ culture — and I am being simplistic here — but it is very hard. So this writing and forming of
According to him, East Africans don’t know about West Africans’ culture, and West Africans don’t know about North Africans’ culture, and North Africans don’t know about Southern Africans’ culture — and I am being simplistic here — but it is very hard. So this writing and forming of identity of the continent is really important.”
Featured Image: Nii Odzenma