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18 September 2016

Two events happened this weekend that brought me immense joy and satisfaction. Over the past couple of years, my friend Kofi Akpabli and I have been contributing our bits to the rejuvenation of a reading culture in Ghana, augmenting the efforts of organizations such as the Writers Project of Ghana (WPG holds a book reading at the Goethe Institute on the last Wednesday of every month) and Ghana Association of Writers who hold a fortnightly GAW Sunday event of book reading and poetry plus events on special days such as the upcoming GAWBOFEST which will be holding on 21st September, a holiday. In recent times, I have heard about other initiatives such as the one by Read Ghana, which is focused on providing Community Lead Read Literacy Services for Children in under-served areas in public primary schools, with other children in the community benefit as well. This effort is spearheaded by two amazing ladies – Klenam and Mary – and they have their next reading clinic slated for 21 September at Madina and Kwabenya. As I love to say, more vim to all the persons involved in these initiatives, which require our support.

Maukeni Padiki Kodjo is a blogger, writer and law student. She is the reigning Blogger of the Year, as awarded by Blogging Ghana, which is the key platform that organizes and provides an avenue for bloggers and persons who use social media to disseminate contents to connect and improve. Keni, as her admirers and followers call her, has been sharing her short stories in series on her popular blog kenikodjo.com. Some of the titles that she has churned out recently include Know Thy Man and Capital High. These stories are engaging and have huge following, who interact with the writer and offer creative suggestions for how the stories should unfold! What more can a writer wish for, eh? I see these stories quickly transiting onto screen soon, but we will discuss that some day.

This intense engagement should be part of the reasons why, after wrapping up on the latest series Know Thy Man, Keni decided to organize what, to me, is a first in Ghana: a meet-up for the fans of a blog to interact with the writer, her stories and characters, and to generally fraternize. According to Keni, the agenda included:

* Ask me anything’, an interactive Q and A

* Trivia quizzes

* ‘What would you have done?’ based on the #KnowThyMan series

* Photo shoots with some of the Kenikodjo characters

* Lots of networking and nibbles

* FUN!

And fun it was! I was unable to attend due to flight difficulties which meant I was able to get to Accra on the morning of 18th September, instead of the afternoon of the previous day as I had intended. However, again a mark of ingenuity on the part of Keni and her team, the meet-up was telecast live on Facebook, so I could follow live for a brief period but spent my evening watching the close to three hours video. In the words of Keni, “it was lit”! Young people gathering to discuss stories, characters, plots and literature. I was particularly impressed with the knowledge of the characters in the stories and quotes from the various series that the audience displayed during the trivia quiz session. Kudos to Keni! This column will be bringing you an interview with this amazing writer some time soon.

I have been part of a couples fellowship for about 14 years. This is a group of about ten couples who meet regularly to pray, study scriptures, discuss our marriages, relationships, children and other related concerns. And also to create a platform as friends to share our challenges for mutual support. And we do have fun too!

A couple of months ago, one of our members suggested that I should also make time to read to our children during one of our meetings. A bit like learning to bring charity home, since she is supposed to begin at home! After one postponement, we planned and held it on 18 September. 

Frankly, even though Akpabli and I had been reading to audiences over the past three years, this was the first time I would be reading to such a young audience. However, as my friend Jonathan Agyeman mentioned to a mutual friend who asked whether she could bring 13-year olds to our upcoming book reading in Kumasi on 24 September, I have been taking my children to most of my book readings; my eldest is only 10 years. And my kids love the book readings and will usually repeat to me their favourite portions heard. So I appreciated the fact that the children within our fellowship would enjoy the readings. My main challenge was the selections to read to them and how to space out the readings.

I worried for nothing! This was one of my most enjoyable sessions ever! I started with a reading of Akpabli’s fufu and soup articles, and then moved on to a reading from “How to Be a Nigerian” by Peter Enahoro. The kids giggled throughout. After the first two readings, I invited them to ask questions. Questions ranged from the differences between soups in Ghana and Nigeria to how to drink soup. When I took my book I Speak of Ghana to read for the second round, Kwaku Ofori-Atta, one of the kids, exclaimed that he loved the book and can he read his favourite chapter, please?

