Posts in inhale reflect
A Short Essay on Female Sex Work in Ghana

I have just started graduate studies at @ocaduniversity Strategic Foresight and Innovation Masters Program (MDes). It’s really cool so far - I always loved being a student. I am critical of academia as being necessary part of succeeding in life, but I’m excited to learn tools that will be useful in designing the future I want to live in. I’m going to start publishing my assignments and essays here on my blog because I want to start writing more and sharing the tools I am learning to help people think about different future scenarios. I’m shifting in my thinking of what’s most important to me, and what positive impact I can have on the world. The first short essay is about Female Sex Work in Accra Ghana. Feel free to comment on the journal posts to get a conversation going 🖤

SCOPE: 

Women and Girls in Accra, Ghana face a myriad of intersecting forms of oppression, including social, economic, classism, and sexism (van der Geugten, van Meijel, den Uyl, & de Vries, 2013; Arhin 2016). The compounding effects of these intersectional forms of oppression, combined with the overall socio-economic state of Ghana as a whole serve to push women and girls to the margins of society. In this stakeholder analysis, I offer a brief overview of the setting of Accra, Ghana, and a short socio-cultural analysis to explain possible driving factors for marginalized women and girls that engage in sex work in order to identify key stakeholders. In this analysis, I focus on the population of women and girls in Accra between the ages of 14 - 34. The goal of this stakeholder analysis is to gather the perspectives of a variety of key players on the socio-economic challenges faced by women and girls involved in sex work in Accra, Ghana. From these perspectives, next step will be to develop key insights into the clear framing of this problem in order to develop a socially conscious and anti-oppressive business model that adequately meets a need discovered in this complex system.

This stakeholder analysis uses peer reviewed journal articles, government and non-governmental organization websites, and press releases on the aforementioned topic as well as the lived experience of the researcher to develop an idea of the key players and factors contributing to the topic for research. The sources referenced look at the internal factors: causes of urban migration in Ghana, attitudes towards pre-marital sex, the role of various stakeholders benefiting from women and girls in sex work. They also look at the external factors: modern globalization, international NGO initiatives, and the implications of global economic structures on women and girls in Accra, Ghana. This study does not delve deeply into the research on legal precedence on prostitution, or the potential exploitation, abuse, mistreatment, human trafficking, forced prostitution and coercion of women and girls involved in sex work. Nor does it look closely at the practices and types of sex work practiced by women and girls in Accra, Ghana. Rather, it looks broadly at the linkages between the history of Ghana in the global economy to the capitalist aspirations of women and girls on the living margins. 

GHANA DEMOGRAPHICS:

Country Population: 29.6 Million

City of Accra Population: 2.27 Million

Greater Accra Metropolitan Area (GAMA) Population: about 4 million inhabitants, which makes it the 11th largest metro area in Africa.

Major ethnic groups: Akan (47.5%), Dagbani (17%), Ewe (14%), Ga-Adangbe (7%), Gurma (6%), Guan (4%), Gurunsi (2.5%), and Bissa (1%).

Major Religions: Christianity, Islam

(World Population Review, 2018)

INSIGHTS:

Sex work can be objectively viewed as valid form of work - one uses their physical labour in exchange for monetary compensation, just as in many other professions in market economies. However, the negative cultural attitudes towards sex work in Ghanaian society tend to ostracize primarily women and girls who have turned to sex work in order to meet their basic human needs (van der Geugten, van Meijel, den Uyl, & de Vries, 2013). In order for women and girls to meet their basic human needs, sex work becomes an easily accessible, albeit risky, socio-economic opportunity. 

On the global stage, Ghana has positioned itself as a country that aims to support, uplift, and protect the rights of women and girls. The President Nana Akufo-Addo was appointed the Chairperson of the African Union’s Committee on Gender and Development during the 29th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government in June 2017 (African Union Commission, 2017). The African Union has also recently launched the Gender and Development Initiative for Africa (also referred to as GADIA) (African Union Commission, 2017). In addition, gender equality has been placed on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, signalling to countries (as well as international non-governmental organizations) the importance of funding programs which advance this goal. It is clear that there is a burgeoning political will to address gender equality in Ghana, however the most marginalized women and girls in Ghana still face challenges in achieving their most basic human needs.

