Chinua Achebe: Tributes and Reflections
Edited by Nana Ayebia Clarke MBE & James Currey
Mr. Happy and The Hammer of God & Other Stories
by Martin Egblewogbe
Edited by Carole Boyce Davies
And Crocodiles Are Hungry At Night
by Jack Mapanje
The Place We Call Home
by Kofi Anyidoho
Diplomatic Pounds and Other Stories
by Ama Ata Aidoo
Essays in Honour of Ama Ata Aidoo
Edited by Anne V. Adams
Publication Date: February 2014
ISBN: & 978-0-9569307-6-7
About the Book
Chinua Achebe renowned as Africa’s most famous novelist and author who died in Boston, USA, on 21st March 2013 at the age of 82 is recognized as the founding father of Modern African writing in English. The publication of his first novel Things Fall Apart not only contested European narratives about Africa but also challenged traditional assumptions about the form and function of the novel. His literary life spanned over fifty years, from the publication of Things Fall Apart (1958) to There Was A Country (2012), his memoir of the Nigeria Biafra war in the 1960s. His first novel, Things Fall Apart – a classic of 20th century fiction has been translated into over 50 languages and sold millions of copies internationally. Before Achebe came on the world literary scene in the late 1950s, African literature was treated by the rest of the world and more sadly, by many educated Africans themselves, as a quixotic enterprise, in which dark forests and evil spirits held all the shares. Achebe was not only an accomplished writer but also a man who was close to his readers and had the precious gift of being a wonderful communicator and storyteller of African realities. His legacy as one of Africa’s most vocal voices against the ravages of colonialism and its enduring effects on Africa will endure through his writings for generations to come. This volume is a fitting memorial to his legacy. Achebe was the conscience of Africa – his death gives new significance to his writing anchoring his activism and his literary legacy in eternity. He will be remembered internationally as a great spokesman for Africa.
Key Selling Points
An important volume with an impressive list of contributors from the African and African American literary and scholarly community including three Nobel Laureates: Wole Soyinka, Toni Morrison and Nadine Gordimer. Also included are a host of acclaimed writers and academics namely; the Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Ama Ata Aidoo, F. Abiola Irele, Biodum Jeyifo, Ato Quayson, Simon Gikandi, Doug Killam and the award-winning cultural critic Maya Jaggi who writes for The Guardian and also features a host of the younger generation African writers including Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Okey Ndibe, Helon Habila et al.
This book traces the formative years of Modern African writing in English and Achebe’s role in helping to shape and nurture the next generation of African writers.
Achebe’s literary legacy is examined in great detail to explore the current and future place of African writing in world literature and includes poetry.
This volume will appeal to African Literature, Literary Studies, The African Novel, African Cultural Studies, Feminist Studies and Studies on the 20th century novel in English. About the Editors
James Currey is the founder of James Currey Publishers and the first Editor of the Heinemann African Writers Series (AWS) where he worked very closely with Achebe on the first 100 titles. Becky Nana Ayebia Clarke MBE - founder of Ayebia Clarke Publishing Limited is a Ghanaian-born publisher. She was Submissions Editor of the Heinemann African Writers Series until 2002 when Heinemann discontinued publishing new titles in the Series. She started her own publishing imprint with her husband in 2003. Between them they worked on the Heinemann AWS for a total of 30 years.
Publication Date: 1st July 2012
About the Book
Mr. Happy and The Hammer of God & Other Stories is a significant addition to the genre of short story writing in contemporary Ghanaian and African literature. Martin Egblewogbe is an emerging talent and if his title seems surreal, his stories are no less. The collection is divided into two parts; the first consists of seven stories and the second consists of three.
These stories are not burdened by the “African” condition and those looking for a familiar Ghanaian/African setting will have to look elsewhere and yet the reader may recognize ‘my street, my city, my people’ – because the stories are truly universal. Collectively, this book is a portrayal of inner struggles, torments and the psyche. The author asks questions by employing some familiar tropes common to all humanity - who are you, what are you, how did you get here and where do you go from here? The writer frequently turns to the metaphysical and how it relates to our minds, state of being and pursuit of happiness. He employs wit and humour to answer fundamental questions and engages us even when the outcome might be an outpouring of misery and despair.
It is altogether fitting that he chooses the short story genre to express himself because the stories sometimes end suddenly leaving the reader wanting to know more. His style is refreshing, new and entertaining. Mr. Happy and the Hammer of God & Other Stories raises the bar for emerging new talent from Africa.
Key Selling Points:
- The author is an emerging new Ghanaian talent who is making a significant contribution to the genre of the short story.
- His style is refreshing and experimental yet grounded in universal values.
- The collection will appeal to a wide demography of international readers.
About the Author:
Martin Egblewogbe was born in Ghana in 1975. He has a BS.c and M.Phil in Physics and is currently working on his Ph.D at the University of Ghana, Legon where he is a lecturer in the Department of Physics. He enjoys writing short stories and poetry in his spare time and has contributed to several anthologies. He also currently hosts the radio show “Writers Project” on CitiFM in Accra, Ghana where he lives with his wife and daughter.
