Princess Fathia Nkrumah speaks to DAME about culture, history and her latest role
In true Year of Return fashion, there is an extra zest in the execution of all activities that market the core of Ghana. The global spotlight has been obsessed with all things Ghana since 2018 and there would not be a better time for creatives with a strong sense of national responsibility to shine.
This week, we interviewed Princess Fathia Nkrumah, the face of the highly-anticipated McListowell Koranteng movie, The Curfew – a movie focused on highlighting the distinct features of one of the most colorful ethnic groups in Ghana and West Africa, Ashanti, and debunking the misgivings of barbarism and all other negatives that are often levied against age-old Ghanaian cultures.
The sort of return all brothers and sisters in the diaspora should be looking forward to, as well as residents who may not be well-versed in the knowledge of their culture.
How did ‘The Curfew’ come about for Princess Fathia Nkrumah?
To begin with, it was actually a pretty different experience from other projects I’ve been involved with. In late February of 2018 Eli, our producer reached out to me about wanting to talk about a movie project we just never got around to talking about it. I assumed they had cast the project already until I got another text from her later in April with audition details.
Going in, I was expecting to go into a waiting room full of actors vying for the part only to find out I was the only person auditioning because they had spent many months trying to find the character and funny enough they felt I was perfect for the role. A match made in heaven, it was very easy for me to pick up the role after learning about Benny (my character) and the overall plot of the movie. I was instantly drawn to it and felt it was a story that needed to be told; a story I needed to tell.
Give us some insight into Your character in The Curfew.
Well, Benyiwa Ankra (Benny) is a pretty driven and opinionated young woman not unlike myself. Ha-ha! We both happen to be law students who would do anything to protect the ones we love. Benny not unlike myself is a strong proponent of equal rights, opportunity, and civil liberties. However, I think that’s where the similarities end. Unlike myself, Benny appears to have a warped view of what it means to live in Ghana having lived most of her teen and young adult life in the U.S. There is a lot of character development as far as that goes and it’s interesting to see the way her views are either reaffirmed or changed throughout the movie. I think a lot of people will be able to either directly relate to her or at the very least recognize her.
What is your favorite scene from the Curfew?
That’s actually a pretty tough one! I would think I’ve had quite a few favorite scenes, some I probably can’t talk about because of spoilers!!! But any scene with Emeline Nkosi and Shadi Byrouthy who play Benny’s best friends or with Pascal Aka who plays my cousin with very different views on living in Ghana. One of my favorite scenes was also this dinner scene with Adjetey Annan who plays my father in the film. Can I say the whole film was my favorite? Am I allowed to say that?
The biggest takeaway from the movie on the whole
Personally I would say the biggest take away from the movie would be greater insight into the various perspectives within Ghanaian and African communities about our culture and way of life as a whole. The movie has this unique ability to put a mirror up at whoever may be watching it and forces us to face the reality of our views and our possible misconceptions. It also forces us to see things through the perspective of others giving us new viewpoints we may have otherwise never considered.
Shed some light on the production process.
Oh boy. The thing about making a movie like The Curfew is that it tends to get very physically demanding. We were constantly taking trips out of town, shooting for hours on end. I remember getting home one week after 3:00 am for days in a row. I think because we were all so determined to bring the story to life we threw ourselves into the characters and were willing to lend every bit of ourselves to the characters. One could call it a grueling experience but they would also call it fulfilling.
Your Name is forever intertwined with the history of Ghana. But what does being Ghanaian mean to you as an individual?
This is true my name does hold a tremendous legacy but I’ve also come to find that
my name isn’t a legacy that is solely mine to continue on or hold up. It’s a legacy that
belongs to each of us as Ghanaians, as Africans as Black people of color. At the risk
of being cliché, being Ghanaian is being independent and free. At least that’s what it
should be. The etymology of the word Ghana means "warrior king", that’s no
coincidence but a very deliberate choice made by our founding fathers. Therefore
being Ghanaian to me should be a possession of unbridled courage and passion in a
willingness to fight for the betterment of our nation and our continent. That’s what
Ghana was built on but we seem to have lost the plot along the way.
The movie is embedded in Ashanti culture, one of Ghana and Africa’s most colorful cultures. How does ethnicity and culture shape who you are?
Ethnicity has to do with the national background with which a person identifies whereas culture has to do with the language, religion, and customs that characterize a particular group's way of life. Both have a tremendous impact on our perspectives, behaviors, and way of life. Additionally, the rest of the world’s ideas and even misconceptions about our cultures and ethnicity tend to impact the way we choose to live as well. We either live in a way that coincides with these ideas because we come to believe that’s what we are going to be seen as before we even open our mouths or we choose to challenge those ideas in the belief that we could change the stereotypes and misconceptions.
Scorecard for Ghana and Africa’s projection/image to the world. What are we doing right, what are we doing wrong, what can be done better?
I don’t think it would be necessarily right to put a score to the performance of Ghana or most of Africa considering much of our current circumstances are not solely of our own doing. As far as what we are doing right, I think there is a recent emergence of young people who have looked back to the Pan Africanist leaders of old and found a new drive and need to their teachings as a guide of sorts to bring change to our continent. While there are many aspects of our current state that one could definitely categorize as being “done wrong” so to speak; the most damning part of our current situation is the outrageous amount of widespread corruption which seems to be the backbone of all other issues in Ghana and Africa. If we can actively curb corruption not just with activism and protests but with consequences many problems faced would, in turn, be more easily eradicated. The lack of retribution for acts of corruption in this country is downright abysmal. To put it plainly, if I could put my hand in a fire and not get burned what’s stopping me from doing it?
With the year of return coming to a head, what do you hope has been achieved throughout this year-long initiative?
Much like The Curfew, I would hope The Year of Return would challenge perspectives and change the misconceptions people outside the continent might have of Ghana and come to a realization that we truly are one people. In the words of Nkrumah, “All people of African descent whether they live in North or South America, the Caribbean, or in any part of the world are Africans and belong to the African nation.” It is also my hope that while The Year of Return could bring in a lot of revenue and be a boost to our tourism we don’t just view it as a money-making scheme to the point where we begin to neglect the point of it altogether.
What should be the memo going forward for Ghana and Africa at large?
Unity. That’s it. It saddens me to see not only division among African nations but acts of violence and xenophobia rampant on our continent. The recent attacks in South Africa against Nigerians and other African nationalities by South Africans are heart wrenching and horrifying, to say the least. It’s one of the most appalling things and the forefathers of the Pan Africanist Movements must be turning in their graves. The memo moving forward for Ghana and especially Africa should be Unity and #SayNoToCorruption. But as with all things of such magnitude that has been ingrained into the very fabric of our societies, it’s easier said than done.
Aspirations in the movie industry?
My aspirations in the movie industry aren’t necessarily my own they are for the country as a whole. I don’t believe we currently have an industry that can compete on the global front and I think we need to take a step back and re-evaluate where we want to go as an industry. We need to start putting more work into training and film education, we need to start viewing the art as just that an art form. One that requires extensive research and time. I also believe the government needs to be aware that Movies are the gateway to any country. It’s what is going to redefine the way the rest of the world sees us and as such should make an effort to further the industry with grants and the like. As an actor, yes I prefer to use the term actor because it is gender-neutral and the definition of an actress is “A female actor” which doesn't mean much to me. Anyway, as an Actor my only aspiration would be to touch lives with the roles I play and make a difference. Whether it’s bringing joy to people, challenging their ideas, reaffirming their views or simply inspiring them.