Friday, August 28, 2009

What difference do it make if the words that hurt you were intended to hurt or not? *

Nary a difference in all the world.

When I posted the podcast about funny names Ghanaians give their kids, I offended a friend called Candy. That podcast, like all my posts was intended to be fun, not hurtful.

I think you'll all agree with me that this blog has been a good platform to interact with Ghanaians, learn, and laugh. In my posts, I state my opinion on issues that affect Ghanaians, and I poke fun at myself and all of us. At the heart of it, I'm in love with the idea of Ghanaian-ness. And trying to reach for what it means to be Ghanaian. Everytime I post an entry, I'm testing to see if you could gather 200 Ghanaians who do not know each other, and bring up a topic and have them all mess around, laugh, and become excited about nothing other than the thing they have in common. At best, that looks like my last but 2 post, which was about Ghanaian insults. Everyone relates. We learn something new. We reminisce. We laugh till we cry. We go home, maybe thinking that being Ghanaian is kind of dope. Maybe we even tell a friend or two. I enjoy it as much as everyone else. That's why I do it.

However in my bid to start a conversation about Ghanaian names,I posted a podcast with a list of the 10 funniest names ghanaians give to their kids. That list was purely suggestive. In my explanation of why i thought "Candy" was a funny name I called into question the sanity of parents of kids called candy. My friend Candy was offended by this, and sent me an email to communicate her disappointment.Unfortunately, I did not check the email address she sent it to, till 2 weeks ago. Hence the very late response.

After reading her email, I sent her a response in which I maintained that I remained amused by the name but apologised for mentioning parents. I think that was my Ghanaian upbringing speaking. The whole you should never question older people thing. So I apologised for it. But truly truly in my heart, I didn't mean it. At the time I thought I did, but after 2 weeks, in a chat with a different friend, I wrote: "i still think...what were her parents thinking?"

The truth is that for better or worse, I see absolutely nothing wrong with asking..."what the heck are Ghanaian parents thinking when they name their kids Perpetual"? In all honesty, many of us have kids at 24, and we give them names. C'mon, is it such a terrible thing for a 27 year old to ask about a choice that was made by a 25 year old some 25 years ago? I think not.

I met a man named Dzata (pronouned gyata like the lion) about 7 months ago in my boss' office. Dzata, a 50-ish old man introduced himself to me and the first things I said to him was, what were your parents thinking? How was secondary school? He laughed. hehe. Then he tried to redeem himself by saying there are people called Fox and Wolf. haha!

Also my aunt was named Perpetual. We always laugh over it, and she actually dropped it a long time ago. Now she only goes by Esi. Another of my aunts is called Margarita. Yeah, I know, I'm cracking up too. Seriously! I'd have wondered what my Grandpa was thinking but I know that being Catholic, he just chose names from the Catholic calendar or whatever they choose names from. My mom got stuck with Philomena. haha! You should have been in our house when tictac's Philomena Kpitinge came out. In my family, we thought it was mad funny. Take my own name Woarabae. It is my name but I'll be the first to admit that it is queer. Who names their child Wo ara ba e. I have sometimes wondered that if I were to have a 1-night stand with a guy, it would be mad funny if he told me the next morning, sista, wo ara bae. Abi me naa bring my body! hehe. This is where I am coming from...which explains why even though I have tried, I'm still not getting my friend Candy.

Anyway in my email to Candy, I offered her the opportunity to write a blog post on this blog, about why "Woarabae" is funny. I thought it would've been really awesome. But I never heard back from her. I guess she also did not see it from my point of view. In that email, I said that if I did not hear back from her, I would post an apology on my blog. Afterall, since I made fun of the name in public, it is only fair that I apologise also in public.

Since 2 weeks have passed with no response,I started that apology yesterday. Initially, I meant to write what another friend aptly described as one of those hollywood backhanded apologies. I wanted to get it over with, do my bit, and get on with my life. Afterall, I reasoned, I hadn't intended to hurt anyone's feelings. My podcast was not about a particular person. But I started writing it, and I felt like I was not being real. Now I'm many things, impulsive, critical, maybe even an obnoxious, snarky bitch, but the real meaning of hypocrite is not one of them. So even though I started writing that apology, I ended up trashing it because somehow it didn't feel true to who I am and what I aspire to be. Instead, I'm writing the apology that feels authentic.

So why write an apology if I don't get her? Why apologise for something I still find funny? Why apologise for asking a question that still pops into my head whenever I hear a name like errr, Ferdinand (My dad's name. lol.) ...Benjamin Ferdinand Cleland? So so pretentious fantis :) Why is Esi Woarabae Cleland (would have been named Alice) still writing an apology?

