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The Story Tellers

On the Job in Ghana, with focus on creativity.

This summer, I worked with Deborah Osei-Agyekum ’10—formerly Ahenkorah—in a self-directed internship with the Golden Baobab and African Bureau Stories. The Golden Baobab has been around for over a decade and organizes a children’s short story and illustration competition every year across the African continent to nurture and encourage writers and illustrators of children’s fiction—a genre of African literature that is heavily underrepresented in bookstores. African Bureau Stories is a new publishing house that publishes some of these illustrated stories.

I was able to work on some of my strengths as a filmmaker and photographer, by helping both companies create visual content, videos, and photographs for their websites. It taught me a lot of discipline and improved my communication skills. And one thing Debbie told me on our first meeting was that while I was here to work on my strengths, I should also try new things that are outside my comfort zone. So, one task she gave me was to communicate with buyers across the continent to try and sell our books. I was initially very nervous but proud that
we got a number of callbacks.

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I was drawn to the Golden Baobab and the work that Debbie does because as a filmmaker I realize that there are so many untold stories, so many tales that have not yet been uncovered. I had read that Debbie started it after she realized that her own childhood books were often about people who did not look like her, and I was interested in working in a place that helped to bring some of these stories to light, to allow kids to see themselves in the stories they read. 

Ten years from now, I would like to have some films under my belt—just over three, I don’t want to be too greedy. I would like to be working within a wide network of female filmmakers, storytellers, animators—with people who are interested in telling the stories of some of the marginalized people in our communities. I want to make films that tell stories of a diverse collection of people so that there will be a generation that grows up seeing themselves and their experiences on the screen. 

During her internship, the aspiring filmmaker had the opportunity to turn her lens on Osei-Agyekum. Following are excerpts from that interview:

What made you come to Bryn Mawr? 

I’m originally from Ghana, and I moved to the U.S. for Bryn Mawr. I came to Bryn Mawr because I read that Bryn Mawr women had a self-directed vision for their lives—whoa, I liked that. If I could be in a place with people like that, I thought, I’m going to be happy. 

I came to Bryn Mawr because I wanted to be surrounded by women who wanted to come to Bryn Mawr. 

How did you find the international experience at Bryn Mawr? 

I’m not exaggerating when I say that Bryn Mawr is probably the best thing that's ever happened to me. It was really good for me.

Bryn Mawr was a place that gave me permission to be myself. I could be all of myself and I didn’t have to make excuses for why I was so ambitious, why I was so driven, why I wanted to do more things than made sense, and there were people around me who got it and who supported it and that gave me permission in many ways to spread my wings and fly. Bryn Mawr gave me permission to fly. 

What are your best memories of Bryn Mawr?

Extracurricular life was probably my favorite part of Bryn Mawr, to be very honest. I should be saying it was the academics—those were amazing—but the extracurriculars made so happy: I was part of BACaSO [The Bryn Mawr African and Caribbean Student Organization]. I started a student advocacy group called Project Advocate in Africa. I was a tour guide. I was a hall advisor. I was in intervarsity Christian Fellowship. 

How did Bryn Mawr help you get to where you are now?

I studied political science, and I had no idea that it would lead to a career in children’s publishing. While I was at Bryn Mawr, I started an organization that became a nonprofit that became a social enterprise, and today I run a children’s publishing house, producing stories from the most amazing writers and illustrators from the African continent and making these books available to children all over the world.