Thursday, February 25, 2010

Books Ghanaian Kids Love - Were you a Enid Blyton Kid or Agatha Christie Kid?

According to the supermorning show on Joy FM, Ghanaian kids aren't reading anymore. They can't be bothered.

This is quite a tragedy. I have the fondest memories of primary school (University Primary School, Legon) because of the books we read, and swapped, the library books we lost and had to replace and the friends I made because of our common interest in reading. It is one of those loves that never died. So from personal experience, I know that children who love to read continue into adulthood. At UPS, it was pure positive madness!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Hi, I'm Your Vagina and I Feel Ignored

Note: This is a post about vaginas. I use the word over 30 times. If you think this may offend you, you can skip this post. There's plenty of other fun stuff to read on this blog.

I'm your vagina. Why don't you ever look at me? know you think I smell bad and would never consider tasting me. Look, I'm not trying to make you look bad or's just...I feel ignored.

Friday, February 19, 2010

And He Went About Doing Good - Part 2.

The Impact of Christianity on Ghana - The bad and the Ugly

right, good people. And...we're back! I just love it when i'm chatting on gmail and the internet acts up, and then just when it get's back on, gmail chat says "and....weeeeee're back!" I just looooove it!

I know some of you have been itching to take a swipe at Christianity in Ghana. Here's your chance. This is part two of "And he went about doing good" , that is the impact of christianity in Ghana....THE BAD and the UGLY.

When I first started writing this, I thought I'd have so many negative things to say that i'd break it down into the bad and the ugly but i can't think of so many. Maybe you can help. Have there really been so many negative things, or we just keep talking about the same ones over and over again and in louder voices so it seems like it's sooooo bad. Y'all need to help me out.

Here's my own contribution...

1. Wiping Out Our Culture

With the embrace of Christianity, came the adoption of all things Western. Whilst Christianity, Western customs and language were seen to be civilised and therefore accepted, Our traditional religions, customs, and language were seen to be heathen andd therefore rejected. For example, whilst music was always an integral part of worship, Ghanaian musical instruments like the gong, drums, and rattles, which we now enjoy in church were not accepted into our churches until Osofo Komfo Damoah, founder of the Afrikania mission, and then a catholic priest introduced them. With the rejection of our ways of doing things our confidence took a hit. As a people, we became ashamed of much of what was indegenous like own names,our way of dress, our music and so on. Fast forward to 2010, some of these things have changed but others remain. Within my own family, my first brother, who died soon after birth was named Nyankoms, an anglicized version of a beautiful name Nyankonton, which means Rainbow. Rainbow represents rebirth,good news and hope, whilst Nyankoms, its anglicized version is stripped of meaning. What were we thinking?! hehe.

Just about a year ago, I attended a friend's wedding in a church and one lady, who introduced herself as a deaconess told me that she senses that God wants to use me and so I should draw closer to God, but that she also thinks I should do something about my hair, as if to say, God cannot use someone who has natural african hair.

2. Discrimination and Prejudice
Some christians use Christianity as an excuse to be bigoted. Take homosexuality. I can understand if as a Christian, you do not approve of a woman sleeping with another woman. But when you actively harrangue homosexuals, when you discriminate against them on the basis of their sexuality, and legitimise your prejudice through religion, it becomes a problem.

3.Failure to Discriminate
Here, I do not refer to the oft used meaning of the word but rather the little used meaning of the word discriminate. That is, to make sensible decisions or to judge wisely. In Ghana, people place blind trust in ministers, prophets, and men of God. Somehow people believe that God speaks to ministers and pastors and not to them. This isn't actually scriptural. In the old testament, God lived in one temple, which was called the holy of hollies. Only priests were allowed into this place and God communicated to his people through them. All this ended in the new testament. So in 2010, when a person becomes born again, his spirit is renewed, and for those who believe in the bible, it says, the spirit of God dwells within the human body. So God lives in the new Christian and s/he needs no prophet to instruct her on God's will for her. But because Christians are not paying attention to the spirit of God, or being led by their inner witness, what happens is they look in all places for signs and wonders. And the people who perform these signs are elevated as "men of God"...even though the bible explicitly states that to them who believe he gave them power to become the sons of God. Not merely "men of God", but "sons of God". Anyway, what's my point? It's this: That because people think men of God are special, in their eyes, they can do no wrong. Ghanaians blindly trust such people so even false men of God get away with a lot. They rape children, break homes, and buy cars with other people's money and all of this happens only because people are not thinking. That's really the ugly part of it. That when it comes to men of God, Ghanaians become non-thinking beings and we do not question anything they do or say.

