Book Drive for Reading Spots

I came back from the Reading Spots Conference at Techiman really inspired! This charity which is dedicated to building and running libraries across Ghana, with 18 live projects running, spread from Tema through Tamale to Bolga, brought down 63 young and old volunteers for the conference.

I was touched by stories from Tease where two brothers, artisans, donated their services as carpenter and mason, to build a community library with so little money you would be ashamed to hear. The co-founder, Francis Yeboah, is a driver and he mentioned his salary to me in confidence. Some use that amount for a trip to Accra Mall. He told me, ‘Nana, as little as it is, I take GHS 100 every month to buy books and to support the Reading Spots.’ The charity is supported by funds raised by children in the UK who sell eggs and put their allowances aside to help children they would never see read.

I want to support them with my widow’s mite. I wish to donate a set of my books to each of the 18 libraries. Each costs GHS 40 and I have 7 books. I am donating GHS10 off each of the books. So instead of GHS5,040, the total cost will be GHS3,780. I am putting GHS1,260 of my profit into Reading Spots.

If you wish to help me with the balance of GHS3800 to buy them books, reach out in my inbox.

Any extra money will be used to get them some children’s books.

We can all help to create a Reading Nation.

Check out Reading Spots via their FB page and their website –


The Hill and the City – Creating GH Readers


The Hill and the City – Creating GH Readers

Speech delivered at Reading Spots Conference

Techiman, Ghana

10 August 2018


The world of books is the most remarkable creation of man. Nothing else that he builds ever lasts. Monuments fall, nations perish, civilizations grow old and die out, and after an era of darkness new races build others. But in the world of books are volumes that have seen this happen again and again and yet live on, still young, still fresh as the day they were written, still telling men’s hearts of the hearts of men centuries dead. ~ Clarence Day


In this era of information explosion, it is a real tragedy if the Scripture ‘…my people perish for lack of knowledge’ should apply to anyone. My friend Geoff Anno asserts that ‘If six months from now, you do not know twice what you know now, you will be left behind.’ And I agree with him. There are a great many people today who stopped learning the moment they finished ‘school’: University, Polytechnic, secondary School, vocational school, et cetera. They just stopped learning.

Learning is acquiring knowledge or developing the ability to perform new behaviours. It is common to think of learning as something that takes place in school, but much of human learning occurs outside the classroom, and people continue to learn throughout their lives. The best and longest lasting school is the school of life, the Self-Tuition school.

Continuous learning, sadly, has ceased to be a national character. Knowledge is power, it is said, and this power must be searched for daily, a truly continuous process.

There are four common methods of learning continuously, as follows: by experience, by observation, by listening and by reading.

Today, we want to talk about reading. How do we build citizens who learn continuously, through reading? How do we ensure that the wisdom in the hills of knowledge around us trickles to the city? How do we create a reading nation, knowing that a reading nation is a thinking nation and a thinking nation will evolve into one with citizens who are forward-looking, not mediocre, anchored to the rock yet geared to the times, not gullible?

The great men of our world have been readers; they have been learners. Jesus read, and it showed in His sermons. Paul was well read. Nkrumah read. Martin Luther King Jnr read. Abraham Lincoln didn’t have what you would call a formal education, but he taught himself through reading. He actually studied law books he found at the base of items he had bought at an auction, and he became a great and effective lawyer and President of the United States of America. Lincoln talked of his love of books: ‘The things I want to know are in books; my best friend is the man who’ll get me a book I ain’t read.’ One of the all-time great Presidents of America, Theodore Roosevelt, read. He was reported to have died with a book under his pillow.

In February 2016, my business partner and friend Kofi Akpabli and I treated an audience to a book reading event at the SyTris Bookshop near the A&C Mall. The event was organised by Writers’ Project of Ghana. As I entered the venue with my family, my children exclaimed, “Wow! So many books to choose from, we don’t know which one to choose!” Each of them picked books, with Nana Kwame picking a condensed edition of a book series he had been borrowing from his friend next door.

They set me back by some good Ghana cedis when we left after the event, but my heart was warm, knowing that my wife and I had succeeded in making our children excited about books and reading. So how did we get onto this path of making readers out of my children? I said ‘path’, because I don’t consider that my wife and I have reached yet – it is a journey.

The answer to that question, for me, goes way back to my upbringing, to Kotobabi. Maybe, even before that. Even before I was born.

My father was educated only to Middle School Leaving Certificate Level. My mum just about the same.

