Nii Obodai: My vision for Nuku Studio 2019 / by Nuku Studio

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Nii Obodai, Founder of Nuku Studio, gives an outlook on Nuku’s 2019 plans, and reflects on its achievements in the past year(s).

Nuku Studio has been evolving deliberately slowly. In the last few years, those of us involved in developing and supporting Nuku and its vision, allowed ourselves an internal dialogue to take place, to learn from our experiences, and to understand the forces that impact us.

Last year was an important one for Nuku Studio at various levels.

We successfully carried out the second edition of the Portraits Ghana Photo Prize. This competition allowed us to see where we stand, in general terms, as far as portraiture and photography are concerned, opening the challenge to urge our photography community to be more visionary and creative. We saw entries that spoke volumes of the potential. We are not there yet. This simply means we need to encourage more, and feature more diverse exhibitions to help inspire the community. 

In May 2018, we took part in the World Press Freedom Day. I was on a panel that included photographers Sarah Waiswa and Nana Kofi Acquah, and World Press Photo’s Lars Boering who moderated the discussion. We followed this up with a very intense and revealing Portfolio Review at Nuku House, with about 20 participants, young Ghanaian and Ghana-based photographers keen to exchange about (their) photography.

We ran our first partnership residency with Alliance Française, hosting, on their behalf, photographer Robert Charlotte from Martinique. Robert spent one month with us, discovering his place in history and awareness of contemporary Ghana, and bringing to life all the emotional exchanges he had with the people he met through the making of beautiful portraits.

We organised Ghana’s first biennial Nuku Photo Festival. It was the occasion to also launch the exhibition and book of our three-year Northern Ghana Life project (with project partner Noorderlicht). For the festival, we brought together important partnerships to support our exhibitions and conference, among others, old friends, Joe Addo, and his Jamestown Café, who hosted three of our exhibitions, Bianca Manu of Nubuke Foundation who co-curated and hosted our conference at BaseCamp Initiative, Alliance Française that hosted Robert Charlotte’s exhibition, Gallery 1957 that hosted a James Barnor exhibition, and Lensational that works to empower women through photography. We saw our relationship building efforts coming to fruit especially with World Press Photo who brought the African Photojournalism Database exhibition to Accra. We applaud Dr Stacie CC Graham of Colour Balance Images, as well as Christine Cibert and Amilton Neves, who all self-funded their journeys to share with us great photography from the African Diaspora and from Mozambique.

The vision has always been to bring together the best and allow for their excellence and creative spirit to enthuse the world with passion, from our perspective. I’m glad to say, since the festival, we have attracted very encouraging enquiries from across the continent and beyond. 

We are proud to have invested in purchasing a print from James Barnor's exhibition. It’s the first official buy for our Nuku Studio Collection. This Collection will be the foundation for our soon to be established Nuku Studio Photography Gallery. 

Also in 2018, for the first time, we pooled together the bare minimum of an administrative team, that is very dynamic, passionate and supportive, expanding our vision in new and innovative ways. Our team consists of Marc Prüst, who works on Project and Business Development; Juliane Reissig who oversees all things communications; and Marian Asare Darko, our Administrative Assistant. Additionally, I want to give thanks and welcome, Vanessa Peterson, who is currently working at the Tate Modern and comes on board as an advisor; Ama Peters, our first Nuku Ambassador; and Korieh Doudo and his team, our legal advisors from Egality Law.

In 2019, Nuku Studio is transforming into a non-profit organisation. We're adopting an open source organisational structure to allow for our people within Nuku to bring forth their best ideas and innovative photography projects, encouraging a greater sense of ownership and overall responsibility. We want our support to benefit the artists we work with. Without them there is no Nuku Studio. I see Nuku growing into a healthy productive visionary family, and, at this point, would like to thank Francis Kokoroko, Eric Gyamfi, Dennis Akuoko-Frimpong and Ruth McDowall for their continued support and collaboration.

Going forward, Nuku takes over the leading role in the Northern Ghana Life project, with the aim to continue to learn and create photo stories about the Gonja and Dagomba peoples of Northern Ghana. Additionally, we are grooming photographers based in Northern Ghana to take on greater responsibilities and encourage them to invest in their professional development. We will also be pushing our community involvement so that members of the communities gain a deeper appreciation of how photography can best serve them as individuals and the community at large. 

Some other Nuku events to look forward to include: the Portraits Ghana Photo Prize 2019; partnership in the “Gold Matters” project; educational workshops, including a Book Publishing Workshop (in collaboration with photographer Andrew Esiebo and Franziska Lentes) and Noorderlicht/Nuku Sustainable Development Goals workshop; Residency Programme; Conference; and, of course, Nuku House Parties.

Last but not least, we will be reaching out more and more to bring photography to new audiences and expand on our network throughout the world. We want that photography from our perspective has an impact. To achieve this, our highest priority is to encourage more women photographers. Our workshops and events are aimed at expanding and supporting women photographers in our community. There are so many opportunities for female artists-working-with-photography, and for photographers in general. The potential is so great. We really need more female documentary photographers. Our job will be to help them appreciate photography as a sustainable career. 

The first weeks of 2019 have been filled with very positive energy as we plan and implement our vision. Five principles define our mission and values: Creativity. Photography. Humanity. Transformation. Heart. Our outlook is to share with the world, photography that transforms how we see the world.  

To all those unmentioned, our many friends and supporters of Nuku Studio who gave of themselves selflessly, you are not invisible nor forgotten. My appreciation flows as if from an endless spring of joy. As and when we connect online or meet in person, I’ll express to you my personal gratitude for your encouragement and love. Nuku has always attracted beautiful people and we aim to give back by sharing the great stories we produce. You are always invited to our fun community gatherings. 

On behalf of the Nuku Studio Team, 

We remain, Forward Ever.

Nii Obodai
Nuku Studio Founder