Also, i'm very interested in ways in which Christianity affect you, personally. I think we all keep talking about it in abstraction. As in, ooooh Christianity is so bad. It did this and it did that. But on a personal level, has it impacted any of u at all?

For me, my parents gave me my local name. I'm still very much in love with Ghanaian culture and way of life. I'm fairly open-minded and am quite able to judge for myself. So who are these people that I claim Christianity has impacted negatively? Are you out there? Or is it all in our heads? Do we just loooove to bitch and hate?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

And He Went About Doing Good - The impact of Christianity on Ghana (The good, the bad and the ugly)

Part 1 - The Good

It's not often that we talk about Christianity on this blog. Which, is rather odd, considering that Ghana self-identifies as a Christian nation and signs that point to this aspect of our identity are all around us - I mean every other Ghanaian owned business has a name that identifies the owner as a person of the Christian faith, right?Think tro-tros (e.g. No bribe in heaven) and kiosks (e.g. Except God) , containers (e.g. My Savior lives), nursery schools (e.g. Little angels School).

So in today's post and the next 2 posts, I want us to look at what impact Christianity has had on our country and our people. Today's post will address all the good that Christianity has done for Ghana and Ghanaians. The next post will address the bad, and the post following
that will talk about the downright ugly.

I crave your indulgence, ladies, and gentlemen, as I lay down the rules.

Today's post shall only be about the positive. So if you have nothing good to say about Christianity in Ghana, shut up, sit tight, and wait. In subsequent posts, you will have all the opportunity to bash, and vent and let it all out. But today... today, we want to acknowlege the good. I'd like us to do this because it will help us hear from both sides without one side drowning out the voices of an opposing side. This way, even if you're not a fan of Christianity, you'll be forced to acknowlege its merits. And even where you believe it's had no positive impact, you will read only from others who believe it's done us some good.

Similarly, in the next post, we will only talk about how it's impacted us negatively. This should help maintain some sanity in here. My hope is that the discussion will not degenerate into personal attacks and we'll all learn something, maybe even switch positions at the end of it all.

The question is this: tell me, what good has Christianity done for Ghana.

I have a few answers of my own.

First, Education
Majority of the top secondary schools in Ghana were set up by Christian missionaries and continue to be guided by Christian principles and values. I'm talking about the Mfantsipims (Methodist), The Wey Gey Heys (Methodist), the Presecs (Presbyterian), and Rosecs (Catholic), The Abugiss (Presbyterian), The Holy Childs (Catholic) and St Augustines (Catholic), The St Peters (Catholic) and Adiscos (Anglican?). And more recently, we find that a disproportionate number of the newly established private universities are affiliated with Christian denominations. Like the Catholic University, Presbyterian University, Methodist University, Central University
and so on.

Second, Charity
That which makes us kind and loving towards other people, even if we're not related to them.There are times when it seems to me, all life should be spent pursuing that which makes
our time on earth a little easier for one another. I attended a wake-keeping last friday. My first. And despite my objections, was pressured by my peers to go see the corpse.I'm glad I caved. Seeing a body so lifeless of a man who was very wealthy in his day, with tens of people gathered around him, yet unable to restore him to life...that did something to me.
When i came out, I couldn't understand why mourners were dancing in the courtyard.
They said they were celebrating the dead man's life but I imagined, if i died, would i want people dancing? When i got out of there, i broke down and cried my heart out. The kind of crying that leaves you with puffy eyes the next day and makes your
husband look bad. haha. I was crying for the dead man, yes, but also for all of us, especially myself. I wondered how I would deal with it if my husband died. What would life without my best friend be like?

My thoughts led me to one thing. If all the things we chase after-the fame,the fortune, the success- is meaningless, and we're all just going to die in the end, maybe more time should be spent making the life we have better, more enjoyable for those we love. Should I be having a fight over who does the dishes, and who takes out the trash and whose money we use to build the house that we're both going to stay in and die in and then leave behind? The least we can do is spread a little kindness. Helping the poor, the sick, and the outcasts.

I went into all of this to make the point that we all need it, not just the lepers and the beggers, and the homeless. In Ghana, Churches, and even individual Christians tend to be extremely charitable. Just recently Christ the King Church invited some lepers to their church and they sang and worshipped with all the usual bourgeois Christ the King Crowd. I thought that was the most beautiful thing, and a wonderful example to the rest of us. I heard later that the usual church goers were not very happy with the idea at first but that their priest insisted, saying that it's not enough to send cash and other donationsto those in need. That besides gifts, we should treat people like these as we would like to be treated. What can i say? Even if you're not a Christian, hearing this kind of thing is pretty inspiring.