But both of them were great believers in the power of education. In my mum’s tribute at my dad’s funeral in 2006, she recalled that my father always insisted that his kids were his houses. On many occasions, he told us that education is everything, and sought to encourage us to go the farthest in our pursuit of knowledge. He said that if he had used the money he spent on our education on houses, he would have had many houses!! My dad taught himself further after school, in the Army and through books. He read a lot and passed on his love of books to me as well. Anytime I went to visit him in the village, I was certain to send magazines (Time magazine, BBC Focus on Africa) to him. At the time of his funeral, I still had the order form I had filled to subscribe BBC Focus on Africa magazine for him. In the village, he subscribed to the Daily Graphic, Mirror and Graphic Sports. And he had lots of books that I devoured.

My parents read. My father nurtured in me the love of magazines, newspapers and books. I got from him the practice of walking to buy The Mirror every weekend and we would spend time reading it together. I caught him reading and caught the bug while at that. When my mum visits us today in Tema, I walk into her room to greet her every morning and to ask how she is doing. I always find her reading her Bible. My parents taught me to read and inspired in me the desire to be more learned than they ever were. I caught the reading bug from my parents. And from my teachers such as Mr Edem, who we call Brother. Today, this man still buys books from my bookstore Right from Aflao, so I dispatch to him by bus. The man is still influencing me over 30 years since I left his hands.

Today, you complain that Ghanaians don’t read. Are you reading yourself? Do your children catch you reading? When was the last time you read any book apart from the Bible you read weekly in church or daily during your devotion?

Today, how many children see their parents reading anything apart from their text messages, WhatsApp and Facebook messages? How do we expect to raise reading children when parents don’t read?

So In 2015, Kofi Akpabli and I came together and gave ourselves two targets: do regular (preferably quarterly) public book readings and extend the reading sessions beyond Accra.  Our first collaboration, however, was in 2011 when we had a joint book signing event at Sytris Bookshop, Osu, Accra. Our first public reading was in January 2015 when we read at a venue called Totally Youth, owned by the late Eva Lokko, which she gave out for free for such events. We read from 10 am till 5pm and had about 4 reading sessions – hence the name ReadAThon: A Reading Marathon. So far, we have done multiple readings in Accra and Tema, and gone to Ho, Tarkwa, Takoradi and Kumasi with the Readathon. Last year, we were in Lagos, Nigeria and Monrovia, Liberia.

With eleven (11) books between us including popular titles Tickling the Ghanaian, I Speak of Ghana, Romancing Ghanaland and Sebitically Speaking, we set on this mission to make reading hip again, and to take writing and reading to the level of pop culture.  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, we believe that we should not forget about made-in-Ghana books. It is our belief that this is a great vehicle of change, to help to literally fuel the literary drive across Ghana.

Our main focus: to make reading for pleasure hip again. Not only for the classroom.

So how do we get Ghana reading again? This has been a question on our minds as we continue our reading mission. I have asked this question a few times on my Facebook wall over the years and as I prepared for this conference, I asked again. A number of friends, some parents, shared their thoughts and I will be sharing some with you during the rest of this speech.

The question before us is simply this:

What are some of the ways and means we can use to get Ghana reading again?

I formed a Whatsapp group of parents who want to get their kids reading and we share ideas on there on this topic. Solely that, with strict rules about what to post and what not to post. Not your regular GH Whatsapp group where recycling is the rule. And we borrow books amongst ourselves, mostly for the children. On the bus to Techiman yesterday, one of our members – Abubakari Halidu, National Sales Director of AirtelTigo – shared a picture with these captions:

They asked her: “How did you persuade your child to read instead of playing with smart devices?”

 She said: “Children don’t hear us, they imitate us.”

But first of all, let me state it unequivocally. As a parent – Get caught reading! Children do what we do and not necessarily what we say.

What legacy of knowledge acquisition are we leaving our children? Cicero noted that ‘To add a library to a house is to give that house a soul.’ I read somewhere that you can gauge how much a man loves knowledge by comparing the size of his library to the size of his television!

Over ten years ago, I saw a documentary on North Korea, which emphasised the life and role of the former Korean President, referred to as the ‘Great Leader’. One instruction the Great Leader gave to his country struck me, to wit: “A child should always have a book in his hands. He must read always. He should never be without a book, not even for a single day.” I agree with him.

We must get books into the hands of children. Start them early. Don’t be agree if they play with them and destroy them in the process – I have lots of books at home without their covers! With my children, I always had books around them. Of course, they saw us reading. Fortunately, they saw me writing too. And lately, as a bookseller, they see me selling books and they have greater choice! Downside being that they eat into my profits! During marriage counselling before marriage, our counsellors told us that we should always speak to them as adults, even when they were babies and not to use baby language, because children are smarter than we think. We took that to heart as parents. I took them to book launches and book readings. I took them to bookshops. Each time I travelled, I brought them books instead of sweets and candy and chocolate. These days, when I travel, they actually call me to remind me to bring them books. Airport bookshops always see me, and that is where I spend my per diem. We have enrolled them in a community library.

