Friday, December 24, 2010

2010 in Review

I took this meme from Marie of Boston Bibliophile. I have taken the liberty to add some of the questions myself

How many books read in 2010?
Twenty-nine (29), two more than last year. Except that this includes two single stories. Plays (2); Memoir/(Auto)Biography (1); Single Stories (2); Anthologies (short stories) (4); Novels (20). 

Total pages read was 7,799 (7,541 last year) and the average number of books per month is 2.42 (2.25 last year).

How many did you review?
Twenty-two (22). The remaining 7 were non-African novels.

How many of the books read were on the Top 100?
Only six. (hmm!)

How man fiction and non-fiction?
Only 1 non-fiction: You Must Set Forth at Dawn by Wole Soyinka

Male-Female Ratio
8 Female, 18 Male and 3 indeterminate (?), I mean anthologies from various writers.

Favourite book of 2010
African book: The Beautyful Ones are not Yet Born by Ayi Kwei Armah
Non-African book: Between Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake and William Golding's Lord of the Flies. In fact, there is also Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon. 

Least favourite
There was not a single book I didn't enjoy something about. I didn't totally abandoned any book this year, nor have I before.

Any that you simply couldn't finish and why?
No there was no book I didn't finish. I suspended Byatt's Possession for sometime but I picked it again. I did that when it became academic. But I enjoyed the diary entries. The ending was too suspicious and I think it ended too quickly. The kind where everything just fit into the puzzle.

Oldest Novel
The Castle by Franz Kafka, first published in 1926. However, the Anglo-Fanti Short Story of the twin book: The Blinkards and the Anglo-Fanti Short Story by Kobina Sakyi, was first published in 1918.

Newest Novel
I read four books that were published in 2010 (A Heart to Mend by Myne Whitman; African Roar, edited by Ivor Hartman and Emmanuel Sigauke; Powder Necklace by Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond and The Hairdresser of Harare) however if I consider when the month and when promotion actually started I think the newest book would be Tendai Huchu's The Hairdresser of Harare.

Longest and shortest title?
Longest: The Blinkards: A Comedy and The Anglo-Fanti Short Story
Shortest: in terms of the number of characters forming the word, the shortest title is Changes by Ama Ata Aidoo and AmaZulu by Walton Golightly.

Longest and shortest books?
Longest: AmaZulu by Walton Golightly with 634 pages
Excluding the single short stories, The Lion and the Jewel by Wole Soyinka with 64 pages.

Most read author of the year and how many books by the read was read?
Andre Brink (2); Wole Soyinka (2) and Ayi Kwei Armah (2)

Any re-reads?

Favourite character of the year?
Lejoka-Brown in Ola Rotimi's Our Husband has gone mad again

Which countries did you go to through the pages in your reading?
Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Trinidad and Tobago, Zulu nation, US, England, Benin, Rwanda, Kenya, Jerusalem and others unnamed. Soyinka in his memoir took me to so many countries I cannot name.

Which book wouldn't you have read without someone's recommendation?

Which author was new to you in 2010 that you now want to read the entire works of?
All the authors I met in 2010 and would love to read again only have a single book: Tendai Huchu, Myne Whitman, Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond.

Which books are you annoyed you didn't read?
A lot. I want to read more books on my Top 100 but accessibility is the problem. However, I would make sure I do that next year. I wanted to read Tsitsi Dangarembga's Nervous Conditions but by the time I had a copy, it was late for 2010 reading.

Did you read any book you have always been meaning to read?
Yes, Lord of the Flies by William Golding.

2010 Top Ten Book events?
A few, not up to ten.
  1. Carlos Moore's book reading at Nubuke Foundation, organised by Kinna of Kinna Reads
  2. Nana Awere Damoah's book reading at Goethe Institute organised by the Writers Project of Ghana
  3. Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond's book reading at the Nubuke Foundation, organised by the Writers Project of Ghana
  4. Martin Egblewogbe's Book reading at Niagara Plus Hotel
  5. Creative Non-fiction workshop, organised by Mbaasem Foundation
  6. Poetry Marathon at the Legon Reading Room, organised by Writers Project of Ghana
  7. Fiction Workshop at the Legon Reading Room, organised by Writers Project of Ghana
  8. Mariska Taylor's book reading at the Goethe Institute organised by the Writers Project of Ghana

54e. Contemporary African Short Stories

This is the concluding part of the series of reviews from the Contemporary African Short Stories, edited by Chinua Achebe and C.L. Innes. The anthology was categorised into geographic areas: SOUTHERN AFRICA, CENTRAL AFRICA, EAST AFRICA, NORTH AFRICA and WEST AFRICA.  I decided to review the stories one after the other instead of finding common thread running along them and reviewing them along those lines or using themes to merge stories. This has been fulfilling but also tasking. Future short stories collection might take a different approach.

Converging City by Ben Okri (Nigeria)
Ben Okri
This is the second time I am reading this story, first encountering it in his collection of short stories title Incidents at the Shrine. I must say that reading it a second time has helped me appreciate the story very well. Converging City is a mosaic of interconnecting scenes through which Okri portrays the urban stragglers and strugglers; the urban poor and how difficult life is for the majority of the people.

The story begins with Agodi inadvertently spewing water on a girl. The girl insulted him and Agodi decided to chase her and convert her. During the chase he was tripped by the midget Ajasco Atlas who beat him to advertise his prowess and credentials as an ex-wrestler and a body guard. From there the scene moved to Agodi chasing a naked man from his store. The naked man having lost his senses, perhaps because he was too hungry, lay in the street causing a traffic jam. This traffic jam later imbued fear in a head of state who was afraid that he was going to be assassinated by some invisible people who run the country. The scene went back to the naked man as he was taken away from the road and then to Agodi as his kiosk was stolen and his wife left him; later returning as a 'true prophet' in a purple and yellow cloak and establishing a church.

Through the trials of Agodi, Okri was able to show the level or intensity of the economic struggle the people were going through: there was a wrestler who was beating people to advertise himself (Ajasco Atlas); a man of God selling smuggled goods (Agodi, before his kiosk was stolen); soldiers being robbed of their money and identity cards; a hungry man left to die because he had asked for a soft drink and sardine when he collapsed and people went to help him; a head of state afraid of traffic because there were some unseen beings who would want to kill him; who wouldn't did not want to see Agodi again because he owed them; and then there was the wife who left. In Convergence City there is a real convergence of people's struggles against life and the linkage between people is made clear. We get to know that one's problems is a function of others people's problems. 
The man in the street had seen a whole day pass and had learnt nothing. He had settled himself near a gutter. He covered himself with unread newspapers. He lay down as if dead, though he jerked in delirium now and again. He watched Ajasco Atlas, who had gone past a few times, shouting about his feats in India. [...] The man in the street also watched the shed of J.J. Agodi with special zeal. He was the only person who saw the road move. [...] then he saw the shed move gently. (Page 143).
Okri's magic realism is a trademark of his writing. In this way it reminds me of Mia Couto. This short story is an interesting one.