Third, Community
In a discussions that I had with people before writing this post, one of my friends said,
"a positive contribution is the social interactions it fosters. Many people make and hang out (every week) with friends or acquaintances from Church, forming an extended social structure that sometimes rivals our extended family system. Some Church groups have credit unions." I couldn't have said it better. In one of the comments coming out of Naa Anang post on mental health in Ghana, someone (Anonymous) also said "I think most Ghanaians use church and God as a coping mechanism. We pray about whatever is bothering us and "let go and let God". i guess thats therapy in a way" So yeah, having the Church has helped lots of people deal with personal problems, marriage problems, even financial problems
and so on.

Forth, Contentment & Hope
How can a people who have so very little materially be so very happy, generally?
Hope and contentment with one's lot. It reminds me of my encounter with the street seller who inspired me to be content with what I have. For better or worse, Ghanaians are generally a content people and I think content:) and I think Christianity has had a role to play. But whilst they're content, they also have hope that their condition will get better because God is on their side, or even if it doesn't get better, God will grant them the grace to cope. Call it what you will, but somehow people are able to draw strength from this to cope with the toughest circumstances and still keep on smiling.

Note that in this post, I have tried to isolate those things which we can truly attribute to Christianity. I have left out values because our people had values and morals before the first
Christian missionaries arrived at our shores. I remember in secondary school, when it came time to elect prefects, we would look out for people with certain qualities. People who were humble, who upheld the school rules, people we could respect, people who were smart, etc. A lot of the people who possessed these qualities were devoted Christians so we thought that one had to be a christian to have these qualities. Now I realise that this is not true. There are many non-Christians, even atheists, who treat people as they would like to be treated, and who have integrity. And even if you look at our traditional system of leadership and rule, to become, say an asantehene, you ought to be thought to have some values and strong morals. So yeah, I would not count morals and values as one of those blessings Christianity bestowed on Ghana and Ghanaians.

In summary, not only has Christianity done us good by contributing positively to what we have (education, and community), it has also contributed immensely to who we are (charity, contentment, and hope)

But don't take my word for it. Do your own thinking and let's see what unexpected contributions you come up with. If you're a Christian, what good do you think your religion and way of life does for you and the rest of the country? If you're not a Christian, do you think Christianity makes any positive contributions? Is there anything we can learn from it? Like what? I look forward to learning from you.

Oh, ane please watch this space for "And He Went About Doing Good - Part 2" in which i'll write about the not so great contributions that Christianity has made to our country and our people.

Mad love to K.K. Yankson for helpful discussions and to PK Imbeah for inspiring this post.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Looking back at the last decade: Top 10 Things That Changed Your Life

It thrills me to the sky to be writing a post about the Top 10 things that changed your life. Okay our lives. Not in 2009, or 2008, but in the last 10 years. The official title is actually "Looking back at the last decade: Top 10 Most Influential Cultural Trends" but I thought that since this is for Wo Se Ekyir, not, we should make the title easier to digest. Anyway, moving on...finally, I too have been around long enough to write about the last decade. *says affectedly, as my friend Nasa would say in her British accent* "I'm chuffed" Clears throat. End of British accent:)

We begin.

1. Hiplife
Hiplife has had a huge influence on Ghanaian music and culture. I cringe a little at writing the last sentence because it’s so obvious. Everybody knows it. I bet younger folk can’t even imagine life without hiplife. But things haven’t always been like this. It wasn’t too long ago, even as late as say ’97/’98 when Ghanaian songs weren’t cool and all the hip songs were yankee imports. But once hiplife happened, it spread like Ghanaian earthquake rumors. Now, suddenly our stories are being told and we have characters like Tic tak and Buk bak. Inane names aside, musicians of their ilk have made us love our own music again. Some of their lyrics have even become a part of our everyday language. Like Mr. POP, Scenti no...agye babia, Philomena Kpetenge, Apuskeleke or Apuus in short. Just about a week ago, my Indian boss walked into our work space and announced proudly “I met a Ghanaian legend”. Eyes rolled, and ears perked yes, and judgement already passed that just about any name he mentioned would prove his announcement a gross exaggeration, I waited. I mean...when we say legend, we’re talking about someone as big as Nkrumah or Kojo Antwi or Abedi Pele, Even Rawlings. Right? Right, but fo’ shore when he said “Reggie Rockstone”, I knew I’d judged too quickly. All I could manage was a weak comeback; oh so you’re hip now or something? There’s no disputing. Because of his contribution to hiplife, and because hiplife has changed our lives, Reggie may juuust deserve this canonization.

