By Manu Herbstein
The past year has seen a modest revival of literary activity in Accra, best symbolized perhaps by the active participation of President John Dramani Mahama in the second annual Ghana Association of Writers Book Festival held in the lobby of the National Theatre on Founders’ Day 21st September, 2012. President Mahama, who is a member of GAW, spoke to a large audience, including many school children, about the books he had read as a child and teenager. After reading a chapter from his recently published memoir, My First Coup d’Etat, he signed every copy of the book which had been purchased that day.
The country of focus at 2011 Ghana International Book Fair held at the Trade Fair Site, was India. GAW was given the pleasant task of hosting a delegation of seven distinguished Indian writers, led by the President of the Sahitya Akademi, Sunil Gangopadhyay. All the visitors write in Indian languages, none of them primarily in English. GAW invited the Bureau of Ghana Languages to co-host one function. Professor Lade Wosornu, Doctor and Poet, spoke of his experience in Bringing Hinduism to bear on the Ghanaian Situation.
In November, 2011, Professor Kofi Anyidoho marked the end of his two-year term as the first occupant of the Kwame Nkrumah Chair in African Studies at the University of Ghana by delivering, on three consecutive days, lectures entitled The Oral Imagination and Trans-Atlantic Narratives of Slavery; Igún as Dream Catcher: Femi Osofisan and the Quest for an African Future; and Writing the Unthinkable: The Rwandan Genocide & a ‘Resurrection of the Living’ in Guns Over Kigali and Murambi : the Book of Bones.
Kofi Anyidoho’s latest volume of poetry, The Place We Call Home and Other Poems, published by Ayebia, was launched in November. It was accompanied by a CD, making it possible to hear Prof. Anyidoho reading all the poems in the book.
Adwoa Badoe’s young adult novel Between Sisters, set in Accra and Kumasi, was first published in Canada. At the launch of Smartline’s Ghana edition in November she had much of interest to say about the experience of getting published in Canada.
March saw the launch of a volume of nearly forty Essays in Honour of Ama Ata Aidoo, edited by Anne Adams, published by Ayebia Clarke. This is a worthy successor to Ayebia’s 2007 volume of essays in tribute to Efua Sutherland, edited by Anne Adams and Esi Sutherland-Addy. Ama Ata Aidoo’s Diplomatic Pounds & Other Stories, also published by Ayebia, was launched at the same function.
Duncan Weller, the award-winning Canadian writer and illustrator of children’s books, ran a one-day workshop for members of GAW in March
UNESCO’s Ghana: Where the Bead Speaks has an introductory essay by Esi Sutherland-Addy, poems by Ama Ata Aidoo and photographs by Patrick Brown Edue. Designed and edited by bead authority Kati Torda Dagadu it was launched in April at the Golden Tulip Hotel.
In May, a packed Nketia Conference Centre at the Institute of African Studies witnessed the launch of the long awaited two-volume set of 85 multi-disciplinary essays entitled Reclaiming the Human Sciences and Humanities through African Perspectives. Beautifully produced, it is a credit to editors Helen Lauer and Kofi Anyidoho and publisher Sub-Saharan.
The Ghana Association of Writers (GAW) held its 2012 Congress in May.
Also in May UNESCO launched its coffee-table A Panorama of Ghana’s Heritage at the National Theatre. Published by Sub-Saharan it has a foreword by Esi Sutherland-Addy and annotations by Prof. James Anquandah. While the photographs, by Baptiste Dhont Farcy, are of a high professional standard it remains a mystery why UNESCO chose to commission a foreign photographer rather than one of several equally competent Ghanaian photographers.
The bilingual illustrated Ghana Highlife Music by Kwesi Owusu, Florent Mazzoleni and Markus Coester, launched in June at the Alliance Francaise offers a valuable historical record. It also offers, for readers of a certain age, a pleasant nostalgic trip down memory lane.
Nii Ayikwei Parkes, based in London, captivated an attentive audience at the SyTris bookstore on Oxford Street, Osu in June, reading from his whodunit, Tail of the Blue Bird and several of his poems.
Professor Devine Amenumey delivered the 2nd Kobina Sekyi Memorial Lecture at the Institute of African Studies, Legon, in September. The sponsor of the series, Prof. Kwesi Kwaa Prah, founder of the Centre for the Advanced Study of African Societies, based in Cape Town, http://www.casas.co.za, was present and made available CASAS’s published version of the first Sekyi lecture, by Prof. George Hagan.
In September, Prof. Bea Lundt and Prof. Ulrich Marzolph ran a successful 3-day conference at the Goethe Institute on the theme Narrating (Hi) stories: Storytelling in/about West Africa.
