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Jake Amo: Ghanaian toddler breaks the internet

3 November 2016

During October, various internet photo memes popped up featuring a Ghanaian toddler absorbed in his art work. The boy became a viral sensation across social networks in South Africa, and now the full, inspirational story behind the photo has been revealed.

According to This is Africa, the original 2015 photo of the boy, Jake Amo, was taken by American photographer Carlos Cortes. Cortes was in the country, following renowned Ghanaian artist Solomon Adufah, who was returning to his home country after growing up in the US.

The two visited a pre-school in the village of Asempanaye, in the Koforidua region, as part of Adufah's project to promote art classes in Ghanaian schools, where the image of Jake was taken.

Adufah shared one of Cortes's photos on Instagram in January 2016, to help to promote his project. But it was only in September and October that South African internet users took to remixing the photo into comic memes.

But it's not all about the laughs. Thanks to the popularity of the meme and the story behind it, people have started to contribute to Adufah's art initiative, Homeland Ghana, raising more than $4 000 within 48 hours for art education in and art supplies for Ghanaian schools.

While initially surprised and somewhat apprehensive by the popularity of the Jake meme, Adufah told the BBC he was happy that it had inspired the world to find out more about his home country and to contribute to the Homeland Ghana project. He said: "This money could make a huge difference to the kids this could be something really positive going forward."

The memes range from tongue-in-cheek observations on local politics and social absurdities to references to other popular culture. Most are light-hearted and respectful of the image of the young Ghanaian boy.

Speaking fondly of the time he spent with the children at the school, Adufah recently addressed the online popularity of the photo on his Instagram profile, along with new photo of Jake.

In the post, he writes "everyone say hi to my buddy Jake. (These were) moments in Ghana during my art workshop with the kids. Each kid received brand new set of crayons, pencil colours, pencils, toys and other wonderful goodies. The expressions on their faces were heartfelt."

Adufah will be returning to Ghana in 2017 with his Homeland Ghana project, where he will continue to work with the children, while providing resources for their art classes. His ultimate goal, he says, is an art school and community centre that will inspire children to follow their artistic dreams.

Meanwhile, Jake, who has just turned four, is apparently still unaware of his online fame and is much more interested in continuing with his drawing.

Source: This is Africa

SouthAfrica.info reporter

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jake amo carlos cortes  meme, jake amo, Ghana, twitter, Solomon AdufahJake Amo, the Ghanaian toddler photographed by Carlos Cortes in 2015, has inspired not only a host of online memes on South African Twitter, but has also sparked a crowdfunding initiative to get art supplies to schools in Ghana. (Image: Solomon Adufah)

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