Missed the latest Burt award!

As I mentioned in an earlier post, there were/are several library related events going on during the months September – December 2016.  Last week I was very much pre-occupied with events involving the Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Ghana (CARLIGH), including a meeting, training organized by publishers EBSCO and Cambridge UP and the 2nd CARLIGH International Conference which took place here in Accra from 28 to 30 September.  See the GNA website for their story on the opening ceremony.

Regrettably therefore I missed the latest Burt award ceremonies which took place last week – but I am glad to acknowledge their efforts!  The winners were:

  1. Dr Ruby Yayra Goka, for her book The step-mother
  2. Elizabeth-Irene Baitie, for her book Rattling in the closet
  3. Nii Kpani Addy, for his book Red spectacles knows

For more information on the event, see the GNA story (even though it is not totally accurate)!



Two weeks of non-stop bookish activities

It’s been a fairly busy two weeks, and for those of us interested in books and information, there have been
lots of events going on – in addition to work related stuff!

2013 Burt prize winners - coversFirst there was the Burt Award for African Literature. This covered the winning Ghanaian books for 2013.  I admit I arrived late – but I didn’t miss too much of the programme, which had, it seemed, more or less started on time [which is great]. The speeches were OK, with William Burt, the Canadian who funded the Burt awards, talking about the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series of books! That really brought back some of my early reading.

Naturally I bought copies of the prize winning books:

  1. Perfectly imperfect, by Ruby Yayra Goka (1st prize)
  2. Ossie’s dream, by Nanayaa Amankwah (2nd prize)
  3. The boy who spat in Sargrenti’s eye, by Manu Herbstein (3rd prize)

The first and third prize winners have been prize winners before.  The occasion was covered by the press, though not in its entirety as usual.

Then the day after, actually in the same venue – British Council – there was the launch and showing of the documentary The art of Ama Ata Aidoo. The film, by Yaba Badoe, was pretty interesting, though perhaps a little bit long. But illuminating especially if one has read or wants to read some of Ama Ata Aidoo’s work. I did not too surprisingly buy one of Aidoo’s books, No sweetness here - coverwhich has recently been republished here in Ghana.  There’s a great account of the launch here.

Another event was the yearly GAWBOFEST (Ghana Association of Writers Book Festival). Not exactly my favourite event, but maybe that is because I always tend to go to buy books, and get slightly disappointed at the range available. I also find that the long speeches in the morning session must be pretty boring for the children who attend, but then I admit that I don’t stay that long to see what happens during the rest of the day. Yet it is an event that I would wish to continue, just simply because there need to be more opportunities to see books, to buy them, and to talk about reading and writing.

I also went to the September Ghana Voices reading, organized by the Writers Project of Ghana. This month it was Benjamin Kwakye, who it turns out I have met before – though I am ashamed to say that I didn’t remember this. I was also annoyed with myself because I forgot to take copies of his books with me to be autographed!  [Too many things to remember on this day]

The September gathering of the Accra Book Club also took place during these two weeks – our read was the somewhat confusing, well-reviewed thriller, The shining girls, by Lauren Beukes.  Although I enjoyed reading it, it was a little confusing, and talking about it certainly clarified my understanding of this novel about a time-travelling serial killer, and the plucky victim who chased him.

All these activities included a fair bit of book buying – nine books in total – mainly because it is still difficult to buy certain titles as book shops with the kind of stock I like remain very few and far between here in Accra. I even managed to buy one of Ghanaian/American author Kwei Quartey’s books which has been on my wish list for several months.  Murder at Cape Three Points  - cover

As well as these events, I was also away from my usual work location, attending a couple of meetings and a workshop, all connected with the consortium of libraries my workplace belongs to.

On the work side, I was away from campus, attending a couple of meetings and a workshop, all related to CARLIGH (Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Ghana).

Now I have to write up two sets of minutes, plus an evaluation of the workshop.  Plus of course get back into the work swing of things!  Definitely no rest for some of us!


The Burt Award for African Literature, 2014: Call for submissions

I meant to post this call for submissions earlier, but somehow got sidetracked!  I am all for supporting local authors – and encouraging young readers is essential!

Burt award Ghana logoThe following is taken from the Ghana Book Trust website, and the link is below

The Ghana Book Trust and CODE, a Canadian NGO, have the pleasure to invite Ghanaian authors and publishers to participate in a competition to produce story books for the young between the ages of 12-15.

The Award is sponsored by CODE, a Canadian NGO, with generous support from Canadian patron Bill Burt.


  • 1st Gold – CAD9,000
  • 2nd Silver – CAD 7,000
  • 3rd Bronze – CAD5,000

These would be paid at the prevailing exchange rate at the time of the award in Ghana Cedis.

Winning publishers are guaranteed the purchase of 3,000 out of 5,000 copies expected to be published. The books will be distributed to Ghana Book Trust’s network of CODE-supported schools, community libraries and other schools.