The Hotel by Adewale Maja-Pearce (Nigeria)
Adewale Maja-Pearce
This is the shortest of all the short stories. The theme in The Hotel is similar to A Night Out by Tololwa Marti Mollel. In The Hotel, a single mother is trapped in a town after his husband died to operate a hotel where she lived with her son. A man dropped by one day by 'chance' with the hope of leaving the next day. However, a day led to another then another and he spent a week. Within this period a familial bond was formed between the man, the woman and her son. One day the man picked only his wallet, left the hotel and never came back.

I was annoyed with the man. If you knew you would not stay don't raise hopes; don't let the young boy develop some affection and the woman too. Yet, that's what happened. 
At noon he told her that he was going out. She wanted to accompany him but he told him he wanted to be on his own. [...] Walking rapidly in the suffocating heat the dust got into his mouth and in his eyes. He got to the platform in time to hear the train approaching. (Page 148)

The Housegirl by Okey Chigbo (Nigeria)
Okey Chigbo
In The Housegirl, a housegirl (or maid) named Comfort narrates the story about the kind of relationships that exist in the house she lives in with another housegirl, her madam's husband, her madam and their son, Cally and daughter, Obiageli. She feels bitter about the way her madam has not paid her ever since her - the housegirl's - father died, which is over a year ago. She says of her
Madam is getting thinner every day despite her successful business, because her wooden heart is sucking up all the kindness in her body. (Page 154).
Her madam's son is also considered 'wild' and has been expelled from his school. He is also cunning and wants to have his way with all the housegirls in the house.
As I was watching myself in the mirror, he came up behind me and started to rub my stomach with his hands, and then worked his way up to my breasts. Yes, he actually touched them. He really is a wild animal, Cally. (Page 161)
The voice Okey used for Comfort is a conversational one and very catchy. The English is very simple and straightforward. The story attracts and encourages the reader to participate in it, if you get what I mean. It really is an interesting one.

The Miracle by Ba'bila Mutia (Cameroon)
Ba'bila Mutia
This perhaps could be the only story I have read that had pitched traditional belief with Christianity and the former had prevailed. A man's father forced him to marry a third wife, after the first two failed to give him a son who would pass on the family's name. The third wife first gave the man twins and so their names changed to Manyi - mother of twins and Tanyi - father of twins. Six months after the death of the man's (Tanyi's) father Manyi gave birth to a son. But this son's left leg seemed to have withered just like the man's father's leg before it was finally amputated. Realising this the man named his son, Ba'mia - father has come back. Whereas the man wants them to accept the child just as he is, Manyi - a devout catholic - wanted to have his son healed and become 'normal'. So when she heard that the Pope is coming to another town Menda she decided to go with Ba'mia so that his leg would be healed. Meeting the Pope Ba'mia asked
'I want you to make me walk upright,' [...] 'I will pray for you ...' the Pope began to say. 'But ... but,' [...] 'My mother said you are here for God. You speak with him. She said you will make me walk erect.' (Page 175)
Obviously the boy didn't walk straight. On their way back, the boy told his mother all that Tanyi had been telling her that Ba'mia is his father who has come back.
'I am Ba'mia,' he said softly. 'What do you mean?' she asked. 'Tanyi's father,' he replied. 'I came back to be reborn in the family to inherit what is rightfully mine -'
This belief is common amongst Africans. Anytime a person is born with features similar to a dead relative it is believed that it is that relative who has come to be reborn. Sometimes, the child is given the name of that relative and treated as an elderly person. Though one cannot prove the veracity of this, it remains a belief just as all religions are based on belief system.

Weaverdom by Tijan M. Sallah (Gambia)
Tijan M. Sallah
Weaverdom is an allegorical and satirical tale about colonisation. As an allegory, Tijan used the weaver birds to represent the colonisers or the British and the grass to represent the colonised. As a satire, one cannot help but laugh at the description given to the weavers. In fact even the Lord's Prayer was given a new twist.
The weavers have an English accent, punctuated nasal notes that grip everyone's attention. They have a habit of messing up in the name of Queen Victoria's glory, the Elizabethan successions, and the CommonWe or CommonWoe. 
[...] The weavers do not care where they build their nests; rumours have it that they came from a little island, somewhere in the northern ice, where the sun is for occasional rejoicing and where irreverence for weaver-ways raises hackles. The weavers do not care about the biological rhythms of others. They send their harbingers, and then flocks follow with fervent zeal, like a school of faithful Iranians executing their heaven-driven orders communicated through the sacred lips of the Ayatollah. (Page 179/180)
Interspersed with the narrative are songs by the Grass, the Forced Grass, the Rain, the Forced 'Lesser' Souls and the Weavers. The Weaver song is the Lord's Prayer
Our Father, who gave us the art of heaven, /Hallowed is our name, us great Weaverdom. /So that our kingdom spreads/ Like it has over the isles/... (Page 183)
There is also a powerful play on words so that her royal highness becomes 'her royal harness'; Anglican becomes 'Weavercan', Empire Day becomes 'Vampire Day' and others. Tijan bemoans the way in which the West has made itself as the origins of civilisation while systematically ignoring places and civilisations like 
ancient Egypt with its pharaohs, pyramids, practical and mystical men; Timbuktu with its Sankore centre of learning; India with its spices, tea, and spiritual quests; China with its pottery and exquisite designs; Persia and Mesopotamia with their mystical wisdom and culture of the land; and Hellenic Greece with its Apollonian angst and Dionysian conviviality. (Page 182)
I cracked my ribs reading this and I hope you also would.

Vacancy for the Post of Jesus Christ by Kojo Laing (Ghana)
Kojo Laing (right)
When the small quick lorry was being lowered from the skies, it was discovered that ti had golden wood, and many seedless guavas for the hungry. As the lorry descended many layers of cool air, the rich got ready to buy it, and the poor to resent it. The wise among the crowd below opened their mouths in wonder, and closed them only to eat. They ate looking up while the sceptical looked down. (Page 185)
 In the introduction, I classified Kojo Laing's work as magical realism crossed with fantasy. My bad. Kojo Laing's work, as with his recent full-length novel Big Bishop Roko and the Altar Gangsters, is as much surrealist as it possibly can. This opens up Kojo Laing's work for several interpretations.

