Spokane links with Ghana, West Africa
Mmofra means “children” in one of the major languages of Ghana, West Africa. Spokane-based nonprofit Friends of Mmofra shares with its international partner organization Mmofra Foundation, a mission to promote culture, play and site stewardship for the benefit of children within community.
This year the nonprofit will focus on two projects with its partner in Ghana, Mmofra Foundation: the continued restoration and public use of the Willis Bell Photo Archive, and advocacy for the purposeful design of open, urban playspace. Images of children in Ghana from the archive serve as the meaningful intersection between these projects.
“While there have been decades-long business, educational and church links between Ghana and Spokane, Friends of Mmofra represents an era of fresh and mutually rewarding engagement with a part of the world we are far more likely to think about in terms of charity rather than parity”, states the organization’s president Amowi Phillips, adjunct professor and cultural consultant, in a presentation at the March 2012 TEDxStGeorgesSchool forum. (See bio below.) The nonprofit has spearheaded innovative approaches to voluntary service with student groups in a number of area institutions including Gonzaga Law School, Mead High School, Spokane Falls Community College, St Georges School and Whitworth University.
The Willis Bell Photo Archive contains the work of ex-patriated American Willis E. Bell (1924-1999). He was a leader in documentary and commercial photography in Ghana in the 20 years after its independence from Great Britain. Selections from the archive were shown in Spokane in May 2012. There is a regional connection through Bell’s father, William Bell of Moscow, Idaho. The Bell parents were missionaries in Burma where the photographer was born, and later in India. Willis Bell was educated at Woodstock School, India, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy and Yale University. He traveled widely before settling in Ghana.
The Bell archive is the first in a new series of catalogues from a unique collection of historic black and white photographs of Ghana taken between the 1950’s and 1970’s. They constitute a compelling visual medium through which Friends of Mmofra intends to spark positive cultural engagement in both the Pacific Northwest and West African communities.
Amowi Phillips was born in Ghana, where she worked as a lawyer, an advocate for women and children and a developer of creative content for children through the cultural non-profit Mmofra Foundation (mmofra means “children”). As an adjunct professor at Whitworth University, she has developed unique ways of interpreting and connecting Africa to both the college classes she teaches and the community at large. Her creative collaborations linking Ghana and the Spokane community include two children’s audio-books, the reclamation of a historic photographic archive, and an innovative approach to virtual volunteering with students. She is president of the Spokane-based nonprofit Friends of Mmofra which connects youth to community space and culture. Currently, she leads the Playtime in Africa Initiative, a project which is pioneering the design of child-centered spaces in Ghana’s capital city, Accra, through local and global collaboration.
Friends of Mmofra contact information
Contacts: Jennifer Compau, (509) 475 2454 / Amowi Phillips (509) 464 0296 / Barbara Loste (509) 869 8880