September 18, 2020

Art of the Zodiac: ‘Tafari Stevenson-Howard’s Change Of “Home” – From Detroit To Ghana And Back’

Sankofa Mind and Body

I’ve been wanting to share my full story of my Ghana trip from spring 2020 since I arrived back in the US. It was so much to process! Fortunately for me, I was recently interview by my friend CV Henriette for Acronym Official who dug deep into my experiences that lead me to GHANA!

The piece is beautifully written and sent me back in time thinking about where I came from up through today!

Art of the Zodiac

‘As Covid-19 prepares for its Great American breakout tour, Detroit-based artist and healer, Tafari Stevenson-Howard, boards a plane to Ghana to continue a journey started a year earlier in Brazil, where he spent of a month traveling between the cities of Salvador Bahia and Rio de Janeiro.

It’s a winding tale that peaks with a haunting vision and breaks off with some ominous advice and a giant crystal, before finally bringing him home—to a country he’s known his whole life and another he’s always remembered. Out of a powerful trip, Sankofa Passport is born, and a small business is launched during a time of global unrest and financial chaos.

This is the story of how a Detroit-based flight attendant turned healthcare worker turned photographer who becomes a curator and importer of West African goods—literally overnight.


On the edge of winter, coming off Valentine’s day, I stepped into Tafari’s home for the first time. The occasion is an all-night sound immersion—or sound bath—that takes place in his finished basement, lending a sort of high school party to the evening. Which is extra special, considering this is a group of mostly thirty and forty somethings.

If you’re not familiar with the sound bath concept, it’s pretty much how it sounds.Tafari, plays a combination of crystal and metal Tibetan singing bowls, while a group of people lie before him in the corpse position, eyes closed, bathed in waves of sound. Think combination yoga class-slumber party, with the perfect amount of blankets and pillows.

And if that sounds like the dumbest thing ever, allow me to clarify: you’re wrong. It’s fucking delightful. The experience can be best described along a spectrum of ‘Whoa. Where did I go?!” to “Wow! That was a refreshing nap.” Plus, Tafari always provides snacks at the end. Tonight it’s a home cooked meal of stuffed tater tots with black beans, onions and peppers, topped with cotija cheese, avocado and cilantro.

In addition to sound healer, Tafari’s a devoted father of two, a seasoned yoga practitioner and a professional photographer. And a damn fine chef.

Right now, he’s standing over a hot stove, recalling a crazy week of photoshoots and extra shifts as a substitute teacher. In a few weeks, he departs for Africa. It’s his first trip to the continent, and he’s got a lot to pack in.

The night’s sound bath goes extra deep with some magic plant fortification, cleansing chakras and psyches. It finishes with a revival meal at 2am of arguably the most crispiest, most delicious tater tots ever. Guests pop into the kitchen for seconds and thirds, before falling back into their respective sections of the living room, drowsy and satiated.

The clock strikes 3am. Some will crash here. Others will make their way home, sooner, hopefully, than later.


Tafari provides sound healing during plant ceremonies, specifically ayahuasca and rapè.

“It was during an ayahuasca ceremony that I had a vision,” Tafari tells me.

“The vision initially was me rocking. I either was rocking, or I felt like I was rocking. There was this movement going on with my body. It didn’t feel voluntary—at all…I was just moving.

“As I was going through this experience, everything within my mind’s vision had a red film over it. Next thing you know, I’m starting to see black bodies—stacked. Then I see black women, all red—they’re black, but they’re red. And it became very clear: I’m on a slave ship.
I’m surrounded by my ancestors.

“There was never talking. I just saw these still bodies and these still faces of black women. At that point, I’m like, ‘Okay, I’m in a full trip right now. I’m going to let this process.’ But that theme continued to carry—of ancestors and movement.”

Tafari’s in a sweat lodge when his third eye blows open and he starts having “very vivid visions.” This time a native man comes to him and just stares him in the face.

“I felt my soul. It was so piercing and beautiful—something I had never experienced or felt before. I was extremely overcome with emotions.”

A few days later, enroute from Salvador Bahia to Rio, his friend Florian’s driving him to the airport when he out-of-nowhere asks Tafari if his third eye opened in the sweat lodge. Which is strange because Tafari hadn’t shared either vision—the women or the man—with anyone.