I thought I should share with you my impressions of a young Ghanaian writer, Martin Egblewogbe, whose short story collection -- Mr Happy and the Hammer of God -- I have just finished reading. Epithets like "fresh", "imaginative" and "exciting" are often marshalled to introduce new writers, but in the case of Mr Egblewogbe I think a set of strong superlatives are in order; extraordinary, excellent, and experimentally innovative barely capture my sense of what I have read. The short stories each conceal an enigma, sometimes of a profound existential kind, and at others merely due to some form of bafflement on the part of the protagonist of the story. Thus after every story you are required to pause in reflection. This also means the stories are best savoured slowly and one by one. The influence of master spinners of narrative enigmas such as Kafka and Beckett are well in evidence in the collection. What is perhaps most interesting about Mr Happy and the Hammer of God is that Mr Egblewogbe has devised a clever way of telling the stories so to betray only minimal geographical or and other locational markers. There is just one story that can readily be shown to be set in Accra. This form of placelessness thus gives the stories a universal appeal.
My favorite? Hard to choose, but the one that made me laugh the most (yes, he also happens to have a wry sense of humour) was titled "Down Wind" and is basically about a man having to shelter from the pouring rain inside of a phone booth. To while away the time he uses a phone card to begin phoning people he knows, apparently at random. There are three problems that become readily evident as the story unfold: first is that the previous occupant of the phone booth happened to have filled the booth with "noisome effluvia from his nether end" (what us ordinary mortals simply call a fart!) and so he is trapped with the terrible smell inside. The second problem is that he has an excruciating and inexplicable pain in his legs for which he seeks sympathy from the Doctor, who is the first person he calls. Third, and perhaps most worryingly, is that one of the people he speaks to tells him he has been accused of a heinous crime and that this is to be found on the noticeboard with the glass case. Try as he might he cannot fathom what crime it is he has committed and so spends some more time phoning other people and try to get them to tell him what is on the accusatory noticeboard. This ends in failure. The story ends up being a parable about extreme loneliness, and we find eventually that it is not just he that is lonely, but all the other people he has just spoken to. Another one, "Small Changes Within the Dynamic" is about a man, who having caught his wife blatantly sleeping with another man on his own bed, begins a tortured disquisition with himself about how he is going to kill her. I will not spoil it for you by telling you how the story ends. Brilliant.
Please note that I write this without any personal knowledge of Mr Martin Egblewogbe and also from the professional perspective of someone who has taught literature for many many years and is always on the lookout for great books to read and to teach. I strongly urge you all on this list to get hold of a copy of the book. We may well be bearing witness to a major voice not just in Ghanaian literature, but in African and world literature as well. Watch that space.
ps: The book is published in the UK by Ayebia publishers, but copies can be found in all the major bookshops in Accra.
pps: Mr Egblewogbe is a lecturer in the Department of Physics at the University of Ghana.
Ato Quayson, FGA
Professor of English and Director
Center for Diaspora and Transnational Studies
Editor, The Cambridge History of Postcolonial Literature (2 volumes)
Publication Date: 1st July 2011
About the Book
Claudia Jones was a smart, politically-wise, brilliant, transnational feminist, Pan Africanist theorist and cultural activist who brought together in her speeches and writings the politics that is now seen as a necessary way of intersecting a variety of political fields and positions. Known as the founder of the first London carnival and the editor of the first black newspaper The West Indian Gazette in England, Claudia Jones’s activism bridged the US and the UK with the black world politics of decolonization that ushered in contemporary community empowerment. For the first time, in one place, Claudia Jones: Beyond Containment… brings together her essays, poetry, autobiographical and longer writings, expanding our knowledge of several fields. Providing us with the clarity of the ideas of a black woman activist-intellectual of her period, for a fuller understanding of Caribbean, African American and the larger African Diaspora discourses. Claudia Jones Beyond Containment is essential reading.
Key Selling Points
• Claudia Jones’s political clarity and vision illustrated in this book demonstrates her multifaceted
approach to the struggle for equal rights in the 20th century that earned her the name ‘Mother of
the Notting Hill Carnival’.
• This book will make a valuable contribution to understanding Claudia Jones’s intellectual vision
as an inspiration for this and future generations.
• This book will appeal to Caribbean Diaspora Studies, Women’s Studies, Black Activism Studies,
African Diaspora Studies as well as the general reader.
About the Author
Carole Boyce Davies is African Diaspora Studies scholar and Professor of Africana Studies and English at Cornell University. She is author of several publications including Left of Karl Marx: The Political Life of Black Communist Claudia Jones (Duke University Press, 2008). An earlier work, Black Women, Writing and Identity: Migrations of the Subject (Routledge, 1994) is considered a theoretical base for many studies in the field of black feminist literary theory and the writing of migration. She is the general editor of The Encyclopedia of the African Diaspora (Oxford: ABC-CLIO 2008) a 3-volume encyclopedia. Dr. Boyce Davies is currently writing a series of personal reflections titled Caribbean American Spaces: Between the Twilight Zone and the Underground Railroad, dealing with the issue of transnational Caribbean/American black identity.
