Kinna Reads

A blog of books, reading and world literature


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“Freezing in Sunshine” by Ama Ata Aidoo

(Like the previous post on Nana  Nyarko’s “September, 2053“, I’ve nothing to add)

Freezing in Sunshine

(Re: “When it’s cold enough, there is social warmth” & “The Blizzard” by Phillis Levin)

I watched my first Yankee blizzard
from a warm cozy room:
storm windows secure,
radiators singing,
and the snow itself glittering fluffy and fragrant
like the suds from white boubous
that were already clean before this last wash.

There were twenty more years between then and
some nasty falls on the
much-trodden, stone- hard, eel-smooth
college snow
of north Ohio.

My Dear Brother, I could still have
sympathized from here
where the sun is abundant,
its instant warmth and promises of
power unlimited and ready for harvesting
where the earth and the sea compete to
gush gold gold, black gold or brown
to glean cash to fill the gaps
If need be.
Rather,
I freeze
with private fear at our public impotence:
hit as we are by a leadership’s steely hate that
camouflages as mere
indifference,
mediocrity, and
senseless greed.

The chill is in my bones, My Brother, and
Self-pity
blocks
my humanity.

– by Ama Ata Aidoo
Lashibi, 18/02/15

(With permission from the poet, who says the “poem is a work-in-progress, the word camouflages is clunky”.)


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Jerome Reviews A. K. Awedoba’s An Ethnographic Study of Northern Ghanaian Conflicts: Towards a Sustainable Peace

(This is Jerome Kuseh’s fourth review for Kinna Reads; his previous reviews can be found here. Jerome is a “Ghanaian who mostly blogs about politics and business. He is also a fan of literature and has sometimes written poetry. His business blog is ceditalk.com and for his posts about politics, social issues and his attempts at creative writing, visit readjerome.blogspot.com.”)

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There are few things more embarrassing to people from Northern Ghana than violent clashes that occur in the Upper West, Upper East or Northern Regions. These three regions have Ghana’s highest rates of poverty and lowest rates of literacy, and comments on these conflicts have sometimes bizarrely reversed the positions of cause and effect or have been crude and lacking nuance.

Coming across Professor Awedoba’s book, An Ethnographic Study of Northern Ghanaian Conflicts: Towards a Sustainable Peace, at an EPP bookstore was therefore one of the best things that happened to me last year. The book, which is supported by CIDA, USAID and DFIF, is worth the price of GH¢30 I paid for it. It felt like something I had been looking for for years without even knowing it existed. This may sound like an exaggeration, but hailing from the Upper East Region and having lived most of my life in the South, I have often looked for means to understand the conflicts that were reported in the media, and this book was it.
The book is a research study led by Prof. Awedoba of the University of Ghana. The Northern Region team was led by Dr Edward Salifu Mahama of the Tamale Institute of Cross-Cultural Studies, Upper West Region by Mr. Sylvanus M. A. Kuuire of the University for Development Studies, and the Upper East Region by Mr. Felix Longi also of the University for Development Studies.

The study begins with an introduction that provides a useful context. It shows that fertile land in the three Northern regions are not evenly distributed. Erratic rainfall and lack of irrigation facilities also makes farming a seasonal activity, leaving periods of inactivity in the most underdeveloped parts of the country and causing the youth to emigrate for employment in the South. The study also shows that the colonial British had seen no justification for investing money in the ‘Northern Territories’ due to perceived lack of resources. They therefore deliberately kept it underdeveloped so that they could keep drawing unskilled labour from the North for industries in other parts of the colony.

This act by the British is one of five major acts that continue to fuel conflicts even today. The other four are the imposition of a monarch among people who had no chieftaincy in their culture such as the Dagaaba and the Sissala; the imposition of a monarch of the British’s choosing with disregard for tradition; the placement of groups of acephalous people under the administration of people who traditionally had chiefs; and the vesting of land in the colonial state (which was not done in the South). The vesting of lands to chiefs in the post-colonial period therefore created a challenge as history showed that not all chiefs in the North had owned land. One can therefore conclude that many of the conflicts the North has experienced have been legacies of colonization.