This rests on the historical background of the centuries old impacts of capitalism and the immense challenges that neoliberalism has made for countries in the global south like Ghana. According to Alison Symington, Shareen Gokal and Tania Principe in their article Achieving Women’s Economic & Social Rights Strategies and Lessons from Experience, it is stated that “Trade liberalization and structural adjustment policies have promoted a development model that focuses on economic growth and consumption, rather than on human development and expanding freedoms.” (Symington, Gokal, & Principe, 2006). Focus on economic growth has resulted in the development of the city of Accra into a major African metropolitan, with rural to urban migration as a key driving factor for population growth (Mittelmark & Wilson, 2013). However, the need for economic opportunities in cities does not always meet the demands. Symington, Gokal and Principe go on to state that “Trends in terms of labour migration, influenced by rapidly changing economic opportunities, have been implicated in new forms of exploitation and risk to women.” (Symington, Gokal, & Principe, 2006). Women and girls who migrate from rural areas to Accra are often faced with limited economic opportunities and therefore engage in informal high-risk economic activities.

The transformative power of modern globalization has created a change in societies worldwide, especially in millennial populations, ushering in new ways of being and relating to each other. With regards to pre-marital sex in Ghana, young peoples attitudes have been shifting from abstinence before marriage, to a more free and open approach to dating (van der Geugten, van Meijel, den Uyl, & de Vries, 2013). This is in spite of the strong cultural historical role that Christianity and Islam have played in setting the tone towards women who engage in sex before marriage. Attitudes towards females who engage in pre-marital sex are more harsh than towards males. “There are no specific cultural or religious practices concerning the virginity of men… In contrast, the premarital sexual activities of male youths will not affect their social status.” (van der Geugten, van Meijel, den Uyl, & de Vries, 2013). The Ghanaian government, similarly to other west African governments, also plays subtly into this narrative by promoting abstinence as the most acceptable form of birth control (Kabiru & Ezeh, 2007). 

Pre-martial abstinence is promoted and accepted social norm in Ghana, which stands as cognitive dissonance to the women and girls involved in sex work. Given the higher risk of exposure to sexually transmitted diseases and infections such as HIV/AIDS as a sex worker living on the margins, a sex working woman who has contracted HIV is pushed even further to the margins. “There remains a social stigma to the infection [of HIV] in Ghana. An HIV positive sex worker will not be able to continue living and working in her community.” (Papworth, 2009). Women and girls engaged in sex work in Accra, Ghana must be very keen to prevent against exposure at the risk of becoming even more marginalized. Additionally, while societal attitudes towards sex work are generally negative, the families of women and girls engaged in sex work do benefit from this form of labour. This is why healthcare providers are listed as an important stakeholder in this analysis; they offer a service which protects the health of women and girls engaged in sex work.

Men (and often boys) play two main roles in this issue. Men and boys are in a market segment referred to in this analysis as service users who pay for transactional sex; and second as non-paying partners (NPPs; otherwise culturally referenced as pimps). Prostitution laws in Ghana are such that women are criminalized for soliciting work (Tenni, Carpenter & Thomson, 2015). Without protection under the law, and being socially, physically and economically more vulnerable than Men, non-paying partners play a key role in the economic structure of sex work in Ghana. In this dynamic, non-paying partners can wield a considerable amount of power in a female sex worker’s life, but “some sex workers in Ghana appreciate their NPPs because they ensure the sex workers are paid. They also provide protection and look out for the police.” (Papworth, 2009). As aforementioned, there is less stigma upon men in Ghana who engage in pre-marital sex than for women. Service users who engage women and girls in sex work do so by offering resources for basic needs in exchange for sexual acts: “there are female youths [in Ghana] who have sex with boys and men in exchange for money; this is defined as ‘transactional sex’. They do so in order to be able to pay for or buy food, shelter, clothing, school fees, school uniforms, mobile phones, trendy dresses and jewellery… Nevertheless, when they [women] want to marry their past can be a barrier.” (van der Geugten, van Meijel, den Uyl, & de Vries, 2013). While sex work is a service in an industry with a clear market, the ramifications for women and girls engaging in transactional sex for basic needs has an affect on not only their health, but their social status, future prospects, and their risk of entering the criminal justice system. Additionally, while societal attitudes towards sex work are generally negative, the families of women and girls engaged in sex work do benefit from this form of labour.

