The cultural curator defying gendered limitations
Pamm S is leading the way for female-minded culture in Accra. Combining her roles in creative strategy and event coordination, everything Pamm does is with the intention of influencing and impacting culture. From exhibitions to panel discussions, audio residencies to educational pleasure circles, Pamm S is transforming the city's access to female-focused projects.
While in Accra, Ghana, we had the chance to sit down with Pamm S and discuss her journey of moving to the city and carving a career for herself by uplifting others. Listen to the full podcast or read on to hear more.
Pamm welcomes us into the Kitty Palace with a warm smile, wearing an outfit that screams Sass! Corset, patterned stockings, and her distinctive pink framed glasses, Pamm exudes a professional vibe cushioned between joy and kindness. "I get my style from my mum", she tells us, "plus I love sitting on the floor so wearing stockings means I can be free and not worry about anything being on show". As we get comfy, stockinged legs crossed, Pamm starts to tell us about her relationship to being her liberated self and how it's become a driving force behind many of the people and projects she gets involved with.
When I moved away, to a place with a clean slate, and realised people still feel the need to box you in...that felt wildly outrageous to me. Everything I've done since then has been to figure out how to change that
Asides from her serious motivation to support female narratives and creatives, she tells us that "I do everything with a singular vision of [asking] in the future what will this look like or in our present how does this feel". Having moved to Accra in 2013 on a whim, Pamm explains how "everything I was trying to leave behind was even worse here. I grew up in a small community and I was trying to get away from that to find my independence. When I moved away to a place with a clean slate, and realised people still feel the need to box you in...that felt wildly outrageous to me. Everything I've done since then has been to figure out how to change that".
Alongside being a cultural curator, Pamm has launched an organisation called Jane Can Do "I like to think of Jane Can Dp as LinkedIn for creative women and non-binary people in Africa because for the longest time, we haven't been included in the conversation." In this way, Pamm is driven by a passion to listen and create space for what often gets sidelined "When things come easily for you, you don't consider the people on the margins.... But when we center and listen to women and people who are not within the traditional statuses of our society, that is when we get to see all the things that are wrong."
I think of Jane Can Do as LinkedIn for creative women and non-binary in Africa because for the longest time, we haven't been included in the conversation
When asking Pamm what influenced this mindset that she fosters today, she explains how, growing up in a busy household with many cousins around her, she had to build an approach to life that was both aware of others, as well as focusing on her own needs and priorities. "You can't pour from an empty cup...and because of the way I was raised by tolerant people, I can make room to accommodate as many people in my heart as possible, as well as taking my time to go through the day and be with myself". This is something that has shaped Pamm's perspective on life, creating a balance of prioritising rest alongside her busy life.
Digging into Pamm's past, she tells us about her love for powerpuff girls and the example they set to her of how you can be sweet and cute but also powerful and fight crime all at the same time."They showed me how you don't have to be perfect, that it's fun to do what you want. And I found that so inspirational." Alongside this is the feminist writer and activist Ama Ata Aidoo. "I love to read. Growing up, instead of toys, we had a library...I hadn't seen anyone write about women in the way Ama Ata Aidoo did." This shaped Pamm's mind subconsciously sparking questions about the gendered dynamics which, as a young girl, she would ask her father about. "I would worry him all the time [about laws and violence against women] and he was the first person to call me a feminist". This has now shaped Pamm's mindset and the legacy she wants to leave behind her, "I want people to remember me the way they remember Ama Ata Aidoo because you think about her and you smile because she's such a big personality, her writings are so spot on and she's so outspoken. When people think of me, I'd like them to think of me that way."
I want people to remember me the way they remember Ama Ata Aidoo because you think about her and you smile because she's such a big personality, her writings are so spot on and she's so outspoken.