Because the words I spoke had an unintended effect, that's why. And as I say in the title of this post, "what difference do it make if the words that hurt you were intended or not?" No difference. The reality is that people were hurt by my words. That's not something I can dismiss. As my boss said yesterday, you cannot argue about someone's feelings. I can't argue that Candy was hurt. If she says my words hurt her, then they did. And I am sorry for being the cause of that hurt. I may not be able to earnestly apologise for thinking her name funny, but when I apologise for hurting her, at least I can mean that.

And so here is my sincere apology to the Candys of this world. I'm sorry if your feelings were hurt. And to everyone else (the juniors, the o-gres, the agartha's, c-connies and so on) if you were hurt by my podcast, I'm sorry that my words caused you pain.

If you ever move over to the dark side, the invitation is still open to write about why names like Woarabae are funny:)

ps: In some countries, people give olive branches when they want to make peace. Does anyone know if there's something special Ghanaians do? Like eat beela together or somtin? hehe.

*adapted from a Toni Morrison quote: "What difference do it make if the thing you scared of is real or not?"

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Senegal saves Ghanaian sea

When I threatened to burn the sea, I was serious. But quite a number of you sent emails and facebook messages, and even comments on that blog post imploring me to spare the sea. I have a heart so I've been considering it. For all your sakes, really:) I mean, I don't want to deprive you all of fish, or recreation at Bojo beach or Big Millys So my heart was softened but my resolve remained firm. Until Senegal.

You'll be pleased to hear that I've decided not to burn the sea afterall.

Did I hear a yes? yes! yay! yahooo! hehe.

I'm sparing the sea because next week, 31st August, I'm going on a sweet trip to Dakar, Senegal! For a week. I return 7th September. The idea is, as my boss describes "take a camera, soak up the culture, check out the music scene, talk to people on the street, visit homes, go to the mosque, drink coffee, eat the food"'s a cultural immersion trip. One of the many reasons why I love my job. This trip is just the thing to improve anyone's mood. And we all care about the sea so let it live.

I've never been to Senegal so naturally I'm very excited. I thought I'd ask y'all who have been to suggest things to do, places to see, things to buy...
Keep in mind i'm in the process of decorating my first real home. Any elements I could bring back from Senegal to give my living room a touch of err francophone africa? Clothes? Fabrics? Men? hehe.

What should every Ghanaian do on their first trip to Senegal? Places outside Dakar to see? Touristy things? Cheap road trips? For the been-tos, what did you do? What did you enjoy? And for those who are always meaning to travel to other parts of Africa but are still stuck in some grad. school or corporate job in the East or West, what are your dreams? Tell me and let me live them for you. At least I'll write about it so you can imagine how your dreams translate in real life.

End of bluff.

The reality is that I'm looking forward to going. I want to maximise the pleasure and experiences I get out of it. I don't want to spend all the time in a hotel room...and I was hoping you'd have some ideas.

Help a sista out, please? You owe me one. Afterall, I spared your sea:)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Not for the prim, proper, or prudish - Ghanaian insults to make you hot around the ears.

When Ghanaians want to insult you lightly, they call you a fool or liken you to an animal:

Aboa (animal),
Kwasea (depending on where the stress is placed, this could mean anything from fool to imbecile),
Kwaseampani (fool),
Oguan (sheep),
Prɛko (pig),
Nantwiee (cow),
dɔlu (stupid) or dɔlu dɔlu (doubly stupid),
wo nnim nyansa (you have no sense)

Or talk about a body part
wo aso sɛ adanko aso (your ears like that of a rabbit),
ogugɔ tɔmo kyina gugɔ (poor attempt at Ga. But this supposed to mean :your nose like that of a cow),
oda tsakaa (ugly Ga)
w'enim tantan (ugly face)

When we want the insult to go you square (pain you), we attack your parents :

Wo maame (your mother),
wo maame twɛ (your mother's vagina),
your moda ( your mother)
your fada (your father)
onya e sɔɔmi (your mother's Ga)

Or your private parts

Kɔte bɔtɔ (uncircumcised man)

Or we say something about where you come from or who you are:

Kuraseni (villager),
opanyin gyengyan (useless old person),
tuutuu baa (prostitute),
alele (prostitute),
bush boy or bush girl (uncultured person)

And if we really want to declare(slang for insult) you, but have nothing specific to attack, we say something like

Wo yɛ John (you're dull)
focking boy ( i have no idea what this even means. but it's bad bad stuff)

Do you know any damaging Ghanaian insults? How to really diss someone Ghana style? What's your favorite? Mine is :w'aprɔw a ma nsaaman fi fi ne hwen mu puei puei (
he is so rotten, he has maggots coming out of his nose). I owe this one to my grandma. ha! Have I left anything out?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Happy yourself, or burn the sea.

You have been warned. The Gulf of Guinea is in danger because merekɛhyew po (I am going to burn the sea).

