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Nana Oforiatta Ayim Is Creating Africa’s First Art Encyclopedia

Nana Oforiatta Ayim is sustaining African cultural heritage through her contribution to African arts, with a 54 volume encyclopaedia as testament. 

Powerhouse Nana Oforiatta Ayim’s list of accolades includes the 2015 Art & Technology Award from LACMA and a spot on The Africa Report’s Top 50 trailblazers list. She’s also the founder of the ANO Institute of Contemporary Arts.

‘I got here with a lot of tenacity, single-mindedness, commitment, and the support and goodwill of those who believed in me,’ she said.

We asked her to tell us things you might not already know.

What’s one thing that is always in your handbag?

A notebook.

Being female in Africa means…

Being surrounded by communities of strong women.

What was your first ever job?

Researcher at the Department of Political Affairs, United Nations, New York.

When you were a little girl you wanted to be…

President of Ghana.

What’s your power outfit?

Something beautiful made by a friend, such as Studio 189.

The highlight of your career so far?

Getting a book deal for my first novel.

What has been the biggest hurdle in your work life so far and how did you overcome it?

Betrayal by people you trusted. Learning to detach, not take things personally.

Best piece of advice you’ve received from another woman?

What God/the universe has given to you, no person can take away.

What advice would you give your teenage self?

To not be so afraid, that things will be ok, even if not in the way you think.

What’s the first thing you do when you wake up?

Listen.

Any calming mantras you say to yourself before a stressful meeting?

Just breathing deeply and tuning in/connecting to the rhythm or flow of life that is around me and trusting that I am capable enough to channel/express it in the best way I can.

What does it mean to be a woman in this industry?

To battle and be hardy, to understand that the odds, like in most industries, are stacked against you; to know when to let go, what battles not to fight & when to be fluid; the balance.

One lesson, you have learnt in your career that all women should know?

That you never have to take anyone talking or acting inappropriately to you, because that’s how you’ve been socialised; that you can always create the boundaries you need to feel safe and respected.

Who were your role models growing up?

My mother, my great-grandmother Nana Dokua, who became a King, Susan Sontag, Zora Neale Hurston, Leo Tolstoy and Goethe.

How do you measure personal success and how do you stay motivated?

By how at peace I feel with myself and my surroundings. When I am stressed, anxious, overworked, I know I’m doing something wrong. I stay motivated by occasionally switching the phone and the internet off, listening to my inner impetus or drive, and letting it guide me.

What advice would you give women trying to get into this business?

Build good relationships, they will serve you in good stead. Work with integrity at all times. Be truthful. Follow your own path, regardless of what others are doing. Learn early how to balance your accounts.