Between 2000 and 2015, the United Nations Millennial Development Goals served as an important political and policy reference point for the assessment of progress of efforts geared towards meeting some of the pressing development challenges confronting Ghana (Arhin, 2016). Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) work closely with the government to achieve the policies and goals set out by the Ghanaian government. As service providers, NGOs mobilize resources to provide goods and services to specific groups of people or communities who need them (Arhin, 2016). Some examples of these goods and services are education resources, health services to marginalized communities, human rights advocacy, micro-finance, policy analysis, and environmental management. However well intentioned, the interventions offered by NGOs place greater emphasis on alleviating surface poverty and achieving program objectives and targets, with little capacity to affect the complex structural, cultural and systemic factors that push women and girls to the margins of society in a sustainable way. In fact, discriminatory cultural practices are among the most entrenched and unyielding of obstacles to women’s equality, particularly in the areas of housing, land and inheritance. This is because race, religion, national origin and ethnicity often work hand-in hand with gender to delineate who enjoys which rights within a given society (Symington, Gokal, & Principe, 2006). 

CONCLUSION: 

In this stakeholder analysis, I attempted to outline some of the key players in the socio-economic issue of marginalized women and girls involved in sex work in Accra, Ghana. In the context of a complex social, economic, cultural system that tends to disenfranchise women and girls, this indeed can be defined as a wicked problem. When looking at the messaging from the Ghanaian government in the aforementioned research, it seems that there is political will to address gender inequality in Ghana as a whole. However, an over arching pattern I noticed for each stakeholder group is financial resources to adequately address their needs. As for the underlying systemic challenges, more research needs to be completed to determine whether sex work can be de-stigmatized in order to better protect the rights of women and girls engaged in sex work in Ghana. From a capitalist market generation perspective, if the Ghanaian government and society saw that a market exists for the services that female sex workers offer, a possible solution could be decriminalizing sex work to bring it from the informal to the formal sector in order to tax transactions for financial gain to the government. 

My personal insight into this issue is this: because I am attempting to develop myself as a business design thinker, I tried to frame this big problem in a way so that I can design a solution using a business model. However, I am truly reluctant to design a business answer to this problem. Through my research in this project it is clear that there are historical global factors (ie. structural adjustment policies, neoliberalism) and ideological factors (ie. sexism, patriarchy) that stand out to me as the main problems that drive women and girls to the margins in Accra, Ghana. Developing a business model that would serve the female sex worker that aims for profit for potential shareholders feels to me like using the same capitalist system that got us to this point to develop a solution, when the whole system should be redesigned. 

Finally, this stakeholder analysis has led me to develop a set of questions to frame the next step of the business model development process of problem finding for the purposes of this course:

  • Are there any NGOs for boys and men that are focusing on the ideological challenges in this issue?

  • Although families have been listed as a stakeholder, do different family members have different stake in sex working women’s health?

  • What perspectives do different government groups/sectors have in this issue, and how are different government services affected by the sex work industry?

  • What are the interactions between sex working women and girls peer groups, and are there opportunities for change there?

BIBLIOGRAPHY

African Union Commission. (2017, November 13). African Union set to launch the Gender and Development Initiative for Africa. Retrieved September 27, 2018, from https://au.int/en/newsevents/20171113/african-union-set-launch-gender-and-development-initiative-africa

Arhin, A. (2016). Advancing post-2015 sustainable development goals in a changing development landscape: Challenges of NGOs in Ghana. Development in Practice, 26(5), 555-568.