Reason being, 22nd August was my birthday and all I got were about 4 text messages ( from my little sister, an old friend, my work colleague, a guy I went to kindergarten with in my village school in Aboso, and the man i’m going to marry), 4 phone calls (from my mom, my aunt, 1 friend and the man I’m going to marry), and 5 facebook messages (from 2 people who were reminded by a birthday reminder, a friend who shares my birthday, and one who remembered a day late).

Point being...

I nashed.

Big time.

When I told my little brother, he suggested that if I’m not happy, I should go burn the sea. haha!

Well, I did get 2 gifts. One from the man I’m going to marry. A book titled: Made to Stick. With the following very sweet message: May you always come up with ideas that stick and may some of these ideas change the world. Perfect gift. Very me.

The second gift was from my boss. 3 purses from trashy bags. Again very me. Good choice.

But yeah, that was it...

More reason to burn the sea
So anyway, birthday passed and yesterday, I went to Kokrobite beach with 2 friends. On the way back from kokrobite beach, one of my friends asked me if I’d at least gotten a birthday cake. I said no, and he was surprised. Maybe i should go burn the sea about that too. Lol.

But for real, I’ve never had a birthday party or a party for anything really. Graduations. Church Confirmations. For winning prizes. Nope. Never had a cake either. All reasons to burn the sea, I guess. But growing up, there were people who had parties and I guess I just accepted that I wasn’t one of them. It always seemed to me like the people who didn’t have parties were more than those who did, anyway. I mean wasn’t it kind of a big deal if someone brought a birthday cake to school? Well, maybe not if you went to a dadabee school, but does the ordinary Ghanaian on the street celebrate birthdays much? I don’t think so. It’s not really our thing.

Reasons others might want to burn the sea
I know my uncle once had a girlfriend who complained because he never remembered her birthday. I guess she was pissed a lot. Someone should have told her to burn the sea. Lol. I know about it because my uncle felt bad, and told me about it. He reasoned that he himself had never had fuss made over his birthday, and that there had even been times when he had forgotten his own birthday so really, it’s not like he doesn’t care about you because he forgot your birthday. It’s just that he hasn’t been conditioned to think it’s a big deal and so as his girlfriend you need to understand where he’s coming from (the village) and realise it’s not personal, but that it will take him time to learn.

Same for the rest of my extended family. I can’t think of any kind of party we’ve ever had. So if you’re marrying into my family, you should probably not to expect surprise birthday parties. I believe there are many families like this in Ghana who don’t really think too much about birthdays an’ tins.

For example, at the beach yesterday, 17-year old Aryeetey who watched our car does not even know his birthday. He knows he’ll be 18 in September but he doesn’t know the date. The guy feeds himself all week from the 5 cedis he made yesterday. Such a person is definitely not going to be having a celebration when September comes.

I’m not doing as badly as Aryeetey when it comes to money matters. So one would wonder why I still don’t really celebrate the birthday. I could have easily rounded up some friends and paid for dinner at a nice restaurant, so why didn’t I? I think it’s because since I haven’t done it all my life, I don’t see the point now. I think what happens with people like me and Aryeetey is that when you start off, you don’t have it because you can’t afford it. And by the time you reach a point when you can afford it, it’s not part of your way of life, so you never fully appreciate and own that culture.

So I guess if you’re the kind of person who has always had a birthday celebration, you’ll probably wonder what people like me do on our birthdays. I don’t know how other people celebrate it. But personally, in the last few years, I’ve always done something memorable for myself.
• 5 years ago, I bought myself a laptop, on loan
• 4 years ago, I finished paying for that laptop
• 3 years ago, I bought myself a palm pilot. I’d gotten one from my college as a prize when I graduated but it got stolen that same summer at kokrobite beach so on my birthday, I bought myself a new one.
• 2 years ago, I cut off my perm and started wearing my natural hair.
• Last year, my move to Ghana was the big thing for my birthday.
• This year, I paid for my first set of furniture...a lovely couch and dining set, and took out a significant portion of my savings to invest in a business a friend and I are starting.

So I guess I always do significant, growing-up things. But it’s always for myself and so far, has not involved other people. So the biggest, most exciting gift always comes from me. There is always that moment in the day when I sit someplace alone and I feel proud of myself for doing something big. Maybe that’s why I feel the party, the cake and the rest of it does not matter so much. That’s how I spend my birthdays.

What about you? The bigger question is, how do Ghanaians celebrate their birthdays? Do they even celebrate it? It would be interesting to see if the people who read this blog generally have parties like some of my friends or personal celebrations like I do, or just do nothing like my parents.

And to all those who don’t get parties, all I can say is, if no one throws a party for you, you can happy yourself,

Or burn the sea.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Confront Your Fears.Discover Traditional Ghanaian Religion

This weekend, I had an intense personal experience with African traditional religion. Before you freak out, get some perspective.