Having joined the Black Girls Glow collective four years ago, founded by author/poet/musician Ama Asantewa Diaka, Pamm explains how the focus of BGG is to support women with an interest in audio creation. "The goal is for people who are interested in working in sound to create and collaborate...You tell us what you want and we create space for you to explore that". By working as a community, Pamm explains that the foundation of BGG's development had been revolutionary for her. "Up until then, I hadn't considered a business from the point of 'we need this'. I'd only known that businesses were supposed to make money. But to start a business from a place of 'I wish I had that, so I'm gona do that' was surreal for me".
This mindset has continued to have a huge impact on the way Pamm works today. She tells us how the Black Girls Glow residency runs for 7 days, getting the participants to create an album within the week. This approach to fast-paced production has taught Pamm how to embrace a solution-focused mindset. "When there's a problem, I think what do I have to solve this problem so I don't have to overextend myself". It's thanks to BGG and this community mindset that Pamm's focus is on how to "learn from each other, borrow and listen and adapt and adjust". This also makes Pamm conscious of being around friends and collaborators "who are authentic. It helps us see when people are the opposite."
To start a business from a place of 'I wish I had that, so I'm gonna do that' was surreal for me
When discussing the disparities Pamm experiences when working with men, she explains how "It's always living on edge, questioning if you belong in the room. So whenever I step into a place or I'm offered the opportunity to create, I think of it from that perspective - where do I feel safe". This mindset has been influenced by Pamm's belief that feminism is about ethics and care, about boundary setting, and that "if things cannot be fixed, we should break them down... the joy of feminism is being allowed to know its ok to say I don't feel welcome here. Either make we feel welcome or I'll leave". This attitude also feeds Pamm's interpersonal relationships, being aware of her friendship circles and how to surround herself with safe people.
I strongly believe that feminism is about boundary setting, it's about acknowledging that things are not ok... and if those things cannot be fixed, we should break them down.
One of the many projects we admire Pamm for is her educational pleasure circles. This informative approach to helping others connect with their bodies and sensuality is hugely importance, particularly for those denied safe, open spaces to discuss and explore their sexuality. This comes hand in hand with Pamm's own desire to have complete agency in her life and her decisions. She explains how "I want to be free to make as many mistakes as I want and that all things are possible for me to do. I also know that it's in those moments that we can ask ourselves - is it enough, can I stop now? You can never know that unless you have the complete freedom to do it". Having grown up in a society where even being different is a crime, the freedom to choose comes with risks. And so "the day I have the freedom to choose what to do, who to love, where to go, how to dress up and not be afraid, that day I feel like I have achieved something". This reflects the societal pressure that surrounds Pamm and her ability to empathise with others because of it. "It helps me be a better producer, a better facilitator. When I run my pleasure workshops, I have to remember that everyone comes with a different mindset from different backgrounds. So how do we make everyone feel welcome and accommodate a space where everyone feels validated? It helps me be a better producer, a better facilitator."
The day I have the freedom to choose what to do, who to love, where to go, how to dress up and not be afraid, that day I will feel like I have achieved something
We end the conversation by discussing what helps Pamm step into her Sassy side. She tells us how fashion and music are big outlets for her liberated self-expression, explaining how provocative lyrics allow her to be angry and air feelings that are often repressed. "When Beyonce pulls up in 'Hold up' I'm just like YES, break something!". Carrying this energy, Pamm is now leaning towards being obnoxious and getting her flowers, countering her natural trait of not wanting attention. "It's me saying to myself, I value the work you do and I value the person you are and it's ok for other people to value it too. I don't think I've heard that a lot in my life". As we take our leave from the Kitty Palace, holding onto Pamm's words with fondness, we watch and applaud the continual work she's doing; certain of the positive, life-changing ripple effect her work will have on the community within Accra and beyond.
When do you feel most confident?
When I feel sexy
What key experience has shaped you positively?
One dream you wish to come true?
Owning a cat cafe
One law you'd like to change?
Policy for the creative arts sector - imagine if you're a queer person making queer art in a homophobic country - one day I'm going to be in those rooms making decisions because I'm tired of old men making decisions
Best thing about being you?
I'm happy - It's not always easy but I always find a reason to be happy
Interview and portraits by Bethany Burgoyne @bxsassy2