**I am posting this for the first time on this blog. This interview was done with Jamati Magazine and posted online on their website on 19 November 2008. It was conducted by Awo Sarpong Ansu.
- Tell us about yourself. Who is Nana Damoah?
My full name is Nana Awere Damoah. I was born in Accra, Ghana and reside in Tema with my family – my wife, Vivian, and our two boys, Nana Kwame Bassanyin and Nana Yaw Appiah. I have lived all my life in Ghana except for my year’s study in the UK.
My background is in Chemical Engineering, with degrees from University of Nottingham, UK and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Ghana. I studied in Nottingham as a British Council Chevening scholar. My entire working career has been with Unilever; currently with Unilever Ghana as the Production Manager for Foods. I served, from 2002 to 2004, as the National President of Joyful Way Incorporated, a Christian evangelistic music group formed in 1972, with branches in Ghana and associates spread all across the globe.
My hobbies are reading, writing, watching movies, being with friends and mentoring young people. My friends tell me I am quite jovial!
- Tell us about your book, Excursions In My Mind.
Excursions in my Mind is a collection of reflective essays and poems, supported by quotations from literary sources, the Bible and contemporary leaders. These reflections cover a broad sweep of issues that confront the average individual in everyday life, and touch on key issues such as self-help, leadership, love for one’s parents, nature of friendship and daily walk in faith in contemporary life. The topics are selected as randomly as events and circumstances confront the average person but are cogitated and ruminated upon, over and over again in my mind, intertwined with my own experiences and stories, a sort of perambulation in a labyrinth, but with an eventual egress, escorted by cogent lessons for life’s improvement.
Excursions In My Mind is published by Athena press (London).
- What message are you trying to convey in the book?
I believe there are two modes of conveying a message: by what we say and by what our actions say; the spoken or verbal verses the unwritten.
The written message I seek to put across is that life is a business to be worked at and lived, not just dreamed about, and that in doing this, we need to be ‘learning people’ – there is an example, a message, a lesson, a warning or a moral you can discover in every scene of the play that is your life; he is never old who continues to learn and he is already old who ceases to learn. As Harvey Ullman stated: “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether this happens at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps on learning not only remains young but becomes constantly valuable regardless of physical capacity.” With my scripts, I seek to instigate thought, provoke reflections and educe action.
The unwritten, tacit message, what I endeavour to convey with my literary accomplishment is this: as an African writer, who is in a technical discipline (a practising Chemical Engineer), it is my aspiration that via my literary work I can enthuse our youth to experiment and not to let their scope and influence on their generation be bounded or restricted by their training, to discontinue restricting themselves to the box when they can go beyond the perimeter and reach the pinnacle of their potential, to grasp the verity that talents cannot be tamed and should be employed for the universal good of mankind.
- You are an Engineer by profession. When did you start writing?
I wrote my first poem Prayer – Lift, Lay, Leave in 1992. My first story in the ‘Mirror’ was in 1995. My work won the 1997 Step Magazine National story writing competition.
My short stories have been published both in the ‘Mirror’ and ‘Spectator’ and my poems in magazines on KNUST campus, during my undergraduate years. The essays that have been published as Excursion In My Mind and are still being written were started in 2004 and I sent out the first one via email to friends on the 4 October 2004.
- You always hear that people don’t read anymore, and that Africans don’t read. What is the literary scene like in Ghana?
Awo, you’ve just stroked a string in my heart! ‘Books and Knowledge’ is actually the first chapter in my book. We don’t read and I don’t believe it is a predicament of only Africans, though our plight may be more acute. It is a crisis of our generation, which has been brought up on fast foods, fast cars, fast visuals and videos, fast everything! We still have a long way to go in Ghana and the state of affairs is exacerbated by the paucity of publishing houses that should be churning out relevant books that tackle our African and Ghanaian issues and values. I must say I have been encouraged by the effort of Readwide in Ghana lately.
A new set of new writers are coming up after the golden generation of Ama Ataa Aidoo, Ayi Kwei Armah, Efua Sutherland and Atukwei Okai; this is encouraging. We don’t have a dearth of writing talent, I am sure of that. The formation of book clubs also must go on, we need to excite our people, especially the youth to read. We still have a long way to go, and we have only now started the drive upwards after the decline. I hope I am contributing my quota with my book.
- Do you have any advice for other aspiring writers?
I would say they should persist in writing and exploring avenues to publish. I have published in newspapers, on notice boards, in brochures, in student magazines, through competitions, through emails. My book is a product of four years of writing and circulating my thoughts to friends via email. Think big about where you want to take your writing to, start small but move fast!
And keep in mind, a writer is worthy of that name only when she writes! Gerald Brenan captures it most succinctly: “It is by sitting down to write every morning that one becomes a writer. Those who do not do this remain amateurs.”
- Where can our readers learn more about your work?
I keep three blogs of my work.
Essays in the ‘Excursions in my Mind’ series are updated at www.excursionsinmymind.blogspot.com, my poems can be found at www.patmoscollections.blogspot.com and all my short stories are at www.storyloom.blogspot.com.
My book is also available on amazon.com and amazon.co.uk.