a memoir by
Publication Date: 1st July 2011
About the Book
This book is a powerful contribution to the genre of the prison memoir in Africa. Jack Mapanje presents the moving account of a poet’s imprisonment by the state, his struggle to probe the hidden motives for this arrest and his attempt to provide an unforgettable record of the architecture of imprisonment and the perpetual struggle between the forces of truth and those of naked power. In 1981, Jack Mapanje was a budding poet and scholar in Malawi. His first collection of poetry, Of Chameleons and Gods had just been published in the prestigious Heinemann African Writers Series and his scholarly work in linguistics was also transforming language and literary studies in Central Africa—his work was drawing international attention. But two years later the state ordered the withdrawal of Mapanje’s poetry from all schools, institutions of higher learning and bookstores. In 1987, Mapanje was arrested by the Malawian secret police and imprisoned without charge until 1991. This book is a recollection of those years in prison. Written in the tradition of the African prison memoir and often echoing the works of other famous prison graduates such as Wole Soyinka (The Man Died) and Ngugi wa Thiong’o (Detained), the memoir represents Mapanje’s retrospective attempt to explain the cause and terms of his imprisonment, to recall in tranquillity the terror of arrest, the process of incarceration and the daily struggle to hold on to some measure of sanity and spiritual freedom.
This book is a fitting tribute to the solidarity, dedication and tenacity of the British and international campaign that secured Mapanje’s release and saved his life!
Key Selling Points
- The book will appeal to critics and scholars of African history, politics and literature. It has the potential to become a major text in the emerging field of human rights studies dealing with the literature of political incarceration.
- Given the singularity of Mapanje’s experiences in prison and the uniqueness of his voice, this book will not be competing with others.
- It will be favourably compared to the canonical memoirs in its field (works by Ngugi and Soyinka) and will invoke memories of South African poets in prison in the 1960s (Arthur Nortje and Dennis Brutus).
About the Author
Jack Mapanje, a Malawian poet, linguist, editor and human rights activist was formerly head of English department, university of Malawi, where he was imprisoned on 25 September 1987 by the dictator Hastings Kamuzu Banda of Malawi for 3 years, 7 months and 16 days for his dissenting views and radical poetry. On his release on 10 May 1991 he went into exile with his family in the UK. He has published five books of poetry, edited one anthology of African prison writing and co-edited two anthologies of African oral and written poetry and an African Writers’ Handbook. He is a recipient of the 1988 Rotterdam Poetry International Award, Honorary doctor of the University of Stirling, the 2002 African Literature Association (ALA, USA) Fonlon-Nichols Award and Fellow of University College London. He was a visiting scholar at the University of York, taught creative writing in the School of English, University of Leeds and the School of English, Newcastle University. He is currently a visiting professor in the Faculty of Arts, York St John University.
It is sobering that the prison memoir is one of the most consistent products of contemporary African writers. In 1987 the Malawian poet and scholar Jack Mapanje, then teaching at Chancellor College of the University of Malawi, was arrested and imprisoned without charge – an incarceration that was to last for three-and-a-half years. This experience has been chronicled in Mapanje’s poetry (see, for instance, The Chattering Wagtails of Mikuyu Prison, in Heinemann’s African Writing Series) and in the same series Mapanje edited Gathering Seaweed: African Prison Writing gathering together material from everyone from Kwame Nkrumah and Jomo Kenyatta, to Wole Soyinka and Ngugi wa Thiong’o. Now Mapanje’s own long-awaited memoir is published – ‘A chronicle of a poet’s imprisonment under life president Banda of Malawi’. When Mapanje was released from prison, he and his family left Malawi and he has never substantially resettled in his home country. The gestation of this memoir is remarkable. The years of imprisonment are recorded in intimate detail, conversations, activities, personalities, in a manner that would suggest that the writer was keeping a daily written chronicle – which, of course, he had no means or possibility of doing. In fact Mapanje reconstructed those traumatic days, from a certain necessary distance in time and via recreating the experience in question and answer sessions with students and colleagues in the UK, the Netherlands and Ireland, rebuilding the awful memory. An impressive quality of the memoir is Mapanje’s resolute optimism, making the smallest incidents vehicles of hope rather than despair. Beyond the suffering of Banda’s political prisoners recorded here, Mapanje shows the awful paranoia created by his dictatorship, with police, academics and civil servants terrified of being thought to be disloyal to ‘his excellency, the life president, the Ngwazi Dr H Kamuzu Banda’. Mapanje, in a bizarre episode, notes that even his presence at a gathering of linguistics scholars in Harare, was regarded as being potentially subversive.
To welcome prison memoirs seems perverse. But Mapanje’s should be read by all who believe in the power of the human spirit to overcome evil.
University of Leeds
Review appeared in the Leeds African Studies Bulletin February 2012
Some important blurb endorsements for Jack Mapanje’s book
And Crocodiles Are Hungry at Night: A chronicle of a poet’s imprisonment under life president Banda of Malawi
Jack Mapanje’s memoir not only chronicles his imprisonment, it also sets out how the life of a young poet and academic is viciously destroyed by the absence of academic freedom. Brilliantly crafted, with a touch of humour even in grim circumstances, this is a moving contribution to the growing world literature of incarceration. As such it has universal appeal.