Kabiru, C. W., & Ezeh, A. (2007). Factors associated with sexual abstinence among adolescents in four sub-saharan African countries. African Journal of Reproductive Health / La Revue Africaine De La Santé Reproductive, 11(3), 111-132. doi:10.2307/25549735

Papworth, V. (2009). Screening hits the streets. Nursing Standard (Royal College of Nursing (Great Britain) : 1987), 24(12), 24.

Symington, A., Gokal, S., & Principe, T. (2006). Achieving Women’s Economic & Social Rights: Strategies and Lessons from Experience. Retrieved September 27, 2018, from https://www.awid.org/sites/default/files/atoms/files/achieving_womens_economic_social_rights_strategies_and_lessons_from_experience.pdf

Tenni, B., Carpenter, J., & Thomson, N. (2015). Arresting HIV: Fostering partnerships between sex workers and police to reduce HIV risk and promote professionalization within policing institutions: A realist review. PLoS One, 10(10), e0134900. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0134900

Wilson, A., & Mittelmark, M. B. (2013). Resources for adjusting well to work migration: Women from northern Ghana working in head porterage in greater Accra. Africa Today, 59(4), 24-38.

United Nations Organization. (n.d.). Gender equality and women's empowerment. Retrieved September 27, 2018, from https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/gender-equality/

van der Geugten, J., van Meijel, B., den Uyl, M.H.G, & de Vries, N.K. (2013). Virginity, sex, money and desire: Premarital sexual behaviour of youths in Bolgatanga municipality, Ghana. African Journal of Reproductive Health / La Revue Africaine De La Santé Reproductive, 17(4), 93-106.

World Population Review: Ghana Population. (2018, July 17). Retrieved September 27, 2018, from http://worldpopulationreview.com/countries/ghana-population/

Cover Photo by Sierra Nallo, 2018.

YES PURE (an ode to GHANA)
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Wild Moon Jewelry's 2018 YES PURE collection is inspired by the women that I observed carrying water in Ghana. Big bowls of pure water sachets balanced delicately on their heads, providing sustenance to people with effortless grace. Between cars, and on their heads, they quench the thirst of anyone who wave for their attention. They call out “yes pure” to let you know they are coming. To me, it felt like a life truth whenever I saw them pass me by.  Women, a woman, givers of life, carrying and giving life again, every day. 

Flashback to someday in September 2017: I tried to relax into my seat on a packed tro-tro (public bus in Ghana) and drank the cool purified water I just paid 0.50 cents for. I was uncomfortable, not just because I was cramped and sweaty, but I sat with the fact that my temporary need for water on the go was contributing to the pollution and impurity of the whole world. I thought to myself: how to reconcile this through art?

As an artist I feel it necessary to look at life with a critical lens, finding my way to serendipitous and satisfactory “I don’t knows" as answers to the fundamental moral challenges that stir my soul. In this collaborative collection, I wish to draw your attention to how you consume, and how it plays into the interconnectedness of Mother Earth.

The new Wild Moon Jewelry collection uses a combination of recycled material, focusing on repurposed brass and glass beads with signature WM silhouettes that I am used to and love to re-create. In this collection I wanted to consider the concept of purity. Pure is defined as "free of any contamination" - a state of being that many of our essential water supplies cannot claim anymore. I pondered this truth as I designed each of these pieces from the seat of my soul.

The Kokrobitey Collection features one of a kind jewelry pieces made of recycled and repurposed materials during my artist residency at the Kokrobitey Intisutue in Accra, Ghana. Here, I explored ways of using inner tube from car tires, electrical cables, washers, recycled glass and cow horn. All recycled materials were collected from becoming waste, and I wish to allow them to live again as adornment.

The Biakoye collection is the second collection developed by the Obrapa Women’s Group. I spent most of the last year in Accra, Ghana working with my colleague Sunshine to develop a Women’s Empowerment Program that is inclusive and informative, linking women to personal development opportunities and local / international economic opportunities. This collection also features recycled glass beads and traditional African beadwork techniques that are ages old. 

My sincerest hope for this collection is that you enjoy the pieces, and move through the world honouring the water that is essential to life. Remember that BEAUTY IS U.

