We had the good fortune of connecting with Kirstie Kwarteng and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kirstie, can you tell us more about your background and the role it’s played in shaping who you are today?
I grew up outside of Washington, D.C. in Northern Virginia. My family is Ghanaian and the DMV area has been home to a large Ghanaian population since the 1980s. The elders in my Ghanaian community did what they could to replicate as many aspects of Ghanaian culture as possible. On the weekends, I would go with my parents to whatever Ghanaian functions were taking place in the community. On Sundays we would attend our predominantly Ghanaian church where my parents were founding members. Growing up in this community instilled a great sense of pride in my cultural heritage. The work that I do now is directly related to my upbringing in the DMV Ghanaian community. I’m currently pursuing a PhD focused on the transnational experiences of the children of Ghanaian immigrants. I also started The Nana Project, an online platform dedicated to preserving Ghana’s history through sharing firsthand accounts of Ghana’s history. I’m glad that I’ve been able to use my heritage to make an impact in my community. In the future, I plan on doing more work that not only highlights Ghanaian history and culture but also highlights how the histories of Black people across the globe are interconnected.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My desire to create The Nana Project was rooted in my desire to learn more about Ghana’s history from those who lived through it. While I had the desire, I didn’t have the skills needed to bring the project to life. I knew nothing about cinematography, running a website, or video editing. Thankfully, I was surrounded by people who were willing to help me because they believed in the mission of The Nana Project. My mother built our first website. My cousin who has a background in film production agreed to join the team as co-founder. Last year, a friend of mine who is trained in anthropology and speaks two Ghanaian languages joined our team. The main lesson I’ve learned from this is to not be afraid to ask for help. There have been so many people who have given their time and skills to support our work simply because I asked. There have also been people who couldn’t offer support in the ways I needed but directed me to people who could offer assistance. In stepping out of my comfort zone and asking for help when I needed it, The Nana Project has grown in ways that I didn’t think were possible when I started it. The Nana Project has been featured in events at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and at the Wax Print Festival in Accra. Our most recent accomplishment was executing a 2-day online history festival for Ghana’s independence day that had over 150 people from all over the world in attendance. My hope is that when people visit The Nana Project website or our social media pages, they will be inspired to speak to their elders in their families about their life histories and stories.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I would like to shout out the Ghanaian elders that have trusted The Nana Project with their life stories. While I had the idea to make a platform where people could learn about Ghana’s history through firsthand accounts, it would not have been possible to create the platform if we didn’t have people who were willing to share their stories with us. I would like to thank these elders for their willingness to help preserve Ghana’s history for future generations and for believing in our work.