Though I hold some views that would be considered radical in Ghana, in general, i’m a regular Ghanaian. I work. I take tro-tro. I dream of a better life. I look forward to teaching my children fante. Sometimes I go to church. But unlike many Ghanaians, when it comes to religion, I consider myself a truth seeker so I am open to learning about religions. I tend to think favourably of the Christian faith perhaps, because I was raised Christian and live in a society that largely favors that religion. But I know that I don’t know so I keep myself open to learning. What is ironic is that even though I claim to be exploring different religions, until this weekend, I wanted nothing to do with african traditional religion. Nothing to do with shrines, mmotia, abosom, and libation, and african spirits...I considered them evil.

So when a new acquaintance invited me to the meeting of traditional believers this weekend, this is what went through my mind... I cannot say for sure that African traditional religion is evil. I cannot say for sure that it is good. I know that I have been preconditioned to consider it evil. I also know that I do not know. I would like to find out, but I’m scared of the whole affair. My fear is an irrational fear. It is a fear of the unknown. I wanted to confront that fear. Because every time I confront my fears, I grow. Plus I was curious.
So I went.

The meeting was held at the Accra Cultural centre. Fitting, right? The first thing I noticed was a calabash filled with water, with leaves floating atop. My friend dipped his forefinger into it and touched the middle of his forehead. I refrained from the act. The sound of my heartbeat was deafening. Gboom Gboom Gboom Gboom. Crap. What had I gotten myself into? But it was too late to turn back. I found a seat, and took in my environment. There was a fetish priestess sitting at the back. People sat in a circle, on plastic chairs. There were about 20 people. There was a table, behind which the two men steering the program sat. Spread on the table was a crumpled, dirty-looking Afrikania mission cloth. On top of the cloth sat a Gye Gyame symbol. Appropriate, right? There was also a “I love Ghana” cloth hanging from that same table. And there was a cow switch on the table. In the corner sat another calabash. Oh Greaat! I wondered if i’d pushed things a little too far this time.

It was a truly interactive event. Everyone there seemed to have a role, whether it was translating the message into Ga, twi, or Ewe, drumming, clapping, or dancing. It was similar to a church service in some respects. For example there were readings from the same text which were then translated. The readings were followed by drumming and dancing. But it was also different from regular church. Many of the people took of their shoes. And when they danced, it was not free-style like we do in a church...these dances were traditional Ghanaian dances. Like adowa and agbadza. At one point, we were all encouraged to dance, and I looked so odd...I thought i’d look silly pretending to dance adowa or agbadza so I stuck to my usual church dance. I made a mental note to learn a traditional Ghanaian dance. I’d never had use for it, but now I was found wanting.

Another thing that was different was the instruments. They were all traditional instruments. Drums, rattles, and the gong gong. Then there was the singing. All the songs were indigenous Ghanaian songs. Sometimes they sounded like ebibindwom...other times they sang what I’d consider secular songs like the the fante warrior song:

Oburumankoma ee!, Oburumankoma ee! Oburumankoma Odapagyan ee! Oburumankoma Odapagyan ee! Oson! Oson akyi nyi aboa.

The readings explained some of their faith.They did not believe in the trinity...God as father, son and holy spirit. But they believe in a supreme being who created the earth, and who is both male and female. They believe ancestors, and in calling to their spirits through libation. They see fetishes like the Akonedi and Tigari as a connection between humans and God. Spirits act like angels. They are good spirits, sent to help us by God. God uses them more than he uses us because humans are jealous, deceitful, and belligerent. To learn more about the beliefs, check out the Afrikania Mission website.

The Afrikania Mission was founded by Osɔfo Okɔmfo Damuah who came from Asankragua in the Western region, got a Phd from Howard University, was a catholic priest for many years, and later became an African traditional believer, hence his dual title of Osɔfo and Okɔmfo. He died in 1992. You can read more about him on Wikipedia.

I did not stay till the end of the program.I left after only about an hour to have a lunch of omo tuo made from ebibimo (brown rice) and groundnut soup from a nearby vegetarian restaurant, (Yes, there are vegetarian restaurants in Ghana) called Assase Pa. I also had bissap with ginger in it. And later that evening, I went to watch Ghana's Most Beautiful, a pageant that seeks to educate us on Ghanaian culture. So yesterday was an packed day. Much of it was fun. But questions I had from my religious meeting kept gnawing at me. And I couldn't sleep when I got home. I was spooked. I live alone, you see, and whenever the wind rattled my front gate , I wondered if the spirits were coming for me. Don't laugh:) I hid under the covers.

The experience has left me with many feelings. Many thoughts. Many questions.