That has been my experience so far. Permit me to share with you now the thoughts of my friends on Facebook as they contributed to the question I posed. You will find that a number of them touched on what ReadingSpots is doing already – you are already contributing to the mission to get Ghana reading again!

Korklu Laryea, my big sister and friend, a librarian in Tarkwa actually called me and said: “Nana, tell them to start them early. Parents should read. They should read to the kids. They should not fight the technology (or challenge) that mobile phones and tablets bring. I download word games on my tablets and my nephews and nieces play with them, and learn more words. Parents should start reading to the children early.”

Kwame Owusu Nimako: Get them young. My first books at 6 years old turned me into a reader.

Efua Akwa-Yeboah: Charity begins at home. Parents investing in books…School libraries stocking relevant books. Local libraries…NGOs…local government involvement (Hello, ReadingSpots!)

Jennifer Nimako Boateng: Get them to develop an interest in reading from young age.

Emmanuel Asakinaba: For the teens who are yet to develop the habit, start with short colourful stories written in simple, not-too-literary language. We run a project in the Kassena-Nankana West District in the Upper East Region. We make available copies of the Junior Graphic and encourage them to read the short stories…We have seen considerable improvement in reading habits.

John Schaidler: Nana, I would love to discuss this further with you. Research suggests that one of the biggest factors that gets kids reading is choice. More books, more choice, more kids reading. Of course, great books that kids love make it easier, too. I also agree with Emmanuel above. Short, colorful, simple–engaging. As the saying goes, there are no reluctant readers, just kids that haven’t yet found the right books.

James Anquandah: We must establish community reading clubs in as many communities as possible (hello, ReadingSpots!), involve parents in these activities, encourage the production of more localized content to stock our libraries, schools and homes and make reading an activity and fun-based thing. If they enjoy the fun that comes with it, they will want to read more. If children have access to reading materials at home, in school and the library, we are assured that that generation will kickstart a reading revolution

Nana Esi Oppong-Boateng: Establishing community libraries.

Francis Appiah Acquaye: FreeBooks. I asked Francis, “Who pays for the production of the free books? Or the supply?” He responded by saying that “Government pays for production and pays for the supply.”

In response to Francis, James Anquandah wrote: Free books won’t solve the problem. Rather, let government commission local writers to produce content to stock all libraries. In this case, others get to read the same book and you promote a sort of communal reading culture. If you give them out, readers will stock them at home after reading when others may be disadvantaged. No writer, by the way, is willing to go through the tedious publishing process for free.

My comment on this was to refer to what the Canadian NGO CODE had done in Liberia where they commissioned local writers to write children’s books and distribute to schools.

Solomon Ofori-Atta: Start from the grass root…the children.

Jude Nii Otu Anim: Book Clubs!

Prince Alec Douglas Gaisie: When I was kid my father used to punish to go to my room and read and come out the next day. I was thinking he was punishing but by the I reached PRESEC form 1, I could read about three story books a day in addition to my learning. We must develop and motivate the children with different rewarding systems and they would catch up and they would never forget. We were having bed time story books.

Akosua Aboagyewaa Asiedu: We can do so by encouraging reading among the kids in preschools, by creating reading clubs (not those clubs that call themselves reading clubs but do everything else apart from reading) give the kids reading assignments which will in turn force the parents to help their kids to read(by so doing get themselves reading) and then give the deserving kids appropriate rewards so it becomes exciting. Starting with the kids can help.

Archibald Dadzie: It all down to parents to encourage their kids to develop the habit of reading. Read bedtime stories to your kids from birth and they will love story telling which will encourage them to read more. My son at age 10 read two books per week. Regulate the use of smart phones and tablets for playing games by kids and encourage them to read hard copies of story books

Pearl N Afua Acheampong: Organising periodic reading sessions at public spaces. Allowing young people share their stories and helping them refine their art. I would gladly be a volunteer.

Korklu Laryea: Parents reading to their children even before they start school makes a huge difference. A reading parent raises a reading family, I believe.

In response to Korklu, Ama Ewusiwaa wrote: Very true, did same with my daughter.

Great inputs, don’t you think? Not much to add except to say we must get serious with getting our public libraries operational and attractive. Many in my generation remember visiting public libraries as children. Many in our children’s generation haven’t been to any public library in their short lives. We have to remedy that. And quickly.

We are living in an era where everyone seems to have the urge, appetite and desire for fast things! Reading and appreciating what we read is fast becoming a practice of the past. And it is worrying. There is nothing that satisfies like a good book!

Allow me to end with this quote from Sir John Herschel: “Were I to pray for a taste which should stand me in good stead under every variety of circumstances and be a source of happiness and a cheerfulness to me during life and a shield against its ills, however things might go amiss and the world frown upon me, it would be a taste for reading.”