2. Local language radio stations
Local language radio is not just radio, it's a phenomenon. For sheer entertainment value, english radio stations don't come anywhere close. And the presenters don't even look like they're trying. It sounds like it's all off the cuff,extemporaneous stuff. If it is, these people have got talent! Even the news is hilarious. But they get the point accross. Before we had local language radio stations, access to information was a privilege only the formally educated got. But thanks to Peace fm, Adom fm and other shows, now everyone knows wassup! In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if tro-tro drivers, taxi-drivers and house-helps know more about goings on in this country than many of us. Afterall, they listen to these radio station for long stretches of time whilst we, at best only catch it on the drive to and from work. This is a huge shift.

Personally, this is how my life has changed because of it. I can now take a cab and begin a conversation about any national issue of interest with the driver. I can ask the driver what he thinks of TB Joshua or President Mills' reshuffling exercise, Rawlings' speech about Atta the mortician or more current, what he thinks about the drastic increase in road tolls. Not only can I get his opinion, I can get updates on national conversations. I can learn from him because he's now able to access information that 10 years ago, was mostly in english and therefore reserved for those who understood English. We're moving forward.

3.Social commentary
Ghanaians love talking about issues that affect them, usually in hopes of affecting change through such conversations. Especially on radio. Everyone has a proposed solution and is not shy to share it. Politics is contending squarely with football for the nation’s favourite topic. On football, people tend to prescribe solutions like “we should hire a local coach”, “ we should invest in other sports besides football”. There've times when these discussions actually prompt concerned authorities to do something about the issues being discussed. There’s plenty of social commentary in newspapers , on tv, and on blogs, but on radio, it’s through the roof! There’s great interest in politics and as I pointed out in the last paragraph, every Adwoba is now politically aware. There's more accountability or at the very least, demand for accountability.

4. Mobile telephony
Everybody and their grand mama now has a cell phone. Sim cards cost a mere cedi. There are 6 cell phone networks.MTN being the biggest, followed by Tigo and Vodafone, then Kasapa and Zain with Glo soon to follow. Everybody’s talking. People have 2, 3 handsets and news spreads fast. But the biggest effect can be seen on the streets. That is, the number of young Ghanaians, men and women who make their living by selling phone units/credit. Entertainment events/shows are also often sponsored by these companies. We can confidently say that mobile telephones have come to stay. Hopefully the next decade will see more Ghanaians gaining internet access, and the experts say that that might happen sooner than later if we’re connecting to the www on our cell phones.

5.The rule of law
Our law rules, and makes all Ghanaians equal. Since the handover of power after the elections in 2000, our law is trying to not be a respecter of persons. We've seen a lot more fairness in our justice system.There was a time in this country’s history when certain government officials were above a law. I’m not saying the system is completely fair and level now, but we’ve come very far indeed since the days when some were more equal than others.

6. Press Freedom

Closely related to point 5 (rule of law) is this new found freedom to publish/publicise news. Journalists, and pressmen used to be scared of speaking out against the government and government officials for fear of being targetted, and harassed or even killed. Whether the thing we feared was real/existing or just in our heads I don't know.Some people in my parents generation speak very strongly against the PNDC/NDC era. They lived through some of our nation's most difficult times. They witnessed or were victims to killings. It's hard not to be moved by the stories they tell. Whether real or imagined, people were scared to condemn those in high places too loudly, too publicly. That changed in the NPP era, and continues in the current NDC era. So it looks like the times of censored feelings/opinions are over. Enter the era of free speech and ka bi ma me nka bi.

7. The Rise of Private Tertiary Institutions
For a long time, there was UG, KNUST, Cape Vars and UDS (These days, I assume readers are all efienipas so I don’t feel the need to explain that UG is University of Ghana, Legon etc.) but in the last ten years, we’ve seen the birth of the at least 10 private Universities, the most prominent among them being, in no particular order, The Catholic University, Central University, Methodist University, Presbyterian University, Ashesi University, Valley View University, Wisconsin College. A more schooled population must be a good thing, however, frankly, I’m not seeing how it’s changing our lives. We’re seeing a lot of unemployed graduates. It would be nice to see more of the educated ones starting, then growing business. And i’m not just talking about them becoming self-employed. But actually creating value, innovating, building structures, and bringing all the skills to build businesses that outlive them. The same skills that have, I believe, held back hard-working and industrious Makola women, for example, from creating Ghanaian equivalents of Sainsbury’s and Walmarts.

