First of all, hearty congratulations to Rodney and his friend Fui. I wish I had had the confidence to publish my first book at their age. But I am glad they are doing so; after all, shouldn’t our children and those coming after us do better than us? That gives me immense joy.
I have on many occasions challenged the assertion that the best way to keep a secret from a black man is to hide it in a book. My business and literary partner Kofi Akpabli and I were in Monrovia last month for a reading event and that is one of the refrains we realised Liberians had internalized: that information in books are hidden from Liberians forever. I was sad to hear that, even though I saw what they meant. I also challenge the statement that Ghanaians don’t read.
My counterpoint is that when you give Ghanaians, and, by extension, the black man material that speaks about his circumstances, that tells his stories, that captures experiences he is familiar with, that speaks to his mind and soul, you will find that he will respond. It is like having a bowl of fufu served to you in the Kalahari Desert. Just a sip of the soup would make you go hhmmmm.
This is why I believe that we need new writers and we need new storytellers. We need new names on our literary landscape. Again, I believe each of us have stories to tell. We need Ghanaians telling stories from Ghana for Ghanaians and the world.
And when we have done that, we need to make reading hip again.
Which is why my friend Akpabli and I have been going round the country and now extending to the continent reading to people from all walks of life, demonstrating to them that reading for pleasure is pleasurable.
So far we have done multiple readings in Accra and Tema, and have also been to Ho, Takoradi and Kumasi in Ghana, and Monrovia and Lagos outside Ghana.
Recently we have added book publishing to our activities, helping writers to achieve their dreams of seeing their works in print and in ebooks.
The love of literature and of reading is an entire ecosystem that should encompass writers writing and getting published, writers having their books distributed well and getting paid, writers interacting with readers and the public in activations such as reading events, the media reviewing these books and publicising them, libraries being activated and made attractive to both old and young, and parents getting caught reading even as they impress on their kids to read.
I heard during the intros a number of you saying you don’t read. What you were saying is that you don’t read outside the classroom.
For some of us, all the reading we have done is before we left school. If all you know is what you learnt in school, then you are on the way to being obsolete. For the world is changing fast and if all you know today is what you knew 6 months ago, then you have been dead for 6 months.
We are doing our bit and you being here to support these young writers is part of that march towards making Ghana a reading nation again. For, a reading nation is a thinking nation and a nation that thinks doesn’t glorify mediocrity and stupidity. A thinking nation plans ahead and executes.
Congrats again to Fui and Rodney.
Let’s see your second books soon!
~ Nana Awere Damoah
1 September 2017