SPECIAL THANKS TO all the creatives who supported the process including Mecha Clarke, Anthony Gebrehiwot, Sunshine Duncan, Jade Lee Hoy, Sierra Nallo, and Ruth Titus. Models Sierra Nallo, Kate Dawson, Liane Clarke, Paul Ohonsi, Nzinga Wright, Emmanuelle K., Virgilia Griffith and Vida Mensah. 

SPECIAL THANKS TO all the organizations who have helped me put together this collection including The Obrapa Women's Group, The Kokrobitey Institute,  Ontario Arts Council, Crossroads International, Pro Link Ghana, United Nations Association of Canada and The Blacklist Media House. 

<< Photos by Sierra Nallo.

On Self Worth (We're Engaged!)
 

On self worth:

all my life I never thought someone would ever propose to me. As my boyfriend of 2.5 years kneeled in front of me I was caught off guard, surprised but also facing a deep seated question: do I deserve to be this happy?

I never thought (and still don’t think) I would be married in the traditional sense. No church or religious institution will be needed to affirm my union and I don’t care about having a white flowing dress. That may be because both our parents are separated or divorced, and we both lived with the trauma of seeing a dream crash and burn. For both of our parents, the ashes fertilized a new way of being - friendship and peaceful co-parenting. I am grateful my parents split because now our family unit has a developed peace and understanding that I know will last forever. It took a while to get here though and I’ll never forget the helplessness I felt as a teen watching my parents suffer in marriage.

Just a few months ago I was telling an elder: “I don’t know if I’ll ever marry - but if I ever did, I definitely will not marry in a church, and I would call it a ‘unity party’, not a wedding.” I wanted (and still want) so badly to take a new course / a different way to a long lasting unity. I know it can be done because I have a lot of examples all around me. But for us, it’s going to have to be an adaptive, non conforming and it must feel like freedom.

In the past 4 years I have been travelling around the world, living different lives each time. I love to travel and stay for long because each time I get to choose and develop who I want to be. No one knows me in a new place, and I've found it easiest to forgive myself and others when I am not in the same setting as them. Perspective is the gift of solitude in a foreign place.

For all the perspective and life changing experiences I’ve had, I never realized how deeply I felt a lack of self worth- a feeling like I don’t deserve to be as happy as I am. So I work too hard without rest, or I judge myself and others harshly for no reason, or find ways to under appreciate my own accomplishments. I’ve always found it hard to stand in my glory or my shine, for fear I would be exposed for being just a imperfect regular human being. I know I do amazing things. I’ve been blessed in my life a million times over but I've zoomed in on my shortcomings and on the failures of others in my life.


On Sunday January 14th, Tony and I along with a few friends went to Labadi Beach in Accra for our very first “couples shoot”. Tony is a photographer who was used to being behind the camera, and we thought it would be nice to finally have some professional photots taken together, especially since we're in the motherland. I had specifically asked the photographer NOT to make it look like an engagement shoot - I wanted conceptual love, not corny and over done. We were also joined by a videographer, and I said to Tony, “I didn’t know this was going to be recorded??” , and he told me it’s just a friend of his who was practicing making videos. I thought nothing of it for the whole time, clueless to the fact that this actually was an engagement photo AND video shoot. Just as we were taking what I thought was the last photo, the photographer asked Tony to hold his lens while he switched cameras. Before I knew it tony was on his knees in front of me, showing me the ring inside the lens, and saying “Asia will you marry me??? This is not a drill.”

When Tony asked me to marry him, I said yes without thinking twice. He is literally the loveliest man I know. He is caring, kind, spiritual, non judgemental and deeply loves himself- all qualities that I have refined while being with him. He doesn’t prescribe to toxic masculinity and he doesn’t need me to affirm his own identity as a (hu)man. Our chemistry is beautiful, and we understand each other’s need for freedom and space. He doesn’t treat me like a jealous man would, but we respect each others boundaries. We have watered each other with love in long distance relationship for at least half of the time we have been together. I love knowing I get to build, have kids, share joy with and make it though all life challenges with him as my lover.

