About

The goal is not only to save stories lost to the dying art of oral storytelling but also to inculcate a sense of cultural pride and confidence in the next generation.

What is Yenkassa?

Yenkassa means “Let’s Speak” in Twi, Akan language widely in West Africa. Yenkassa is a collaborative storytelling platform that seeks to preserve histories, customs, and traditions that would otherwise have been lost to the demise of oral storytelling traditions from Sub-Saharan Africa. Stories (video, audio, photographs, etc.) collected from the older generation is shared with the youth with the goal to create a global learning experience that encourages cross-cultural learning and inclusiveness.

 

Why this project?

In Africa, when an old person dies, it’s like a library going up in flames”_ Malian writer and ethnologist, Amadou Hampâté Bâ. This quote is synonymous with our mission to collect stories from older generation Africans. For Sub-Sahara Africans, it wasn’t the norm to write down their history they depended on oral storytelling traditions to pass information from one generation to the other. Over time, factors such as immigration, technology, and socio-economic challenges have contributed to the demise of oral storytelling. The younger generation whom these stories are intended for is distracted and disinterested in traditions/structures that facilitate oral storytelling. The storytellers are simply left without a platform and an audience so we are losing relevant information. Yenkassa’s goal is not to only save stories lost to the dying art of oral storytelling but also to inculcate a sense of cultural pride and confidence in the next generation. The vision is to engage learners across the globe with these stories—the more we learn about other cultures/societies the better we understand, respect, and peacefully co-exist.

 

How do we do it?

Yenkassa employs some of the same modern technological tools that have contributed to the demise of oral storytelling traditions. Stories/information is collected via 1st person (video, audio) interviews, online user submissions, photography, image scans, etc. 

Matey Odonkor (Executive Director)

Matey Odonkor is a User Experience and Visual Designer whose work involves bridging cultural gaps by employing a diverse range of design tools, innovative media technology, and social interaction networks. He holds a BFA in Graphic Design from Massachusetts College of Art (Massart), an MFA in Digital Media from Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), and a Collegiate Teaching Certificate from Brown University Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning. He is the recipient of various awards including Presidential Scholar at both Massart and RISD.

He is the co-founder of Ghana ThinkTank, an international network of think tanks from 3rd world countries solving problems for the developed world. His work includes installations such as Nervana (RISD), Unfamiliar Voices (Rhode Island Convention Center). He has collaborated on projects such as OptiLife (Microsoft Design Challenge, Seattle, WA), and Ionic Wallpaper (Martha Stewart Living/RISD/ICFF, NY). Matey has worked in various design capacities for some of the most prestigious companies and organizations such as EMC2, PBS/WGBH Educational Foundation, Fidelity Investments, Athenahealth, and the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund.

Collaborators

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Yenkassa's Growing Team of Contributors
Miranda Harple
Filmmaker
Ephraim Jojo Asiedu
Photographer
Eyetsa Lorraine
Historian (African Culture & Society)
Yaw Pare
Photo Journalist