The study identified six remote and immediate causes of the conflicts:
• Competition for control of land
• Competition for traditional power and authority
• Abuse of power and position on the part of the ruler or someone in authority
• Rebellion against oppression and intolerable conditions
• Competition for valuable resources/facilities
• Faith-based rivalry

There are six types of conflicts identified in the study:
Intra-ethnic chieftaincy disputes such as the Yendi Chieftaincy crisis, the Nanumba succession crisis and the Chuchuliga dispute.
Inter-ethnic chieftaincy disputes such as the Konkomba-Nanumba conflict, the Vagala-Gonja conflict and the Kusasi-Mamprusi (Bawku) conflict.
Intra-ethnic land disputes such as the Kandiga-Mirigu conflict and the Wachii-Tengzuk dispute.
Inter-ethnic land disputes such as the Konkomba-Nanumba land crisis, the Bimoba-Konkomba crisis and the Gonja-Nawuri-Nchumburu crisis.
Inter-ethnic identity disputes such as the Vagala-Gonja conflict and the Konkomba-Nanumba conflict.
Religious conflicts such as the Kpabuso conflict between the Al-Suna and Tijjaniya Islamic sects.

It appears that the conflicts that result in the most loss of life and property are the inter-ethnic ones. These usually are between the historically acephalous people such as the Nchumburu, Konkomba, Vagala, Nawuri and the people with historical states such as the Mamprusi, Dagomba, Nanumba and the Gonja. These type of conflicts are mostly based on two things – disputed history as to whether a group of people were settlers, conquerors or autocthonous and the desire for one group to overturn their subservient relationship to another group with the help of numerical advantage.

These types of conflicts are complex. There appears to be a conflict between traditional unequal relationships and the desire for equal status spurred on by education and the realities of living in a modern democratic state. Professor Awedoba notes:

“Revolts such as those of the Vagala against their traditional overlords [the Gonja] cannot be divorced from current events in Ghana such as the independence and the rationale for it….Youth exposed to Marxist literature cannot be expected not to appreciate the similarities between what is put in these theories and what obtains back home in the village setting.” Page 178

In all these conflicts, the interference by political parties has been present in all governments. The removal and imposition of chiefs, from the 1960s,  by the Convention People’s Party (CPP) the Progress Party (PP) and subsequent military governments have allied the conflicting groups to different political parties and has made the cause of peace more difficult.

The inflow of weapons, the lack of trust in security agencies and courts, the lack of proper resources for the National and Regional Houses of Chiefs, poverty, the influence of politicians, the perceived corruptibility of traditional rulers and the appreciation in value of land have all played parts in maintaining the conflicts.

The study relied on statements made by people, some of which were interested parties in the conflict. However, when possible, the statements made by the opposing parties are also stated. In several instances, the study does not give enough information about the casualties of the conflicts and the history of the Dagbon crisis was not extensively covered.

However, the importance of this study cannot be overemphasized. It serves as a very relevant guide to one of the biggest problems facing the country and something that has remained a stumbling block to development. My knowledge and views on conflicts in Northern Ghana have been significantly improved by this study. I recommend this book to every Ghanaian who has an interest in understanding conflicts that plague the country and who is looking for sophisticated and informed viewpoints on them.


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Jalada’s ‘Afrofuture(s)’ and The Jalada Prize

I’m about to do a thing.

Short Story Monday1. Jalada’s ‘Afrofuture(s)‘ was posted on January 15, 2015 and I haven’t read a single story from the issue.

2. The collective announced The Jalada Prize on February 6th, 2015. Stories published in Jalada are eligible for the Prize and for this year’s Inaugural Prize, only stories published in the “Afrofutures’ edition will be considered.  (Read more about the Prize here).

