Tuesday, June 23, 2009

2. Harmattan Rain, A Reading at Cuppa Cappuccino

Title: Harmattan Rain
Author: Ayesha Harruna Attah
Genre: Novel
Publishers: Per Ankh
Pages: 434
Year: 2008
ISBN: 978-2-9119928-12-1
Country: Ghana

At the beginning of the year I decided to read more books than I did last year. My readings have been sporadic with more readings when I am away from academics and virtually nothing when I am in school. In spite of this, most of my readings have been fraught with western authors. Until last two weeks, my readings had included Mervyn Peak's Trilogy (Gormenghast etc); J.R.R. Tolkien (The Lord of the Rings Trilogy); Dean Koontz (False Memory, Darkfall, Whispers, Cold Fire, etc); Stephen King (Salems Lot, Needful Things, Dreamcatcher, Wizard and Glass, The Running Man, Different Seasons, Four Past Midnight, etc); Sidney Sheldon (Morning, Noon and Night, Windmills of the Gods, Master of the Game, Blood line, If Tomorrow Comes, The Sky has Fallen, etc), Dan Brown (Da Vinci Code, Angels and Demons), J.K. Rowling (The Harry Potter Series) and many others. And my readings of African authors had included Ngugi wa Thiong'o (Weep Not Child), Chinua Achebe (No Longer at Ease & Things Fall Apart), The Elechi Amadi (Concubine), Amu Djoletoe (Stranger) and Francis Serlomey (The Narrow Path). However, my limited reading had prejudiced my mind against African authors, since I read almost all these stories during my Junior Secondary School period. I thought most of their writings are are too stereotyped and do not define the progress Africa has thus far made. However, with maturity comes realisation and hence a new beginning. Hence, I decided to balance my mind with renewed readings from African writers.

I had, as a matter of fact, promised myself that should I get a job (a paying one of course) I would litter my bookshelf with African authors. The main purpose of this is to help shape my poetry writing. However, like most of us I have been gainfully employed for almost a year and have not purchased a single African writer's book. This is a wrong I set out to correct early this month (June). I went to the Silverbird bookshop after close of work. I saw 'Harmattan Rain' and having heard of its launch decided to purchase it but instead found myself purchasing 'Faceless' by Amma Darko. Two days later I came back to purchase Harmattan Rain because it was haunting me in my dreams. I began reading it immediately I finished Amma Darko's Faceless. I was hooked on from the first page. I therefore informed my friends on facebook what I was reading, I have been doing this ever since I joined that networking platform some few weeks ago. It was on this platform that a friend-Nana Nyarko Boateng-invited me to the reading of 'Harmattan Rain' by the author at Cuppa Cappuccino, at airport residential area.

Three things worked out to uproot me from my usual night slumbering, noting the fact that it was a Friday evening, and as usual I had nowhere to go. The first was, it has always been my dream and deepest desire to attend such literary functions but have lived in the darkness of it for so long a time. So the invitation piqued my interest and I was moved. The second was meeting the author. At least I would have an autograph of the author to boast to my future children, and it would be my first (and definitely not the last). Last but not the least, I worked in the same vicinity as the reading place (Cuppa Cappuccino). It was less than fifteen minutes walk from my office. Thus, in effect there were no excuses. I have to attend the function.

I got there at almost seven in the evening and met one or two people. I hazard a guess that the place would not be filled. I was later to be proven wrong and I was glad. By seven o'clock pm, the place was filled: about three-quarters of the guests were Whites, and the rest were young Ghanaians. This again compounded my happiness. At least the future of the arts is assured and as a poet, with the intention of publishing my manuscript, I was happy that there is a growing market for the arts. The rains did their best to disrupt the programme but the united will of two is capable of moving mountains and there is nothing that they set out to do, which they cannot. So we moved into the main coffee shop.

The programme started with the introduction of the author by someone I suspected was the owner of the coffee shop. Ayesha Harruna Attah, the author of 'Harmattan Rain', introduced herself and we interacted by asking her questions concerning herself. This arose because she humbly refused to brag on and on about who she is and where she's been, recognising the fact that she's a 'been-to'. But not an arrogant one, as most 'been-tos' are. She went ahead to read portions of the book and after that we discussed the book.