May we all be committed to building a Reading Ghana. Ghana must read again. And here, I salute what you are doing in Reading Spots and I wish you greater success! A special salute to the co-founders Cat Davison and Francis Yeboah – you guys have inspired me so much!

Let’s get caught reading and get our children reading. Ghana must read again. Ghana will read again. And we shall have the city coming to the wisdom hill, each with his or her container. For knowledge is free at the hill. Just bring your container.

Nana Awere Damoah


Nsempiisms: Dompe Shall Not Die!

We stand a big risk of our kids losing a very ghanamanosyncractic trait which has been passed on to us from generation to generation. An attribute so inbuilt it is like our skin. A key aspect of our upbringing, one that is not necessarily taught but which young ones pick up from adults by the most natural and effective ways of learning: observation.

Growing up, one would see an older brother or sister take time, like a professional surgeon, to evaluate the best ways to approach it, and then to step-by-step execute it with surgical precision. The tools for the job were always available, and when they were not, we improved.

I watch these days as my children ignore this and I ask myself if I have failed as a parent, as an elder, as a trainer.

I go to the kitchen and I find that my kids have left the bones uncracked, the marrow intact and the flesh in all the crevices to go to waste. And I shout ‘Buei! Adieɛ ayɛ me o!’

That joy of picking a tapoli when the teeth have failed to crack the stubborn walls surrounding the bone marrow…or, when a tapoli is not available, picking up a stone and getting to work, sometimes sitting on the floor, oblivious of all that was taking place around you, cracking that bone carefully, so not to disturb the microscopic lattice of the bone marrow and then….and then…when all the laid bare, to sit back and suck that marrow in…


This epitome of joy, this love-affair with a juicy bone, this happiness, must not be allowed to go into the dustbin of history.

Nsempiisms, my mouth has fallen.

Happy Sunday.

A Celebration of Highlife Time it was!

Accra turned out in style and strength to support Prof Collins, Anansesem and DAkpabli to launch Highlife Time 3. What an amazing time together to honour the illustrious man called Collins! What a gathering of greats! What a celebration of Highlife through the ages!

The main band Hewale Sounds got every feet tapping, Koo Nimo got every head nodding, Prof and son Kojo got every face smiling, veteran and new musicians who got pulled up stage got everyone reminiscing, Chieff Moomen and Fapempong Acheampong got every mind mesmerised…and on and on the acts got every heart melting.

Our host – +233 Jazz Club – was simply amazing.

Whitney Boakye-Mensah: Your decor was just mwuah! You gave colour to the entire venue and event!

James Anquandah our dependable editor and proofreader on this project – yedaase!

Our courier partner Veritas, you were je, ensuring all tickets and associated drops were delivered on time, in full!

Biggles Media, Multipixels and Type Company: you designed the book, got it printed and designed and printed all the promo materials and banners used for the launch. Ayekoo!

Our sponsors – Margins Group, Joy FM, Citi FM, Joy Prime, Citi TV, WearGhana, THREADEX…you supported us to deliver!

Our MCs Mamavi Owusu-Aboagye and Kojo Akoto Boateng and auctioneer par excellence Kafui Dey, you deserve your accolades – dues paid in full, worldwide!

Diana Seade (D.S. Seade): coordinator extraordinaire!

To the entire team of officiants and DAkpabli/Anansesem protocol – Anny Kareem-Abdi Osabutey, Frank, Sekyi-Brown Reginald, Nana Elikem, Gilbert Poku and so many more…bless you!

Highlife Time forever!

Up Atop My Roof So High: Notch 10 ‒ Naught In Action

We are living in a promising country now, my dear brothers and sisters. Everyone is promising. Even those who are not known for keeping their promises are promising this time that they will keep their promises. Did our elders not say that the state of the momoni’s rot started from its head? So it came to pass that the promising streak entered the Ahenfie and caused Odekuro and all his elders and sub-chiefs to also be so promising. What a wonderful world.

Our village has expanded ankasa, I tell you. Perched up atop this roof of mine, I can see in all directions. I see that the houses now stretch on the Farmers’ Road right up to Goromesa. As for Saamang, it has joined Old Town decades ago and one can now walk along the winding road down from the Old Palace to Saamang, buying pure water at every turn. Moseaso is almost a replica of the suburb that Aboko lives in.

I was with Aboko some months, as we caught up on times past. The good old times when we fished and swam in the Ehyire river and went to Adankasa – that fount of gushing water under the bridge – to fetch that soothing water for the sole purpose of keeping in the mmefi-scented cooler (pot) in the corner of Bombay’s room, that round earthen pot that could rival the functions of any modern-day refrigerator. That water that one drank and only uttered a long ‘Aaaaah’.

