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Jan 5, 2023
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Culture

Nana Kwasi Wiafe: The Most Sought-After International Art Muse from Ghana

In our new series, #TANTVSpotlight-we showcase creatives shaping up the continent and the diaspora. This spotlight highlights the renowned Ghanaian international fashion model, stylist, and creative director Nana Kwasi Wiafe.

Nana Kwasi Wiafe grew up in Ghana influenced by music, fashion, art and the rich Ghanaian culture. He is originally from a part of the Ashanti, a dominant ethnic group of a powerful 19th-century empire in Ghana, Wiafe labels himself as an especially proud and curious person. Throughout his journey as a Black artist, he has explored a great deal of creative mediums while collaborating with artists across Africa and the United States who have inspired his works. 

As a multi-talented artist, he is involved in a variety of creative areas. Styling, film making, modeling and fashion design are amongst his many interests. Wiafe has found inspiration within his environment, culture and love for vibrant art style. Wiafe fondly remembers his childhood. He passionately watched the television series, By the Fireside, which was one of the very few choices of artistic, educational entertainment in Ghana at the time. 

It was a way of passing on information, culture and history onto the next generation,” said Wiafe. Wiafe’s musical preferences were Highlife, a fusion of African meter and western jazz melodies and Hiplife, a combination of Highlife and hip-hop. Wiafe shared that he had friends in the States, with whom he often exchanged songs. 

In his creative process, he enjoys working with bright colors to come up with ideas for his projects. This fondness is not surprisingly a result of the memories from Ghana. “When people come to Ghana, they see the true vibrancy of the country. The reds, yellows, greens and blues amongst many other bright colors inspire me as an artist. I want to bring color to life,” said Wiafe. 

Wiafe’s early modeling days and his collaboration with artist Isshaq Ismail influenced his affinities. The gallery display, Say It Loud, am Black and Proud was part of Christie's art exhibition celebrating Black art during Black History Month. Wiafe also shares that Ismail's paintings are infused with lots of colors. He highlighted the beauty of Black people against the bright, popping backgrounds. Through this art form, Wiafe understands that color is therapeutic. 

Image by Artist Isshaq Ismail

Wiafe has a strong body of work under his belt. He worked as a style contributor for Beyoncé's visual album Black Is King for the music Already which featured Shatta Wale. He also styled the actress-screenwriter Michaela Coel for the Power of Women in Comedy cover for Variety Magazine. Wiafe says he feels honored and elated to have had an opportunity to work with a team of “creative geniuses” like them.  

In the art world, Wiafe has been painted by some of the world’s most renowned artists of our time with art pieces of him being sold for thousands of dollars as one of the most sought-after art muse around the world.

He has been featured in both international and local music videos for Sarkodie, Serious Klein, M.anifest and Tneeya. He has worked with a wide range of photographers Joshua Kissi, Trevor Stuurman, Prince Gyasi, Travys Owen, Iseeadifferentyou, Justice Mukheli, Kyle Weeks, Francis Kokoroko and others. Also, Nana Kwasi has worked with fashion brands like Ozward Boateng, Diesel, Maxhosa, Vlisco, Studio189, Chusuwannapha, Marianne Fassler, Kente Gentleman, Loza Malèmbho and Jermain Bleu.

Image by Artist Prince Gyasi -Care/Love (II)-Fatherhood Series

“Working with them highlighted my talent and creativity to the world in a way that I never imagined. I am truly grateful to them. My creative process normally starts with the story I am trying to tell and that leads to visualizing what that would look like with the help of a mood board of inspirations backed by research. I go on to choose a team that I believe can help bring my visions to life,” said Wiafe.  

Wiafe feels that his creative form summons “strong emotions that humanize” people and how they feel when they see his art. The goal is to completely “embrace our culture and celebrate all the beautiful things about us as a people,” said Wiafe.  

Through growing up and finding the greatest version of himself, Wiafe says that he is still evolving, like everyone else, every day. He learned how common it is for people to struggle in searching for a greater purpose or even in finding themselves. Wiafe wishes for people to believe in themselves and remember that everyone has a rich background, culture and story. 

With his brand, Very Ghanaian, Wiafe uses that as a medium to express himself to the fullest. Very Ghanaian is a travel lifestyle brand/platform that is Reinforcing and Inspiring Patriotism, Identity and Love for Ghana through garments and storytelling. The website sells various hoodies, t-shirts, tote bags, bucket hats and more. Very Ghanaian is very subtle, straight-forward and powerful. I feel like this perfectly describes me. I am confident in who I am and what I stand for,” said Wiafe. 

New generations of African artists continue to inspire and make Wiafe feel proud to be a Black artist. Fashion designers, musicians, painters and architects portray this energy and talent in the way they present their art. We can expect more from Wiafe in the near future, as he is often passionately working toward exciting and inspiring projects. 

Below, Wiafe, the Ghanaian international fashion model, stylist, creative director and founder of the brand Very Ghanaian provides a sneak peek into his unique culture, the inspiration behind his versatile creations and his contribution to Beyoncé’s Black is King: 

You are involved in many areas of styling, film making, modeling, design and more. Where do you find your inspiration and what influenced this career path for you?

My inspiration mostly comes from my environment, my culture and love for art and style. However, what really influenced my career path was my love for storytelling. I wanted a way to tell my story to the world and all these mediums allowed me to do that. 