Lady Antonia Fraser DBE Vice-President (former President) English PEN
Jack Mapanje’s imprisonment without trial or charge was the subject of protests by linguists, writers, academics, human rights organizations and lovers of freedom throughout the world. Apart from being an ordinary prison memoir, the writer offers us a rare glimpse on how inner circles operate in repressive regimes, in order to protect themselves and the despots they serve. This work is crafted with passion, cheek and wry humour. But it is a necessary warning to future African and other world leaders to care about the people who vote them into power. It is also a testimony to the efforts of those who fight for prisoners of conscience throughout the world. A long awaited and much welcome contribution to the growing world literature of political incarceration.
Noam Chomsky Emeritus Professor of Linguistics and Philosophy, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA.
This book is a powerful contribution to the genre of the prison memoir in Africa. Jack Mapanje presents the moving account of a poet’s imprisonment by the state, his struggle to probe the hidden motives for this arrest and his attempt to provide an unforgettable record of the architecture of imprisonment and the perpetual struggle between the forces of truth and those of naked power. In 1981, Jack Mapanje was a budding poet and scholar in Malawi. His first collection of poetry, Of Chameleons and Gods had just been published in the prestigious African Writers Series and his scholarly work in linguistics was also transforming language and literary studies in Central Africa—his work was drawing international attention. But two years later the state ordered the withdrawal of Mapanje’s poetry from all schools, institutions of higher learning and bookstores. In 1987, Mapanje was arrested by the Malawian secret police and imprisoned without charge until 1991. This book is a recollection of those years in prison. Written in the tradition of the African prison memoir and often echoing the works of other famous prison graduates such as Wole Soyinka The Man Died and Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s Detained, the memoir represents Mapanje’s retrospective attempt to explain the cause and terms of his imprisonment, to recall in tranquility the terror of arrest, the process of incarceration and the daily struggle to hold on to some measure of sanity and spiritual freedom.
Dr Simon Gikandi, Robert Schirmer Professor of English, Princeton University, USA.
Mapanje’s memoir powerfully recounts the human will to survival as well as the capacity to confound even the most repressive and highly organized regime of surveillance and offers an important historical resource of Post-colonial Malawi. It has the intensity of Soyinka’s The Man Died, the moral and political purpose of Ngugi’s Detained and the anguished, but immensely hopeful tone of Vera Chirwa’s Fearless Fighter.
Dr Mpalive-Hangson Msiska, Reader in English and Humanities, Birkbeck, University of London.
The memoir And Crocodiles are Hungry at Night is a powerful and compelling account of poet and academic Jack Mapanje’s experiences of Malawian prison and the effect this incarceration had on him and his family. In 1987, Mapanje was imprisoned for over three years by the authoritarian regime of Malawian President Hastings Banda, never once being informed of the details of his ‘crimes’ against the state. The memoir is Mapanje’s attempt to come to terms with his ordeal and to uncover the truth about his arrest. This, however, is not simply a prison memoir. Throughout the narrative, Mapanje skilfully conjures a vivid insight into life under Malawi’s dictatorship in the late 1980s. Through myriad observations and experiences, including those of his fellow prisoners, the memoir is a devastating critique of Banda and his ruling circle.
A central theme is that Mapanje was never told why he had been incarcerated and thus the memoir is a personal journey in search of answers to that question. Mapanje conveys his difficultly in coming to terms with his sudden arrest, and simply not knowing the reason why; he describes this as a form of torture as he minutely dissects his past for clues. There are frequent ‘flashbacks’ where Mapanje sets about reflecting upon events, such as attendance at conferences or securing resources for his university department, which may have contributed to his arrest. This is a powerful tool, as it illustrates neatly the pervasive fear, suspicion and repression prevalent in Malawian society. Mpanje also employs some of his poems during his account to convey specific events or experiences. This works well because the reader discovers the context or meaning behind them and it adds another dimension to his experiences, his defiance, and ultimately his hope of release.
The memoir details prison life meticulously, offering an insight into the daily realities of ‘political’ prisoners, such as the humiliating strip searches, the squalid conditions and the struggle simply to survive. Despite these trying circumstances, many positive aspects shine through. The memoir demonstrates humanity, kindness, creativity and defiance. Mapanje reveals that initially he had lost hope, but through the help of his fellow inmates, his attitude changed to one of defiance and, later, even optimism. Mapanje argues that “everyone believes that survival is the most effective way of fighting dictators… if you survive, you will live to tell your story”. The book is testament to that spirit.
Mapanje also recounts the kindness and efforts of a multitude of people who helped to ensure his freedom. Immediately after his arrest, an international campaign was started by friends, academic colleagues, and human rights campaigners across the world to pressurise the Banda regime into releasing him. Mapanje only has an inkling of the events outside the prison walls (of which he only learns fully on his release), and he depicts the unfolding campaign through his own eyes: snippets of information, illicit notes from outside, and conversations with guards. Furthermore, it is heartening to discover that some of the prison guards risked their lives to assist the inmates, especially in the international campaign, illustrating human kindness and compassion.
And Crocodiles are Hungry at Night is an engaging read and you cannot help be moved by Mapanje’s experiences. The writing style is incisive and crisp, and although the memoir is predominantly set within the confines of prison, it unfolds at a quick pace. Mapanje’s powerful description offers the reader a glimpse of Malawian society, the leadership of Banda, and Mapanje's own life experiences. The memoir also poignantly reflects on the effects his imprisonment had upon his life, family, and academic career. Yet, despite depicting such hardships, the underlying message of hope and defiance in the face of repression is uplifting.