The golden wood lorry descended on earth with the inscription 'VACANCY FOR THE POST OF JESUS CHRIST'. The bronze man in the lorry had, according to his narrative, killed Jesus Christ behind the millionth galaxy of stars, and was here on earth to look for replacement. He searched the mortuary, the courtroom, the seat of government and the 'church of the shrine' for people who have the capability of filling the vacancy. At these places he killed those he had chosen to replace them and dump them into the lorry, to wake them through the manipulation of time. At the Seat of Government he requested for the most rotten and least principled minister and this he selected for the position. 

I cannot do just enough to this story for it entails a lot. One could read different meanings into this short story. For instance, there was the feeling that Laing was recreating the 'great' battle in the bible that sent the devil to the earth. Yet, this devil was a computer fabrication which communicated with his lorry via radio waves and operated on battery. 
If there is no spirit beyond the gadgets then the gadgets take over ... (Page 192)
And this is what the bronzeman told Father Vea who had elected himself to show the him the places where he could find people to fill the vacancy
'My lorry of wooden gold has its own mind, created through a new type of computer.' (Page 190)

This story also depicts control, especially of the universe for the man had killed Jesus Christ because he had too much spirit and gadget. Once the bronzeman told Father Vea this, the Father realised that
No one man, no one people will ever control the universe, [...]. If anyone succeeds in the process of doing so, then we could all see the terrible narrowness of the galaxies, see the desire to murder the spirit.
And it was this same control exhibited by the bronzeman that, perhaps, led to his death as he run out of energy ... and it was seen that there was a bearded man who had 
just jumped down from a sudden cross in the sky, looking with wonder at the nailmarks on his hands. (Page 196)

Leading from his novel Big Bishop Roko and the Altar Gangsters I have come to expect almost anything from Laing. His writings mixes religion with technology making it unique, albeit difficult to comprehend. I can say, after listening to him talk about this book, that the man is hugely talented and views life in a very different way.

This marks the end of an arduous review process started on December 22, 2010. I may not travel this path again. However, I hope you enjoyed my take on these stories. Let me know what you think and how you want reviews in 2011 to be like. Thank you!

ImageNations Rating: 5.0 out of 6.0

Thursday, December 23, 2010

54d. Contemporary African Short Stories

The Foreigner, Sister of the Foreign Woman by Assia Djebar (Algeria) Translated from French by Dorothy S Blair
Assia Djebar
This tells the story of two sisters - Sirin and Marya - who were sent from Alexandria to Medina to be given to Prophet Mohammed. The story captures the struggles these two sisters faced as they worked to settle among the natives. Sirin was given in marriage to the Prophet's favourite poet, Hassan ibn Thabit, and Marya became the wife of the Prophet. Sirin's co-wives hardly ever talked to her because of her Christian background but are quick to send to her their children because she loves them and love to tell them her stories.
Then Sirin's co-wives made an effort to be civil, and their courtesy was almost genuine. The women gathered in the shady part of the little courtyard under a palm tree. One of the hostesses would very ostentatiously bring out from her room a silken cushion, another a silver tray, another a fan... (Page 125)
This is a story about religious identity and how physical features are important in determining one's 'true' religious inclination. Sometimes I tend to ask, is it faith or features? This is similar to Uwem Akpan's Luxurious Hearse, as long as it relates to religious identity. The sisters parents were captured by Patriarch of Alexandria   because of their Persian origins and the children had been sent to the Prophet. And even though they had converted to Islam their neighbours still consider them to be Christians. The story goes on to tell of their descendants and what happened to them.

Road Block by Jamal Mahjoub (Sudan)
Jamal Mahjoub
The Road Block is a simple story about a man referred to as The Storyteller who smuggles alcohol across the country. His father had also been known as The Storyteller, which obviously show the smuggling dynasty the man is coming from. However, the son had added guns to his story so that if that latter is unable to extricate his way out of problems, the former would be applied. 

The story also shows corruption amongst the very people who have been empowered to protect enforce law and order. When Bona a policeman found that The Storyteller was transporting alcohol after a curfew he asked for one box rather than arrest the man.
'That box there, I'll take that one.' [...] 'Just lift it over the side and leave it in the dust.' (Page 133)
Next is West Africa

ImageNations Rating: 5.0 out of 6.0

54c. Contemporary African Short Stories

Cages by Abdulrazak Gurnah (Zanzibar)
Abdulrazak Gurna
Cages is a story about an émigré, Hamid, who has moved from his village to settle in the city. The old man who took him in when he arrived and gave him work as a storekeeper is sick and dying. Hamid has never moved beyond his kiosk before and has always wondered what life is beyond the sprawling darkness that is the squatters' camp. Then a beautiful girl came to buy something from his shop one day; she came the next day and the following day... and the next thing was that Hamid had somehow fallen for the girl but is unable to tell her. One evening Hamid broke the imaginary borders and ventured into the darkness beyond.

This story could be an allegory of life, where one bottles up his potential, afraid to live the kind of life he is capable of living. Literally, it also defines the kind of lives some of the urban populace live. Especially those who have moved into cities with the expectation of a better life. Such individuals soon find that life in the city has never been rosy.

Government by Magic Spell by Saida Hagi-Dirie Herzi (Somalia)
This story gives a twist on despotism. It's one lovely and satirical tale you might read on how people become despots. When Halima was born she was possessed by a jinni. And her jinni (spirit) is an infant one that is likely to do good things. Halima's clan rules the country. A long time ago one of their clan members was given a position in the government and gradually he employed every family member irrespective of their educational background. When Halima reached a marriageable age and she decided not to marry, his family in the city came for her. There Halima, together with her jinni, was asked to help her people prosper in their rulership. She prepared concoctions into the general water supply so that the people in the country would stop asking questions. Yes, it is that funny. The Tahleel (the concoction) was meant to eradicate curiosity and turn the people into zombies so that the rule of Hamila's family would would elicit no rancour from the people and would be finite.
One of the effects of the 'Tahleel' was to cure people of curiosity. Those who drank it stopped asking questions. Above all they stopped wondering about the actions of the clan's leading men. They became model subjects doing without question, without objection, what they were told to do. (Page 98)
Her decisions and actions though impacted negatively on the country, was not complained about. For example, the slaughterhouse she asked to be built to facilitate her sacrifices to Ges Ade, was built so close to the city's popular beaches that when the place was taken over by man-eating sharks, no one was able to visit the there anymore. And Halima's clan ruled for so many years as she continued with her rituals increasing the potency with time to keep her people in power, and the people from asking questions. 