8. Internet
I don’t know of any Ghana blog that has been around for more than 10 years. It was only in 2004 that I first heard of Weblogs. Few if any Ghanaian blogs existed back then, but the internet spawned this whole new media category we call blogging and there are now 200 Ghana blogs listed on Afrigator, the African blog Aggregator.

The internet also brought Facebook, which suddenly gave us the opportunity to connect with old friends, publicise events, and make new friends based on common interests. It’s mind boggling, how much easier, Facebook alone has made our lives.

Then there’s Google. I don’t even know how people did research before Google, because just when I got out of Wesley Girls, and had to find stuff out on my own, I discovered Google and Ask Jeeves. That was nearly 10 years ago. Now I realise how awesome having access to such technology is but what’s curious is the sheer nonchalance with which I received the technology. As an 18 year old who had absolutely no experience with the internet, I should have been awed. But I almost didn’t react, the whole thing just slipped by me like that. What was wrong with me? Lol. What was your own reaction when you first encountered the wonders of internet, and especially of search engines? I mean I can’t imagine...if the developers of google had shown up in my high school and presented the technology...would we have! awesome, cool! Clapping with excitement? Or would we have sat there, barely moved by the whole deal?

Anyway, the internet happened, and exploded access to information for those of us that have access to it. So that’s good and we hope that as service providers compete and rates reduce, more and more of us will hook up to the world wide web.

But the internet also brought sakawa, or internet fraud. A lot of our brothers online are using the internet to defraud people - an unfortunate development. With Sakawa, of course, came a resurgence in sikaduro.

9. Exodus abroad
It’s not that so many of us have left the country. It’s that so many of the smartest and the brightest leave and don’t return. Or return when they’re jaded and most interested in maintaining whichever new lifestyles they have now acquired. And tired. In my colleague Daniel’s words, “it’s no longer a brain drain, it’s a torrent”. My uncle was saying how we, who are, or claim to be, or should be the most capable at steering the country forward have left the country, and then we sit back and complain that the structures don’t work, and that the leaders are corrupt, and that nobody is producing anything, and that life in Ghana is hard. And when he asked me...if you who are the best positioned to “make it” here have such little belief in this countries possibilities, what hope do the illiterate have? The way I see it, we have the manpower. But not everybody knows how to build tools. Not everyone even knows which tools need to be built. So we have the ingredients but no one to cook that fantastic meal. We need leaders, the few people who will have the vision, and courage, whom we can follow to the Promised Land. Alas, we look around us, and they are nowhere to be found. Or they’re smart all right, and available even, but are living beyond their means, and have little character, and so find themselves dipping into collective funds for personal gain. We need a new kind of leader in Africa. Except if I’m not this kind of person, and you’re not this kind of person, then what are we left with?

Maybe all I had to say about exodus abroad is that last year the ”top three countries in terms of Green Card winning entries were Ghana, Nigeria and Bangladesh"

Sorry for being long-winded.

10. Aggressive adoption of everything Western
By this I mean celebrations like Mothers day, Fathers day, Valentine’s Day, Pastor’s Appreciation day, Consumer day, Catch your rat day. Hehe. Everyone understands that something called globalisation happened. But doesn’t that mean that somehow our lives affected them and their lives affected us? That we’d learn from them as they learned from us? But somehow, we’re accepting more and more of western stuff. Which, should not be bad. It should enrich us. It’s like having next door neighbours from abroad. Hopefully they teach you new games, and suddenly, instead of only ampe and tomato, you also know bullshit, and taboo. That’s great. Unfortunately that’s not what’s happening. We’re not even learning our own stuff anymore. We’re not developing any of our own stuff. So on a global level, we have nothing to bring. No new perspectives to add to the conversation. Nothing that comes from us. That can’t be good, now, can it? I’d like to see a day when a Ghanaian company makes it onto the list of the most innovative companies of the decade. I’d like to write that article. But I won’t if there’s no Ghanaian company on it. It’s just not interesting.

What are your own thoughts on this list? Which cultural trends were most influential in the last decade? Which significantly changed the lives of Ghanaians?

Credits: To PK Imbeah for inspiring this blog post, and for providing 5 of the cultural trends. And to Naa Dodua Dodoo and Daniel Adjokatcher for helping me think through the rest.