Publication Date: 1st July 2011
About the Book
Anyidoho says the title of this collection – The Place We Call Home - first came to him more than a decade ago as a collage of fragmented voices and memories he was to carry with him as he travelled the world, always knowing that there was one place on this earth he could claim to be his own, a place of psychic anchor in a haunted turbulent world. This collection features poems written to document important world events including “Countdown to GroundZero” born out of 9/11 and its tragic aftermath, it records the writer’s touching anecdote of how he arrived in the US as a writer-in-residence at the end of August 2001 and even visited the World Trade Centre and surrounding area with his daughter three days before the Twin Towers came down in that fateful and tragic firestorm. This collection of poems is a lamentation and celebration documenting important and epic events in world history including the 200th Anniversary celebration of the Abolition of Slavery in 2007. Anyidoho says, ‘it is the burden and curse of the poet to sing the loss of all our crops after the raging fire has burned the bush and all the harvest into ash.’
Key Selling Points
- Anyidoho is a respected poet, academic and children’s story-writer whose poetry is now accompanied by music because he feels the printed word ‘can no longer carry the full burden of my voice.’
- Anyidoho’s work as a teacher and storyteller combine to make him one of the most sought-after scholars in academic circles in African literary and social science internationally. He currently sits on several academic boards including first occupant of the Kwame Nkrumah Chair of African Studies at the University of Ghana and an executive committee member of the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA).
About the AuthorKofi Anyidoho is a well-regarded Ghanaian poet, academic and critic who comes from a family tradition of Ewe poets and oral griots. He was educated in Ghana and the US, gaining his Ph.D. at the University of Texas. He is currently Professor of Literature at the University of Ghana, Legon. He has received numerous awards for his poetry, including the Valco Fund Literary Award, the Langston Hughes Prize, the BBC Arts and Africa Poetry Award, the Fania Kruger Fellowship for Poetry of Social Vision, Poet of the Year (Ghana) and the Ghana Book Award. His published poetry includes Elegy for the Revolution (1978), A Harvest of Our Dreams (1985), Earthchild (1985), Ancestral Logic and Caribbean Blues (1992), PraiseSong for TheLand (2002).
Anyidoho’s mellow verse grips us once again with the unresolved dilemmas of the African experience however it rings with the celebration of lives well lived.
Esi Sutherland-Addy Senior Research Fellow, Head of Language, Literature and Drama, Institute of African Studies and Associate Director of African Humanities Institute Programme, University of Ghana.
What is home if not that “little corner of earth” where the poet listens to the “heartbeat of a troubled century”? . . . In this remarkable body of poems, place crosses path with time; the present is a delicate diaphragm between the past and the future. From Africa to Asia, from the thrasonical West to the embattled East, the poet conjures up images and events which the past needs to reshape the future. At the heart of these poems is a consistent Humanist project: the primacy of memory and remembrance; the urgent need for equity in the dealings between peoples and nations, the recurring stupidity of war, the ultimate possibility of love and laughter… Anyidoho’s inimitable voice throbs through these poems, resonant, lyrical, hauntingly engaging. The Place We Call Home is the voiceprint of a poet who has played no small role in shaping the theme, tone, and tenor of contemporary African poetry.
Niyi Osundare Distinguished Professor of English, University of New Orleans, USA.
The Place We Call Home combines ancestral voices of lament, prophecy and jubilation with the crafst-manship of the best contemporary African poetry. While this is no surprise to most of us, because Kofi Anyidoho is one of the best poets of our time, The Place We Call Home should also be celebrated for the rhythm of the poetic language and the use of words that conjure up home and continue to haunt us for days.
Manthia Diawara Professor of Comparative Literature, Africana Studies and Director of Institute of Afro-American Affairs and Africana Studies Programme, New York University, USA.
With uncanny insight, an acute ear for tone and rhythm and a feeling for myth as well as meaning, singer-poet Kofi Anyidoho once again holds up an ancestral mirror to our day-to-day lives. This three-movement symphony, The Place We Call Home, ranges over the African past and the shifting configurations of our global present, and takes a peek into our futures. About slavery and terrorism, local and global politics, women, kinship, friendship, and our very identities, Anyidoho has something fresh and unexpected to say. He challenges, titillates and moves his readers by means of subtle portraits of the ironies and joys of our (African) lives. The Place We Call Home will be savored by all for whom the reflective life is (still) the only kind worth living.
Kofi Agawu, FGA, FBA Professor of Music, Princeton University, USA.
Publication Date: February 2012
About the Book
These essays pay tribute to Ama Ata Aidoo through a broad spectrum of articles and personal memoirs from scholars of different generations and from other literary artists. The book is intended to convey the full parameters of Aidoo’s place as a literary innovator and as an exponent of radical social and cultural thought in Africa and internationally, especially on issues of African self-consciousness and gender equality. Consisting of over 30 contributions, the collection includes studies of some popular-culture phenomena, which, though not present in any of Aidoo’s writings, nevertheless reflects social and cultural concerns relevant to her oeuvre. Examples are a study, by playwright Femi Osofisan of the Nigerian video film industry as it impacts on the survival of live theatre and a study of the largely negative female images in contemporary Ghanaian popular music. Among the contributions focusing on Aidoo’s own works, the book includes an article on her essays on African feminism and on African women writers, as well as a study of how the presence of Fante-language features in her drama, poetry and prose.