A Night Out by Tololwa Marti Mollel (Tanzania)
Tololwa Marti Mollel (?)
Mika is a traveller who has got stuck in a little town because of petrol shortage. He hires a hotel but went out into the night. She met Mama Tumaini. The story is about the uneasiness that was between them that night even when they made love. The father of Mama Tumaini's baby is a soldier who had gone to war in Uganda and she doesn't know whether he is dead or not. In fact, he even considers him dead. And has resorted to this to make ends meet. Mika, not wanting to feel attached to Mama Tumaini and her baby, woke up early morning and set off to Dar es Salaam.

This story is about single parenting and how it affects women. It is a very short short story.

On the Market Day by Kyalo Mativo (Kenya)
Kyalo Mativo
Since the drought started the people of Wingoo Valley have not been able to cultivate crops. As a result they are hungry and angry at the government. Kama Lango has resorted to the purchasing cows on auctions for resale using the extra profit to buy food for his family. 

The government has announced that it isn't the cause of the drought and so let no one blame them for their predicament for the lack of rain and its concomitant famine are natural disasters against which man is powerless.
'Let it be known to those who are accusing the government of doing nothing [about the drought]; let them know that their rumour-mongering will not be tolerated.' (Page 106)
However, Pancreas Mbula, having studied abroad has decided to come home and help his people, kept telling them that it was the government's fault. He told of how the 
mountain towering about the clouds with a white cap on top of it [...] [was] actually a frozen lake whose water melts four times a year and trickles down the mountain-sides right through the thick forest surrounding it, zigzagging its way down the slopes. That melted water [he explained] is equal to twice as much water [...] as we receive form natural rain. [Which] can be [the] semi-desert into a green field all year round. (Page 109)
While Mbula ranted on why the people should vote for him and how he would change their lives, with all the mannerisms of a 'new' politician, the people nodded and applauded and sang songs with his name and achievements. Yet, Kamali's family would be without food as the cow he purchased strangely died on his way home.

This story tells of politicians and their needs - votes - and how far they would go just to attain these votes while the needs of the people remain unattended.

Leaving by M.G. Vassanji (Tanzania)
M.G. Vassanji
Aloo has obtained a scholarship to study abroad but his mother is reluctant to raise the necessary money that would help him leave. The reason is not because Aloo's mother is wicked but because he loves him so much that she can't help seeing his son in a country so far away. Aloo's mother became a widow at thirty-three and had refused ever since to marry for fear that the next husband would ask her to take her children to the 'boarding'. She loves them so much that she sleeps in the same bed with the two younger ones, Aloo and the narrator. Some of the elder children had married and left home and Aloo's mother's hope now rest on the narrator and Aloo himself. Hence, leaving Aloo to go to America to study was the most difficult decision she had to make. Yet, when she saw the eagerness in her son and the pictures of the school, she relented in her decision and sought for the necessary financial aid required to send the Aloo abroad. This is an emotional story.
She looked at me looking at her and said, not to me, 'Promise me ... promise me that if I let you go, you will not marry a white woman.' 'Oh Mother, you know I won't!' said Aloo. 'And promise me that you will not smoke or drink.' 'You know I promise!' He was close to tears.
The major fear of every parent whose child leaves home for a Western country is the picking up of 'negative' social habits like drinking, smoking and womanising. This fear is so ingrained that it forms the basis of advice given you on your travels. You would be told that you shouldn't forget where you came from and must do things not to shame your family. Yes! In most African countries one does not leave for oneself alone. As long as you bear the family's name when there is a shame on you there is also a shame on the family. You would also be informed that all those who had gone and led negatives lives had come home with nothing and had not been able to even put up a house. Thus, the prospective traveller is sent to acquire knowledge and wealth but not to sell his values and beliefs.

ImageNations Rating: 5.0

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

54b. Contemporary African Short Stories, A Review

[continued from here]

The Rubbish Dump by Steve Chimombo (Malawi)
Steve Chimombo (Blue shirt)
Joey and his parents have just moved into the airport neighbourhood. He is fascinated by the planes that fly over their quarters and would do everything possible to have a look. They called the big planes 'Four Engine'. Mazambezi - airport garbage collector - collects the waste from the airplanes and dump them at the general dump area.

Through the eyes of these two individuals we see the stark disparities that exist between the haves and have not. Mazambezi and Joey gather the leftover foods meant for the dump and would, while eating it, imagine themselves to be in the places where the foods come from: Russia, America, Hong Kong, England and others. And they were surprised about the volume of food that went wasted. 
As I sit here everyday munching bits of cheese, a whole world is opened up to me. How many thousands of miles has this can of fish travelled? What places has this packet of biscuit visited? [...] I don't need to ride in their planes. As I sit here, Russia, America, Hong Kong, England are all in my grasp. They all find their way into this rubbish dump. (Mazambezi to Joey, Page 79)
And when one day Mazembezi found a broken miniature aeroplane for Joey, he hid it in his school bag and protected it from all others. And these defined their lives: Mazambezi's wheelbarrow with its rattle, squeak and thump sound and Joey looking out for planes and the two meeting at the dump to inwardly travel to all those countries they know they would never go as they are not the Rich fat white men, the brown men nor the few blacks. Nor even the students who go for more education.

The Man by E. B. Dongala (Congo) translated from French by Clive Wake
The Man in this story reminds me of Matigari. The country was not named however, by description  my mind went straight to Mobutu's Zaire (now D.R. Congo) though the country could as well be Authors' country, The Congo. 

In The Man who was
the father-founder of the nation the enlightened guide and saviour of the people, the great helmsman,, the president-for-life, the commander-in-chief of the armed forces and the beloved of the people
has build a fortress for himself where no one can reach him to kill him. However, with all the security detail that included
... armed soldiers [...] water-filled moat of immense depth swarming with African and Indian crocodiles and caymans imported from Central America which most certainly didn't feed solely on small fry [...] full black mambas and green mambas whose powerful venom killed their victims on the spot [...] an enormous sixty-foot high structure of brick and stone [...] watch-towers, searchlights, nails, barbed wire and broken glass ... (page 82)
he was reached and murdered by The Man. His soldiers on rampage threatening and killing individuals who claim they do not know The Man who did that. Soon a new president was installed, the second beloved father of the nation. He increased the level of his security, with policemen, informers, spies and hired killers everywhere. And yet he was scared of going out even after he issued a decree proclaiming that he is unkillable and immortal.

This is light satire on the state of some African countries where independent fighters made themselves life presidents. These presidents, even after claiming hundred a percent popularity, still live in barricaded castles, far removed from the very people they serve. And their newly acquired position become the conduit to wealth gathering. Here the founding-father could be linked to the Prime Minister in Achebe's A Man of the People.