I sat with Aboko in front of his shop, as he started work on a piece of woodin cloth I wanted him to turn into a nice shirt for me. Aboko has become the best tailor in the village. We watched the stream of people pass that early morning – some to school, some to their farms, others just loitering. I saw many new faces. I had stayed up my roof too long, I mused to myself. Need to come down often and mingle.

I asked Aboko about the new people and he confirmed that the gold rush has brought new folks into town. As well, we were now a district capital so new developments were happening, new offices had been opened, new businesses had arrived, and the numbers had swelled. A boy passed by and I could recognise him. Oh how he had grown. I told Aboko that the guy looked familiar.

“Oh you know him,” Aboko exclaimed, “he is the son of that cousin of your dad.”

Ah, yes, I should have connected. The son of Wofa Kodua the old soldier. Kodua the son of Opanyin Kodua of Sadisco Hotel, the reigning hotel in town in those days of yore. The venue for all the concert parties in town then, and the starting point for the manufacturing processes of many unclaimed children.

I decided to play a game with Aboko: count how many out of fifty random passers-by that I could identify. The result was abysmal: too many new faces.

“That is why Odekuro is asking for the new identification cards to be issued,” Aboko told me.

Indeed. It made sense. The reason.

Soon after the encounter with Aboko, Kontihene was all over, imploring that when the chance is given for us to take our fotos, we should rush there in our Sunday best. I understood and prepared.

It is not as if we were hearing this for the first time. The previous Odekuro, the one who was famed to eat death, had also told us the same thing. It didn’t happen. His two successors said same. Again, no show. When the current Kontihene was asked if this time our fotos would be taken, especially when the arrival date of the photo-drivers seemed to be driving around, Kontihene gave an assurance that his earlier assurance of an assured delivery of the national identification system was still assured.

We believed him. I did.

Then Obenefo Safoa appeared on the scene and told the Daily Grafitti that he had just picked up the keys to the mummy truck bringing in the photo-drivers and that he, Safoa, will be driving and bringing them himself. Come and see clapping, and chats of “Safoa has the keys, Safoa has the keys!”

So, on the promised date, I climbed down this roof so high and went to take a long bath in the bathhouse behind the house, the one made of blocks arranged like a box. I entered my room and applied Saturday Night Powder in all the right places. I put on the kente that I inherited from my late teacher-uncle called Therefore. Then, smelling like a million cedis and feeling divine, I walked to the community square, where we usually hold funerals and where Obenefo Safoa was to bring the photo-drivers. Even some of the young girls turned to check out the owner of the fragrance in motion. I smiled back. I was still on the road, I told myself.

When I got to the community square, the place was empty.


Had I missed the day and time?

It was only when I enquired later that I was told that the whole exercise was actually a proverb. And that I should have been wise to decipher the swerve in the name of Obenefo Safoa’s organisation which was tasked with the identification program.

NIA – Naught In Action.

It was that day I that I realised that even though I knew from Chinua Achebe that proverbs are the palm oil with which words are eaten, I needed to add some wisdom yams to my proverbs, to be able to rightly understand and interpret the times.

Schooled, Educated or Learned?

Speech delivered at Mini Explo, Joyful Way Incorporated Phase 2, Cape Coast

Venue: Wesley Girls High Schools

A few weeks ago, I was going to a meeting early in the morning at Ofankor, near Pokuase in Accra. I boarded a trotro from my house at Lashibi and alighted at T-Junction, near Trade Fair. When I am going to Labone or Cantonments areas, that is what I usually do, and from there I pick an Uber to my final destination. On this particular day, I reasoned that there would be traffic on the way to Achimota Mall, where I was to meet my business partner and my regular book designer who was to meet me there with a dummy of a new book we are working on, titled Highlife Time 3. With traffic, I envisaged that the surge at that time of the day would take my final Uber cost up through the roof. So, I did something different. I opened my Uber app, indicated my pickup location and destination, got the estimated fare and hailed a regular taxi, negotiating like a boss. I got about GHS 5 savings on the estimated Uber fare, and also, with the regular taxi, without any associated surge increases.

There are many people who like to argue that what they learn in school is not relevant for the real world out there. Such people say that because they don’t know the power of application. We go to school to learn how to learn. And learning is a lifelong process.

At about the age of ten, my Dad gave his first prophecy about my future career: his son will be an Electrical Engineer. He gave the prediction after observing me move a light fly with a piece of wire! When I was ready to enter the Secondary school, he changed his mind with the aid of my teacher: a Medical Doctor I will be. My headmistress insisted I studied Biology in sixth form due to excellent grade in Biology. I read Mathematics. I wanted to study Computer Science in the University; my Mathematics tutor changed that! Finally, I decided on a course that could give me the opportunity to satisfy all these myriad desires, prophecies and talents, which could challenge me, and open doors to a thousand careers. So I studied Chemical Engineering – at both bachelor and master’s levels.