For example, what exactly is it about African traditional religion that makes us steer clear of it? What scares us? How is it that I know more about Eastern religions than I know about Ghanaian traditional religion. Even from a purely academic standpoint, whatever happened to intellectual curiosity, to open-mindedness? How had I closed off myself completely from understanding such an important pillar of our tradition and culture? Am I ready to find out?

I told my boss about my experience, and I guess he got to the heart of the issue when he said. "You may not know what it is that scares you, but do you really want to find out?" In addition to that, I’d like to add, am I willing to deal with the consequences, if there are any?

Thoughts, questions, insights? If you're reading this, I'd like to ask you, what experience, if any, do you have with African religion. Should we be exploring these questions, critically examining who we are, or is this a no-go area, better left unexplored? Should I take the next step to visit a shrine? Would you? Why or why not?

Monday, August 10, 2009

A new kind of begging in Ghana - using the New Testament Bible

There's a new form of begging on our streets. Check the airport junction, the intersection connecting Walfred Services to airport roundabout (close to the Airport Shell shop) or the intersection connecting the 37 tro-tro station with El-wak stadium...and you'll find our young ones distributing the Gideon's new testament bibles-the same ones we used to have in sunday school (shown in photo above). These kids encourage you to take a "free" bible., which they hand to you. But once you accept it, they then follow up with a request for something small : kyɛ me biribi ntɔ nsuo ɛnom (tr: dash me something small to buy water). And since you've just received a "free" bible, you feel obligated to give them 20 p, or any small change you have on you.

I always decline their offer. I feel like these kids are trying to pull a fast one by "selling" me a bible which should be free. Or they're begging for money, but they're trying to disguise it by giving me the bible before asking me for money. Or they're consciously manipulating people to give to them, using the bible as a tool to soften people's hearts...Or they want to be paid for distributing the free bibles, so what they're really asking is for you to reward them for their labor. In which case, I would ask, why not just sell plantain chips, or phone credits, or pure water so I know you're trading? Why the mind if you're begging o, not begging o...just give it to me straight.

What are they really up to? Maybe I should ask them. I just may, the next time I see them. Or maybe i should just take the bible, give them the money, and see it as an opportunity to give back as contagious accra suggests. Be the bigger person.

It's still annoying to think that they think they're outsmarting someone with their sly moves. Arrrrgh!

What to do?

Friday, August 07, 2009

Live Your Life. Now.

One of my aunt’s closest friends has passed, leaving behind a husband, and 3 children, the youngest of whom is 8.

She was in her mid-forties, and had been living comfortably with a fibroid tumor which was diagnosed at least 2 years ago. She did not have it removed because she had all her children through caesarian operations, and was too afraid to go under the knife a fourth time. Who can blame her? And yet, perhaps she should have, and would have if she had known that it would kill her. About 2 weeks ago, she complained of abdominal pain, and was taken to a nearby clinic where she was given pain killers. The drugs seemed to work, and she was discharged from the hospital. A few days later, the pains came back with greater force, she was sent back to the same clinic, where she was admitted and treated until her doctor felt he could not do anything about it, at which time she was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance. The oxygen in the ambulance was not enough and we think she died from suffocation.

My aunt is deeply saddened. She has been weepy all week. Having had surgery to remove her own fibroid tumor several years ago, maybe she regrets not pushing her friend to do it too. Maybe she feels lucky that her own tumor did not kill her.

I feel lucky that my favorite aunt is still here. I feel lucky that I have never lost anyone close to me. But I know I will not be lucky forever, and that as surely as night follows day, someday, maybe sooner than I think, my family will be visited by death.

Because life ends, I believe it must be lived with gusto. If I had a philosophy for life, it would be to live my dreams. Now. I think too many people get bogged down in planning - planning to do something, to be something, to say something, to spend time with their loved ones, yet never quite living that life which they plan. For me, this past year has been the happiest time in my life because I have been living exactly the life I want to live. Making that leap from living in the future to living in the present is daunting at first, but once you do it once, you’re able to do it over and over again in all areas of your life, because it brings you joy. I can’t count how many times this year, I’ve erupted with laughter because I’m sitting somewhere, by myself and I realize, it doesn’t get better than this. Where I am is exactly where I want to be. This is the life!

So I’d like to encourage you to also “live your life”!
I leave you with the following article and I hope you get something out of it.

Life Is A Tragedy Full Of Joy: Richard Gilbert

Is life a tragedy or a celebration, or some combination of the two; in which case, how do we find the balance? We tend to forget that the full meaning of tragedy is not simply the failure of human plans or the cruelty of fate. Tragedy grows out of the good. Tragedy is our human fate - the ultimate tragedy is that however much we love life, we die. Dramatically speaking, life is a tragi-comedy: we laugh, we cry, we live, we die. We are unique among the creatures, not because we will die, but because we know we will die. The birds, too, will die, but they chirp on in their ignorance. Knowledge of our finitude ought to be enough to make us miserable. But it also makes us glad because we know each day is a precious reprieve from non-being. Life is moving, but in its very passage we find our joy in being.

