Otterbein Alumna Tells the Story of Black American and Ghanaian Womanhood in Documentary
Posted Jun 29, 2021
By Madelyn Nelson ’23
Claudia Owusu ’19 took her passion for filmmaking and turned it into a personal project to share stories of Ghanian girls and Black womanhood. Owusu is the director, writer, and producer — alongside her co-collaborators and associate directors Ife Oluwamuyide and Chinese Okpapaoka — of a documentary called Ampe Study; or Leap into the Sky, Black Girl.
The documentary highlights the story of Black womanhood through the lens of Black American and Ghanaian young women and a game called Ampe, a high-energy game played by children in Ghana, West Africa. Although it seems like a simple game with clapping, jumping, and cheering, it signifies much more.
Ampe can be played with any amount of people and requires no equipment, making it accessible for everyone. Each team has a leading player, referred to as the “mother,” who encourages the rest of their team. When thinking about how bold and daring Ghanaian girls are when playing Ampe, Owusu thought about those same girls as they live out every other part of their lives.
Owusu asked herself, “How come we’re not like this elsewhere? How come in Ampe, specifically, we’re so loud, confident, bold, and daring, yet in the workplace we’re more reserved and quiet? That opened the question of, ‘How long has it been since we were last girls? Since we’ve been silly, since we giggled, laughed, and joked around.’”
From that thought, Ampe Study; or Leap into the Sky, Black Girl was born.
Owusu and her contributors recently received the Big Ideas Grant from the Greater Columbus Arts Council to propel their film documentary forward through the pre-production phase of the project. They began working on the grant application in January, putting together the language for the film, drafting and editing before receiving the grant that will help their vision come to life.
“We believe Ampe Study; or Leap into the Sky, Black Girl is a big idea so we applied for the Big Idea grant,” said Owusu. “Getting the grant felt like an affirmation that this is not just in our eyes, but other people see this too,” said Owusu.
The grant will help with essential costs as the team prepares to shoot the film, but they are still working diligently to meet their fundraising goal to cover the full cost of the film.
“Our budget for the Indiegogo is $13,000 because we really want to compensate artists what they deserve, specifically the black artists that we’re working with and the artists in Ghana,” said Owusu. “The GCAC grant is going to help us with equipment, but we still need the rest of the money for our fundraiser in order to pay these artists.”
Owusu shared that hearing feedback from friends and family, Instagram followers, and even strangers has been encouraging to the team. Knowing that the audience sees the value in the story behind the film makes the hard work worth it.
“Sometimes you feel as if an idea is only in your mind, and then people affirm it and it makes it feel like this is where your supposed to be,” said Owusu.
Owusu explains that one of the main points for making this film is that it returns back to Columbus. “I think sometimes when films are about a specific community, they need to come back to the same people that they are about. So, that’s one of our main points for making this film, is that it returns back to Columbus.”
While at Otterbein, Owusu studied English creative writing with minors in film studies and race and ethnic studies. Outside the classroom, she was involved in the African American Student Union (AASU), Sigma Tau Delta, and Quiz and Quill. She also served as a peer mentor, a resident assistant, and NEST Mentor, sang in the gospel choir, and worked at the writing center.
Reflecting on her Otterbein experience, Owusu credits the English Department for pushing her to be multifaceted and encouraging students to find their strengths and grow in areas in which they are not as strong. In fact, Owusu’s film interest started her freshman year at Otterbein when she had the opportunity to create a piece for a symposium, and all she could imagine creating was a film.
“Overall, having the encouragement and the support of the English professors is what has gotten me to this point,” said Owusu. “Having them advocate for me, believe in me, and believe in my work and my curiosities. They taught me that experimentation is where the real learning is, as opposed to the end result. Even now, I’m not always aware of what lies ahead. The process of experimentation has become a little bit more comfortable.”
The team behind Ampe Study; or Leap into the Sky, Black Girl has worked extremely hard to see their film come to life, but the next fundraising steps are crucial to seeing the film on the big screen. By following Ampe Study on Instagram, interacting with their posts and sharing the film, anyone can help spread the word about this impactful project. The Instagram page features live videos with the directors, location scouting, general updates about the film, background information, a few film teasers, and will feature location shoots in the future. The shoot begins in Accra, Ghana, in August, followed by a shoot in Columbus, and the editing process before attending film festivals.