Meet Female Graphic Designer/Photographer Turned Queen Mother- Nana Ama Kukudam I

Nana Ama Kukudam I
Nana Ama Kukudam I

Discovering people who are impacting positively and celebrating them is one credo Ghanacelebrities.Com pride ourselves with.

Through our research, we fortunately chanced on one humane and kind hearted African-American lady by name Nana Ama Kukudam I who was trained as a Graphic Designer and Photographer but has turned Nkosuo Hemaa – – helping a community in Ghana.

We decided to talk to her about how she became Nkosuo Hemaa in Ghana, considering the fact that she was not born in Ghana even… give us a brief background of yourself.

Nana Ama: My real name is Joy Lee Tyrice Lillian Mary Inez Williams but Joy Williams for short. I was born in Baltimore, Maryland and raised between Baltimore and New York. I went to a Catholic elementary school and finished that in 1989. From there I attended the Baltimore School for the Arts where I majored in Visual arts and completed in 1997.

I followed up to the University of Maryland, Baltimore County where I majored in BA Graphic Design and Photography and completed in 2002. A few years later, I completed my MBA in General Management at the Metropolitan College of New York in Manhattan in 2008.

On work experience, I’ve previously worked for the NYC Department of Education’s Office of Teacher Recruitment as part of a team of people who recruited teachers for all 5 boroughs of NYC. I was there for almost a decade before leaving to focus on my business and my Queen mother assignment.

Nana Ama Kukudam
Nana Ama Kukudam I What kind of family were you born into and how was growing up like?

Nana Ama: I was born into a middle class home but my father left my mother, me and my younger sister when I was 5. At that time my mother struggled to raise us on her own. I was partially raised in the projects. But I went to the very best schools and loved very richly. Since you were not born here, how did the people of Ajumako Eshiem discover you and enthroned you as a Queen mother?

Nana Ama: I would say that the way they discovered me was truly through God and the ancestors. I met my chief there and over time became close to the royal family as if it were predestined. I’m the descendant of African slaves taken from Ghana, Nigeria and other parts of Africa during slavery.

When they gave me the offer to become Nkosuo Hemaa, I was much honoured and also began to think about how my mother had always told me that we came from kings and queens in Africa. When I accepted it, I vowed to do all I could to help our people in Ghana and America (African-Americans and Ghanaians) as we are the same people.

Right now I’m working on beginning an NGO for my town as well as seeking out donors to build a primary school in the town. I’ve also been taking up collections for reading and school books as well as other materials to ship there in the coming months As a Christian, how did you reconcile the idea of accepting participation in bloody rituals which comes with being a Queen mother before the offer was sealed?

Nana Ama: I have a great respect for the ways of our ancestors. So I respect those who still abide by them. At the same time, my stool is not a black stool and although I went through all of the full rights that any other Queen Mother may have gone through with being enthroned, I did not have to go through the blood rituals like those who sit on a black stool.

All the same, I do not look down on it because the traditional practices are what our ancestors left behind. I think that while we are also Christians. we have to have respect and tolerance for other practices and beliefs. There are many chiefs and Queen Mothers who sit on a black stool and went through with the blood rituals and they are practicing Christians.

I think they are able to either practice both or choose one. I find that each royal is different. I’m a believer of Christ but I respect and tolerate all religions. One thing we all have in common is our belief in God.

Nana Ama Kukudam I (2)
Nana Ama Kukudam I Having been trained in the arts – Graphic Designing and Photography, why did you leave that field for other things such as becoming a Queen mother?

Nana Ama: Good question. I worked within graphic design and photography for a few years and was doing quite well in my job as well as in a small business on my own. But when I was in my mid 20s, I realized that the job was draining the creativity out of me and I decided to pursue my business interest. I still have both passions and I plan on doing both.

As of now I own a small business which sells all natural African herbal products from Ghana and other parts of Africa. I plan on rebranding and utilizing my graphics skills to do so. Other than that, I will tweak and carry on my skills artistically instead of through a 9-5 job. Who knows, you may see my pieces in an exhibition somewhere in the future. How far did you go with your art leanings and any traveling experiences?

Nana Ama: I’ve won medals from the NAACP in Silver and Gold for Photography. I’ve traveled the world: Ghana (every 3 to 6 months for the past 13 years), Paris, France; London, England, Senegal, amongst other parts of the world.

Nana Ama Kukudam I
Nana Ama Kukudam I What has becoming a Queen mother greatly changed about you?

Nana Ama: Prior to becoming a Queen Mother I was always actively giving myself to those in need financially and emotionally. That has not changed. I also hope that people will see me and say hey, this lady is an African-American who’s been in the culture for over 2 decades! Who loves Africa and Ghana so much and who also shares the same ancestors as us! You grew up in the West and know they have a negative perception of Africa – do you have any take on that?

