Kwaw Ansah

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Kwaw Ansah
Born 1941
Agona Swedru, Ghana
Education Regent Street London Polytechnic, American Academy of Dramatic Arts
Occupation filmmaker, theater designer, dramatist,music composer
Years active 1964-present

Kwaw Paintsil Ansah (born 1941) is an award-winning Ghanaian film-maker, whose work as writer, director or producer includes Love Brewed in the African Pot in 1981 and Heritage Africa in 1989.[1][2][3][4][5] His first feature, Love Brewed in the African Pot, earned an immediate popular and critical acclaim throughout English-speaking Africa. Despite all the awards and the success, it would be nearly ten years before Ansah could complete his next major film project, the ambitious Heritage Africa (1989). Yet again, the film was widely acclaimed and awarded. Since then, Ansah has limited his film work to documentaries, with Crossroads of People, Crossroads of Trade (1994). Ansah is a crusader for African filmmaking and dramatic art, working ceaselessly for improved funding and distribution of African films within Africa. He has been chairman of FEPACI and a leader in the direction of FESPACO. In 1998, Kwaw Ansah was awarded the Acrag Prize, the Living Legend Award for Contribution to the Arts of Ghana.[6]

Early life[edit]

Kwaw Paintsil Ansah was born in 1941 in Agona Swedru, Ghana. His mother was a trader, and his father a photographer (as well as a painter, musician, and dramatist). After his initial schooling at an Anglican mission school, he studied for his O Levels in the capital city of Accra, while working as a textile designer at the United Africa Company.[7] Ansah as expressed enormous gratitude for his success and development as a filmmaker to his father a trained photographr. Although his father wanted him to engage in his own trade of photography, the young Ansah having discovered his talent in drawing and painting, had other options.[8]


From 1961 to 1963 he was enrolled in London's Regent Street Polytechnic, where he obtained a diploma in theater design. Following his education in England, he studied in the U.S, graduating from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and the American Music and Drama Academy from 1963 to 1965.[8]


Upon his return to Ghana in 1965, Ansah was able to find commercial work in film and television. He worked for two years as a production assistant and set designer for the Ghana Film Industry Corporation, and also made commercials for Lintas advertising agency in Accra. He went on to found his own advertising firm, Target Advertising Services, in 1973. He continues to do commercial advertising work (his company is now called Target Saatchi & Saatchi Ltd), which, he says, "pays the bills." One of his television commercials won him a New York-based CLIO Award in 1989.

Along with his commercial work, Ansah continued his engagement with the world of theater and the arts. Soon after his return to Ghana he became an executive member of the Ghana Drama Association and the Ghana Association of Writers, and an officer of the Film Guild of Ghana. His play Mother's Tears was performed at the Drama Studio in Accra in 1967, and was instantly successful. It would later be reprised at the Accra Arts Centre in 1973, and then in 1991, and at the National Theatre in 1995.[7]

Love Brewed in the African Pot[edit]

Ansah founded his film production company, Film Africa Limited, in 1977, and began work on the project that would become Love Brewed in the African Pot (1980). It was an immediate popular success throughout English-speaking Africa, beating all previous attendance records for a film by an African director, while at the same time earning critical acclaim and respect. The film earned awards world-wide, including the prestigious Omarou Ganda Prize, for "most remarkable direction and production in line with African realities" at the seventh Pan-African Film Festival (FESPACO),the first to be awarded a film from an Anglophone country; the UNESCO Film Award in France, and the Jury's Special Silver Peacock Award, "For a Genuine and Talented Attempt to Find a National and Cultural Identity" at the 8th International Film Festival of India.[7]

Heritage Africa[edit]

Despite all the awards and the success, it would be nearly ten years before Ansah could complete his next major film project, the ambitious Heritage Africa (1989). Ansah faced the enormous challenges that are the bane of filmmakers in Africa. Making the film was one long struggle to find the money and corral the necessary resources. As was the case with Love Brewed, he had his hand in nearly all aspects of the film's production—even writing the theme music for the two films, along with directing, writing, and producing. However, it was the logistical challenges that were most overwhelming. It was an exhausting, even debilitating process. He emerged from the experience with his health seriously compromised, but with an impressive, widely-acclaimed film. Heritage Africa won the grand prize at FESPACO in 1989 (again, the first from an Anglophone country), the Organization for African Unity's Best Film Award, Outstanding Film Award at the 1989 London Film Festival, and numerous others.[7]

Crossroads of People, Crossroads of Trade[edit]

Ansah's documentary Crossroads of Trade, Crossroads of People, made for the Ghana Museum and Monuments Board and sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution, now runs continuously in Cape Coast Castle, as part of a rather controversial effort to rehabilitate/renovate the slave forts and castles.[6][7][9]


  1. ^ "Kufuor Raises Thumb For Kwaw Ansah". Modern Ghana. 19 September 2013. Retrieved 19 December 2013. 
  2. ^ "Kwaw Ansah Bounces Back With New Movie". Modern Ghana. 9 September 2013. Retrieved 19 December 2013. 
  3. ^ "Kwaw Ansah’s new film premieres tomorrow | Entertainment News". Retrieved 19 December 2013. 
  4. ^ Odidi, Billie. "Kwaw Ansah pillories false prophets and messiahs". Daily Nation. Retrieved 19 December 2013. 
  5. ^ "A Ghanaian filmmaker's take on how churches get rich". BBC News. Retrieved 19 December 2013. 
  6. ^ a b "Heritage Africa Synopsis". 
  7. ^ a b c d e Rebrow, Michael. "Kwaw P. Ansah". Portland Community College. 
  8. ^ a b Ukadike, Nwachukwu (2002). Questioning African Cinema: Conversations with Filmmakers. University of Minnesota Press. p. 3. 
  9. ^ Anyidoho, Lauer, Kofi, Helen (2012). Reclaiming the Human Sciences and Humanities Through African Perspectives, Volume 2. African Books Collective. p. 1166.