A recent interview done especially for this book by the Kenyan writer Micere Mugo—a close associate during the years when they both lived and taught in Zimbabwe, provides a contemporary account of the septuagenarian’s reflections, views and still-insurgent commentaries on the issues closest to “Our Sister’s” literary heart. This important book is a celebration of the work of Ama Ata Aidoo and her continuing commitment to elevate African writing on the world stage. She is one of Africa’s most courageous writers in her belief that Africans should tell their own stories in a globalized world that often tends to marginalize Africa.
Key Selling Points
• The Contents Page reads like a “Who’s Who” in African, African American, Caribbean and African
Diaspora Literature. Contributors include: Esi Sutherland-Addy, Micere Mugo, Toyin Falola, Abena Busia,
Akosua Adomako Ampofo, Margaret Busby, Carole Boyce Davies, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Emmanuel
Acheampong, Biodum Jeyifo, James Gibbs, Folabo Ajayi, Femi Osofisan, Kwesi Yanka, Femo Ojo-Ade,
Kofi Anyidoho, Jane Bryce, Atukwei Okai et al.
• This book brings together several writers, scholars and critics from her generation as well as from a
younger generation of writers such as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie who cites Ama Ata Aidoo as her
literary foremother, to comment on and celebrate her work.
• This collection of essays will be an invaluable addition to Black Women’s Writing and a great resource
tool for Gender and Feminist Studies, Cultural Studies, Diaspora Studies, African Literature, African
American Studies, Black Studies, Black and African Theatre Studies and studies on Multiculturalism.
About the Editor
Anne V. Adams retired as a professor of African/Diaspora literatures at Cornell University before assuming the directorship of the W.E.B. Du Bois Memorial Centre for Pan African Culture in Ghana, 2005-2010. She has held guest professorships in the Congo Republic, Ghana and Germany. Her research and publications focus on gender in African/Diaspora literatures (Ngambika: Studies of Women in African Literature, co-edited with Carole Boyce Davies; The Legacy of Efua Sutherland: Pan African Cultural Activism, co-edited with Esi Sutherland Addy); and Afro German cultural studies, which include translations of German works (Showing Our Colors: Afro German Women Speak Out by Oguntoye, Opitz, and Schultz; and Blues in Black and White by May Ayim).
Important Endorsements for Essays In Honour of Ama Ata Aidoo At 70: A Reader in African Cultural Studies Edited by Anne V. Adams
In honouring Ama Ata Aidoo, this book pays tribute to the engaged creativity of African women. No other woman writer from the African continent has reached the worldwide audiences that reads her novels, poetry and children's stories; sees and reads her plays; hears and discusses her critical treatises. Hence, this form of the festschrift is particularly appropriate for acknowledging Aidoo's status as a literary "mover and shaker."
The genius of Ama Ata Aidoo as an artist is the way she has used the image of “the bond” to explore the theme of unequal power relationships at different moments in society in history. Whether in her short stories, books for children, novels, plays and essays; Aidoo speaks to the most urgent issues of our times. She is a writer for all seasons.
-- Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o, From Ama Ata Aidoo: A Personal Celebration, University of California, Irvine, USA.
As a testimony to her contribution to the visibility of Black women in artistic and intellectual spheres, this anthology holds special value. Underscoring the multiplicity of fronts on which Aidoo's work operates, this collection is a fitting celebration of her many spheres of influence. In addition to gathering some of the most respected scholars of African literature, the anthology brings them into conversation with counterparts from other fields that literature naturally engages. Herein lies the contribution of this work to African Cultural Studies.
-- Johnnetta Betsch Cole, President Emerita of Spelman College and Bennett College for Women, USA.
These powerful essays in honour of Ama Ata Aidoo by some of the foremost scholars in African and black literature provide testimony to the eminent position she has attained in African letters--as one of the most incisive in her imaginative grasp of the African experience worldwide, in all its dimensions. They will prove indispensable for an understanding of her work in its full range of reference and of its significance in aesthetic and human terms.
-- Abiola Irere, Provost, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Kwara State University, Malete (Ilorin), Nigeria and author of The African Experience in Literature and Ideology.
The brilliant Ghanaian writer Ama Ata Aidoo wrote a short masterpiece, Our Sister Killjoy, in sequences of fine prose and muscular poetry, which explores the condition of African sojourners in London. The narrator is a bright young woman recently graduated from university in Ghana and selected for a short fellowship in Germany. Her journey, for the first time outside Africa, becomes a personal and cultural rite of passage …Ama Ata Aidoo does not pull her punches… she is on the right side, on the side of the poor and the afflicted…
-- Chinua Achebe, In Home and Exile.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Libation for Ama Ata Aidoo
Introduction – “Someone Should Lend Me a Tongue”
Anne V. Adams
Foreword – An Open Letter to Ama Ata Aidoo
I – “This is the story I am telling you. I am taking you to bird town, so I can’t understand why you insist on searching for eggs from the suburb!”