That is the irony of the human condition. We are born, strive mightily to achieve great ends, love deeply, suffer pain bravely - and for what? To die! No, to live! The irony of our human fate is that which has given us greatest joy when it is present, gives us greatest pain when it is absent. Without the joy of life, there is no tragedy in death. Life, I conclude, is a tragedy full of joy.

But the celebration I have in mind is living life as a resounding YES to existence - not despite all the pain and suffering we experience - but with them as a part of the rich mix that makes life meaningful. Without the finality of death, life would be an eternal bore, because we would have it all the time. There would be no sense of urgency to live life with compassion, creativity, and conviction.

No, when I stand at the graveside, hold the hand of a suffering soul, listen to protests at the unfairness of existence, I still believe life is to be celebrated. Without our love for one another, without the joy of human health, without courage in the face of adversity, there would be no tragedy. As the prophet puts it, "the deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain."

Two weeks ago I saw GeVa Theater's presentation of Ernest Gaine's novel, A Lesson Before Dying, which I have also read - along with the rest of Rochester. It is the tragic story of Jefferson, a young black man in the South of the 1940's falsely accused of murder and sentenced to the electric chair. The young man's god-mother who had raised him, bitterly accepts his fate but wants him to face his execution like a man. He is unlearned, barely articulate, and without hope.

She finally persuades Grant, another young black man - a teacher - to visit him and teach him a "lesson before dying," that he might face his fate with dignity. While Grant is hesitant and resists such a responsibility, he takes it on. There are some fascinating encounters with the local preacher who is more concerned with Jefferson's soul after death, than his spirit during life. Gradually Jefferson discovers the joy in reading and writing - rejoices that there are those who care about him - begins to discover who he is - a person with what Martin Luther King, Jr., would call "somebodiness." He dies with courage and dignity.

It is a heavy play and a heavy novel. Yet there is a subliminal joy in both. Beneath all the injustice of racism there is the determined will to be free. In the face of inevitable death, there is yet something worthwhile in life - however short that life may be. There is - despite the fate that awaits Jefferson - a lesson before dying that is worth learning. His lesson was tragically brief. We are studying that lesson for a lifetime.

And so, Ernest Gaines, while making a powerful statement against racism and against the death penalty, is making an equally powerful statement that no matter what life has in store for us, there are life lessons worth learning.

We do it - we celebrate the joys of this life - in the sure knowledge that our days are numbered. Life, we know, is terminal. None of us will get out of it alive. And that is tragic, is it not? Or is it? Shall we then cease our celebration of life? Or shall we believe with Henry David Thoreau that "Surely joy is the condition of life"? Every day - despite the chirping of birds in the early springtime air, despite the brave little green stalks of crocuses poking their way toward the sun, despite the inevitable roll of the great spinning earth, despite the rhythmic changing of the seasons, despite the lengthening days and the warming sun - every day we are one day closer to our final meeting with fate.

And that would seem to be tragic - the thought of leaving these ecstasies may burden us with the finitude of our lives. But it also is cause for celebration. Spring won't take NO for an answer. While we are here there are delicious morsels of living to taste, and we do ourselves no favors by failing to taste them - we savor them all the more because we know the banquet is not endless.

Life is a tragedy full of joy. Even beneath the dark death of winter we know spring is about to explode. It comes with life and singing and also with the sure death that comes when the seasons cycle around the sun - for summer, fall and winter will follow inexorably.

We, too, will cycle through our seasons of the soul - and one day there will be no more springs for us. But now, spring beckons and we must not miss the chance to celebrate its coming - even though we know our springtimes are numbered. Because we know they do not go on forever, there is all the more reason to rejoice now, to become what I call "cheerleaders of the human spirit."

image credits:

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Leave Mugabe and Zimbabwe alone!

Written by Ernesto Yeboah

For some time now the West through its media has focused its attention on Mugabe and Zimbabwe. Aside their giant media houses like the BBC and CNN, Aljazeera have lately joined the bandwagon, running daily documentaries on the impoverishing state of Zimbabwe. They have even been innovative enough by stepping into the world of adverts and clutching such opportunities to further demonize Mugabe and Zimbabwe. The recent TIGO advert is a clear case in point!

There is absolutely no problem with the western media charting such a cause. Such reportage does not only form part of their editorial policies but its foundations. Their motives are clearly defined and it is that which inures to their ultimate benefit and nothing else. What remains significant is that all these giant western media houses currently in this war against Zimbabwe have in no way hidden their interest. Whiles the BBC's motivation is driven by Mugabe's righteous reclaim of white-occupied (not white-owned) farmlands by mostly British, the CNN's is on a solidarity march. The partial manifestations of its imperialist and hidden racial sentiments are also real and cannot be overlooked.