After the “yes!!” And after all the hugs and congratulations, I went home and was alone with my thoughts. I realized I felt afraid to be as happy as I wanted to be. I thought So much crazy shit going on in the world how can I allow myself to be this blissful. So many what if’s crossed my mind (FEAR) and I realized I was thinking away my joy. MY JOY my moment of brave love and magic. Now I see that I have to stand up for my right to be happy, full of joy and love every day. My moments are mine and I really am experiencing a love this amazing.

To my love: Anthony Gebrehiwot. thank you for your ancestors, and the earth they are buried in. thank your Mama and pops, thank the places that made them and made you, thank you for the ways you have been challenged and grown. thank you for every decision you have made that brought you before me. thank you for hurting and healing and teaching me to do the same. thank you for owning your imperfection and thank you for trying your best - you are beautiful inside and out. thank you for every time you held my hand and looked in my eyes. thank you for being a lesson of learning to see the good that can come out of the sad/bad/abusive/negative aspects of life. I promise to love you and let you grow in the ways that you need to fulfill your life purpose. And I know you’ll do the same for me.

LOVE WINS HERE EVERYDAY >>>

Colour photos by @apagstudios

Black & White photos by @sierranallo

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Post-Ghana Post: Eyes Open Wider

How do I explain the shift I feel? Or is it just the moon?

Here is a list of my changed perspectives:

  • I am a woman who is resisting patriarchy and colonialism. This means I will have to redefine my own values to reflect this resistance. I want to be a spirit in woman form, free to feel any way and not judge myself or others on their life choices. (Never mind my harsh judgement of the Pastors on the ads in Ghana in their poses looking like a Boys 2 Men concert poster... *steups*). Its going to be hard because we live in a society that imposes a norm upon everyone - no one is immune, and its hard to escape the ways we are told to feel about relationships, sex, our selves, physical and emotional attributes. A lot of picking and choosing feelings, a lot of not taking things personal, a lot of suppression of negative self-image and quieting negative self-talk. Its going to be swimming upstream but now I see how necessary it is now.
  • Women’s work worldwide is so undervalued. I’ve decided this is my call to action - this is the problem I want to work on solving in my life. In my life I hope to improve the economic inequality that exists for women in developing economies in Africa and the Caribbean. African Women’s Economic Empowerment. I want to expose women to the possibilities of e-commerce and improve digital literacy to increase economic opportunities.
  • I must do me. I must live out my dream for me first. I may end up disappointing my family and friends at times because I choose my strange solitude of travelling alone, I choose independence. I’m still negotiating my needs and wants; the things that give my life meaning vs. the things that I want to acquire. I didn't know I could really compromise one for the other until this trip to Ghana. I feel pulled at both sides; but I think I will just breathe.
  • It has been revealed to me that my Africanness is up for discussion. Yes I am black, I am of African decent but to many Africans I am not African. Yes I am African, I would explain, my family is from the Caribbean, but some people had never heard of Trinidad or Barbados or Dominica. It hurt kind of, to have to explain myself to anyone who asked, or anyone who called me “Obroni” (Twi word for white person or foreigner), that I came to Ghana to connect deeper to my Africanness, to affirm my Blackness and to belong. I had to take it all the way back sometimes, “Yes Barbados, you know Rihanna right? My ancestors, like hers, were Africans sold as slaves and settled in the Caribbean, and then eventually my parents immigrated to Canada.” It gave me another layer to my identity, like a filter through which to understand my privilege of having risen from out of ancestors who endured slavery to becoming an educated young black woman facilitating entrepreneurship workshops in Africa.
  • My eyes opened wider in Ghana. Its a sensation that is hard to explain. I am present, at the front of each moment, so deep inside myself and entirely outside of myself at the same time. 
  • So many butterflies are there. They move me, the sight of them shifts me from small minded worry into joy, laughing gratitude. An ease in my chest and step.
  • I thought that when I had kids I’d start going back to church, because my experience there really was not that bad and there are good values to be had there. Now? Nope. Never me, not again. I see how it has completely changed / adapted African sensibility. As people became enslaved, the bible was used to help them to transition into content servants. In Ghana, every second ad by the roadside is for a church. And the names are all variations of each other: “The Gospel Sanctuary of Christ” or “The Fellowship of Jesus Church” or “The Lamb of God Holy Monastery”. Even food stalls will be called “God’s Way Tilapia & Banku”, or hairdresser’s salon “The Hand of Jesus Braids & Weaves”. How, on a continent with such a rich history of spirituality spanning millennia prior to this day and age, has white Jesus come to be on the side of many Tro Tro buses? At least in Toronto sometimes I had seen a black Jesus, but in Accra, every Jesus depiction was very white, blue eye blond hair white. This matters! The image of the one who gives salvation is a white man? Does anyone else see something inherently wrong with this or am I over reacting?