I handed over the book to him and he read the chapter “You know you are in Ghana when…”. We asked him questions after his reading which he fielded remarkably. From then on, the kids took over the reading! Each child wanted to read their portions of the various books! 
We had readings from Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (which was done by Papa Yaw), The Imported Ghanaian by Alba K Sumprim (my son NK read the chapter “You Are Invited”, which is his favourite chapter after hearing Alba read it at the JamRock event), Excursions in my Mind (my son NY read the chapter “Books and Knowledge”), Ladybird Favourite Stories for Boys (my 6-year old daughter and Papa Yaw read two stories from this book) and the Wimpy Kid collection (reading done by Papa Roberts). Each of the readers answered questions. The children asked for the meanings of the new words, with David Mankattah the most active, for which he won a prize: I vowed (he asked us to explain what the word “vowed” meant) to get him an favourite book of his choice from anywhere in the world. They also asked me about how they can also write books. Little Papa Yaw asked me if I can help him write his own book! Another vow was made!

The parents discussed the various, practical ways we can encourage reading amongst our children. My son NK contributed to this aspect of the discussion by encouraging the parents to get their kids adventure books. He showed one such book he had borrowed from the community library. 

Feedback after the reading event was really positive. Some of the parents confessed that this was their first such event, experiencing book reading in such a manner. Ato said he had listened to book discussions on BBC a number of times which usually focused on one book and the author’s experiences and views; but the format we used, where we just read from multiple books and enjoyed the sound of the written word, was unique and refreshing. The children indicated that they enjoyed it too, learnt new words and expressions. The parents remarked on the confidence exhibited by our children in stepping up voluntarily to read, for which we were proud. Some of the children answered, when asked if they had reading sessions in their schools and time set apart for library sessions, that these were not mainstream.

A good literary weekend it was for me, both from afar and near. In the words of the hymn writer, we thank God for such and humbly ask for more.

10 September 2016

I haven’t felt this insulted and angry in a long while.
I am on my way to Athens via Paris on Air France. At the pre-check in counter, where verification of documents is done at Murtala Mohammed Airport, the Nigerian lady indicates that the Schengen visa from the Greek embassy is not allowed on the airlines (KLM/Air France) if the holder hasn’t travelled to a Schengen country before. She flips through my two passports that I handed over to her. She suggested that they would have to “off-load” me, and proceeded to start filling the appropriate form for that purpose. She told me she just finished off-loading one such passenger.
I said “Oh wow!”
She asked where I work and I tell her, and provide all the supporting documents including company ID and letter of invitation from our sister company in Greece which stated my designation. I then showed her my UK student visa which is in my first passport (in another pack of two older passports), asking her if a travel to the UK mattered. She took pictures of all these and send to their chat forum on WhatsApp, awaiting further directions. At this point, it was all civil as I expected her to trigger their standard procedures and seek approval for my boarding.
Then she looked at my bag (1 piece, 24kg) whilst the allowance is 2 pieces. She let out what got me annoyed:
“Your bag is too big for someone going for only 10 days. It looks like a bag for someone who is not coming back.”
I blew my top!
“I consider it an insult,” I told her calmly, surprising myself. I was boiling inside, the heat of my anger could have easily cooked beans.
She said that is how they “profile” and that they were there to profile.
Profile? I thought that was a term used by people we called racists,  on blacks. I thought that was a word peculiar to the US, especially lately with all the news we have been hearing. I asked her whether she knew what I was carrying and why one bag was too big for ten days when the allowance was for two anyway? 
“If you are going for a vacation, yes, but not for a business meeting.”
She wasn’t making sense anymore. I know when to stop when an argument is going nowhere.
She left to go upstairs to process passengers for the final boarding and told me her other colleague will attend to me. Eventually, I was called, and I completed the check-in procedures. I also called the company airport passages guy who I like to swerve when I travel, not seeking to worry him as I travel through the Lagos airport often so quite at home. He was livid!
We don’t respect ourselves. 
After I submitted and, thus finished my Master’s in the UK, on the 15 September 2006, I stayed in the UK for just two more weeks because I opted to serve as a Student Assistant for Nottingham University’s International Welcome Week, where the University helps freshers to settle in and go through induction. I was back in Ghana on 2nd October, and resumed work in November. I returned to the UK in December to graduate and came back right after graduation, to continue working in Ghana and on the continent (with a month to spare on my student visa). This is in line with my cardinal belief that I don’t have to sweat elsewhere, as I wrote in my book I Speak of Ghana, where I stated “Why sweat my youthful years away building someone’s village and not mine? Why put my shoulders to a wheel that turns another economy whilst the one that has my umbilical cord tied to it travels south? And in returning to Ghana, I was returning toAfrica, to the continent that needs the resources to grow. How can Africa improve if we don’t want to stay, sweat and swim against the tide of under-development and turn our economies around? Why sweat elsewhere when I can sweat on the continent, and stay in a better Ghana, a better Nigeria, a better Africa?”
I haven’t travelled back to UK since then, mainly because work hasn’t sent me there. And many of my friends know I hardly do non-business travel, especially outside Africa, because I absolutely hate the notion that a visa officer would think I wish to be an illegal immigrant and thus ask questions we as Africans wouldn’t ask when his kin and kind wish to visit the continent.
So for a fellow African to think that a professional, an engineer, an expatriate for a multinational in another African country would want to travel to Europe only to escape Africa was a painful insult. 
Even a low grade airport official who may not have travelled before (sorry if I am profiling her too) thinks that a professional engineer has nothing to do with his life but to run away to Europe via Athens and live as an illegal immigrant.
At the pre-departure check point she tried to be nice and smiled and wished me a safe trip. I didn’t mind her. 
“You didn’t respond to my wish,” she whispered.
I gazed at her and didn’t even blink.
I don’t forget those who insult me.
I may take condescension from someone different and put it down to ignorance and bigotry but not from a fellow black.
This experience, aside the annoyance, caused me to think deeply on the flight. How do I contribute to build my country and continent such that no one, not even our own selves, would think or want to flee at the least opportunity? How do I help to change the narrative?
It took less than 5 minutes for the immigration guy to stamp my passport at the Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport to go to the boarding gate to Athens. 
No profiling. 
Seems some can be more French than Jacques Chirac.