I love Chemical Engineering. One of my favourite courses was Thermodynamics, taught by the funky Dr George Afrane. Thermodynamics is full of chemistry and calculations. One of the tools of problem solving I learnt during this cause is iteration, as part of optimisation. Iteration is defined as “repetition of a mathematical or computational procedure applied to the result of a previous application, typically as a means of obtaining successively closer approximations to the solution of a problem.” Iteration involves starting with what one has and then you improve the solution, by looping, by repetition, by trial and error, step by step to the enhancement of the solution.

What I had done with the Uber experience on my way to the Achimota Mall was pure iteration. A week later, I took it further when I downloaded the Taxify app and used it to compare the Uber rates. With these two sources of data, I was able to better negotiate with a regular taxi just last week when I went to Tema Community 7 from my home. I got three variables to choose from, to maximise my choices and to get the best use of my resources.

I had applied my learning from over 20 years ago.

The real world beckons, my dear brothers and sisters. You are a sum total of all the experiences you have had up to this day. How will you apply what you have learnt here? And will you be one seen as just schooled or one who has been educated? And will your education end once you leave school or you will be a continuously-learning person so you can move from being called educated to being referred to as learned?

One of my pastimes is watching old movies set in Ghana and these days you can get some of them on YouTube. Films like I Told You So, Heritage Africa. No one can miss movies by Kwaw Ansah in such an exercise. So a few years ago, I watched Love Brewed in an African Pot, Heritage Africa and Kukurantumi: Road to Accra again.

In Heritage Africa, the main character, who wanted to appear and act more British than the Queen, had changed his name Kwesi Atta Bosomefi to Quincy Arthur Bosomfield and had risen to become the District Commissioner of Accra in His Majesty’s Gold Coast. One aspect of the film stayed with me. His mother, played by the legendary Alexandria Duah, gave him a family heirloom which had been passed on from generation to generation, amongst the male heads of the family. It was believed to carry “the soul and pride” of the Abusua; his late uncle had been the previous custodian and now it was Kwesi Atta’s turn to hold it in safe custody, to be his source of strength and pride, to be held in trust and passed on to the next generation. As soon as his mum left, Kwesi took this family treasure to his office and showed it to his British boss, who expressed his admiration of the artifact. Kwesi asked his boss to keep it as a gift from him.

A few days later, Kwesi visited his mum in the village and the old lady’s first question to him was whether he was keeping the heirloom safe. When Kwesi told her he had given it out to his boss, the mum wailed loudly and exclaimed: “Ebei Kwesi Atta Bosomefi! Sukoo pii yi a ekɔɔ yɛ yi, ɛnsua nyansa kakra enfiri mu a?” meaning “after all your long years of schooling, did you not learn or gather any wisdom?” The film editor translated the question as “What happened to all the classroom education?”

In my holy village of Wasa Akropong, we say that there is a difference between home sense and school sense. Indeed, my Wofa Kapokyikyi would say that adwen nko, na nyansa nko, which literally means that not all who have brains have wisdom. It also means that knowledge must be applied with wisdom. For instance, a wise man knows when to open his mouth and when to close it, when to talk and when to hold back; wisdom is the right application of knowledge.

David was an applications person. He did horizontal application. When he was to face Goliath, King Saul asked him if he had fought such a battle before. You remember what he said? He referred to his time fighting the wild animals who came after his sheep when he was a shepherd. I Samuel 17:33-37 has the story:

Saul replied, “You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a young man, and he has been a warrior from his youth.”

But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.”

Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you.”

On my way to Cape Coast yesterday, on the bus, I was reading an ebook titled ‘One Click: Jeff Bezos and the Rise of’, written by Richard L. Brandt. You see, I am now a bookseller, among other things, having taken a break from over 16 years of working in factories, to build a few businesses based on my passion; so I am learning a lot from the life of Jeff Bezos. In the summer after high school, Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon and his friend decided to create a summer school to teach fifth graders for two weeks. They taught them ‘about fossil fuels and fission, interstellar travel and the prospect of space colonies, black holes and electric currents’ etc. The author of the book quotes the two young teachers as saying that ‘we don’t just teach them something; we ask them to apply it’.

Be like David, be like the kids that Jeff and his friend Uschi taught. Be people who apply what you are taught, not in a vertical way but horizontally. Not in the silos of the fields you were taught in, but lateral or horizontal applicators, across fields.