I think now, who do I think I am supposed to be vs. who am I really? I am observing - my self, my surroundings, my dreams, my desires - Even my goals of a nuclear family home, heteronormative relationship, home and car ownership can be a product of capitalism… I think I have uncovered some things about myself, I like it, and I find it hard to articulate. But I see so much potential.

Special thanks to Crossroads International and Pro-Link Ghana for facilitating this journey to Accra, Ghana and for introducing me to the Obrapaa Women's Group. It has been another fate-felt inspiring connection which has resulted in beautiful art which I look forward to sharing with the world. 

 

Here comes my soul

Am I living, or am I loving? I turned 27 last week and I felt full of love. I did not celebrate with a party, I stayed home most of the day, working on my website and hanging out with my Mom and Grandmother. My best friend and boyfriend joined us for dinner, and we shared a cute small chocolate cake that my mother bought at the grocery store. I went to R.I.S.E Poetry Slam Night with a few longtime friends and listened to young people bravely pour out their souls.

Since I have just come back from 8 months in Trinidad, I have been taking time to adjust back into (North American) city life. It is not moist or tropical or steaming like Port-of-Spain, but it is familiar. In light of the recent mass and racially targeted shootings and the BLMTO activism I've been trying to breathe deep, and vision a better way forward. As a young person acutely aware of her blackness and diaspora identity, I want to be aware of and define how my Africanness travels with me.

Over the past few years, travelling has helped me to understand the many forms of wealth. Recognizing my god given talents and strengths and how they shine through my life experiences. I have learned to be aware of how I am received in spaces - picking up vibrations - where I find love vs. where I experience otherness. I want to deconstruct all my hurt, contempt, mistrust and accept the truth that everything is within me. I want to deconstruct tradition and reconstruct a new African/Human sensibility, through the creation of artifacts. This is my talent and I offer it up fully to an afro-future that resists, and that stands the test of time.

Wild Moon Jewelry's 2016 collection is the beginning of this journey to a new self-love and a new self-story. It examines reconciliation and finds the space for conversation about how we hurt and therefore, how we hurt others. Honest conversation about holding hands with our pain and drawing out a new conclusion that puts empathy first. 

Wealth is made of many layers. Mother Earth doesn't care about the followers, the gossip or the egos. From a plane at 40000 ft up I was witness to Her expanse and her ability to provide abundantly for us all. I realized how Mother Earth cares for us, we must also care for each other, especially in this changing time. I realized how small we are, and then how our egos must be much smaller, egos made even more minute by their non-physicality. I therefore commit time and space to imagining a better future, one that is as radically inclusive and non-discriminatory as the elements air, earth, water, and fire.

How to apply these realizations to my every day thought process? by naming each new wild moon piece for places, people and feelings that return me to my core, and by using recyclable and environmental friendly materials as much as possible. How to commit to a new way of believing in myself and the power in my insignificance? be proudly humble, and bravely honest, walk with your olive branch. How can I reconcile more fully, and more proudly? step past forgiveness, past what first meets the eye and into the cell, where we bear witness to the sameness and the uniqueness of our inner parts. 

The Wild Moon goes deeper inside her self for the 2016 Cascade Collection. It is a collection signifying the waves of difference, or newness that bring the magnifying glass on our faults and identifies the space for our redemptions.