Whiles reason is adequately found in justifying the war on Zimbabwe by Western media, the thinking by some African journalists in this regard is very appalling. They lack understanding; they have no perspective and obviously no direction. They have joined the west in demonizing Mugabe and Zimbabwe. In fact, they even lack history. But this is just what happens when a purpose driven journalism is absent. At the inauguration of the Ghana News Agency (GNA), Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana's maiden President, could not have struck much sense in his cautioning statement to journalists across the continent when he said:

“We are in a revolutionary period and we must have a revolutionary morality in journalism and all other walks of life. We cannot be neutral between the oppressor and the oppressed; the corrupter and the victim of corruption; between the exploiter and the exploited; between the betrayer and the betrayed. We do not believe that there are necessarily two sides to every question; we see right and wrong; just and unjust; progressive and reactionary; positive and negative; friend and foe. We are partisan!”

If there was anything called objectivity, then Nkrumah's statement is not far from it. Until journalists come to this effective conclusion, we shall continue to see through the lenses of the West on our own soils, we shall not stop culling African news from foreign media and the retrogressive fight against ourselves shall not seize. The question of finance should not even attempt coming up; where there is a will there is a way. African governments are able to finance all sort of things even war in some parts of the continent. The difference is leadership and their choices thereof.

We must be prepared to go there ourselves and report what the real news is. When the Arabs felt so, Aljazeera was immediately born to accomplish the task. Journalism is not sitting behind a computer conjuring stories or in a studio reading announcements, it goes further. It demands a high level of consciousness that explains the similarities and contradictions in society and the world at large. This way, it portrays and project an overall agenda; and in this case, the African agenda.


For a moment lets ask ourselves the interest of those Ghanaian journalists and media Houses who have just joined the dinosaurs in demonizing Mugabe and Zimbabwe; What interest have for instance, Tv3 or Metro TV in telling Ghanaians that Zimbabwe is poor, that the only bread making factory is closing down or has closed down? What problems does such news item solve other than the western imperialist aims it enforces?

In any case, have these media houses gone further to ask what has resulted in Zimbabwe's current predicament? Are they for instance aware that even as the whites left they deliberately destroyed almost all farm machines and have effectively made it impossible for the importation of their replacement? Are these Ghanaian journalists aware of the sanctions currently over the roof of Zimbabwe? Would a rather tacit campaign on their part for the sanctions to be waved not see a Zimbabwe glowing? What about frantic efforts on their part to get African governments to come to Zimbabwe's aid? What is wrong with us?

It is high time journalists of Africa became African journalists. They must have an interest; the African interest! They must begin to understand that, war against any African country is war on the rest of Africa. If the politicians wont, journalist must! A revolutionary morality will mean rising to pick up the broken pieces, providing active support, forming groups and associations and moving to help Zimbabwe stand; if Zimbabwe is dying we do not need Aljazeera, CNN, BBC or the IMF/World Bank to tell us, we must know it ourselves and this could be done through the effective coordination of for instance all state owned media across the continent just if we are poor; but even more effective, by local private journalists or local private media houses.


We may be against Mugabe but we can insist that we shall not rise against Zimbabwe, we shall clothe its women, feed its children, uplift its disadvantaged and underprivileged just like Zimbabwe would have done, once the rest of Africa extends a helping hand in her great hour of need. At least, this will make nonsense of the directives of retrogressive institutions as the IMF/World Bank as they stated in no uncertain terms some few months back, that, financial assistance would only come to Zimbabwe on grounds of regime change. What argument? Since when did regime change become an item on the conditionality list for these forces; may be long ago, but now they have become even more confident.

More to the point, by their own reportage, the people of Zimbabwe are suffering; many others are fleeing and some even dying. Thus a financial request only follows that it is going to be used to mitigate these problems. But here we are, the IMF/World Bank is saying that the people of Zimbabwe should die just because of one man. The paradox; this “one man” is asking for help on behalf of the “dying people” of Zimbabwe and the extent to which the IMF/World Bank cares, is the extinction of this man or they perish.

It is important to understand that, the issues are deeper than what we can ever imagine. There is a conspiracy and it can only be unravelled by an African centred journalism. These institutions have never been interested in the good of Africa than its maintenance at subservience. Aside, Africa's selfish, greedy and ignorant leadership over the years, the Breton woods institution comes next as the cause of the scourge in Africa. We are aware of their agents located in almost every government ministry in many African countries. Ghana is no exception.

