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"In five years, I aim to have trained at least 20 women in photography"

Updated: Jun 29

Hannah Baah Entsiful also known as Baahwa, is a photographer, visual storyteller, artistic activist. She is one of five awardees winning US$2,000 each in the 2024 Africa Prime Initiative (API)/Gallery Soview grant.

© Baahwa
© Baahwa

API is the philanthropic arm of US-based video streaming platform Africa Prime and Gallery Soview is an Accra-based contemporary art space that will be exhibiting the grant winners' work in September 2024.

In the first in a series of interviews with the grant award winners, AKADi Magazine speaks to Baahwa to find out what inspires her photography, her interest in using her art as a medium for advocacy, and what plans she has for the showcase at Gallery Soview in September.  

How old were you when you took your first photo? What did you take it of? And why did you choose that muse?

I made my first photo at the age of 23, in 2014. It was an anthill I encountered on my walk home from where I was doing my National Service work. I did my National Service in 2014 at Foase, a town in the Atwima Kwanwoma district of the Ashanti Region.

This is an example of the anthill captured by Baahwa but is not the original photo taken in 2014
This is an example of the anthill captured by Baahwa but is not the original photo taken in 2014. © Baahwa

I made it a point to take different routes from work to the house each day, till I had exhausted all the possible routes. This was how I chose to introduce myself to the town and familiarise with her.

I encountered the anthill on day four while walking home. It was a beauty to behold, with the rays from the setting sun casting such glow on it. I spent about 10 minutes there, admiring the anthill, and unconsciously monitoring the slight shifts in the positions where the rays were cast.

A moment was had, and before I resumed my walk, I made a photo of the anthill. I had been taking selfies with friends upon their requests prior to then, but this photo was the first photo I intentionally made. [The original photo has since been lost.]   

Name a photographer/ artist that inspires you? Are they the reason why you got into photography? If not, what was your inspiration?

[Photographer] Eric Gyamfi. His passion for, and dedication to the art. His eye! Eric is not the reason why I got into photography, but he is definitely a major motivation to keep at it.

I always desired to do more with photography than casual selfies and photos that would only stay in my phone’s memory or serve as attachments to office documents.

After spending years in the insurance industry, I decided to make good that desire. It was time to do something I am truly passionate about, while taking care of my body and mind. I met Eric as a facilitator in January 2023, when I signed up for a photography masterclass in Accra. 

Tell us more about your style of taking photographs/ the type of camera you use/ what you look out for when composing a picture?

My photo companion is a DSLR camera. I have come to learn that every photo speaks. When I am making photos, I want them to not only speak but really communicate.

Lighting (source, colour, warmth), shadows and contrasting elements are very important to me when I am making photos because they trigger moods. As a reminder that we are [we exist], and are of nature, every photo of mine is made in nature, or has a natural element or a representation of such in it.

© Baahwa
© Baahwa

I also pay particular attention to the body and what it communicates. As a statement on the diverse nature of beauty and the need to uphold creative freedom, I am constantly experimenting with breaking different technical rules of photography.

You are known for your evocative photography and storytelling. Can you explain to us what makes your work evocative and why you have an interest in telling the stories of marginalised communities.

My photos are triggers and reminders. The combination of subjects, environments, lighting style and composition kindle emotions, memories and thoughts.

I have had my own share of marginalisation and oppression from different angles of life. Yes, I have been able to work through most of it to bring myself to a place where I don’t allow them to determine the course of my life. This is a lived experience.

Now what is the point of having all these years of experience under my belt, if not to use it for greater good? I advocate against these things because I have lived them and experienced their negative effects.

The least I can do is use my art as a medium for advocacy and rebellion in solidarity with those who, like myself, suffer such inhumanity. 

"I aim to have trained at least 20 women in photography and exposed them to art opportunities."  

Where were you when you learnt you’d won the API/ Gallery Soview grant and how did you feel at that moment?

It was a Friday morning, around 8:30 am. I was setting up my workstation at home after returning from a trip the previous night. When I drew my phone’s curtain to check the time, I saw an email notification with the subject: “Congratulations You’ve Won the Gallery Soview and API…’’

It did not ‘click’ at first sight because my mind was already racing with plans for the day. After a few seconds, I found myself unconsciously reciting the subject phrase which made me go back to open the email. And then, it made sense. I am one of the API/ Gallery Soview grant winners! I was so excited - I couldn’t get any work done until noon. I needed to sit with the message in that email and take it in. 

Tell us more about what you plan to do with your grant and what you plan to showcase in September at Gallery Soview.

When the funds are in, I intend to invest it in photography equipment to help with my work, travels for outreach and engagement with participants for the 'Dear Woman' project. In addition, the funds will be used for production (photographing, printing and framing) of 'Dear Woman' for the exhibition.

'Lady in Fern' is from the Woman Unboxed series of images. © Baahwa
'Lady in Fern' is from the Woman Unboxed series of images. © Baahwa

My artworks to be shown during the exhibition are going to comprise photos exposing the beauty and unique attributes (both tangible and intangible) of different women from around the country. It is going to be a statement on the boundlessness of beauty, in advocacy against linear beauty standards.

Where would you like to be in terms of your photography career in the next five years?

In five years, I aim to have made a significant impact on lives as a photographer and artistic activist. I aim to have the first edition of the 'Dear Woman' photo book published and made accessible to a wider audience.

I aim to have trained at least 20 women in photography and exposed them to art opportunities. The name Baahwa will ring positive bells in the African art scene.


About API

Founded in 2022 by Yaya Moussa, API has provided grants to artists in Namibia, in collaboration with the StArt Art Gallery, and in Madagascar, in partnership with Fonds Yavarhoussen. Two years later, the initiative expanded to support emerging artists in Ghana.

About Gallery Soview

Gallery Soview is a contemporary art gallery situated in Accra, Ghana created by founder and director Barbara Kokpavo Janvier. The gallery has a strong focus on emerging artists from Africa and is committed to enhancing their visibility both within and beyond the continent.

The contents of this page are based on questions sent by AKADi Magazine and cannot be reproduced without permission.

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