Old School Nsempiisms

(Contributions by Kweku Opare-Djan, Prosper Afuti, AR Zakari)
 
Why waste time fighting on social media when you can meet at the school park and settle it?
 
Why waste airtime and data when you can stand behind her window and whistle or throw a pebble at the window?
 
Why take her to a pizza spot when you can buy kelewele and groundnuts and spend hours walking and throwing groundnuts into your mouth to tackle the kelewele?
 
Why waste money on clothing and footwear from boutiques when you can do first selection at Kanta?
 
Why dispose of your old notebooks and wrong work sheets when you can give them to the aburo ni nkatiɛ seller in exchange for some local popcorn?
 
Why hide behind shyness and fail to approach that lady you fancy when you can use a betweener?
 
Why buy pizza when it is practically tea bread and some stew – mushroom, meat etc?
 
Why bother to iron your school uniform after an exciting Captain Planet viewing session on Sunday night when you can fold it neatly and place it under your pillow for the generous ironing gods to do their straightening magic on the creases whilst you doze off and snore loudly like a gelded boar?
 
Why send her a WhatsApp message when you can write her a letter on scented paper and deliver it to her via your kid brother?
Why get a menthos to freshen your breath when you can easily do that with aburo ni nkatiɛ?
 
Why bother with super expensive designer mouth spray/wash when you can derive same fresh breath by chewing sand-fried aburo ni nkatiɛ?
 
Why waste money on fried rice and shito when you can cook angwa mo fortified with tolo beef, accompanied by pepper with Titus providing backing vocals?
 
Why buy her dinner at Novotel when you could get her yummy meat pie at Ebony?
 
Why drive all the way to Silverbird when you could go watch cine at Orion?
 
Why import car batteries when you can get some at the Ganiva Battery Centre?
 
Why get another prophet when you can consult Apraku, God’s own daughter?
 
Why fear kakai when you have even survived Lady High Heels in boarding house?
 
Why fear anything when you have survived eaten gari and beans without water nearby and miscalculated the swallowing process?
Why worry about horse meat when you have eaten PAMSCAD luncheon meat?
 
Why fear heartburn when you have survived eating gas oil soup in secondary school?
 
Why fear farting when you have survived the eating of dinat powdered milk in secondary school?
 