Deadline for Submission
The manuscripts should be submitted through publishers to the Ghana Book Trust in one soft copy with five hard copies on or before 27th June, 2014 by 4.00pm.(Email address: info@ghanabooktrust.com)

They will be reviewed and assessed by a panel of qualified judges to determine the winners.

The Ghana Book Trust is not obliged to award any or all the three prizes if the judges deem work unsatisfactory.

Winners:The winners will be announced through the media.

for more information see Ghana Book Trust website

Manu Herbstein describes Accra’s literary scene

This is just a quick post to alert readers of Ghanaian/South African Manu Herbstein’s article on Accra’s literary scene, currently posted on the South African BooksLive website.

I have to admit to admit that Herbstein captures events which I certainly attended – and may even have mentioned in this blog. He also describes many I had  heard about but didn’t manage to go to, in addition to several others I didn’t know about at all.

Definitely a worthwhile summary of the last year here in Accra.

A belated look at September 2012 book related activities

During September, I read – or more appropriately – finished reading six books:

  1. King Peggy – An American secretary, her royal destiny and the inspiring story of how she changed an African village, by Peggielene Bartels and Eleanor Herman [quite apt as it was about Ekumfi Otuam, the “hometown” of the late President of Ghana, Prof John Atta Mills]
  2. The secret lives of Baba Segi’s wives, by Lola Shoneyin [a polygamous marriage has many secrets]
  3. Half-blood blues, by Esi Edugyan [read for Accra Book Club]
  4. Speechless – World history without words, by Polyp [graphic non-fiction; I confess I wasn’t always clear what was being depicted]
  5. Death and pain – Rawlings’ Ghana, the inside story, by Mike Adjei [aspects of Ghana’s history during the turbulent 1970s and 1980s]
  6. The bean trees, by Barbara Kingsolver [moving early novel by the well-known American author]

As is obvious by the titles above, there were more books with African/Ghanaian flavours/origins. Unusually for me there was an even mix between fiction and non-fiction.

In terms of bookish activities, it was a busy month, or rather the last ten days were very full. I had mentioned anticipating several activities in a previous post, and indeed I did go to all.

GAWBOFEST – Ghana Association of Writers Book Festival – did take place, and I did go. 21 September was a public holiday here in Ghana (Kwame Nkrumah’s birthday). But I didn’t stay long, bought a few books, and left, mainly because I wasn’t feeling very well, even though I had heard that the President, John Mahama, was coming to read from his recently published book, My first coup d’etat. I was very sorry to have missed that reading, but I was very happy that it took place in what was a relatively informal and non-political forum.

The next week, 25 – 29 September, was the 11th Ghana International Book Fair, held this year at the National Theatre. I went round the stands on a couple of days, and didn’t buy much, mainly because I had seen what I wanted at GAWBOFEST. But I was glad to attend the formal book launch of the Burt award 2011 books, and did buy the pack of three books:

  1. The kaya girl, by Mamle Wolo
  2. The lost royal treasure, by Ruby Yayra Goka
  3. Akosua & Osman, by Manu Herbstein

For an interesting and challenging perspective on the Book Fair and writing for children here in Ghana, see Mikelle on Education’s post.

Another entertaining reading took place at the Goethe Institut, where Nigerian author Chuma Nwokolo read excerpts from two of his books, as part of the Writers Project of Ghana Ghana Voices series:

  1. The ghost of Sani Abacha
  2. Diaries of a dead African

Nwokolo was entertaining and amusing, and the audience obliged with lots of questions and laughter, and of course we bought his books!

The rest of the week involved a regular monthly gathering of the Accra Book Club, plus a meeting of CARLIGH (Consortium of Academic & Research Libraries in Ghana)…

And not too surprisingly I did buy a few books: one gift, three books for work, and nine for myself! The TBR shelves continue to grow!

Advert for Ghana Book Awards raises a few questions

Seen in the Ghanaian Times of Wednesday 12 September 2012 [apologies for not posting this earlier, but as the comments still apply, I will still post it]


The Ghana Book Development Council request for entries for Write Publisher  for Ghana Book Awards 2012 in the following categories:

Junior Fiction
Adult Fiction
General Book

The book should be published in Ghana between 2009 and 2012.  Four (4) copies each of all entries should be sent to:

Ag Executive Director
PO Box MB430, Ministries

or hand delivered to either of the following:

GBDC Secretariat
NAPTEX Building
Education Enclave, Legon
c/o Ghana Book Publishers Association Office
3rd floor, Workers College Building

closing date:  15 October 2012

For further enquiries, please phone 023-259-6800


I have a few comments, or rather questions, on this advert.

  1. First of all what is “Write Publisher”?
  2. Second, what is meant by a “General Book” category?
  3. Thirdly I would like to ask about locations:  does everyone know where Education Enclave is? or Workers College Building?  There is no further indication of where these are, and personally I feel that this is a significant omission .  I know we don’t have proper street names here in Ghana, but one can narrow down areas to make them more accessible to someone who is not familiar with Accra.
  4. My last comment has to do with the lack of an email contact, or a website.  In this era there is simply no excuse not to have an email address, even if it is one that is totally web-based.