Be lifelong learners. Geoff Anno, a former Music & Productions Director of Joyful Way Incorporated, Ghana, said that ‘If six months from now, you do not know twice what you know now, you will be left behind.’ And I agree with him. The world and information is moving so fast that if you don’t keep abreast and updated, you will become ‘colo’. A waterbody that is not refreshed with fresh supply of water smells. There are a great many people today who stopped learning the moment they finished ‘school’: University, Polytechnic, secondary School, vocational school, et cetera. They just stopped learning. Don’t be like them. Continuous learning will make you a better and well-informed person each day. Continuous learning will improve your marketability each day, and make you more productive for your employer. Continuous learning will guarantee that six months from now, you will not be an ignoramus.

Learning is acquiring knowledge or developing the ability to perform new behaviours. It is common to think of learning as something that takes place in school, but much of human learning occurs outside the classroom, and people continue to learn throughout their lives. The best and longest lasting school is the school of life, the Self-Tuition school. Four common methods of learning continuously are: by experience, by observation, by listening and by reading.

There is a lot you can learn each day by observing those who are better in various fields than you are. Observe your boss as she conducts her day-to-day work, and learn. Observe your subordinates or juniors as they work and ask questions when you don’t understand anything. Anyone who is afraid or shy to ask questions never learns, never grows. There is a lot to learn from our experiences; every experience is an instruction, a chapter in our life, and you should continuously summarise key lessons from it. By listening, one can learn a lot. Listen to what people say, take notes of insights that come your way.

And when you have learnt, apply. Don’t be a sponge that only absorbs. Note that a sponge worthy of its name works. It scrubs. A soaked sponge should be put to work. So apply what you learn for it is by practice that one perfects. Remember my Uber example. Apply your knowledge to Ghana’s problems; it is in solving those problems that your education can be useful to the society. I read once that knowledge is not power; it is the right application of knowledge that is power. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be so many powerless knowledgeable people in this world.

And then learn again. And apply. And learn some more. To apply. Always focus on planning, doing, checking or reviewing, and then acting to finetune. And then starting the loop again. It is a powerful tool for continuous improvement introduced by a man called William Edwards Deming, whose support and expertise helped Japan become what it is today in world class manufacturing, after the second World War. It is PDCA, the Deming Cycle. Plan-Do-Check-Act. Did you realise I just applied a principle I learnt as a quality assurance professional laterally to life in general?

Today, what I do is far from what I learnt in school or even learnt in industry, working in corporate life. My activities now as a book publisher, bookseller, writer and author are quite different from my mainstream training as an engineer. Or are they? In some ways there are different, but that is only if you think in the silo mode. Because I see myself as an applied engineer, utilising my skills across these varied fields.

In 2005, Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, gave a commencement speech at Stanford University. I wish to end with the concluding part of that speech, quoting verbatim:

“When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960s, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors and Polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: It was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.

“Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s…On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: ‘Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.’”

I wish to say same to you: Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. That is the only way you can be on the path of continuous learning and application, iterating, optimising, creating solutions, making mistakes, learning, questioning, implementing, solving and making a mark on your society.

Then, we can say, in the end, that you are not just schooled or educated, but as a learned person, or more aptly a learning person, you are affecting lives.

God bless you.

Nana Awere Damoah

19 May 2018



For the book lover in Ghana, main issues mitigating against satisfying book cravings are as follow:

– Availability of titles
– Finding the right one-stop bookshops where they can get the books they crave and

– With the increase in traffic in cities, the inconvenience and frustration of hopping from bookshop to bookshop, and the associated stress.

For book lovers outside the capital, especially, these issues are compounded by lack of access to well-stocked outlets for books., a fast-growing online bookstore operating out of Ghana, is here to meet both the needs of authors and book lovers alike. BookNook is the bridge between author/publisher and reader.

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And do not keep this great news to yourself – share with fellow bibliophiles! Satisfying your book cravings!

Up Atop My Roof So High Notch 9: Scented Like Sabolai – A Tale of Two Sisters

In the good old days when the owner of a black and white television in a compound house was automatically elected the House Overseer by his or her fellow tenants, when children ensured they had bathed before 7 pm because they could be asked to go bath just when Talking Point finally wrapped up and either ‘Obraaaaaa…’ or ‘We are going…’ started playing, those days of mobile portable TV sets which were brought out and off their cabinet-like stands which doubled as the display spaces for long-emptied Milo tins and Quaker Oats containers…in those days, actors and actresses didn’t need any emotions to make their tears flow during performances. Directors favoured the application of Robb ointment, spelt R-O-Doubled Boh-Boh-Boh! A judicious application just below the lower eyelid was sure to produce copious rivers of denkyemic proportions. Ah, I miss those days of Abyssinia, Kojo Kwakye, Esi Kom, Station Master and them thems.