Nana Ama: I think the negative perceptions the West sometimes have about Africa are the same negative perceptions Africa has about Africa. When I was growing up, I was also called an African booty scratcher by my fellow peers because of my dark color/complexion.

During slavery, many black people were told that black was ugly and light was right. When I began being in the various African cultures from the late 90s till now and I also started traveling to the continent 13 years ago, I realized that the same mentality existed amongst our native African brothers and sisters.

They are also bleaching their skin, following European beauty standards and cultures blindly. So both perceptions are the same. Even when I’m in Africa, people think that all black people in America are ghetto and living in poverty. We are all thinking negatively of each other because of the media and because of what friends, relatives and others tell us.

It has to change and I hope that by spreading my brand and representing my brand that I can serve as an outlet for both sides to realize that these perceptions must change. How long have you been the Queen mother of Ajumako Eshiem and what specifically have you done to help the community grow/develop?

Nana Ama: I’ve been the Queen Mother of Ajumako Eshiem for just one and a half years now. In the past year, I’ve sent clothing donations and have collected books and other learning materials. I’ve also begun 2 crowd – funding accounts to receive monetary donations from people who would like to give to the needs of my town and the surrounding areas.

I’ve moved towards registering an NGO in the towns name in order to provide people who donate with a tax incentive through a US government approved 501c3 account. That way, they will see that we are legitimate. Those who donate will receive documentation for their donation that they can receive a credit on their taxes during tax time.

This will also encourage more monetary giving. With that money, once we begin it, we will begin the building of our school, then the community center redevelopment as well as other programs. We gather you are not married – does your status and personae scare potential suitors from approaching you to propose love and or marriage?

Nana Ama: (Laughs) it seems many men were intimidated by me even before my enthronement. Sometimes making good money and being educated and a self thinker scares off men so I’m used to it and it doesn’t bother me. I won’t stop being myself Does your non-residence here not impede the effective work you are expected to do as a Queen mother?

Nana Ama: I’m in Ghana every 3 to 6 months and I was traveling there just as frequently even before my enthronement. Sometimes my trips are 2 weeks and sometimes 1 month. I try to accomplish as much as I can while I’m there and if I cannot complete everything, I meet with my chief and make sure that we communicate on our next steps. I think I’m doing very well for a new queen. Can you speak any of our local languages and how well have you learnt our culture and its lore?

Nana Ama: Although I’ve been around the local languages since the 90s, I’m not fluent and I only speak basic Twi. Being around English most times makes it more difficult but I’ve tasked myself to become fluent this 2015. I yearn to speak with my people in Twi, Fante and other native tongues.

But the lack of fluency should not be mistaken for not knowing the cultures. I’m very knowledgeable about the culture and have been told by many native Ghanaians throughout the years that they would even think I’m a native Ghanaian judging by how much I know. What does your stool name means, especially the Kukudam?

Nana Ama: Yes Kukudam means powerful, knowledgeable and string and I believe that I am the epiphany of the meaning not only as a Queen Mother but as a woman and a human being. I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth but at the same time I’ve accomplished things that others only dream of. That is the strength behind Kukudam. How would you describe yourself?

Nana Ama: I’m a people person and I love meeting new people, helping people and learning as much as I can about various subjects. Are you looking at retiring someday in Ghana till you exit this world and why?

Nana Ama: I plan to retire in GH and that my mother and I wish to make it our home half of the year eventually as I move towards accomplishing more for our people in both countries and throughout the world. If I have anything else to add I hope it’ll be ok to let you know.

I’ve had a love for travel and for my ancestry and Africa at a very young age. Even my mother, who grew up in the Bronx, New York, had the same interests when she was younger. She was part of an African dance Troup and also had a talent in the arts as well as writing. Any shout out or credit to some personalities?

Nana Ama: My Aunts Tyrice Parker and Lillian Faison of the Bronx, New York; My cousins Michelle Cunningham, Darryl Cunningham and the rest; Rashid Salifu of Takoradi, Kwame Afrifah based in Atlanta Georgia, Fred Oteng Ofori of the Ghana Police Service.

Star Edwards of Alabama, who is just one of the many African-Americans who loves our homeland Ghana just as much as I do; Ashley Smith of Baltimore, Maryland; Denise Mathias of Brooklyn, New York. And last but not least, I’d like to give shout outs to Kwame Owusu Bright of the Kwaku area (but raised in Dansoman Accra), Joseph Mensah also known as Nana Yaw of Mamprobi Accra, Mr. Otoo, CEO of Capital 02 All Natural Herbal Company for their friendship and love.


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