There’s a pause in their conversation and then Tafari starts to cry.

“I couldn’t stop,” Tafari says. “The tears were just flowing through me like a river, about the two experiences. And I said ‘I need to go back to Africa.’ And when I say go back, I mean from an ancestral point. I’ve never been to Africa, but really, I had to go back to Africa.”

As Tafari’s steps out of the car, Florian hands him a necklace and says “You will go home. When you go home, I want you to wear this necklace.”

This necklace is made of red coral beads from Ghana and was a gift from a mutual friend to Florian. Now it’s Tafari’s turn to receive its medicine.

“It was like a fucking movie. I put the necklace on. I’m walking into the terminal with my two bags. Tears are still coming down my eyes.”


Tafari follows his paternal line to Nigeria. That’s the destination. His first stop’s a conversation with a friend in Ghana. His advice? Come here. Nigeria is an eight-hour drive. We’ll make it a road trip.

“So I got my Ghanaian visa, I got my yellow fever shot. I got my malaria pills, and a plan was made.”

He reaches out to a few yoga studios to see about doing sound mediation, and Bliss Yoga Accra reaches back immediately: the second oldest studio in the country. He makes plans to speak with the owner, Nana the next day.

“We talked as if we had been friends forever. I had a beautiful conversation. She welcomed me with open arms, asked me what I wanted to do. I told her, and she said, let’s do it. There was never a question. Yeah, she just said, let’s do it.

From there, everything started to fall into place. I’m not a rich man. I’m a professional photographer, an artist by trade. That’s how I earn my income. But when I started to make this plan, it was amazing how things started to manifest and materialize financially.  By January, I had all the money I needed to book my ticket to book my accommodations and set forth.”


The year 2020 was set to be a big one. It was the year Tafari was going home. He didn’t know it was a year that would change his life so quickly and drastically.

Weeks after the midnight sound bath, over whispers of an impending sickness from abroad, Tafari leaves for Accra.

“I left for Ghana, March 8th. While I was there, things were starting to bubble up here in the United States. I was not tuning to the news. I was hearing everything from my friends. And ironically, I was hearing it from people on the ground in Ghana. Towards the end of the month, I started paying attention to the news.

“And I was like, Oh, my God, this is like crazy. I’m not coming back to the United States. I was preparing to not come back. The day I was going to extend my trip a little bit longer was the same day that they started canceling flights out and into Ghana. That changed everything.”


Ghana was supposed to be a detour on the way to Nigeria. Fate, however, has a mysterious way of getting us to where we need to be: In Tafari’s case, that place is Ghana.

Shortly after his arrival, Tafari’s friend has passport issues and their road trip to Nigeria is cancelled.

“He was actually in limbo himself waiting to leave Ghana. If he left he wouldn’t be able to get back to the country. So I had to nix the whole the Nigerian piece of the trip, which was the main thing. But with that said, I was able to flip that around and really have a robust and rich experience in Ghana. I was able to travel to various regions and reach out to people.

When I started noticing things were getting shaky, it was like ‘Oh my god, I need to earn some funds’ because I may be having a suspended journey in Ghana. So that’s when I started getting into doing some trading. I started forming relationships with a lot of artists— textile artists, jewelry artists.”


The year was 2012. “Everything,” Tafair recalls, was going crazy. “And I kept telling myself ‘Remember what made you strong. What made you weak? Bring it forth, fix it and bring it forth.”

He had Sankofa tattooed onto his arm. It depicts a bird and translates into English from the Twi language to “go back and get it.”

Five years later, in 2017, he would be asked to remember again when he had a breakdown at work.

“Before I got an ambulance, they stripped my shirt off at my desk. I was screaming at the top of my lungs. I was crying. I thought my heart was gonna jump out of my chest. I was calling for my mother. I thought like it was the end.

At the end of the day, it wasn’t a heart attack. It was a fucking panic attack and a mental breakdown. I was off work for six months. I worked at the University of Michigan Health System. I had a really, really, really good job. Making really good money.

While I was off, I started doing the work. That’s when I moved into my yoga practice. I was seeing a therapist every week. I had to take medication to control my emotions. But then I started finding healing practices, traditional healing practices that helped me transition off medication.”

The next year brought him to Brazil, which brought him to Ghana, and, finally, home.