Three Female Writers in Modern Africa: Flora Nwapa, Ama Ata Aidoo and Grace Ogot
A Conversation: Ama Ata Aidoo with Micere Mugo
II –“ Because surely in our environment there are more important things to write about?”
The Amistad's Legacy: Reflections on the Spaces of Colonisation
Radical, Comparative Postcolonialism and the Contemporary Crisis of Disciplinary Identities: Outline of a Prolegomenon
Literary Visions of a 21st Century Africa: A Note on the Pan African Ideal in Ghanaian Literature
Writing for the Child in a Fractured World
Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang
The Longevity of Whiteness and Ama Ata Aidoo’s Our Sister Killjoy
Psychoanalysis, Gender and Narratives of Women’s Friendships in Ama Ata Aidoo’s Writing
Teaching Aidoo: Theorising via Creative Writing
III – “Every woman and every man should be a feminist—especially if they believe that Africans should take charge of our land, its wealth, our lives, and the burden of our own development”
Nervous Masculinities: Male Characters in Ama Ata Aidoo’s Changes
Mary Jane Androne
Gendering Commodity Relations in Ama Ata Aidoo’s Changes
African Women and Power: Ama Ata Aidoo’s Essays “To Be a Woman” and “The African Woman Today”
She-Kings in the Trinity of Being: The Budding Girl-Child in Ama Ata Aidoo’s Short Stories
Naana Banyiwa Horne
Black Women of a Certain Age, Power and Presence: Ama Ata Aidoo’s and Toni Morrison’s
Carole Boyce Davies
Towards Alternative Representations of Women in African Cultural Products
Awo Mana Asiedu and Akosua Adomako Ampofo
Ties that Bound: Slave Concubines/Wives and the End of Slavery in the Gold Coast, c.1874-1900
IV – “[A] mixture of complete sweetness and smoky roughage. …Oh, Africa. Crazy old continent …”
A Historical Case Study of a Slave Girl in Asante Mampong
Anowa, Paradoxical Queenmother of the Diaspora
The Call to the Priesthood and Other Stories in Ama Ata Aidoo’s Anowa
Yesterday’s Quarrels and Today’s Playmates: Peacemaking and the Proverbial Wisdom of Africa
Kofi Asare Opoku
Not Just for Children Anymore: Aidoo's The Eagle and the Chickens and Questions of Identity
Vincent O. Odamtten
Someone Talking to Sometime: A Dialogue Across Time and Space
“Tribal Scars” on the Body of “The Girl Who Can”: The Imperative of Social and Cultural Self-Redemption in the Short Stories of Aidoo and Sembène
Mfantse Meets English: Interpretations of Ama Ata Aidoo’s Multilingual Idiom
Disobedient Subversions: Anowa’s Unending Quest
African Theatre and the Menace of Transition: Radical Transformations in Popular Entertainment
Emerging Issues from Big Brother Africa 5: Reflections on Reality TV, the
Celebrity Status, and Gender
Mac Tontoh: The Saga of a Broken Trumpet
V- “So as for this woman e be She-King”
For the Eagle Who Taught the Chickens the Meanings of Flight
Abena P. A. Busia
In Praise of Ama Ata Aidoo’s Novel Changes
Ama Ata Aidoo: Whose Dilemma Could It Be?
Marginal Notes: The Mbaasem/Daily Graphic Writers Page
Reminiscences from Exile
AAA—The Mind Reader and the Reading Mind
Chikwenye Okonjo Ogunyemi
Ama Ata Aidoo: A Personal Celebration
Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o
REFERENCE DOCUMENTS ON THE LIFE AND WORK OF AMA ATA AIDOO
A Bibliography of Writing by and on Ama Ata Aidoo: A Compilation in Progress
Chronology of the First Seven Decades of the Life of Ama Ata Aidoo
Publication Date: February 2012
About the Book
Ama Ata Aidoo’s is an iconic African writer who has inspired generations of black and other women writers on the continent and in the Diaspora. Diplomatic Pounds and Other Stories, her latest collection of short stories brings together diverse themes that speak to the relationship between Africa and its Diaspora in terms of home and exile and a sense of belonging and alienation. The collection reveals the intricacies of friendships and love relationships and the complexities involved in African Diaspora connections, engaging with a sense of anomie and fragmentation that is partly a consequence of living across different cultures – African and the West and reveals her interest in presenting common human frailties. Aidoo‘s writings are steeped in Ghanaian and African history but Diplomatic Pounds takes her art and craftwomanship to an entirely new and different level. The stories cover a broader range of people within the African Diaspora than in her previous collections, expanding in a different way on the theme of African relationships and interconnections with its Diaspora. The difference here is that this new set of stories has the benefit of the author’s considerable historical hindsight and experience having lived and worked in recent years almost as much and as long in the USA as on the African continent. Diplomatic Pounds chronicles how returning sons and daughters relate to a mother continent that they clearly love, but which they also take great issue with. Aidoo in this sense is interested in healing the historical wounds that have sometimes created insurmountable barriers and borders between Africa and its Diaspora. This collection affirms the legitimacy of Africa as a continent with a vibrant, welcoming culture; a valued and revered home and demonstrates Aidoo’s larger sense of a commitment to a more just world.