Next is East Africa.

ImageNations Rating: 5.0 out of 6.0

54a. Contemporary African Short Stories, A Review

Title: Contemporary African Short Stories
Authors: Various
Editors: Chinua Achebe and C.L. Innes
Genre: Short Story Collection
Publishers: Heinemann (African Writers Series)
Pages: 196
ISBN: 978-0-435-90566-8
Year of Publication:1992
Country: Various

The Contemporary African Short Stories anthology brings together writers from various parts of Africa, each carrying his or her own writing style. From the magical realism crossed with fantasy of Ben Okri, Kojo Laing, and Mia Couto to the political realism of Nadine Gordimer, Lindiwe Mabuza, Chinua Achebe and C.L. Innes have put together stories from the four corners of the continent that will
give enjoyment to the general reader as well as students and teachers of African writing, [...] that it will encourage them to explore a literature which continues to develop and flourish. (Introduction, page 6)
Also covered are issues of despotism and societal breakdown. Though political issues are raised, they are not discussed in vacuum but through the eyes of the people as in Steve Chimombo's The Rubbish Dump, Daniel Mandishona's A Wasted Land,  Saida Hagi-Dirie Herzi's Government by Magic Spell and Kyalo Mativo's On the Market Day. Another significant issue about this collection is the strong representation of the female as a character and also as a voice such in Adewale Maja-Pearce's The Hotel, Assia Djebar's The Foreigner, Sister of the Foreign Woman.

I have found that short stories collection provides the quickest way of grasping an author's writing style (not always though) - if the collection is singly authored - or the writing environment of a group of people - if the anthology is multi-authored and geographically categorised, just as this one was. Such collections do not lend themselves easily to review and reviewing them as one book causes each story to lose its essence, like classing in statistics.

Consequently, this review has been structured according to the editors' geographical categorisation. It is my hope that doing this would allow each story to be adequately represented. And it would be long, I am sorry.

Most of the South African stories [...] developed the realist mode [...], portraying in harsh detail the lives of the black proletariat in the shanty towns and urban ghettos. (Page 3)
However, there were more to this than pure rage against racism or apartheid as it existed in South Africa, there is the humanist view of issues therein raised.

The Prophetess by Njabulo S. Ndebele (South Africa)
Njabulo Ndebele
The Prophetess is a story told from the point of view of a young boy, probably ten, who has been sent by his mother to the fearful and famous Prophetess for Holy Water. The story describes the 'journey', albeit walking, the boy made to the prophetess' house and the mental torture he went through. As is the wont of most short stories, the entire story covers the period he got to the house and back. Yet, within this we get to know how and why the prophetess is fearful and famous so that even when the prophetess coughs the boy expects something to happen. His fear increasing with every action the prophetess made in the darkness of her room,
[...] the boy wondered: if she coughed too long, what would happen? Would something come out? A lung? [...] Did anything come out of her floor? The cough subsided. (Page 12)
relaxing only when he realised that the prophetess knows his mother. 

However, from this story we also get to see the growing delinquents as black parents, unable to provide for their children, lose them to the street, where all sorts of behaviours are picked. Then there is the question of faith. Did the boy's mother survived because of the prophet or because of the faith she had in the holy water even though we discover that the bottle broke along the way? 

Amnesty by Nadine Gordimer (South Africa)
Nadine Gordimer
Amnesty tells the story of a South African black Unionist who was arrested for inciting riots among workers.

Narrated by his fiancée, the story portrayed the deep racial division that represented South Africa under apartheid regime. The man had left home to work for a construction company involved in building skyscrapers around the country and had joined the union. The hope was that the dowry would be paid so that in three years they could get married but when the three years came, he found himself in prison. The woman's voice was sharp and revealing. It showed how oppressed the people of South Africa were and how women were doubly affected: emotionally and physically, whenever their loved ones were carted off to prisons and the upkeep of the family rested solely on them. In this story it was during the trial that their daughter was. This is an honest unsentimental story told not to elicit pity but to present the lives of a people.
I couldn't go often to the court because by that time I had passed my Standard 8 and I was working in the farm school. Also my parents were short of money. [...] My father and the other brother work here for the Boer, and the pay is very small, we have two goats, a few cows we're allowed to graze, and a patch of land where my mother can grow vegetables. No cash from that. (Page 25/26)
The emotional pressure escalated when after two years of his six years sentence the woman saved enough money to cover the trip to the prison island to visit and back. However, she was to discover that even in prison the government had control when he were bared from taking the ferry because they had not permit.
We didn't have a permit. We didn't know that before you come to Cape Town, before you come to the ferry for the Island, you have to have a police permit to visit a prisoner on the Island. (Page 27)
So that their love was only sustained through letters which they both knew were read by police authorities.

Then he was released after five years. And the man got more involved in the fight and the woman grew more sad, scared of the consequence if it happens again, scared of what to tell their daughter, scared that perhaps the family would disintegrate, scared that their daughter would lose her father. 

Wake... by Lindiwe Mabuza (South Africa)
Lindiwe Mabuza
Note that Lindiwe was the ANC representative in Stockholm and Washington. Currently, she is South Africa's high commissioner to the United Kingdom. Her story was the most difficult story I read in this collection. It merges several voices and writing style. According to the editors Wake draws 
on a variety of techniques and writing style - realist description, dream, dialogue, drama, stream of consciousness, traditional and contemporary songs of children and adults, and political statement. (Page 4)
And I cannot agree less with the editors. However, in summary it tells the story of an eight year old girl who lost her friend. There are places where the narration shifts from the girl's point of view to the dead girl's father. The story is about a girl who had died during the 1976 Soweto Uprising where black students demonstrated against the use of Afrikaans in schools. This is how the narrator captured the cause of the demonstration that subsequently led to the death of several students:
There was no drama to the eight hundred deaths. No mystery either! Only the quantity and nature of violence. The fascist government wanted Africans to think, breathe, evaluate and conceptualise in Afrikaans. 'Only dogs and slaves are defined by their masters,' said Frederick Douglass. The students said no! to indoctrination and demonstrated. The police shot them.The fascists of South Africa said shoot 'at any cost'. Absolutely no drama to hot pursuit and murder, in cold blood. (Page 36)
And later the fascist government was to institute a 'no mass funeral for victims of Soweto riots', thus controlling the people even in death. The narrators' frustration was directed at anything including the earth which seemed to be exacting from them the prize for the gold it has provided them, while leaving the ones who were actually wearing the ornaments, the wealthy white apartheidists.

