Joseph Akwasi
Hospitality as a Life Philosophy

When he’s traveling, filmmaker Joseph Akwasi feels liberated from prejudices and senses a deeper connection with his fellow humans. He journeys around the world with his eyes wide open, telling people about his homeland, Ghana.

“Traveling means freedom. I don’t just mean physical freedom. The mind needs to be free too.”

Although he laughs, he’s completely serious. Joseph, a man who exudes joie de vivre, comes from Ghana. Widely regarded as an African success story, this stunningly beautiful country is located in West Africa between Togo and Ivory Coast. It boasts unique tropical scenery and idyllic beaches that are perfect for relaxing and surfing. The people in Ghana are warm, friendly, and almost magically hospitable. Akwaaba (meaning “welcome”) captures the country’s philosophy in one word. Joseph has internalized this philosophy in his own special way.

Even when he was a little boy, Joseph was obsessed with traveling. First, he explored every corner of his own country. Then, following the trail of his idol, Nelson Mandela, he traveled to South Africa, where the country’s cultural diversity entranced him.

Joseph even cycled through the slums of Soweto, South Africa’s most famous township. Located in Johannesburg, Soweto is synonymous with black resistance during the apartheid era. There, Joseph visited Mandela House, which is dedicated to the president and iconic resistance leader.

“I’m Ghana from head to toe. The country and the people are just amazing. The old continent of Africa has so much to offer!”

However, it was an extraordinary experience in his home country that left an indelible mark on the young Joseph. The notorious “Door of No Return” is located in Cape Coast Castle in the south of Ghana. A long, dark corridor leads through the castle dungeons to an opening through which countless numbers of slaves were pushed, then shackled and shipped off.

When Joseph symbolically walked through the door, he was blinded by the sun and the salty spray from the waves crashing on the other side. He vowed to make the most of his freedom while always cherishing his return. And then he set off on his travels. His pictures capture his many moments of adventure.

Joseph finds it easy to talk to strangers, or “unfamiliar friends,” as he prefers to call them. “I mean, we’re all interesting in some way, we all want to share our experiences.” Sometimes it’s just a quick smile, sometimes it’s an in-depth discussion – but something always stays with him.

He documents his travels with his camera and shares the images on social media. Not many of his friends or family members are able to explore the world as he does. He’s conscious of how lucky he is.

The filmmaker came to the attention of the renowned Berlinale Film Festival, which showcased his work in its Young Talents category in Durban, South Africa. In 2017, Joseph took part in Jack Wolfskin’s successful GOBACKPACK social media campaign with a very personal contribution that made a lasting impression on the campaign’s initiators.

Joseph’s life long journey

“After every trip, every new project, I come back to Ghana. It’s important to have a home in life.”

When Joseph comes back from his exciting trips, he is always jubilantly welcomed. Kids get particularly excited about his return, knowing that in the evening, Joseph will provide detailed accounts – in both words and images – of the stories and adventures he experienced while he was away. Wide-eyed and stock-still, the little ones sit around Joseph, perhaps dreaming about the day when they too will be able to head off for adventures in distant lands. 

 When kids ask him what’s worth investing time in, he advises them to travel and explore the world. Because it doesn’t just broaden your horizons; it opens your heart.

“It’s important to be free of preconceived ideas. When you are free, you are open to new stories and new people.”