Kofi Yeboah Tuafo’s 314-page glossy Kwame Nkrumah, the man who took back the first piece of Britain’s African Empire, published in 2012, brings together a treasure house of black and white photographs, many of them unfamiliar. It would have been enhanced by a comprehensive attribution of sources, the provision of an index and more careful editing.
Empi Baryeh’s romance novel, Changing Faith, published by Black Opal Books in the USA, was launched at PAWA House in November.
Throughout the year, there has been a great deal of other literary activity in Accra.
GAW, based at PAWA House has benefited from the dynamic leadership of Kwasi Gyan-Apenteng. Apart from its annual book festival, GAWBOFEST, it holds two meetings every month, one to discuss matters of concern to members and the other, GAW Sunday, an open house in which all writers have an opportunity to read from their work. A feature of GAW Sundays has been the performance of their poetry by a class from a local school, a different school on each occasion. Another of GAW’s projects is the establishment, in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, of a schools outreach programme throughout the country, with the first launch, in the Volta Region, due early in 2013. Along with the Ghana Publishers Association, GAW participated actively in a workshop on publishing contracts organized by the Ghana Book Development Council. It has plans to set up a writing academy and to publish a volume of poetry and short fiction by members.
At monthly meetings held at the Goethe Institute since August 2010 the Writers Project of Ghana has hosted local and visiting writers, who have read from their works and then responded to questions from the audience. The authors have included Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond (Powder Necklace), Elizabeth-Irene Baitie (A Saint in Brown Sandals and The Twelfth Heart), Nana Awere Damoah (Through the Gates of Thought), Farida Bedwei, (Definition of a Miracle), Papa Kobina Ulzen (Accra! Accra! Poems about Modern Afrikans), Kofi Akpabli (A Sense of Savannah and Tickling the Ghanaian), Manu Herbstein (Ama, Brave Music of a Distant Drum, Akosua and Osman and President Michelle or Ten Days that Shook the World), Fiona Leonard (The Chicken Thief), Martina Odonkor , aka Mamle Kabu and Mamle Wolo (The End of Skill and The Kaya-Girl), Kuukua Dzigbordi Yomekpe, Camynta Baezie (The African Agenda), Gheysika Adombire Agambila (Journey), Ama Ata Aidoo (Diplomatic Pounds & Other Stories), Kojo Laing (Search Sweet Country and Woman of the Aeroplanes), Taiye Selasi (What is an Afropolitan? and Ghana Must Go), Henry Kwame Anyidoho (Guns over Kigali and My Journey: Every Step), Ruby Goka (The Mystery of the Haunted House,The Lost Royal Treasure, In the Middle of Nowhere and Disfigured) and Chuma Nwokolo (Diaries of a Dead African and The Ghost of Sani Abacha).
Every Sunday evening on Citi FM 97.3, the Writers Project of Ghana hosts a one-hour programme featuring readings and interviews.
The local poetry scene has been especially lively. Younger poets organize poetry slams and concerts.
One of the more promising younger poets, Philip Oyinka, aka Nana Asaase, writes in both Twi and English. He organized a concert for fellow poets at the National Theatre and is trying to build a full time career as a poet. Seek him out at http://www.facebook.com/Philoyink
Kojo Benedict Quaye, aka Sir Black, aka Yibor Kojo Yibor, is a prime mover in the annual Ehalakasa Festival of Spoken Word Poetry and Music held in October. (“Eha means Song in Ewe, La means Sing in Ga Dangbe and Kasa means Talk in Akan.”) The listed performers include Mutombo, Poetra Ama Asantewaa, Crystal Tettey, Nii Lantey, Oma Hunter, Kobby Sam, K. Osei Yaw, aka Garifortor, Mamacita, Kent, Sonny, Chief, Jahwi, Ozion, 100%, Delasi, Sinbad, Nana Jabuu, Joss, Selikem, Miss Ndabi, Hashmulla, Fatawu Keita, Laud de Poet, Joe, Angel Wilson, Andy Aryeetey, Namoji Obese. In 2011 Woeli Publishing Services published Ehalakasa Poetry, A Collection of Poems from Senior High School Students and Ehalakasaians http://www.poetryfoundationghana.org/index.php/poets-connect/events/item/424-ehalakasa-festival
The Poetry Foundation Ghana publishes poetry on-line at its website http://www.poetryfoundationghana.org/index.php/about-us
Ayo Ayoola-Amale established the Splendors of Dawn Poetry Foundation with a list of 18 objectives, but with the primary purpose of bringing poetry to children. www.splendorsofdawnpf.org
Websites where the work of individual poets can be found include: http://poetraasantewa.blogspot.com/,
Perhaps the best way into the Ghana blogging scene is via Blogging Ghana at http://ghanablogging.com/bloggers/ which has a membership approaching 400.
The following deal with literary matters, with more or less emphasis on Ghana.