In the end I would say this is a powerful story. It is poetic in some parts, lamentful in others and plain anger in most parts. Yet there were elements of hope as seen through the girls eyes when he saw his dead friend resurrect.

A Wasted Land by Daniel Mandishona (Zimbabwe)
Daniel Mandishoba
A Wasted Land is an exploration into the fallouts of the fight for independence in Rhodesia, (or Zimbabwe). In this short story, Bernard - the narrator - questions whether the war between the nationalists and the government was worth it when the result was already known. The war had led to
row upon row of empty shelves as business slackened considerably. There was no bread, sugar, eggs, soap, salt, milk, butter. In fact, there was nothing. (Page 63)
And Bernard had become disillusioned about the war, having lost an uncle who had left the country after being expelled from the university for political activities only to return in strait, a mad man, who was later to commit suicide. 

On the day of burial, after debt had virtually brought the family to a standstill, he was to lose his father through similar circumstance as his uncle Nicholas. And this is where Bernard's argument takes its root. He decried the war and disregarded the nationalists view 
... of dismantling by proletarian revolution a political system that had been in place for over a century. (Page 61)
According to Bernard
The nationalist politicians and the government were like parasite and its host animal who need each other because of the mutual benefit of an otherwise harmful co-existence. (Page 61)
And even at that period he saw the promise by the nationalist as
a tainted utopia, a paradise of emptiness. (Page 61)
Finally, the war left Bernard's family naked, with nothing other than the clothes they were wearing. And who would love a war that did this to him and his family. Most often in such wars, the angle everyone looks at is the one provided by the fighters and as always it is a political view shaped and skewed by the would-be beneficiaries. But in this story Mandishona, through the eyes of Bernard, sees it differently. He isn't talking about the politics, about the governments and their oppressive regime nor the nationalists and their Utopian ideals, he is concerned about the humans, his relations, who are dying endlessly for this cause, which they are not guaranteed to bring hope or change to their lives.

The Birds of God by Mia Couto (Mozambique)

Mia Couto
Mia Couto's The Birds of God mixes magical realism with fantasy. A poor fisherman had gone to the river to fish. He sees a bird and wished the bird was in his canoe, then the bird was in his canoe almost dying. He realised that this was not a bird he would want to feed on and decided to let it go. But this the bird won't go. He took the bird home, feeding it with the fish he would feed his wife and children. The poor bird became lonely and the fisherman wished for another bird and was given. These two birds took most of the food away from the family and the wife got annoyed. Yet the man sees this as a test of goodwill from God. He thought that
It was his task to show that men could still be good. Yes, that the true goodness cannot be measured in times of abundance but when hunger dances in the bodies of men. (Page 69)
When the birds hatched and more food was diverted from household consumption to feed them, his wife left him. And everybody said he was mad. So deep was his love for the birds that when he came home from fishing one day - because he foresaw a problem at home - to find that they had burnt to ashes he wished himself dead and Enersto, the man, died.

This story marks the developmental path of African writing is taking. Writers are now exploring whatever they want, mixing traditional culture with fantasy and others and this has become Couto's trade mark.

ImageNations Rating: 5.0 out of 6.0

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Conversation with Kuukua Dzigbordi Yomekpe - a Culinary Artist

Kuukua Yomekpe
Kuukua Yomekpe is a young Ghanaian woman whose writings have been published in different anthologies. Kuukua's multi-ethnic background and her multiple degrees - Art, Theology and currently working on her MFA - have influenced her in her writings. However, she also believes in the informal form of education as much as she does in the formal ones. Kuukua draws a lot from her personal life and has found a point of convergence between her love for writing and that for cooking as she considers herself to be a 'culinary artist'. According to her she writes to give people who are 'different' a chance to hear a different voice, believing that by speaking for others, others might speak for her.

Below is an interview ImageNations conducted with this literary talent.
Tells us something about yourself, Kuukua?
Well for starters, I was born and raised in Accra, Ghana at Aunty Hannah’s home in Chorkor. I am the oldest child on my mother’s side, and the fourth on my father’s. Altogether, I have six siblings. As my name suggests I am Fante on my maternal grandmother’s side, I am also Ga on my maternal grandfather’s side, and finally, I am, as far as I know, fully Ewe on my father’s side. I attended Christ the King International School from kindergarten to JSS3. I moved to the US after completing Holy Child Secondary School, affectionately known as HolyCo, in 1995. I choreograph African and Liturgical dance forms. I can throw down reasonably in the kitchen; I love cooking and throwing parties for my friends. And it goes without saying that I love to write. I write to live. I have been privileged to have been published a few times in the last two years. I hope to own a retreat or respite center one day where I can write, cook, and dance, and teach other women to do the same as a form of therapy and self-care.

In your biography you said your ‘formal’ higher education started in Columbus, Ohio. What do you mean by ‘formal’ and what have been your places of informal education?
What I mean by formal education is this: The Western form of education that is accepted almost everywhere and often preferred above all other forms—the standardized testing, the grading and GPA systems, the uniforms and tuition. When I speak of informal education, I am referring to the knowledge that the ancestors and elders have passed down through the ages; that which can never be learned in any classroom setting. I am speaking about learning Fante and Ga from the women who washed my clothes and baked our bread, or learning to cook a mean nkatie wonu from Aunty Mercy who probably didn’t complete high school. These women did not use measuring cups or notebooks, nor give grades or award degrees. I consider myself very lucky to have been educated by these women, who often go unrecognized. I truly believe that my education is not complete without such places of informal education.

Coming from a culturally different background where sexual relations are expected to be between two individuals of the opposite sex, how did issues of bisexuals influence your writings?
Now, this is a bit tough. As you can imagine, and as you rightly assume, issues of gender and sexuality are rarely discussed in constructive ways in the society in which I was raised. Engaging in these conversations has not been easy, but I have finally come to terms with it, and am writing about it. For a long time, I could not reconcile these conversations given my cultural background and my devout Catholic upbringing. As I do with all challenges, I set out to first explore it. The confusion was apparent, but it took engaging with those we called “other” and inching close to various mixed communities to begin realizing that no matter what anyone else thought of you, you were the only one charged with living your particular life. Once I began putting real faces to these “fags,” “dykes,” and “homosexuals,” I could not deny their dignity. The person the creator was calling me to be could not deny the dignity of others. People have opinions, always have, always will. There are several strains of arguments and often I engage, but essentially, I use my writing to honor the difference in all of God’s creation. To deny anyone’s dignity means to allow others to deny mine. The saying by Martin Niemöller comes to mind whenever I encounter discussions of dignity:
They came first for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up.
I write to give people who are “different” a chance to hear a different voice in the wilderness, if I may use that phrase. I speak up so someone might speak up for me. It’s not an easy task, but ultimately, I am the one who has to live with myself and answer to the creator in the end.