Why worry about time wasted at the clinic for weighing when you can get tom brown and dinat powdered milk for free after the weighing, to balance your food supplies?
 
Why complain about the softness of your laundry soap when you even used Don’t Touch Me with skill?
 
Why call it Chibom when the Gey Hey ladies allegedly call it Eggies Brodos?
 
Why waste money on tilapia when you could get Ewurefua for cheaper?
 
Why ride in OSA when you can take King of Kings Auntie Dede bus aka manko ta manko nɔ?
 
Why listen to me when I am just an old duade reminiscing about years gone by?
 
**Join Kofi Akpabli, Alba Sumprim and I in Kumasi on 24th Sept at the Kumapley Auditorium, College of Engineering, for the book reading dubbed Romancing Oseikrom Sebitically. Come, and do bring a friend!
luncheon-meat

Luncheon meat

There are a number of people who are quietly and steadily blazing new trails and when such people make time to touch you in a serious way by action, and not words, they deserve to be highlighted and given vim!

One of such persons is Mawn Van Boven. I had been following her exploits in various ventures and notably the Spelling Bee. Then some weeks ago, she contacted me and said she wanted to purchase 100 copies of my books and could I also link her to other Ghanaian writers because she wanted to purchase books and distribute to kids at this year’s launch of The Spelling Bee. Now, if you know anything about the terrain wrt book publishing and sales in Ghana, you would know that’s a big deal! From my engagement with her team since then, I can easily estimate that they have purchased not less than 400 books, from GH authors like Kofi Akpabli, Alba Kunadu Sumprim, Elizabeth-Irene Baitie, Ayesha Harruna Attah, Ruby Goka, Mary Ashun and Abyna Ansaa Adjei and yours sebitically.

And these books are going directly to children to provoke them unto good (reading) works, something I am passionate about!

This gesture  touched me in no small way so I asked Mawn what her motivation was and what led her to choose local authors.

Her response is as below:

====    ====   ====

Young Educators Foundation, organisers of The Spelling Bee, promotes literacy and education in Ghana & Nigeria. The Spelling Bee is in its 10th year:  it is the local version of Scripps Spelling Bee of the USA.

Ghana is the only African country that continues to participate in this global competition.

In May of 2016, Afua Ansah, who represented Ghana at the 89th Scripps Spelling Bee in the US, did Ghana and African proud by becoming the first Ghanaian & African to qualify as a finalist in the Scripps Bee….in its 89-year history!

So this year, we are celebrating our own….Afua Ansah…and Ghanaian authors.

Many are those who say ‘we don’t have good Ghanaian authors’. So we chose to showcase them, to prove that we do have quality authors with quality books, both in content and presentation.

The concept for the launch is a library setting. We want to evoke the memories of our libraries amongst ourselves, whilst introducing our young ones to it. (There will be about 100 students)

Our high profile guests include the 2nd lady Mrs. Matilda Amissah-Arthur, the indefatigable Dep Min of Tourism Abla Dzifa Gomashie and the US Ambassador, Amb. Robert Jackson.

=== === ===

Thanks so much, Mawn and your team. This action of yours to honour GH writers is a big boost. We give you back a vimful dose of that boost as you launch this year’s Spelling Bee on Friday 9th September.

Vim!

​Update from Eliza Olympio of JamRock Restaurant & Grill:
Ticklin’ Di Sebiticalis

Book Reading with 

Nana Awere Damoah 

Kofi Akpabli

Alba K Sumprim
Jamrock Restaurant & Grill will offer complimentary servings of 

Mannish Water, 

Jerk Chicken, 

Festival 

Stamp ‘n’ Go
GraceKennedy will set up a free tasting table of the refreshing Grace Aloe drink for all guests to sample at the event. That’s not all….the irresistible offer to buy 1 and get 1 free is also in the offing.
Special Norte Sobolo will set up free tasting table of sobolo (sorrel) in amazing flavors
AJ Housekeeping will feature her services on the day and has graciously offered to keep Jamrock clean on the day.
THREADEX is suiting up our authors in swanky costumes
MTN “everywhere you go” 