Congratulations on being recently honored as one of Africa’s top next generational cultural shapeshifters who is positively impacting and boldly pushing African culture forward. What does this award mean to you and why? 

It is an honor to be recognized in this way. For me, this comes as a confirmation of my impact on culture and the continent. This means I am on the right path in my career and it’s truly fulfilling to see it all happening. 

Using my art to positively impact society is exactly how I envisioned my career. 
Image by Artist Prince Gyasi: LUST--The Control Series (III)

What was it like growing up in Ghana and how does living there inspire you to share your culture through art? How has your culture affected your art form?  

Growing up in Ghana was so much fun for me as a kid. I had the freedom to go to parties, play around and be a kid. However, it had its own challenges. The lack of access to resources and the right spaces that will help nature talent was almost non-existent. These challenges inspired me to find solutions through creativity.

Ghana has a special energy that inspires creativity in a way that I don’t find everywhere: the people, music, food, art, colors and the energy of the city inspires me. My culture has had a huge impact on all my art forms because it's a big part of who I am. My identity and heritage guides me in creating the future that I want.

For one of your contributions titled "The Glory of Bukom," you chose the location of Bukom Boxing Arena. What is the significance of this location and what message do you hope that this piece conveys to your audience? 

Image by Lawrence Agyei: The Glory of Bukom| Muse: Nana Kwesi Wiafe| Styling by Thou Art Kwasi

The Bukom community is an area that is known for nurturing many world boxing champions from Ghana but is also one of the underdeveloped communities in Accra. We choose this location to highlight the community's history and contributions to the country. We want to inspire people to know that even if you come from a less-developed area, your dreams can come true like these champions from the area. 

What’s the inspiration behind founding Very Ghanaian/Very African? 

The core inspiration behind Very Ghanaian/Very African is patriotism, identity and love for my country and continent. The brand aims to reinforce these values through storytelling, fashion and travel. More importantly, it’s a movement that is inspiring current and future generations to be unapologetically proud of themselves and to hold onto their identity.

What role, as an artist, do you have in society and what is your advice to people who don't quite know how to "define" themselves yet? 

My role is to help create a better now and future using my art to positively impact lives. We are like misfits that have the power to create new worlds and spaces for all those like us. My advice to people who don't know how to define themselves is that they should take time to observe themselves. It will help them to know themselves well and help them define who they are. 

Image by Stephen Morris| Styling by Thou Art Kwesi

Who or what has inspired you lately? Are there any projects that you are currently working on that you can talk about?

Lately, I am constantly inspired by African creatives across the continent and the incredible work they put out that is impacting the creative economy across music, film, media, fashion and art.  As far as projects are concerned all I can say is people should look out for something great coming, I have been in the studio painting.

You’ve achieved many great things such as being a part of the creatives in Beyoncé’s Black is King, styling the brilliant actress Micheala Cole who is part of the newly added cast in Wakanda Forever. All these amongst many other mainstream endeavors you’ve had. Can you shed light on your creative process and relevance of your works in society?

Image: Black Is King - Beyounce| Ghana set: Styled By Nana Kwasi Wiafe|Director: Josuah Kissi| D.O.P David Boanuh|Produced By: Sharifah Issaka

I feel really honored and proud to have had such incredible opportunities to work with creative geniuses like Beyoncé and Michaela Cole. Working with them highlighted my talent and creativity to the world in a way that I never imagined. I am truly grateful to them.  My creative process normally starts with the story I am trying to tell and that leads to visualizing what that would look like with the help of a mood board of inspirations backed by research. I go on to choose a team that I believe can help bring my visions to life. My art evokes strong emotions that humanizes us and makes us feel. It helps transform our perception of who we are and pushes us to look at ourselves in a completely positive light. It helps us embrace our culture and celebrate all the beautiful things about us as a people. 

Variety Cover : Michaela Coel|Stylist: Nana Kwasi Wiafe| Photographed by Sophy Holland

You’re also mentoring students at Ashesi University, a leading university in Ghana. How do you foresee the impact you are making and what can you say about these youths and their growth in the near future? 

Ashesi university is a school that is impacting lives in the education sector. It is very intentional about excellence and changing the narrative and these values are a big part of who I am as a person, so having the honor to mentor their students is truly fulfilling to me and makes me feel elated. Starting out as an artist, one of the things I am always intentional about is how I can use my art to impact lives and generations that come after me, and this opportunity affords me exactly that. These students are so passionate and gifted with brilliant minds that are going to contribute a great deal to society. I’m looking forward to seeing all of them taking the stories and experiences that I share with them to carve their own paths and go on to become incredible individuals and artists in the future.

Are there any last thoughts that you would like to share with your audience?

Now, more than ever, is the time for us to build the creative industry on the continent. This sector has proven, over time, that it is a viable and profitable industry and with the right investment and attention it will drive significant growth for any economy. We need to position ourselves very well and fully take advantage of this sector now and use it to help reduce unemployment and take these brilliant youths of the continent out of poverty. I will also appeal to governments to build strong structures that support and ensure that creatives have access to everything to help develop their talents and help them earn a living through what they do. 

Lastly, this is to all the young creatives out there: the time is now, to start creating. If you put in the work everything is possible.

Contributors to this Editorial Include:

Article Written By Nicole Milanovic

Editorial Direction By Adedayo Fashanu

Creative Production By Abolaji Omitogun

Images from the Most Sought-After Art Muse: