dialogue for Cultural Literacy

Selected Articles & Editorials of DIALOGUE a bi-annual journal of culture

Monday, July 02, 2007

Artist Ahinee Mensah in latest dialogue edition feature in UK newspapers

11:00 - 29 June 2007

St Ann's artist Ahinee Mensah came to England from Ghana at the age of 12. Now she has pledged to raise money for some of the poorest youngsters in her African homeland through an exhibition.


Ahinee Mensah depicts herself with a chicken leg in one of her paintings.Standing strong and defiant, it's a statement against the school bullies who used it as a cruel nickname because her left leg is much thinner than the right."

I believe that out of every negative experience, something positive can be gained or achieved," said the 30-year-old African, who came to London when she was 12 and then moved to Nottingham to study art at Nottingham Trent University."I have found ways of expressing myself through my work and I hope to encourage others."Don't take bullying, you are only a victim when you allow yourself to be."It is the same indomitable spirit that prompted Ahinee to set up a charity in memory of her father Otto Tse Ataa Mensah, who died in Ghana aged 56 in August 2005.

Her family believe he was misdiagnosed after being treated for tuberculosis when he had pneumonia. Ahinee said: "I got the biggest shock of my life and that's one of the reasons I decided to register the charity and actually do something."My father's death was a wake-up call. I never saw that coming. While I have the opportunity and the breath of life I should make the most of it."This is my chance, my father's was cut short."

Ahinee will be raising money, helped by friends, at an exhibition during the Nottingham Caribbean Carnival.Striking oil and acrylic paintings depicting her life story - from family portraits in Ghana to a tribute to her father - can be seen on The Forest recreation ground, in the New Art Exchange marquee, from July 7 to 15 from 10am to 7pm.Some of her paintings explore Africa's rich heritage, from slavery to the present day.She hopes sales, commissions and workshops including African adinkra stamp-making and kente cloth design on card will boost her fund-raising.Ahinee, a mixed-media fine artist, enjoyed digging in the clay, creating charcoal drawings and making pictures in the sand as a child in Ghana.

She never wanted to become a professional artist.Instead, after spending a lot of time in hospital as a child because of problems with her leg, she wanted to do humanitarian work and her ambition was to help build a well-equipped hospital in Ghana.Had he not died, her father would have become the chief of Aplaku village in Ghana.He worked for the medical statistical unit at the Korle Bu teaching hospital for more than 20 years. After he left he joined a project administrating funds for the education of local children.

So now, through the Tse Ataa Mensah Foundation, Ahinee and her family, who still live in Ghana, have pledged to improve literacy for younger children by providing them with books at an early age and give them better employment opportunities.The target communities are Chorkor and Korle-Gonnos in Accra.Ahinee said: "Chorkor is one of the poorest areas in Accra. I grew up next to this area."There are many children walking about because their families are too poor to afford money towards their education. Most of the adults in this community are illiterate."As well as books, the money would also pay for school fees and uniforms for children and teenagers. Her ultimate dream is to raise enough cash to build a teaching hospital or a school.

Ahinee said: "We believe strongly in education and self development. Give the children a good education in life and they will help the future development of their nation."

This means not relying on aid constantly and not leaving the country and becoming an illegal immigrant in the developed world. Ghana is a developing country and so finds it difficult to hold on to its skilled minority."We want to make sure every child has the chance to develop and realise their potential, this can only benefit our community."

Ahinee's fund-raising is being supported by Accra Central Market in Hyson Green and an art shop in Byard Lane, Nottingham, which will sell some of her cards and paintings.

For more information and examples of Ahinee's work visit www.ahineemensah.co.uk or contact her on +44 (0) 7969 024544.


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