Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Umbrella, the Elephant and the Rest

Driving through the streets of Accra, it is obvious the election fervor is at its peak. With less than two weeks to go, the two dominant political party, NDC & NPP, are pulling all the stops to win on December 7th. The radio in the car is tuned to 103.5 FM Agoo FM….a station that primarily features political talk shows and Rush Limbaugh comes to mind. Without being as abrasive or polarizing Agoo FM, does give you a heavy dose of opinionated politics. Hours after listening to the station, if you aren't an ardent fan of Mahama or Akuffo Addo (depending on which party's segment) you'll, at the bare minimum, find yourself reciting their credentials from hearing it on repeat. Like that nursery rhyme you're surprised to find you know the words to from hearing your niece or nephew recite over and again…NPP: "Free Senior High School (SHS)", NDC: "Working for You", "Free SHS", "Working for You", "Free SHS", "Working for You"…as if, like the political campaign suggests, the two should be mutually exclusive.

The billboards, posters and grass roots political movements are perhaps the more interesting indicators who the fore-runners in the elections are. The oft used phrase: to get to the bottom of something, follow the money, can be applied in this situation as well.

Accra Tema Motorway photo credit: emmanuel gamor

 Which party has the financial capacity to actually garner enough votes for the presidential elections? And which party is shrewdly financing their respective campaigns to translate to wins? These are questions I will be seeking answers to this week. From a layman's perspective, the battle is between the National Democratic Congress and the New Patriotic Party.

Vuvuzelas have been employed by the NPP. photo credit: emmanuel gamor

 The allegiances are most pronounced in locales with strong allegiances to either party but across the streets of Accra there is a 5 minute reminder, car poster, radio advert, painted face in party colors, to vote for Nana Akuffo Addo's "Free SHS" or John Mahama's "Working For You" mantras. Regardless of what the nationally televised and online streaming presidential debates would have you believe, it is truly a competition between two dominant political parties.

Allegiance to political parties are not just ethnic, in college I explored the correlation to ethnic parties during the 2004 elections(exclusive Ewe support for the NDC & unwavering Ashanti support for the NPP) as a research project, though these allegiances loosely hold true there is so much that more that determines political affiliation in 2012 Ghana. Businessmen and women, especially businesswomen who have expert proficiency in navigating the informal Ghanaian economy (the kiosks in front of registered retail stores, the hand off and exchange of currency that is not formally as part of the country's GDP) are the ones who make politics in Ghana interesting. Depending on their past business experience during a particular party's tenure their support is amplified by their business forecasts for future success. Voting thus becomes one of the most important business investment for the next four years. The more conniving investors find ways to benefit regardless of who is in power and show blatant support for one party and encourage a close family member/business partner to showcase blatant support for the other. Flip-flopping between political party isn't tolerated however, and you would rather lose during a 4/8 year cycle and benefit when your party comes to power than to be perceived as an obvious opportunist. As if most Ghanaians aren't that: polite opportunists with broad welcoming smiles.

2012 Presidential Candidates photo credit: Electoral Commission Ghana

 My family is strategically well placed. On my Ewe father's side, the family ties to the NDC government have been beneficial as aunts and cousins have moving anecdotes of how they have personally benefited from the government "working for you". One being married to a past minister of agriculture makes the case pretty obvious. On my Fanti mother's side, the allegiance has always been to the NPP government with my first voting experience during the 1998 elections giving "the elephant" my approval. I was secretly snuck into the voting booth and told my mom to pick the elephant "Kukurudu, Eshi! Rado Rado!" It also helped that my uncle received a diplomatic appointment as an ambassador when NPP was in power. And where does that leave me? As a Political Scientist turned Journalist I'm a moderate, voting on issues rather than having a blanket support for either party. I enjoyed vetting Obama's Democrats and Romney's Republicans and exploring the issues to push each side to better serve me/us/the world. In Accra it isn't just about the colors, chants, ethnic affiliations, or whom either one of my parents support, but who best serves my interests this election cycle. After all I'm Ghanaian, an opportunist with a broad welcome smile.

 Mosquito Claps: As a kid I used to try to kill mosquitoes by capturing them between my palms with a loud clap. This practice is not uncommon in tropical regions and especially in Ghana. The hashtag #mosquitoclaps however indicates a new post about my thoughts, experiences and observations in Accra on this blog.


Three Generations of Gamor

I started this blog to showcase my growth & development as a photographer, then to showcase my work as a multimedia journalist. Despite my initial inclination to remain very private about all other issues, 2012 taught me one important lesson: that I am the testimony and it is in sharing the challenges, immense struggles, interspersed with the triumphs & "pretty" stories that I will be able to truly share how good God's been to me. By doing so, I hope inspire someone else in turn. It isn't easy every day; I don't always make it out smiling everyday; I won't get to post on here every day, but when I do, it will always be worth your while, promise.