Mugabe's fingers may not be clean but Zimbabwe's woes are not self inflicted, it is artificial but its consequences are real. The true oppressors are the parents of the countless sanctions on the head of Zimbabwe, those that have brought to the people suffering, and those that have set policies deliberately meant at destabilizing the economy of Zimbabwe and bringing it to its knees. If Africa rises, this economic sabotage will not last and our victory will be established.

The unnatural silence of African governments is those journalists must attack. What they should be doing is rallying support for the dying people of Zimbabwe, calling on governments across the continent to turn their attention on the land. Little by little, Africa will become for Africans as we start with the donations; the donation of teachers, the donation of food, the donation of funds, of labour, and of machines. The African journalist would have then achieved the revolutionary morality. Africa, Arise!

Monday, August 03, 2009

Top 8 new, promising, and fabulous Ghana blogs

There are now 146 Ghana blogs listed on Afrigator, making Ghana the 5th most active African country in terms of blogging. Ghana follows behind South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, and Egypt in that order. Not shabby. Not shabby at all.

Zoom into Ghana. The top 5 Ghana blogs as listed by Afrigator today are:
1. My heart’s in Accra
2. Oluniyi David Ajao
3. Accra By Day & Night
4. Nubian Cheetah
5. Wo Se Ekyir: What your mamma never told you about Ghana

You probably already know about these blogs, afterall,they're in the top 5 because you read them. If you didn't, well, there they are. But these are all old blogs...even Wo Se Ekyir will be one year old in a week or so. But there are some new blogs that not that many people know about, even though they're good and should be of interest to Ghanaian blog readers.

So the purpose of this blog post is to tell you about 10 of such blogs.What criteria am I using to shortlist these ten? Well, I had to come up with something. So I did.1. Blog must have been in existence for not more than 1 year2. Blog must be interesting, regularly updated and well written3. Blog must be relevant for Ghanaians.Here goes:

1.Contagious Accra
Contagious Accra is a new blog for anyone who loves Accra. It's a positive space.The blog looks at the issues that affect people in Accra in fresh new ways. I believe their last blog entry was about "Bukom: beyond the stereotype". Also, just last week when I wrote about my experience at XL Night Club, Nana, Kwegyirba and others asked about alternative hangouts in Accra.So if you're interested in checking out some new joints, check out contagious accra's list of alternative hangouts in Accra.

2. Ghana Hall of Shame
As it's name suggests, this blog is for anyone who has a service-related complaint to make about any Ghanaian institution. So say you went to a restaurant and found a worm in your food, or if you're like me and had to sit in line for 30 minutes last Saturday at the Ecobank branch at the mall, with no one telling you anything and this has happened to you 3 times in a row, well, this blog is for you. The blog hopes that if enough Ghanaians use it, hopefully the institutions that we complain about will be forced to improve their services. Everyone wins.

3. Good News from Ghana
Do a 180 from Ghana Hall of Shame and you'll find Good news from Ghana. Its simple mission is to document positive and inspiring stories from Ghana. So anytime you stumble upon something really cool, let them know, and they'll write about it. Or if you win a Nobel prize, believe me...they'd certainly write about that! So go do great things so you'll be on their front page.

4.Boakyewaa Glover
Boakyewaa is a Ghanaian writer who also blogs. I believe she's written a book - Circles - that is soon to launch. She blogs mostly on relationships and life.

5. NiseyKnits
A blog on knitting, written by the knitter, a Ghanaian. Usually a knitting blog would not make this list...afterall how often do Ghanaians living in Ghana need knitted stuff? But I just had to include it because all the proceeds from knitted stuff are donated to Ghanaian NGOs. One of them is Ghana Think.

6. Haunted Shell
I only found this blog today and I decided to include it because of the look and feel. It's very beautifully done. All of us bloggers could learn a thing or two about user experience from this blog. Love the design. Love the colors, love the way it's organised. The blogger is an IT guy who writes a lot on computers and related IT stuff.

7. Makola Law
If you have questions only a Ghana lawyer can answer, this is the blog to go to. It's a very very new blog, with only one entry but still I think it is a good idea, and that many Ghanaians will find it useful.

8. When Things Fall Apart
Newsy. Reminds me of Koranteng's Toli.

Finally, these two blogs:Kaleidoscope, and Expression and Poesy did not make my list of top 8 new blogs for one reason alone: It looks like they're still trying to find their focus. Which is fine. Sometimes that takes a while. But I decided to tell you about them because
they're well writen. Entertaining even. So take a peek.

I know I promised a list of the top 10 new and promising Ghana blogs when I wrote about 7 of my favorite Ghana blogs. And I did look but I did not find 2 more blogs that satisfied the criteria
established above.

As I'm sure you know some pretty great blogs yourself, maybe you even write one, I decided to let you pick the final 2. So if you think your blog (or a blog you read) deserves to be on this list, leave a link in the comments and tell us why, and we'll be sure to visit it.