But, do not despair, fellow countrymen and women. The world has moved on and we have also gone organic. These days, all one needs to produce tears is to slap the tear-inducing aromatic chemicals from onions.

Yes, good old sabolai!

And I should know about sabolai. For in those old days again, when it was hip to walk from Abavanna Junction to Mallam Atta and back, when send to buy foodstuff from the famed market of that name, which was located behind Oxford Cinema – where we had great times watching films like I Trust My Leg, The Drunken Master and Snake in the Monkey Shadow – so that we could use the lorry fare we had saved to go watch watch new films at Maxwell Hotel…in those days, mum mine used to sell plantain in Mallam Atta market. I visited often and go to know most of her colleagues, who sold everything, from salmon to sabolai. So I got to know the scent of sabolai.

My friend Oklu, whose mum – the Iron Lady who was before Thatcher was, the lady we all called Manye Yo – sold smoked fish at Makola Market, will tell you about our escapades as kids, where we did NCNC – no contribution, no chop. When our trader-mums were away, we partied. Okay, I won’t be tempted to tell you here about the Maame ni Paapa games; Oklu will do the telling. At our parties, we served food we had cooked ourselves, with ingredients which had been contributed by each of us. And, like in the story of Esau and Jacob, each brought what was readily available by the trade of their mums. Some provided fish, some brought palm oil, some brought tomatoes. I usually provided ripe plantain and, with time, I developed the knack of outwitting my mum who arranged the plantains in a pyramid, with a signature secret design at the base of the pyramid which, when disturbed on her return, showed her that her stock had been tampered with! Her secret keys would have impressed James Bond, the 007!

But, thinking back now, I don’t ever remember anyone bringing onions, good old sabolai. Because sabolai has a great attribute: the scent nu. In those days, many homes favoured the Angola shallots. According to Efo Gabriel Ahiabor, writing in the Daily Graffiti, when raw chopped shallots, interspersed into ground pepper tomatoes, is used to tackle kenkey, banku, etsew or abolo, atop some grilled tilapia, the eater will sing Halleluyah Chorus in Ewe! But onions will leave an incriminating scent behind, so when a child stole them, it was much easier for the mum to find out that her child had the scent nu.
The elders say that when there is a charge that someone has farted, that is not the time for the ant called kehini to go strolling around where they are looking for the Farter. For, you see, the kehini smells. Worse that the average fart. Which is the reason why onion sellers don’t like trouble. They hardly go where trouble brews or trouble slaps.

Up atop this roof of mine, I saw trouble. Oh yes I did. I saw it all. I saw the approach. Then I saw the flash. Then, I saw the slap in slow motion. Like on the screen at Oxford Cinema. A snake in a monkey’s shadow? The sound of the landing hand on the succulent cheek reached me up here. Then I heard “Oh!” But, as quickly as the slap had been administered, I heard the enquiry, “Aren’t you the sabolai seller who refused to give me my change the last time I was at Mallam Atta?”

As Amakye the town crier likes to say, appearance might be deceptive, but not smell. We might be clear about how an onion seller smells like, but how does an onion seller look like?

It was Sam the Awoken who woke up the Slapper from her somnambulistic state and told her that she had slapped an innocent person.

And Aijah Itaf wept. The Slapper wept.

It was a deluge of tears of humongous proportions! The Slapper put on ash and knelt and rolled on the brown ground. She offered to massage the cheek of the Slappee who refused to turn the other cheek. The Slapper called the Slapee her sister and said the incident was just a tale between two sisters which must be settled at home.

The Slapper wept.

I was so touched that my eyes watered. But, just as I took out my wife’s cover cloth to wipe my tears, reports reached me up atop my roof so high that the tears were induced by sabolai. Kai!

Yesi yesi, Sam the Awoken passed on a bag of minced sabolai and asked Aijah Itaf to apply it just like mascara. And that did the trick. It made sense too. For, indeed, Aijah Itaf sheds copious denkyemic tears.

Cry, Our Beloved Fatti.

Why I Gripe – a poem

Too many thoughts
As I go through
The gates of my mind

Resisting the urge for comparison
But then again reflecting
On this poem
I have been musing over
For the past few weeks

Why I Gripe

When I gripe about my land
It is not because
We haven’t come
Any further
Than when we started off
But because
We could have gone
Much further

Why I Gripe
When I gripe
It is not because
I don’t see
That we are better
Than most of our neighbours
But because
Today when you talk
About neighbours
It is not geographical
Gut global
Without borders

Why I Gripe
When I gripe
It is not
For the fact
That we are better
Than the worst
But because
We are worse
Than the best

Why I Gripe
When I gripe
It is not because
I am not thankful
But because
I can see
That what we see
As the future potential
Is what should have been
Our present

Why I Gripe

©Nana A Damoah, 2013

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