I do realize that most of the publishers would probably know of either the GBDC Secretariat or the Ghana Book Publishers Association – so presumably those placing the advert probably thought this information was superfluous.  But then, why bother?

The question then to ask:  What is this advert for? Isn’t it a type of promotion of books? and of publishing?

2011 Burt Awards for African literature: Ghana ceremony

The official ceremony for the 2011 Burt Award for African literature, organized locally by Ghana Book Trust , with sponsorhip from CODE , which took place on 16 July 2012, was a bit different from most book related ceremonies that I have attended here in Accra.

Firstly, it started on time. And I was late, thinking 15 minutes past of the official start time would be OK, but it wasn’t! Too bad for me, and a big hurrah for the organizers. TG I wasn’t the latest to arrive though, and I don’t think I missed too much.

Secondly, it was pretty short and to the point. Within an hour all the speeches had been done, and it was time for some photos with the winners, or press interviews, or just networking with friends and colleagues.

Thirdly, there were no books available for sale. A disappointment actually, though I did know in advance that this was just the award ceremony itself. What further saddened me though was hearing that the books would not be published until November this year, which is definitely later than expected!

But then I shouldn’t complain; that means that there is something to look forward to!

Winners for 2011 are:

  • First prize: Mamle Wolo, for The Kaya girl
  • Second prize: Ruby Goka, for The lost royal treasure
  • Third prize: Manu Herbstein, for Akosua and Osman

All are being published locally, and 3000 copies of each title will be distributed to schools, libraries and other institutions, so they will be widely available.

Note: There was press coverage in both the Ghanaian Times and the Daily Graphic, but not a huge amount online.  See here and here.


Caine prize 2012 collection to be published in Ghana

I will not discuss the winner of the 2012 Caine Prize for African fiction, as my colleague blogger, ImageNations, has already done a good job on all the links needed.

I did read all the five shortlisted stories, and will freely admit that “Bombay’s Republic” was definitely in my top two.

I think what intrigues me even more this year is the fact that the 2012 Caine Prize anthology is not only going to be published in the UK/USA, but also in six African countries, including Ghana.  Actually I believe it had already been co-published in South Africa (with Jacana), in Nigeria (with Cassava Republic) and Kenya (Kwani?) but what with the lack of distribution of books between African countries, in the past the easiest way of getting a copy was to order either from the UK or the US!  Incidentally I have in the past emailed at least one of the above publishers and asked whether they haven’t considered some distribution of their titles here in Ghana, but no answer.  But that, as they say, is a whole other story.

Getting back to the latest Caine Prize collection: spurred on by the prospect of local availability, I thought I would follow up.  A small search – actually in a physical directory! – revealed four numbers for Sub-Saharan Publishers [sorry I couldn’t find any website], so I hoped that at least one of them would work.  And it did.

The good news:  African violet (the name of the collection) which was published by New Internationalist in the UK on 1 July 2012 and was indeed reviewed by Bookshy (a book blogger based in Nigeria) will indeed be published, and therefore available to buy here in Ghana.

The not so good news:  some of us will just have to wait six weeks or so before we get a chance to buy a local copy!

But at least it is something worth looking forward to.

Blogging the Caine prize 2012: Kahora and Kenani stories

I have been reading the shortlisted stories for the 2012 Caine Prize, but I am not sure that I feel confident enough to write full reviews on each, so I chose to write a few comments – without having any of the longer posts. Plus I am also late for both discussions.

I read and re-read the stories by Billy Kahora (Urban zoning) and Stanley O Kenani (Love on trial).

The first, as the title indicates, is set in contemporary Nairobi. A big city, and the characters are very much urban people, though with some connections to rural areas. They are not poor, but rather belong to the elite. My initial reaction to the story was to be slightly confused, because I felt there were really two stories being told: one of Kandle the drunk, and the other of Kandle who is manipulating his bank employers. Yet, a re-read does make a bit more sense, even if the main character is not particularly likeable, or even sympathetic, in my opinion.  It is a complex story, and I am not sure I totally understood what was going on.

The second story takes place in Malawi, and has the stock character of the village drunk who discovers two young men engaging in a homosexual act in a local toilet. I liked the way Charles defends himself, but then he disappears from the story, which ends not unexpectedly with the village drunk getting his comeuppance.

Which of the stories did I like? I enjoyed both, though I felt that Kenani’s story seemed to be more straightforward than Kahora’s. If I were to rate them: Kahora’s story would get a 4, while Kenani’s story would get a 3.

Note: several others have blogged much more extensively than yours truly on these stories, and once I post this I will actually go and read their reviews/commentaries!  See http://zunguzungu.wordpress.com/ for more links