Courtesy MTN 4G, book reading will be streaming live!
Official Photographer- Kobby Blay (yes! I tagged him 😇 he’s my friend now)
Saturday 4.30pm – 7pm
Our Live Reggae Band will thrill us to instrumental interludes between readings.
#ReadingForAndWithPleasure

#ReadingWithSwag

#Read #Eat #Dance #Drink #JamRockGh

Ticklin Di Sebiticalis JamrockThe campaign to promote reading for pleasure among Ghanaians receives a boost with another public reading event to be held in Accra on Saturday September 3rd 2016. Dubbed “Ticklin’ the Sebiticalis”, the special book reading takes place in the cosy setting of Jamrock, a Jamaican-themed restaurant near the A&C Mall at East Legon. Headlined by Nana Awere Damoah and Kofi Akpabli, the reading offers patrons a lively evening of literary pleasure and though-provoking discussions on Ghanaian contemporary life.
 
Kofi Akpabli will charm patrons with excerpts from his books Romancing Ghanaland and Tickling the Ghanaian while Nana Awere Damoah will entice the audience from his repertoire Sebitically Speaking and I Speak of Ghana.
 
With 10 books between them, the two writers continue on their mission to make reading hip again, and to take writing and reading to the level of pop culture. They believe that reading should be done for pleasure as well, and not only for exams and industry. According to both writers, the event also aims to diversify the social offerings currently available on the entertainment scene.
“Elsewhere, public readings and book signing are top-notch events that receive distinguished patronage. As society is pushing for the consumption of made-in-Ghana goods, let’s not forget about made-in-Ghana books”, they said.
 
In their readings so far, the two have received sponsorship from THREADEX, WearGhana, Norte Sobolo and AJ’s Housekeeping Services. A special feature about Saturday’s reading is that for the first time, the two are joined by a Guest Reader, Alba Kunadu Sumprim, author of the Imported Ghanaian and A Place of Beautiful Nonsense.
 
“Ticklin’ the Sebiticalis” runs between 4.30pm and 7pm, and involves four rounds of readings from the works of the three accomplished Ghanaian authors. There will be interludes of poetry and music.
 
By the kind sponsorship of MTN 4G, the reading will be streamed live via the link: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=fa68S8KYMKw
 
About the Authors
 
Kofi Akpabli is a media consultant and travel writer whose latest work has been published in a new Commonwealth Non-Fiction Anthology launched in the UK in May 2016. He is a two-time winner of the CNN/Multichoice African Journalist for Arts and Culture. Kofi has also won GJA and National awards in Culture and Tourism. He writes a travel column Going Places in The Mirror newspaper, published weekly in Accra.
 
Amongst his books are: Harmattan – a Cultural Profile of Northern Ghana, Romancing Ghanaland: the Beauty of Ten Regions, A Sense of Savannah – Tales of a Friendly Walk through Northern Ghana, and Tickling the Ghanaian – Encounters with Contemporary Culture. Kofi is a member of Faculty, Central University. His scholarly interests include the research and dissemination of key values of African culture. Kofi Akpabli lives at a village near Accra with his wife and children.
 
Nana Awere Damoah holds a Master’s degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Nottingham and a Bachelor’s in Chemical Engineering from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST). A British Council Chevening alumnus, Nana works in Nigeria as a Technical Manager.
 
In 1997, Nana won first prize in the Step Magazine National Writing Competition. He is the author of five books: Sebitically Speaking, I Speak of Ghana, Tales from Different Tails, Through the Gates of Thought, and Excursions in my Mind. His sixth book, Nsempiisms, is due in print later this year and is already available as a free e-book. Nana Awere Damoah is married with three children. He divides his time between Lagos and Tema.
 
Alba K Sumprim has been writing for as long as she can remember and regularly flips through, with a wry smile, the stacks of notebooks that contain what can only be described as the melodrama of her teenage years. She is the author of The Imported Ghanaian and A Place of Beautiful Nonsense. She graduated from Escuela International de Cine y Television (EICTV), the Cuban film school, as an Editor and worked on several short and independent film projects in Cuba and London before moving back to Ghana, where she now earns her living writing screenplays, television programmes, producing and directing television commercials.
 