The story is not your typical African novel set in the spear age where wars are fought with bows and arrows and spears. Where men, to gain the love of a young woman, enter into a wrestling contest. It was far from that. Yet, it began with that. This is the broad nature of Ayesha's book. It starts from the village in post-colonial Ghana with Nkrumah as the Prime Minister. The story is about three generations of women Lizzie, Afriyie and Sugri, with the same mind-set (to be free) but through different means. The story has planes, shopping malls, parties, and almost everything an average Ghanaian could identify with. I found myself in the story and I am glad I read it and participated in the reading. Side by side, it is different from the few African writers I have read, whose setting is purely a village scene and justifiably so because of the years in which they were written and the situation at the moment. For instance, I don't believe that a present day Kenyan writer would fully focus on the Mau Mau movement if he is to write a novel about present day Kenya. Hence, it is absurd for critics to require of Ayesha that supposed 'Africanness' in writing which some people think has become the status quo, which I think should be done away with. Now I want to see guns, robbery, office complex, malls, a trip home, and such events that have come to characterise our daily living in present-day novels. With these I think Ayesha has come thus far.

The reading ended with questions. Some men wanted to know why the book seems too feminine and why were the men portrayed as evil and the women as free-spirited individuals. But as Basho said if you want to know the ways of the bamboo go to the bamboo. She is feminine and could write bet from the feminist point of view. This was her explanation. It inspired us (the men present) to also tell our story. This was the general conclusion from most of the participants. If you feel sidelined, write your story. So we shall gird up our loins and write our story. The event ended with the favourite book purchase and signing. Since I have bought mine already I had it autographed (my first book to ever be autographed).

All in all, it was a success, an evening to remember, at least by me and more importantly the development of the arts was given the necessary boost. The market is there, just write something interesting. This is a development I would very much support willingly. Let's tell our story by ourselves. He who feels it knows it more--Bob Marley. People can only sympathise with you but they cannot feel what you feel. This is a young writer who is developing, let's not push her down (PHD) but let's lift her up to replace the aging Ama Ata Aidoos and the Efua Sutherland.

Ayesha, ayekoo...I can't wait to read your second novel.

ImageNations Rating: 4 out of 6


  1. Hi Nana, very interesting perspectives and blog! Is 'Faceless' a good read? Just saw it at Silverbird bookshop on Sunday and was wondering. I still have not had time to continue on Harmattan Rain since I got myself a copy. BTW; did you ever read the Heinemann African Writer's Series? Things Fall Apart the film got me hooked on Things fall apart the book which in turn got me hooked on African writers at an early age. Alas, in later years I seem to definitely read less. I'm now trying to get into the next generation of African writers. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Half of a Yellow Sun was one book I read at the end of last year...absolutely amazingly and powerful.

  2. Hi Abena...Faceless is a good read. At least they portray events I am passionate about...streetism and street children. It is a well-researched book and I got hooked. I have read 'Things Fall Apart' and 'No Longer at Ease' both by Chinua Achebe. The fact is I read all these when I was young and so the import of the story was just not there. I have therefore renewed my interest in African writers. Like I said this is to help shape my writing skills. Thanks for the tips on the other African writers...hope they are as good as you say. Thanks for visiting...I am glad.

  3. Good writeup and review of the event. I am on the same frequency with you, Nana: we need more indigenous writers, writing about our stuff, telling our own stories, since "until the lion can tell its own story, the hunter will always be the hero". Big ups to Ayesha!

  4. Thanks Nana A.D. I am happy you liked it. I am always concern about us doing it for ourselves. We need to move these people up and make them our heroes. Where will Angelina Jolie be without her fans or even Tyson? Let's face it, we must make them great and that's what I intend to do.

  5. Do you do reviews of essays/non-fiction as well? I will get you a copy of my book 'Excursions In My Mind' (http://www.athenapress.com/book.php?ID=2693). Cheers.

  6. Have not done it before. However, if you are interested I could give my genuine opinion on it for you. Have seen your book but have not checked it out fully yet.


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