How AI Helped Capture My (#RIP) Father’s Rich, and Unknown Life

Dr David Dunkley Gyimah
5 min readMay 29, 2024


My father was one of the first wave of West Africans in Africa’s drive for independence to leave what was then the Gold Coast to seek a new life in Britain. It’s 1955 two years before the Gold Coast becomes Ghana in 1957— an historic event that would bring Martin Luther King to witness.

Others would follow to live like scholar W.E.B. Du Bois and Maya Angelou. A couple of weeks ago Stevie Wonder became a Ghanaian national. Could Qunicy Jones be next from my interview with him in South Africa.

Back in the 50s my father mixed with those looking to give back to Ghana. He’d been a policeman in the Gold Coast, but in the UK things rarely worked out as planned. Streams of people visiting our house. Dad was the go to person for Ghanaians wanting to settle in South London and knew how to throw a party seen here.

In the 70s with us (four siblings) in tow he took us to Ghana to live. He became a businessman and dabbled in politics. Groups wanted him to lead them. Policeman and army personnel would, baffling, salute him.

Those were scary times when Fl Lt Rawlings first came to power. Here’s Rawlings speaking on air. We listened to this live.

In 2006, Dad passed away. I had returned to the UK by then forging a career in broadcasting. Mum, my aunts, uncles and wider family started telling us stories about dad. I wanted to tell his remarkable story. He was fearless.

Problem was we had limited content of him, and images.

Just how could I create something vivid, even from memories for our family and others to see his life? Just after lockdown, some 15 years after dad’s passing we were amazed to discover a trove of letters, passport — correspondence between various officials and family.

Note it says he’s a British subject and citizen of the United Kingdom

Then I hit on an idea using Generative AI (GAI)

I got investigative using a mixed system of ethnography, digital archaeology, and applied storytelling. I travelled to Ghana, conducted interviews where we grew up, researched via a literature review about Ghanaians (ethnography). Retrieved archive from a national newspaper (digital archaeology) and employed a cinematic style (applied storytelling) that gave the short the look and feel of historical docs.

I fed the data in GAI, and trained it on the data and images I collected. This process relies on a method of prompting and blending, using additive and subtractive prompts (modifying prompts in a string). Photoshop, indesign and After Effects were brought in for post-production.

And here it is:

My thanks to Prof. Jonathan A.J. Wilson PhD DLitt and Marshall Davis Jones (the voice). Shown to the British Screen Forum and Channel 4 Board of Directors the feedback includes “absolutely amazing” and “terrific”.

I’ve had private conversations with senior BBC figures and some interesting insights emerging for the future.

Identity politics

The short story comes this month amid a harrowing news story that a Ghanaian man was told by the UK Home Office that in spite of his 42 years in the UK, and paying his taxes, he was not British and would have to wait ten years for citizenship.

It reminded me of my dad. There are different timelines between Nelson Shardey and my dad, but how so easily it just makes me think, this could have been dad. So little is known about the contribution Ghanaians have contributed to Britain, which strengthens my resolve to tell dad’s story.

My Dad

As with the use of AI there are policy frameworks and guidelines to consider along the lines of transparency, truth, agency, and verification.

As an academic having been involved in AI since 2015, and teaching it; currently at Cardiff University, I’m aware it’s not a one-size fits all.

Last week’s $1M+ deal announced by Open AI with News Corp to train its data sets up an imminent content relationship between AI’s content and publishers.

So could this work for you? What are the wider ramifications? What if in the AI synth era the need for actual archive is not a priority any more. Because if it doesn’t exists it can created. It may sound far fetched, but there could be legitimate reasons.

For instance if you’re a person of colour with folks from Africa, then the prospect of acquiring archive images, may well be acute. For Francophile Africa there was the Laval Decree that prohibited Black people from filming. In Anglophile and other territories across the world, the issue was costs.

I will be speaking at the Storytelling + Machines conference in July about other breakthroughs, which include a global journal bringing together experts, mentors and students, called Media Hyphenates. It’s free to download and includes a feature on my father’s story, Chairman: the Ghanaian.

This is the desk top version

This is the mobile version

I’m currently working on a short for my good friend Dr Carlton Brown called FrontLine which focuses on Black Women: their super powers, fortitude and resilience. Includes this interview with Eartha Kitt



Dr David Dunkley Gyimah

Creative Technologist & Associate Professor. International Award Winner Cinema journalist. Ex BBC/C4News. Apple profiled Top Writer,