3. The longlist of seven stories will be anounced  “towards the end of February”.

4. You add 1, 2 and 3 together and you get a Kinna Reads Shadow Jalada Prize Jury of One.

5. I’ve counted 21 stories (see the links to the stories below) that need to be read.

6. I will post my longlist here sometime next week. ( I hope I beat the official jury to the longlist, but we all know I can be very slooooow)

7. Join in if you are interested.

———————–

From Part 1, the stories are:

Jalada afrofuture1

“Facing Forward, Looking Back” – Naddya Adhiambo Oluoch-Olunya (From Jalada.org)

And from Part 2:


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“September, 2053″ by Nana Nyarko Boateng

NKA Photos Ivory Coast

 

I can’t and won’t add anything more to what the poet says!

September, 2053

Like cats lick
their dead kittens
we gather by
your lifeless body
and make promises
with our tongues

We cry for ourselves
knowing you will let
your body
smell foul for once
in the insides of our red sand
and we will have nothing to touch
your bones will be of no use
even to dogs

six feet too deep
yet too shallow
for the memories
you bring
every morning
you wake me
and while I select my dress
you point at the crumples
and find dirt in my nails

you yell, at everything,
breakfast will be cold
I walk too slow
my hair needs oiling
do I not see
that my hair needs oiling?

six feet too shallow
to hold our conversations
about how I need Christ
how you need me to have money for me
the smiles you send to meet my dreams
when I tell you about them
and you say ‘okay hurry before you get too old’

then you yell at me some more
for drinking the milk
you left for Max
the cat you loved more than me

you did everything for me
didn’t you?

Now I have to learn to cry
for myself
Because you are not here to
do it, like you did every night
after I told you
that my dreams were not mine.

– by Nana Nyarko Boateng

 

With permission from the poet.

(The photo above was taken by Nana Kofi Acquah. I love it; it gives me the feels. And though the women are not mother and child, the picture does depict an aspect of the mother/child relationship, doesn’t it? Nana Kofi can be found here)


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A Reading List for @SorayaSpeaks

Twitter List

Of course, the list numbered 11 books instead of the 5-7 that @SorayaSpeaks requested.  She asked for “black authors”  so I recommended books from the Diaspora.  Some notes on the list:

I included two fiction authors from the French Caribbean – Maryse Conde from Guadeloupe and Patrick Chamoiseau from Martinique. I talk about Maryse Conde here and will do a “Best Five” of her books this year. I’ve said little, if anything, about Patrick Chamoiseau. He and Raphael Confiant, among others, are members of Creolite, a 25 year old movement focused on the art and culture of the French Caribbean.  Chamoiseau writes in what has been described as ‘Freole’ as in a mixture of French and Creole. Even in translation, the language in his two novels Solibo Magnificent and Texaco was like Fanti in oral tradition. (you know how when the written word touches us in ways that English can’t, we Africans call that ‘oral tradition’?). Reading the books were like that.

The correct title of Alejo Carpentier’s book is The Kingdom of this World and not The Kingdom of Heaven! And the Cuban Carpentier is not an Afro Latina. I cheated here. I blame CLR James and his superb non-fiction, The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Overture and the San Domingo Revolution for my fixation on the Haitian Revolution anytime I think of Haiti. Hence the recommendation of Carpentier’s magical realist take on the revolution.

I told Keguro that it’s just like him to say he preferred Nella Larsen’s other novel, Quicksand, over Passing, her more famous book  He then replied that Helga Crane (lead character in Quicksand) was “impossible to like. So the book intrigues me.”

Add any or all of the books (including Quicksand) to your reading list if you are so inclined. You know you want to!

 


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2015 Africa Reading Challenge

Welcome to the Africa Reading Challenge.

This will be the third time that I’m hosting the Africa Reading Challenge.  Details and requirements are the same this year as for the 2012 Africa Reading Challenge, which started with: “I have absolutely no reason for hosting nor urging you to participate in this challenge save for the joy of discovering and reading African literature!” Here are the details:

Challenge Period

January 1, 2015 to December 31, 2015

Region

The entire African continent, including its island-states, which are often overlooked. Please refer to this Wikipedia “list of sovereign states and dependent territories in Africa”. Pre-colonial empires and regions are also included.