She has been on the writing and editing team of the BBC World Services Trust Radio drama, ‘Story Story, Voices from the Market,’ for over six years. She was a writer and director for the BBC WST television drama, entitled, ‘Wetin Dey!’She lives in Accra, where she is regularly accused of being Senegalese, Malian, Ivorian, Liberian, Kenya or Zimbabwean, in fact, any other nationality but Ghanaian.

The campaign to promote reading for pleasure among Ghanaians receives a boost with another public reading event to be held in Accra on Saturday September 3rd 2016. Dubbed “Ticklin’ the Sebiticalis”, the special book reading takes place in the cosy setting of Jamrock Restaurant, a Jamaican-themed joint near the A&C Mall at East Legon. Headlined by Nana Awere Damoah and Kofi Akpabli, the reading offers patrons a lively evening of literary pleasure and though-provoking discussions on Ghanaian contemporary life.

Kofi Akpabli will charm patrons with excerpts from his books Romancing Ghanaland and Tickling the Ghanaian while Nana Awere Damoah will entice the audience from his repertoire Sebitically Speaking and I Speak of Ghana.

With 10 books between them, the two writers continue on their mission to make reading hip again, and to take writing and reading to the level of pop culture. They believe that reading should be done for pleasure as well, and not only for exams and industry. According to both writers, the event also aims to diversify the social offerings currently available on the entertainment scene.

“Elsewhere, public readings and book signing are top-notch events that receive distinguished patronage. As society is pushing for the consumption of made-in-Ghana goods, let’s not forget about made-in-Ghana books”, they said.

In their readings so far, the two have received sponsorship from Threadex, WearGhana, Norte Sobolo and AJ’s Housekeeping Services. A special feature about Saturday’s reading is that for the first time, the two are joined by a Guest Reader, Alba Kunado Suprim, author of the Imported Ghanaian and A Place of Beautiful Nonsense.

“Ticklin’ the Sebiticalis” runs between 4.30pm and 7pm, and involves four rounds of readings from the works of the three accomplished Ghanaian authors. There will be interludes of poetry and music.

About the Authors

 

Kofi Akpabli is a media consultant and travel writer whose latest work has been published in a new Commonwealth Non-Fiction Anthology launched in the UK in May 2016.  He is a two-time winner of the CNN/Multichoice African Journalist for Arts and Culture. Kofi has also won GJA and National awards in Culture and Tourism. He writes a travel column Going Places in The Mirror newspaper, published weekly in Accra.
Amongst his books are: Harmattan – a Cultural Profile of Northern GhanaRomancing Ghanaland: the Beauty of Ten RegionsA Sense of Savannah – Tales of a Friendly Walk through Northern Ghana, and Tickling the Ghanaian – Encounters with Contemporary Culture. Kofi is a member of Faculty, Central University. His scholarly interests include the research and dissemination of key values of African culture. Kofi Akpabli lives at a village near Accra with his wife and children.

 

Nana Awere Damoah holds a Master’s degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Nottingham and a Bachelor’s in Chemical Engineering from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST). A British Council Chevening alumnus, Nana works in Nigeria as a Technical Manager.
In 1997, Nana won first prize in the Step Magazine National Writing Competition. He is the author of five books: Sebitically Speaking, I Speak of Ghana, Tales from Different Tails, Through the Gates of Thought, and Excursions in my Mind. His sixth book, Nsempiisms, is due in print later this year and is already available as a free e-book. Nana Awere Damoah is married with three children. He divides his time between Lagos and Tema.

 

Alba Suprim has been writing for as long as she can remember and regularly flips through, with a wry smile, the stacks of notebooks that contain what can only be described as the melodrama of her teenage years. She is the author of The Imported Ghanaian and A Place of Beautiful Nonsense.  She graduated from Escuela International de Cine y Television (EICTV), the Cuban film school, as an Editor and worked on several short and independent film projects in Cuba and London before moving back to Ghana, where she now earns her living writing screenplays, television programmes, producing and directing television commercials.

She has been on the writing and editing team of the BBC World Services Trust Radio drama, ‘Story Story, Voices from the Market,’ for over six years. She was a writer and director for the BBC WST television drama, entitled, ‘Wetin Dey!’She lives in Accra, where she is regularly accused of being Senegalese, Malian, Ivorian, Liberian, Kenya or Zimbabwean, in fact, any other nationality but Ghanaian.