Key Selling Points
• Aidoo’s concern with notions of femininity, African beauty and womanhood explored in a unique way, is
highly relevant to today’s debates on multiculturalism and will appeal to its supporters.
• The collection is an important addition to the corpus of African literature, given the new themes it
explores and the older themes that it expands on, as a very good way of intensifying ongoing connections
between Africa and its Diasporas.
• Diplomatic Pounds will be a critical text for Cultural Studies, Diaspora Studies, African Literature,
African American Literature, Black Studies, Black Women’s Writing, Human Rights and International
Relations and would also appeal to readers interested in contemporary women’s stories from different
About the Author
Ama Ata Aidoo is a distinguished writer, consultant and scholar on gender and developmental issues. She has taught in many universities worldwide including Stanford and Brown in the USA. Aside from her literary career, Aidoo was the first woman Minister of Education in Ghana serving in the 1980s and is currently Director of Mbaasem, a Foundation giving support and space for African women writers in developing their work. Aidoo’s many awards include the Nelson Mandela Prize for Poetry in 1987 for Someone Talking to Sometime and the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Africa for Changes in 1992. She is also an accomplished poet and has written several children’s books.
Important Endorsements for Diplomatic Pounds & Other Stories by Ama Ata Aidoo
I occupy the space of a ‘Black African Happy Feminist’ because writers like Ama Ata Aidoo came before me. Her storytelling nurtured mine. Her worldview enlarged and validated mine. I feel a deep gratitude to her for her writing and for her wisdom. I am delighted to recommend Diplomatic Pounds as a must read. -- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Nigerian Writer.
With Diplomatic Pounds, Ama Ata Aidoo shows once again why she is one of Africa's most beloved voices as a consummate storyteller. Her narrators are women who unveil the details of their lives and the lives of their friends and loved ones in shared stories and whispered secrets; secrets which are the shared realities of our everyday lives, the minutiae of cultural realities observed in wry detail: the burden of "one or two bourgeois concerns" that come to rest on the way a wife dresses for private parties; the vagaries of being a diplomatic wife that result in the weight of "Diplomatic Pounds". The characters of these stories live in multiple worlds that frequently rub up against each other, reluctant to co-exist. Yet there is always wisdom in their accommodations that guides us through an increasingly globalized contemporary world still tenuously rooted in localized realities accepted, contested, rejected and reclaimed on a continuously vibrant basis.
-- Abena P.A. Busia, Chair, Department of Women's & Gender Studies, Rutgers University, USA.
A wonderful collection of short stories -- thoughtful, probing, humorous. They provide illuminating snapshots of life in Ghana and overseas: precious friendships; love won and lost; the joys and challenges of marriage and parenting; vexed relations between daughters and mothers; cosmopolitan Ghanaians at home in a globalizing world; and our love for and our frustration with our country and continent. Penetratingly blunt and insightful on the fissures of gender, age, class and race, these are poignant but familiar stories that remind us of our shared humanity. These are stories to be read over and over again.
-- Emmanuel Akyeampong, Professor of History and African and African American Studies, Harvard University, USA.
This collection reveals again Ama Ata Aidoo's skill and mastery of the short story form and her amazing ability to make ordinary lives significant. One of the most prolific of African writers, Aidoo continues to experiment with style and content with all the boldness that we expect from her. Using her art of storytelling, Ama Ata Aidoo draws us in to a certain orality she creates in conversations with and for the reader. She sees value in women's lives and continues to model this for us in every single line.
-- Carole Boyce Davies, Professor of English and Africana Studies, Cornell University, USA.
Diplomatic Pounds & Other Stories return us once again to Ama Ata Aidoo’s world of transnational, cosmopolitan and largely female protagonists negotiating between worlds, cultures and geographies: working through questioning and unsettling conventions and customs, registering a unique female subjectivity devoid of clichés and stereotypes. Written in a narrative style based on oral conversations and storytelling, these short stories ask us to reflect on issues as diverse as nation and belonging, home and exile, transnationalism, diaspora and gender relations between men and women to those between mothers and daughters. The conversational narrative voice that speaks to us through these short stories conceals layers of depth and complexity that only ripple onto the surface once you reach the end of the story.
-- Harry Garuba, Head of Department and Associate Professor, Centre for African Studies, University of Cape Town, South Africa.
Ama Ata Aidoo’s first collection of short stories, No Sweetness Here (1970) is a classic that deftly used the vast store of the oral tradition and Aidoo’s keen eyes and ears to create word tapestries of intricate and revealing truths, which moved us from the euphoric haze of the immediate post-independence era to a state of wide-eyed wonder. Her second volume of stories, The Girl Who Can (1997) challenged us with equal skill and insight to examine the neocolonial problems of structural adjustments and still have the courage to hope for a transformational future. Her third collection of stories, Diplomatic Pounds (2012) continues the tradition of the expert raconteur, the famous Bird-of-the-Wayside, who has kept her audiences engaged and learning for over a half century with a sharp stiletto pen, her black-eyed squint and a wickedly humorous tongue.
-- Vincent O. Odamtten, Hamilton College, Clinton, USA.