For many members of the African diaspora, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) is perceived as the only pathway to progress. This emphasis on technical subjects often sidelines arts and culture, with the prevailing belief being that STEM offers the financial stability and influence necessary to overcome adverse economic conditions, while art is regarded as a luxury.
Ama Ofeibea Tetteh, however, challenges this perceived STEM vs arts divide. In her view, both are interconnected and mutually enriching. Through her organization, Chapter 54, Tetteh seeks to bolster not only the creative economy of African nations, but also that of the diaspora at large. Named to symbolize a new chapter for the 54 countries of Africa, Chapter 54 assists creatives and organizations by offering research, insights, and creative programming, thereby exposing artists and aspirants to supportive networks. “We recently managed the Ghana Art Season for the British Council in Ghana,” she proudly mentioned. Through Chapter 54, the British Council was able to establish a presence within the country, thus facilitating a better integration of Ghanaian culture with the diaspora in Britain.
Tetteh herself is a creative with an impressive and diverse journey. An excellent student, she excelled in all subjects, but was particularly drawn to the arts. After completing her sixth form, she earned an Art and Design Foundation Diploma from the University of the Arts, London, a degree in design studies from Goldsmiths College that provided her the freedom to experiment, and finally, a master’s degree in Global Creative and Cultural Industries from SOAS University of London. In between her academic pursuits, she gained professional experience at prestigious organizations, including the Saatchi & Saatchi advertising agency network.
A significant part of her work at Chapter 54 involves assisting creatives in forging the career connections that she had to navigate independently. For instance, while everyone acknowledges the designer and possibly the seamstress in the fashion industry, few consider the other professions that bloom around them – such as textile crafters and fashion journalists. Tetteh believes that the creative industry potentially contributes billions of dollars to her native Ghana, and her mission at Chapter 54 is to democratize art further. She seeks to answer critical questions like, ‘How do we harness art’s potential?’ and ‘How do we keep developing infrastructure to nurture talent?’
In line with these objectives, she also serves as a program manager at the Asiko Art School. This initiative, founded by the late Bisi Silva, is a biannual program that aims to bridge the gap between art creation and art education across the continent. “It was born out of a need to fill certain gaps in arts education on the continent,” she begins. “Arts education [in Ghana] is skill or technique-based. You learn how to sculpt or paint, but there’s a deficiency in the education of conceptual ideas or even the history [separate] from the history of European art that was taught.”
Ama Ofeibea Tetteh’s singular dedication lies in elevating the stature of art to the level of its technical counterparts, while also providing a platform for creatives in Ghana and across the diaspora. When advising on how to find one’s purpose, she counsels, “Think less about the label, think less that ‘I want to be an x’ and more ‘I’m good at this, I enjoy this.’ Then start looking for connections on how they come together.”