Tag Archives: Ghana

Ghanaian Literature Week: “African Heaven”

  

“African Heaven” – Frank Kobina Parkes

Give me black souls,
Let them be black
Or chocolate brown
Or make them the
Color of dust —
Dustlike,
Browner than sand.
But if you can
Please keep them black,
Black.

Give me some drums;
Let them be three
Or maybe four
And make them black —
Dirty and black:
Of wood,
And dried sheepskin,
But if you will
Just make them peal,
Peal.
Peal loud,
Mutter.
Loud,
Louder yet;
Then soft,
Softer still
Let the drums peal.
Let the calabash
Entwined with beads
With blue Aggrey beads
Resound, wildly
Discordant,
Calmly
Melodious.
Let the calabash resound
In tune with the drums.

Mingle with these sounds
The clang
Of wood on tin:
Kententsekenken
Ken-tse ken ken ken
:
Do give me voices
Ordinary
Ghost voices
Voices of women
And the bass
Of men.
(And screaming babes?)

Let there be dancers,
Broad-shouldered Negroes
Stamping the ground
With naked feet
And half-covered
Women
Swaying, to and fro,
In perfect
Rhythm
To “Tom shikishiki”
And “ken,”
And voices of ghosts
Singing,
Singing!
Let there be
A setting sun above,
Green palms
Around,
A slaughtered fowl
And plenty of
Yams.

And dear Lord,
If the place be
Not too full,
Please
Admit spectators.
They may be
White or
Black.

Admit spectators
That they may
See:
The bleeding fowl,
And yams,
And palms
And dancing ghosts.

Odomankoma,
Do admit spectators
That they may
Hear:
Our native songs,
The clang of wood on tin
The tune of beads
And the pealing drums.

Twerampon, please, please
Admit
Spectators!
That they may
Bask
In the balmy rays
Of the
Evening Sun,
In our lovely
African heaven!

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Ghanaian Literature Week: “Ghana Must Go”

“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” (Tolstoy)

I just finished Taiye Selasi’s highly praised Ghana Must Go and, in writing this post, the above quote immediately came to mind.

To be clear, this is a brilliant text.  Beautifully written and absolutely enthralling, Selasi’s debut novel is simply extraordinary. However, reader be warned, this is a dark and at times disturbing story.

This won’t be a traditional book review because, well, I hate writing those.  But really I fear that I may give away an important plot point.  So, instead here is a quick synopsis: The story opens with Kweku Sai – esteemed doctor, husband, and father of four adult children – dying from a heart attack early in the morning.  Using stream of consciousness, the remaining chapters reveal the story(ies) of Kweku’s life, death, and loves (his children and his wives).  Each member of Kweku’s family comes to terms with his death by revisiting dark and deeply hidden family histories and psycho-pathologies.

Upon finishing the novel, I realized the brilliance of the title being named after an ephemeral variety of “luggage” popularized in West Africa during the 1980s; this is a story about baggage.

I was so enthralled with this text that I found myself throwing caution to the wind and highlighting passages (and with a pen, no less!). Rarely does my love for a passage outweigh my librarian instinct of book preservation but I was captivated by words such as quoted here: https://afrolibrarians.com/2013/11/06/what-shes-reading-2/

And here: “It amuses her, always has, this disregard of Africans for flowers, the indifference of the abundantly blessed (or psychologically battered – the chronic self loather who can’t accept, even with evidence, that anything native to him, occurring in abundance, in excess, without effort, has value)”

And here: “The only reason for dating as opposed to mating for life – was to acquaint oneself, viscerally and immediately and non lyrically, with the fact of ones “personal mortality”, nothing else.”

I could certainly go on!

These insightful (albeit often cynical) assertions are just a few examples of this novel’s exceptional narrative, particularly from a contemporary “Afropolitan” perspective.  The text is full of such gems as well as other philosophical concepts (Go wild, existentialists).  For this reason, I also highly recommend Ghana Must Go for a philosophy and/or Afro-lit course.

My hat goes off to Selasi for constructing a truly provocative and unforgettable debut novel.  I can’t wait to dig into her short stories and am now impatiently awaiting her next project.

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Filed under African Lit, Afro-European Lit

What She’s Reading

In honor of Ghanaian literature Week (November 11-17), I’m currently reading Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi. The text is insightful, engaging and simply beautiful. A review is forthcoming but until then, enjoy this snippet:

“To him, who could name grief by each one of her faces, the logic was familiar from a warmer third world, where the boy who tails his mother freshly bloodied from labor (fruitless labor) to the edge of an ocean at dawn – who sees her place the little corpse like a less lucky Moses all wrapped up in palm frond, in froth, then walk away, but who never hears her mention it, ever, not once – learns that ‘loss’ is a notion. No more than a thought. Which one forms or one doesn’t. With words. Such that one cannot lose, nor ever say he has lost, what he does not permit to exist in his mind.” (Page 10)

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Filed under African Lit, What We're Reading