 Right from the airport, my father's significant other let me know that we were going to drop off my stuff at the house and quickly rush to Korle-Bu Hospital. My father had been sent there this morning for dialysis treatment and needed to be picked up shortly after. Mentally I had tried preparing myself, but nothing really prepares you to see a loved one who's been in and out of a coma, with failed kidneys, diabetes, asthma and now, the inability to take care of themselves independently. I'd imagined it, I had thought of it, but to me, my father was still the same sprightly person I saw almost a decade ago. I'm a workaholic with nocturnal tendencies, I multitask, a lot. All these traits, I get from my dad. To think that my father couldn't be his usual self baffled me.

I was grateful that as I walked into the hospital ward, an overwhelming peace washed over me; I couldn't help but smile the entire time. Internally though, I was shocked when I saw my dad's shriveled frame. I'm a decent 170 pounds, 6 foot 2 inches. My father is over 6ft tall and now, weighs 50-60 pounds less than I do…. It felt like I was having an out-of-body experience, I asked a friend to record the first encounter on video so that in private I could allow myself to breakdown and cry. A part of me initially wanted to, but an overwhelming strength and sense of comfort enveloped me. All I could do was to offer smiles and reassurances for my father whose sunken cheeks, enlarged left arm and frail frame still hinted at the swag I once knew him for: the confident gait, the infectious smile, the roaring voice, the genuine sense of concern for others. Now he needed that from me. I didn't, couldn't disappoint.
His reactions were first of disbelief, then recognition, he was overwhelmed and began to cry. I hate to admit it, but he also felt embarrassed. While I had grown almost 2 feet taller and stronger since we last met, he'd shrunk significantly. Knowing him, I fully understood. I empathized as I wouldn't want to reunite with my last child (yes I have two older siblings, out there…somewhere), to be this way. But I was overflowing with joy and love for this man. I caught myself lifting up my chin, consciously conferring dignity to be in his presence, transferring my energy to him and reassuring him that there is nothing, absolutely nothing, to be embarrassed about. By God's grace he'd cheated death: stuck in an ambulance in a coma en route from 37 military hospital to Korle-Bu for 11 hours... oh Ghana. He was my hero, he still is. And I am proud of him.

I was taught the procedure of carrying him out of his bed and into his wheel chair, learned that his vast vocabulary (my father is multilingual and spoke: French, German, English, Haussa, Ga, Akan, Ewe with relative ease) had now been reduced to one word "No" for when he was in pain. All this left me in disbelief. At home, 5 hours later, I was humbled and walked into his master bedroom at his house - now my bedroom - as he'd been relocated to the guest room on the ground floor, in tears. To all  who contributed to my IndieGoGo campaign,  and in turn my trip back to Accra, and gave me enormous emotional and prayer support: I will be sending the private video recording of us reuniting. The gratitude in father's eyes expresses how thankful we both are, more than any of my words ever could.
As I rolled my suitcases into the master bedroom, I noticed a new picture I had never seen before. A picture of my grandfather, my father's father (of whom my father had never spoken of) in a suit and bow-tie, very dapper. On another side of the wall was a painting of my father, in a suit and tie, in his prime (a painting by Sami Adohudep circa 1996). Swiping the tears from my eyes to smile at our collective resemblance and yet distinctive smiles, I felt compelled to make a collage and include myself as a third generation Gamor:
I stand, on the shoulder of giants.
 Mosquito Claps: As a kid I used to try to kill mosquitoes by capturing them between my palms with a loud clap. This practice is not uncommon in tropical regions and especially in Ghana. The hashtag #mosquitoclaps however indicates a new post about my thoughts, experiences and observations in Accra on this blog.


Friday, November 23, 2012

What I do - An Info Graphic

Emmanuel A. Gamor Resume (Visual) I'm back in my neck of my woods, at my father's house in one of the neighborhoods I grew up in (Airport residential area Accra, Ghana). I'm excited about all the opportunities my native country has to offer. Alternating between website construction and updates for [rgp] (presidential elections are about 2 weeks away...) I created this visual version of my professional resume. Always wanted an out-of-the-box way to turn creative info graphics concept to showcase some of my strengths!


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

See ya Later's & [rgp]

Friends and well-wishers at my last 2012 DC shindig, my next project & a new chapter in my life There will be photo, audio, video updates on here soon. This blog will see a revamp as itp85 shares share the love with [rgp] & TNG. Photography courtesy of Maxine Naawu.


Friday, November 9, 2012

Testing 1, 2.

Over the past couple of weeks I hosted an IndieGoGo campaign for a multi-media newsite I am incredibly excited about Besides the Ghanaian presidential elections in December, the newsite will discuss leadership and civic issues through a social justice lens. It will be the culmination of what I've learned in school, practiced in the field and look to explore multi-media journalism in Ghana & sub-saharan Africa.
Thanks to the campaign I was able to upgrade my DSLR camera from the d80 & a nikon d7000. Here's a test shot of candid moments in Chinatown, Washington DC. To capturing details and memorable moments in motion. #itp85 #rgp