Your writings suggest that you write on issues concerning women. Again there is this deep contribution of your personal life in your work. To what extent has the concept of feminism defined your writings and how much of your work is influenced by your life?
All of my work is influenced by life. I couldn’t write much if I didn’t have my life experiences. Equally, I couldn’t write much if issues of women were not addressed in my work. Through my many years of “formal” education, I have become acquainted with the ideals of feminism and womanism, as well as several other concepts of believing in the empowerment of women. What I take from everything I’ve learned over the last 15 years is that women matter, and truly imbibing the ideals of feminism means that I do everything in my power to show this, and make it happen whenever possible. My contribution is through my writing and drawing attention to this idea that women should not have second class citizenship in any society. My favorite button quote, “feminism is the radical notion that women are human beings” drives most of my work and encourages me to build up strong female characters.

What do you intend to achieve with your writings?
I intend to reach people with my message about diversity and dignity for all of creation, and add my voice to a universal message of acceptance. I intend to help people make connections in their lives and generate solidarity with those they may think of as “other.” I intend for people to see themselves in a broader global society beyond their various ethnic groups. Mostly, I intend to be another example of a survivor by sharing my own stories with the global society. Surviving life is important and sharing stories of survival helps keep universal hope alive. It’s the “If she did it, I can” story. Meri Nana-Ama Danquah’s book, Willow Weep for Me was that book for me. 

You have degrees in Arts and Theology, and intend to add MFA to it. What is this fascination about degrees? What’s with the degree in Theology?
Fascination with degrees…yeah it truly has come to that. The funny thing is the degrees are not even up in frames on my wall, so sometimes I conveniently forget that I have them. Well, until the loan payments go through. Anyway, I believe I was first attracted to higher ed and the academic milieu during my undergraduate work. I enjoyed academia, and wanted to remain there forever. I thought in order to do this I had to continue taking classes. I wanted to write but I didn’t feel Creative Writing was a practical enough degree to satisfy my immigrant family who wanted me to “make something of myself!” So I tried the route of English thinking I could teach, but now I know that classroom teaching is a calling given to some people. I was not one of those people. Working in Student Affairs was a novel idea that I stumbled upon after my first Masters. While doing so, I realized that I wanted the added component of pastoral counseling hence my trek back into the student seat to get that degree in Theology. Even though I can not be ordained as a woman in the Catholic Church, I still feel called to pastoring students in college. The MFA degree came more as a kick in the pants if you will. An awakening of sorts. I still wanted to write after all these years, and all these degrees. I realized that I had been avoiding my writing for years so I began to focus on it. I decided it might be best to do it in a cohort model so I would have specific accountability to other writers. I am only through my first semester and I’m not sure yet what I think.

And what exactly are you heading towards?
My ultimate goal is a women’s resource and respite center where women can come to rest and use writing and other forms of expressive arts therapeutically to process trauma and pain. As I have honed in more on my goal, I have realized that I don’t need a degree for this, however, knowing the world we live in, and knowing that as a Black woman I have certain odds against me, I figured the extra credentials might aid in achieving my final goal. Of course we also know that most artists all have “day” jobs. I was trying to figure out what mine would be. How would I support my dream goal?

What do you think we can do as Ghanaians to improve our literary scene?
When I was in Ghana this past August, I got plugged into the literary scene through yourself, Nana Nyarko, Teddy, and Mamle, and I was pleasantly surprised. All I knew of were the Busias and Aidoos, and Armahs, but the Writers Project of Ghana broadened my perspective and changed my view of who made up the term “Ghanaian Writers.” We are REAL, we just need to make our presence known. If there is one thing I’ve learned being abroad it’s this: No one will hand you something if you don’t ask for it, step up to it, or go after it. The Citi FM program is a great resource and I think we ought to keep going with it and searching for other avenues to share our talents. I look forward to future collaborations.

What are you currently working on?
I am currently working on a couple big projects. One is a Culinary Memoir, which is untitled, but which combines the stories of my family and our interaction with food. It is only fitting, since I call myself a “culinary artist,” to be able to celebrate the roots of this audacious title. I am also working on a collection of personal essays about the African immigrant experience in America. Three of these are published in the African Women Writing Resistance anthology that recently came out. I will be presenting on these pieces at the African Literature Association conference in April. I might also be collaborating with Ruby Goka, the Burt Award winner who read with me on WPG’s on Citi Fm program the first weekend in August when I was in Ghana. I have had a Young Adult fiction piece that’s been collecting dust since 1999 and my recent conversations with Ruby have inspired me to move ahead in a slightly different direction. An idea for an anthology of African immigrant children is currently bubbling on the back burner. Of course, slightly charring on the other back burner is my blog which began with all the enthusiasm of a child in a candy store, and is currently challenging every disciplined bone in me. I will get to it, today…oh no! tomorrow perhaps… You know what I mean?

Your final words?
Thank you for the opportunity to make my words heard. I believe that as writers we need to support each other, create a virtual colony of sorts. If we don’t do it, no one will. Most often than not, things are just not handed to folks, we have to go for what we want and we have to support and celebrate each other.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Man and The People

A poet's response to Laurent Gbagbo

He slurps The People’s cries into his pockets
And sucks their blood into his belly barns
His eyes feast from The People’s minds
Robbing them of their thoughts;
After defecating into their singular bowls
The Man wipes his anus on their faces

He elects himself Lord of the Land
God of the Sea, Fire God
That no one farms, fishes or cooks
Without a nod from his Kilimanjaro head

And when guns stutter unceasingly at one end of Town
The Man laughs, swaggers and boogies
At the other end

Don’t you know him?
His voice is a thousand whispering souls
In an octagonal room;
And his grey hair speaks not the language of age.

written 04.12.2010.

Proverb Monday

Proverb: W'amma wo yɔnko antwa nkron a, wo nso worentwa du

Translation: If you don't let your companion to eat (or harvest) nine portions, you also won't get ten.

Alternative form: W'amma wo yɔnko antwa ankɔ a, wo nso worentwa nnu (Note that some proverbs are said in different ways and yet they mean the same. Here there is a clear play on words and sounds: 'nkron' means nine in Twi and 'du' means ten. However, 'ankɔ' is the negative form of 'go', so it becomes 'do not go', and 'du' also means 'reach' and 'nnu', which should have been 'ndu' but 'nd' becomes 'nn', means 'do not reach'.

