New bookshop at Accra Mall

I went into the new bookshop in the Accra Mall and came out with mixed feelings.  It looks very sleek and modern from the outside, but I felt it was rather cramped, once I was in, and taking a look around.

OK, I was constrained by the fact that I went in with two of the family who were not too pleased to be hanging around the mum while she was looking at what she wanted.  Just as I felt a little irritated hanging about waiting for them when they were browsing in a clothes shop earlier!

So I obviously need to go back – and probably do this on my own, which I will do sometime next week.

Initials reactions though:  not sure who the market is.  It is associated with the movie theatres, but I am not clear as to the exact relationship.  There are books for adults and children, DVDs, games and music CDs, plus some attractive cards.  All new, nicely labeled, priced (though I feel on the high side), and with security tags on them.

Although the different media are more or less separated, I found the arrangement of the books a bit difficult to follow – with a lack of signage.  The fiction also seemed to be a bit of a hodge-podge, and unfortunately for me, I think I had read many of them…  A lot of devotional and religious books too – and right at the front of the shop, which rather surprised me.  Not much African writing either though I did see the most recent collection of short stories for the Caine prize, which was unexpected.

I didn’t buy anything – which is pretty unusual for me in a bookshop.  But I will go back, and take a really good look.

BarCamp Ghana – a few reactions

Technically I was on holiday on Monday (the 22nd December) but I decided to attend part of the first BarCamp which was being held at the Kofi Annan ICT Centre.  I can’t remember where I first saw it mentioned/advertised, but it did come on the GINKS list, among others.  I liked the themes, and at least one academic colleague had said she would be attending, so why not?

It didn’t start at exactly 9am but then it was only 15-20 minutes or so late, which here in Ghana is not particularly unusual.  I won’t go into details, as others have done so already, and no doubt the organisers will do more.

A few things struck me:  the lack of formality, the number of laptops, and the youth of the vast majority of the participants.  It wasn’t that I felt out of place – but I did realise that I was probably one of the oldest people there.  It didn’t really bother me, but I did think about it – though more after the event, than while actually there.  There were very few members of what I would call the “establishment” present though Dr Amos Anyimadu and Prof George Ayittey are definitely exceptions in a way.

Perhaps this lack of the older, more established establishment and/or politicians did enable the lack of formality to really take hold.  Though I did wonder a bit about the initial arrangement of the chairs which was in a lecture/theatre style which to my mind doesn’t encourage participation and interaction.  I do like circles and/or U shapes for that…  Maybe it is a suggestion for future events?

There were the usual slight glitches with the microphones.  Is there ever an event without such issues here?  Sigh…  But there was wifi, and the organisers were taking notes and displaying them for everyone on a large screen  which I hadn’t seen before, but really liked.

I did forget to bring along a lot of my business cards – which really annoyed me, cos by now I should know better.  I suppose it is because I was not using my work handbag!!!!  What an idiot I am!

I couldn’t stay for the whole day, but am glad to have gone.  I did meet a few older acquaintances, and made some new ones, plus saw some people whom I’ve only read online.

More grease to the elbows of the organisers!  They really did put in a lot of effort, and in my view it paid off.  I for one look forward to future events of this nature.

Holidays have started

I recently finished reading Emma’s war, though it did take me longer than usual to finish.  But that is not too surprising as I tend to read non-fiction more slowly than fiction.  And if truth be told, it is easier to skim fiction than non-fiction.  Oh dear.  I was glad to have gone to the recent Accra Book Club meeting, as it did bring up some issues that I was more conscious of than perhaps I would have been.

Interestingly enough I came across a name of someone I knew mentioned in the book as one of those who commented on the educational work that Emma had been  doing.  So I did the natural thing – a search on Google – and came up with a couple of leads, including a Facebook entry.   Not just for the younger generations is Facebook!

Along with many other organisations here in Ghana, work is officially closed for a couple of weeks for Christmas and New Year, though I am sure that faculty will be occupied – mostly in marking!  For some of us, that means more time to catch up on my reading, and a little TV too!

I still have to finish Chris Anderson’s The long tail, which I started a month or so again.  It’s not that it is not not worth reading; I just got distracted.  I have also started the well-reviewed first novel by Catherine O’Flynn, What was lost but haven’t got very far.

Saw that there is a new shop in the Accra Shopping Mall – with books!  Wow…  I suspect there are a lot of DVDs and CDs as well but still.  That means even more temptation on Saturday morning shopping.

Discussion of Emma’s war

I finally went to an Accra Book Club meeting on Tuesday; my first in more than a year I think. I stayed at work, and then got to the Zanzibar restaurant early, and actually continued reading. Kudos to the owner/manager who turned a light for which I was very grateful.

As I mentioned in an earlier post the book under discussion was Emma’s war by Deborah Scroggins. I had only read a quarter of it but it was interesting hearing the three others present discussing some of the themes/ideas which appealed to them or struck them as worth discussing. I am still reading it, so it wasn’t really a “spoiler”. And anyway I know that she died… but it was fascinating hearing reactions to descriptions of the aid/development/relief communities of which Emma was a part.

The detail on the Sudan is considerable, and in a way the book’s title is a little misleading, as at least half of it is devoted to explanations of the changing situations in that turbulent country. I am learning something, and having had a discussion, one does notice some aspects more

Reading for Accra Book Club

I really, really, really wanted to be a very constant member of the Accra Book Club, but somehow R’s illness, and my feelings of obligation, rather stopped that from happening as I would have theoretically wished.  But I did and do usually buy the books and read them more or less at the right time, and wish for a few evenings that I could have joined other members to eat and hear their views on what we had just read – fully, partly or not even at all.

Given that R is pretty hostile to me these days, and that I don’t actually do anything to help or support him when I come home, I figuredthat I might as well go to the next gathering – which would be taking place sometime during the first week of December.  The book under discussion was originally planned for October, Emma’s war, by Deborah Scroggins.  I’d started it, so didn’t expect to  say much about it, though it is well written, and does give a lot of background on the Sudan, which for various reasons is quite a “popular” location this year for readings for this book club.  [The ABC also read Dave Eggers, What is the what, earlier this year.  I found the bits in the US more moving somehow than the scenes in the Sudan.  Maybe the latter were simply too horrible?]  I remember hearing about Emma at some point – must have been through the BBC or through UK newspapers and magazines available British Council in Kumasi.

I find reading non-fiction does take more effort, maybe because I actually have to read more, rather than merely skim to enjoy the flow and the plot.  So I do have to apply myself over the next few days.

The November book for the ABC was originally going to be Alaa al Aswany’s The Yacoubian building , which I was to lead on, but that has been postponed till the new year, I think.  I did finish it, and enjoyed it.  I suspect that the language would have had more impact in its original Arabic, but it was still readable, at times amusing, and at times moving.  I can understand – to an extent that an outsider can – just how controversial this novel was and is in Egypt.  To describe corruption, homosexual relationships and sexual harassment of women in such straightforward terms must have really had an impact on Egyptian society, which is quite heavily controlled by the state, though in comparison to other Middle Eastern states, it might be considered to be quite “liberal” in terms of societal mores.  That the author is not only Egyptian, but living and working in Egypt, makes it even more interesting.  I wonder how the other readers will have reacted to it.