Reading Goal

5 books.  That’s it.  There will be no other levels.  Of course, participants are encouraged to read more than 5 books.  Eligible books include those which are written by African writers, or take place in Africa, or are concerned with Africans and with historical and contemporary African issues. Note that at least 3 books must be written by African writers. Continue reading


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Here are the Winners of the 2014 Golden Baobab Prizes

I was a judge for this year’s Early Chapter Books competition; it was a bit hectic but a valuable and fun experience.   I hope to share my thoughts on the process soon.  Now to the winners:

Portia Dery, from Ghana wins the Golden Baobab Prize for Picture Books with her story, Grandma’s List.
Mary Ononokpono, from Nigeria, wins the Golden Baobab Prize for Early Chapter Books for her story, Talulah the Time Traveler.
Xanele Puren, from South Africa, wins the inaugural Golden Baobab Prize for Illustrators. The Golden Baobab Prize for Illustrators is the biggest and most prestigious prize committed to discovering, nurturing and celebrating talented African illustrators of children’s stories.

All Winners Poster_Golden Baobab Prizes

Congratulations to the winners, the shortlisters, the longlisters, judges, Debbie and the Golden Baobab team!

From Golden Baobab’s press release:
“The 2014 Golden Baobab Prizes for Literature and Illustration received nearly 300 submissions from writers and illustrators across Africa. The longlist for the literature prizes was announced early September and showcased 11 stories, selected from 6 African countries. The shortlist fol-lowed late October with 11 stories from Ghana, Kenya, Finalist Collage_GB IllustratorsNigeria, South Africa and Zimbabwe. The illustration prizes unveiled 3 shortlisted artists; 2 from South Africa and 1 from Ghana. This year’s prize winners represent three countries: Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa.
This is the sixth year of the Golden Baobab Prizes, which were established in July 2008 to inspire the creation of enthralling, culturally relevant African children’s stories by African writers. “We are proud of the contribution we are making to the children’s literature and illustration world and are actively searching for exciting partnerships to expand our reach and impact across Africa. We are seeking major corporate partnerships by our next prize season to further propel our vision of making the heads of children across Africa beautiful places for them to live!” says the Executive Director of Golden Baobab.

Today, the Prizes offer $20,000 in monetary awards, publishing opportunities for winners of the Picture Book and Early Chapter Book Prizes, and the winner of the Illustration prize attends a Golden Baobab award ceremony and a traveling exhibition of artist’s illustrations.

Judges for the 2014 Golden Baobab Prizes are Summer Edward, Anansesem Caribbean Children’s Literature Ezine founder and editor, Nancy Drost, Seasoned international educator, Kinna Likimani, Mbaasem Foundation board member and celebrated book critic, Doreen Baingana, Multiple award-winning Ugandan author and former chairperson FEMRITE, Nonikiwe Mas-hologu, African children’s literature critic, Kanengo Diallo, 13-year old Tanzanian winner of the 2013 Golden Baobab Prize for Rising Writers, Paul O. Zelinsky, International Award-winning American Illustrator and Writer and Caldecott Medalist, Akua Peprah, Early Childhood Educa-tor and Kofi Kokua Asante Anyimadu, 8-year old Ghanaian book lover.

Also shortlisted were:
• Shaleen Keshavjee-Gulam (Kenya) – Malaika’s Magical Kiosk
• Mandy Collins (South Africa) – There is a Hyena in my Kitchen
• Myke Mware (Zimbabwe) – The Big Ball
• Bontle Senne (South Africa) – The Monster at Midnight
• Mamle Wolo (Ghana) – Flying through Water
• Hillary Molenje Namunyu (Kenya) – Teddy Mapesa and the Missing Cash
• Jayne Bauling (South Africa) – The Saturday Dress

Last year’s winners of the Golden Baobab Prizes were Liza Esterhuyse and Karen Hurt from South Africa and Kanengo Rebecca Diallo from Tanzania.”

Xanele Poster Golden Baobab Prizes

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