Felicia Ewuraesi Abban: Ghana’s First Female Photgrapher, Capturing Ghana’s Essence Through the Lens

In the rich tapestry of Ghana’s cultural heritage, one name stands out as a pioneer, a visionary whose lens not only captured moments but also preserved history for generations to come. Felicia Ewuraesi Abban, nee Ansah, holds the esteemed title of Ghana’s first professional female photographer, a trailblazer whose passion for her craft transcended gender barriers and societal expectations.

Born in 1936 in the coastal town of Saltpond, Felicia was her father’s apprentice – he was a photograph too. Fascinated by the magical process of capturing light and shadow, young Felicia embarked on a journey of self-discovery, honing her skills through trial and error, and immersing herself in the art of visual storytelling. She was the first child and the only daughter in a family of six children.

Against the backdrop of post-colonial Ghana, Felicia Ansah’s ascent in the male-dominated field of photography was nothing short of revolutionary. Armed with her trusty camera, she traversed the streets of Accra, captured the potraits of the country’s first president, Kwnme Nkrumah. She is dubbed to be the country’s first female photographer.

In 1954, Felicia Ansah’s talent and dedication caught the attention of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first president, who appointed her as the official photographer of the State House. This historic appointment not only catapulted Ansah into the national spotlight but also underscored the pivotal role of photography in shaping the narrative of a nascent nation.

Her potraits would have the emblematic clothing in them to visibly articulate a feminine identity that played with the traditional and contemporary in an artful hybridity described as urbane and trans-Atlantic. Ansah would go on to more female apprentices in her professional years and career. She would be described as one of Ghana’s earliest instrumental female photographers projecting the contemporary African narrative through the lens.

As Ghana embarked on its journey towards nation-building, Felicia Ansah’s lens became an indispensable tool in documenting the triumphs and tribulations of the young republic. Whether capturing the euphoria of independence celebrations or the solemnity of state functions, her photographs served as visual archives, preserving the collective memory of a nation in transition.

Beyond her official duties, Felicia Ansah’s passion for photography extended to her community, where she mentored aspiring photographers and advocated for greater inclusion of women in the field. Her pioneering spirit inspired a new generation of female photographers to defy stereotypes and pursue their artistic dreams with courage and conviction.

Abban photographed J. J. Rawlings, Ghana’s longest serving president, Marian Ackaah, the wife of Ghana’s first vice-president under the fourth republic, High-lifer Asabea Cropper, and former politician and now theologian Joyce Rosalind Aryee.