Model, actor and entrepreneur Mame Adjei opens up about representation of black people in the media and the numerous police brutalities against black people through an outlet she knows best; fashion. She commissioned an editorial aptly shot at the majestic scenes of Cape Coast in Ghana.
Ghana has always been home to me because of my parents but I grew up mostly in the United
States so I felt a bit of a disconnect when trying to relate to my Ghananian culture at times. I
was unfortunately also not fully integrated into black American culture, and would always be
reminded of my African heritage in some way or another by family or even bullies at school, who
would make fun of me for being African.
So, as you can imagine, I wasn’t quite sure where I fit in as a first generation African American
(or what I like to say, American African). Too African for America, and too American to be
African. So where did I fit in? I made it my mission to perfect speaking with an American accent,
immerse myself fully in the culture and just forget about my roots (until of course, my name
would be butchered in class by a new substitute teacher or when I would come home to the
smells of my country). I realized soon enough that there is no escaping who you are. I realized
that I would be better off embracing the fact that I am both African AND American, and that I did
not have to choose between the two.
The only hardship following this realization though is that, although I was ready to embrace my
full or whole identity, I did not carry the same history and traumas that were (unfortunately)
passed down in the black community. But as a black person in the U.S. I would undeniably feel
the effects of their brute history whether I liked it or not. And so I had to assume this history as
my own, in order to operate in this space without the incapacitating naiveté of thinking that I
would not be touched by it, just because I did not come from it or could fully grasp it. In America,
my black skin was inherently incriminating (which was deeply hard to accept).
Today, I am very passionate about fighting for justice, and people’s access to it. I am
determined to use my platforms in any way that I can to push for the reimagining of the black
narrative. As a model, I feel it’s my duty now, to use the ways in which I am portrayed to shift the
world’s perspective of black people, black women, black beauty, and black lives. I want my work
to be intentional and purposeful.
That is what inspired me to commission this project when I was in Ghana some time ago. I
wanted to produce something that would help change the opinions people once held of
Africans, and our fashion, our beauty, our landscapes, our music, our culture, our colors, our
textures, and our architecture.
Additionally, I thought we simply needed to see more powerful images of women, more so of
African women, now more than ever. With divisive and utterly racist rhetoric being spewed from
so-called world leaders like U.S President Trump, calling Africa a continent full of “shit-hole
countries”, the time is NOW, to STAND UP and create the imagery that we wish to represent
us. Media representation matters in general, because it practically shapes the world’s
perception of a people, place, or event. And if we as Ghanaians and Africans want to change
the ways in which we are viewed to the outside world, we need to be that much more proactive
in seeking or rather creating opportunities to showcase our culture the way that we best see fit.
Absolutely no more of the tired, hungry-looking African child being swarmed with flies, or the
half naked tribal people living in huts; we are so much more than that. We deserve to be seen in
a better light, and that begins when we take charge of the images that are being put out by
companies and media outlets, and no longer allowing them to dictate our portrayals. Young
African girls especially, need to see better representations of black women so that they can see
the many possibilities available to them.
And when they do see women that look like them on these screens, they need to be positive
and reaffirming. Proper representation is what matters most here. I believe this a tool that will
aid us in changing the perceptions held of us, which can hopefully and ultimately lead to the
dismantling of systems that oppress us.
We chose to shoot this editorial primarily at the Cape Coast castle and its surrounding areas;
once serving as a trading post and dungeon for enslaved Africans awaiting their shipment off to
the Americas, never to return again. BUT HERE WE ARE!! The energy there was unreal.
In this day and age, with all the brutality against black lives that continue to happen though, it is
clear that the world still somehow undervalues black lives. No matter how hard we try to control
and change tired narratives, or shift perspectives, we are still going to be black, and apparently
that is threatening enough to disrespect not only our image, but our lives and our bodies. I am
enraged. I am hurt. I am EXHAUSTED. But we are not going to give up anytime soon. The fight