Accra Books and Things http://accrabooksandthings.wordpress.com
Fiction Writers of West Africa http://fictionwritersofwestafrica.blogspot.com/
ImageNations: Promoting African Literature http://freduagyeman.blogspot.com/
Kinna Reads http://kinnareads.wordpress.com/
AfroCyberPunk –African science fiction http://www.afrocyberpunk.com
Geosi Reads http://geosireads.wordpress.com/
Reading Pleasure ~ A blog of books and literature http://readinpleasure.wordpress.com/category/african-women-writers/
There was a time in the last century when the annual Valco Trust Fund Literary Awards would reward literary achievements by Ghanaians.
The annual Burt Award for Literature in Ghana, established in 2010 through the generosity of the Canadian philanthropist Bill Burt, offers three prizes for novels for young adults and the guaranteed purchase of 3000 copies of each novel by the Ghana Book Trust for distribution free of charge to schools. The writers must be Ghanaian citizens resident in Ghana.
The 2011 winners, launched at the Ghana International Book Fair in November, were The Kaya-Girl by Mamle Wolo (Martina Odonkor), The Lost Royal Treasure by Ruby Yayra Goka and Akosua and Osman by Manu Herbstein.
The Golden Baobab Prize for books for children and young adults, founded by Deborah Ahenkorah, is based in Ghana but its coverage is continent-wide . No Ghanaian has yet won. http://www.goldenbaobab.org/
http://www.ghanawriters.org/ Ghana Association of Writers
http://www.facebook.com/GhanaAssociationofWriters Ghana Association of Writers
http://writersprojectghana.com/news/ Writers Project of Ghana
http://duncanweller.blogspot.com/search?updated-max=2012-04-06T10:23:00-04:00&max-results=7 Duncan Weller: Tiger Dream/ Research in Ghana
Selected Books mentioned
Adams, Anne V., editor, Essays in Honour of Ama Ata Aidoo at 70, A Reader in African Cultural Studies, Ayebia Clarke Publishing Limited, Banbury, 2012
Aidoo, Ama Ata, Diplomatic Pounds & Other Stories, Ayebia Clarke Publishing Limited, Banbury, 2012
Akpabli, Kofi, Tickling the Ghanaian: Encounters with Contemporary Culture, TREC, Accra, 2011
Anyidoho, Kofi, The Place We All Call Home and Other Poems, Ayebia Clarke Publishing Limited, Banbury, 2011
Badoe, Adwoa, Between Sisters, Groundwood/House of Anansi, Toronto, 2010 and Smartline (Publishing) Limited, Accra, 2011
Baitie, Elizabeth-Irene, The Twelfth Heart, Kwadwoan Publishing, 2010
Goka, Ruby Yayra, Disfigured, Kwadwoan Publishing, 2011
Goka, Ruby Yayra, In the Middle of Nowhere, Kwadwoan Publishing, 2011
Goka, Ruby Yayra, The Lost Royal Treasure, Kwadwoan Publishing, 2012
Lauer, Helen and Kofi Anyidoho, editors, Reclaiming the Human Sciences and Humanities through African Perspectives, 2 vols., Sub-Saharan Publishers, Accra, 2012
Mahama, John Dramani, My First Coup d’Etat, Memories from the Lost Decades of Africa, Bloomsbury, 2012.
Nwokolo, Chuma, Diaries of a Dead African, Villager House, Lagos, 2003
Nwokolo, Chuma,The Ghost of Sani Abacha, County Books, 2012.
Owusu, Kwesi, Florent Mazzoleni and Markus Coester, Ghana Highlife Music, Le Castor Astral, no date (2012?)
Parkes, Nii Ayikwei, Tail of the Blue Bird, Flipped Eye Publishing, New York & Manchester, 2011.
Quaye, Kojo Benedict (aka Sir Black) Ehalakasa Poetry, A Collection of Poems from Senior High School Students and Ehalakasaians, Vol. 1, Woeli Publishing Services, Accra, 2011.
Sutherland-Addy, Esi, Ama Ata Aidoo and Kati Torda Dagadu, Ghana: Where the Bead Speaks, Foundation for Contemporary Art-Ghana, Accra, 2011
Tuafo, Kofi Yeboah, Kwame Nkrumah, the Man who took back the first piece of Britain’s African Empire, Elaine Books, Accra, 2012.
UNESCO, A Panorama of Ghana’s Heritage, Sub-Saharan Publishers, Accra, 2012
Wolo, Mamle (Martina Odonkor), The Kaya-Girl, Techmate Publishers Ltd., Accra, 2012
About the author: Manu Herbstein lives in Accra. His novels Ama, a Story of the Atlantic Slave Trade (Commonwealth Writers Prize for the Best First Book, 2002), Brave Music of a Distant Drum and Akosua and Osman (Burt Award, 2011) are all now published in Ghana by Techmate.