Translation of Alternative form: If you don't let your companion clear the path forward, you also won't clear it to the end.

Meaning: If you don't share, you don't prosper.

Usage: This is mostly used when someone (often the one with some form of power: wealth, age, anything) is preventing another's progress. When this is used it is to tell the person that our lives are interconnected and it is best we help another rather than becoming selfish and 'cutting the heels' of the vulnerable.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

@Barcamp Ghana 2010: Where Ideas Walk

December 18, 2010 was the date. I participated in my first ever Barcamp. I have realised that ever since I started this book review and active blogging, I have moved from the hermit I was to become a socially vibrant person who is no more scared to share his thoughts. And I know, I can sometimes be vitriolic. That's my nature. I cannot suffer sycophancy or pure hypocrisy. I love ratiocinative thinkers.

For the first time, I met some of the faces behind blogs I have been following for a long time such as Ato of Mighty Africa, and Nina of Accra books and things. I also met twitter friends such as MacJordan, Nii Ayertey and more.

Barcamp Ghana brought together young individuals who have passion, ideas, and the zeal to let their ideas walk. It was not your usual Talk Shops where one went to sit and be talked to. At Barcamp, participants set the agenda they would want to talk about. People elect themselves to facilitate and no one imposes his or her ideas on the other, rather ideas are solicited and shared.

I participated in three sessions: Citizen Journalism versus Traditional Journalism facilitated by Bernard Avle of Citi FM and MacJordan; Telling the African Story facilitated by Obed Sarpong, Leila Djansi and Deborah Ahenkorah; and Blogging, which was facilitated by Oluniyi. I couldn't participate in those that were more germane to my professional life like Green and Renewal Energy (where I would have loved to listen to and talk about Green Agriculture) because some of these sessions ran concurrently. And when passion met profession, the former won.

My biggest issue arose at the second session: Telling the African Story. Every reader of this blog knows my stand on the African Story. The topics under discussions included: Why tell the African story; What is the African story; How to tell the African story and others. I have my opinions. I don't believe there is a strict thing as the African Story. As far as we write from our own perspectives, saying things that relate to us in a way we understand it, we are telling OUR story and not the AFRICAN story. Besides, Africa is too big to have A story. The very moment writers fall into this trap of telling THE African STORY, we would then have to get the indicators that sort stories into African and non-African story. The question we would then have to ask ourselves is: What are these indicators? Famine? Hope? Coups? Diseases? Ignorance? Tourism? Animals?

Once we set these we become the very parochial people we have been blaming; the corporate media and publishing establishment which have uniquely defined Africa in such terms. Let every writer writes what he deems fit from his OWN perspective and not from BORROWED or ESTABLISHED perspectives. The African Story(ies) is nothing more than the African telling his own story. And it includes: Science Fiction by Africans (Nnedi Okorafor); Historical Fictions by Africans (Ayi Kwei Armah); Fantasy by Africans; Whodunit by Africans (Kwei Quartery, Nii Ayikwei Parkes). I promote African Literature and I define African Literature as any book (fiction or non-fiction) written by a person who was either born on the continent, is a naturalised citizen of an African country or can be linked to the continent through any of the parents. So that writers born and raised in outside Africa but are all inclusive.

This is not the issue that got by nerves ticking like a time-bomb. It is not the issue that has kept me awake and thinking since yesterday. It definitely is not the issue I wanted to talk about. What got my mind agitated, my heart broken, and my mouth instantaneously shut was when the facilitator, Leila Djansi, said
Let me confess, I have never written any positive thing about Africa [why?] ... because I have not come across one.
Leila Djansi is a script writer, a movie director, producer and many others. Her beautiful movie, Sinking Sands, was premiered in Ghanaian in November. Her classy movies include I sing of a Well, The Rub and The Legacy of Love.

Don't be stupefied. Don't open your mouth like a zombie. I didn't make this up. And yes Leila is a Ghanaian. And yes she make nice movies. And yes she was a facilitator of a program organised by some GHANAIAN minds. Unless I am mistaking Ghanaians belong to the bigger class of people called AFRICANS, don't they? If they do, which I am not sure, isn't what she's doing a POSITIVE thing? Isn't the program she attended a POSITIVE thing? And I love her movies. The first trailer I saw of hers is I SING OF A WELL. Please all should endeavour to watch that movie and you would know that at least she's one positive thing about Africa, unless she had abjured her citizenship.

I have criticized the BBC, CNN, Al-Jazeera for the negative portrayal of Africans. I am not a sycophant to say that Africa has no problems. Far from that! Africa has a mountain of problems, the size of Everest. What I am and have been crying for is some coverage for the good too, in addition to the tonnes given to the bad. A little bit of this and a little bit of that. 

But then here is a Ghanaian who has never come across anything good on the second largest and most populous continent. Here is a Ghanaian who has not written anything good about the continent. Who am I then to chastise the established media? Who am I to ask them to talk positive about my continent sometimes when my very sib does not? At least CNN has African Voices on which I watch interesting interviews and documentary on people like Soyinka, Adichie, Mandela and others. So CNN has at least heard of some positive thing on the continent.

Anytime we repudiate the many negative scenes on these institutions and castigate them for commercialising the legion of problems facing the continent, always think of the very people the money goes to to make such bland and ill-informed statements. Always think of the Ghanaians who write for these institutions who have never heard of anything positive on the continent. And always note that, most often, these positively blinded Africans are those who have had some form of Western education or have had some form of interactions with Westerners. I would quote a facebook status I wrote sometime ago (most of my facebook updates come to me spontaneously, so I keep the nice ones):
the [...] group of people are those who after minor interactions with another group see themselves to be suddenly inferior such that the only redemption for them is to lose themselves and become the others. Such individuals mostly emigrants to the West come home with the false belief that the West is the ideal toward which we must all strive (facebook update 13.12.2010).
However, this is our problem. The Ghanaian sets either an absolutely low standard or a high standard so that when the Black Stars qualified for the World Cup, a lot of Ghanaians said they would not go past the first round, when they passed the first round everybody was talking about winning the cup. We are like that, so perhaps Leila's comment was meant to ginger us to seek the positive, to make the positive ubiquitous so that one does not scratch his head when asked to list one million positive things on the continent. And that was what Barcamp Ghana with its focus on Creating Dreams, Thinking Smart and Shaping Future sought to do. 

We meet again next year @Barcamp 2011, to deliberate on what we have achieved from our action plans. Note that Leila is organising a Book Drive, one of the positive resolutions that came out of the discussion, which seeks to donate books to deprived areas in Ghana. Please contact Leila if you have an old or new book you would want to donate. She does not accept cash, only books.
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