Meet Elikem Nutifafa Kuenyehia: Founder Of The Kuenyehia Prize For Contemporary Art

Elikem Nutifafa Kuenyehia

The Kuenyehia Trust for Contemporary Art whose flagship programme is the Kuenyehia Prize for Contemporary Art has helped put the spotlight on a number of Ghanaian artists such as Yaw Owusu, Comfort Arthur and others.

Some of the artists have benefited from Elikem Nutifafa Kuenyehia and his love for arts.

To get to know him better, here is an excerpt of a Q&A interview he granted to Virtual Career Office:

Tell us about yourself

Born at Korlebu. Attended Ridge Church School, followed by Achimota School. After O-level at Achimota, I started Ghana International School but disliked it so went back to Achimota for sixth form. Was a science student for O-level for the first part of sixth form (studying Biology, Physics and Chemistry), I just about managed a distinction at O-level. But A-level science was an entirely different ball game. I quickly realised that if I continued with science, I was destined for 4 F’s. So halfway through sixth form, to the disappointment of my parents, disapproval of my teachers and disbelief of my classmates, I switched from science to arts (Government, Economics, Literature in English, and the compulsory General Paper). One of the best decisions of my entire life. Instead of 4 F’s. I ended up with 4 A’s.

With a full scholarship, I studied jurisprudence at University of Oxford (Worcester College), after which I took the professional law course at University of Law (then College of Law) in London.

I enjoy reading (autobiographies, personal development mainly), writing (have a column ‘Celebrating Entrepreneurship’ in Graphic Business) and wrote a textbook on Ghanaian entrepreneurship “Kuenyehia On Entrepreneurship’. Currently writing my next book ‘Champagne Ambition, Beer Budget; Insights from bootstrapping and scaling an awesome African institution’. Also written occasionally for the UK publication African Business.

Public Speaking – highlight of my public speaking experience was giving the University of Ghana College of Humanities Commencement Address in November 2019. I also collect African art and I founded Kuenyehia Trust for Contemporary Art whose flagship programme is Kuenyehia Prize for Contemporary Art ( I enjoy local and international travel, watching movies and series (I binge-watch (not good!) series like Greenleaf, Pose, Sex Education)Entertaining, running, swimming, boxing, and working out generally are also some of my favourite hobbies.

Walk us through your early career journey (first 5 years)

Trained as a Solicitor at The City of London office of Travers Smith, a corporate and commercial mid-sized English law firm where I completed rotations in the banking, corporate, real estate and dispute resolution departments to qualify as a Solicitor of the Senior Courts of England & Wales.

I then moved to UK ‘magic circle firm’ Linklaters LLP where I specialised in international banking and finance, acting for clients such as Goldman Sachs, Arsenal Football Club and Barclays Bank. While at Linklaters, I was seconded to work as an in-house lawyer on the trading floor at Barclays Bank’s head office at Canary Wharf in London working with the Global Markets team.

I then left Linklaters to study for an MBA in Entrepreneurship, Finance and Marketing at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

What values/skills would you say you demonstrated in your early career journey that have contributed to your career success?

  • Intellectual curiosity
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Self-awareness resulting from introspection
  • Capacity for hard work
  • Authenticity

Did you always know you wanted to do what you are doing now?

I still don’t know what I want to do ‘when I grow up’ 🙂 

What were some of the mistakes you made on the career journey?

  • Joining the consumer strategy team at Diageo’s North American office, as Associate Brand Manager for Captain Morgan Rum. I made the decision for the wrong reason – prestige of working for a company like Diageo, the opportunity to live and work in New York City, the sign-on bonus, attractive compensation and perks. But I failed to listen to my instinct that working for one of the world’s largest producer of alcoholic beverages really was not what I wanted to, seeing that I do not drink alcohol.
  • Wearing my heart on my sleeve a little too much – so getting into unnecessary confrontation with my superiors.
  • Prioritising work to the detriment of all other aspects of my life.
  • Being too impatient for additional responsibilities instead of focusing on taking my time to learn and develop.
  • Not believing in my ability and being easily intimidated by my colleagues at Travers Smith and Linklaters.

If you had a minute to coach/advice a tertiary student about work readiness, what would it be?

  • Invest almost as much time in your social capital as you do in your academic work. You will soon forget most of the things you learn in your econometrics class. But the relationships you build with your classmates, lecturers, the guest speakers who come to class and your wider community will endure, last you a lifetime and will inevitably become a source of your professional and financial success, wellbeing and general satisfaction in life. So throw yourself into life on campus – join the student union, volunteer in the community, sing in the choir, try salsa or ballroom dancing– take as much advantage as you can of what university life has to offer both within the classroom and outside it.
  • Don’t be afraid to fail. Just be sure to reflect honestly on any failures to figure out what the lessons are.
  • When you start work, treat everybody you meet equally. The secretary or messenger can be almost as important to you getting most out of your professional life as the CEO.
  • Find yourself a mentor – someone who has had recent similar experience. For example a junior manager at a company you are considering and manage that mentoring relationship proactively. Don’t go contacting the CEO or some senior executive for mentoring. They don’t have the same recent similar experiences.

Source: Virtual Career Officer||

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