13th Ghana International Book Fair

I did go to the 13th GIBF (Ghana International Book Fair) but I admit it was on the last day – Saturday 7 November.  So if I sound a bit disappointed, maybe that is the reason.  Several of the stands had no one there so I guess the companies/organizations felt it wasn’t worth their while to be there on a Saturday.  I did notice several representatives of mostly Indian printing companies which was quite interesting.

The other issue which slightly bothered me was the fact that there was going to be a launch of a book about Ghana’s President in the late 1970s/early 1980s, Dr Hilla Limann, which I hadn’t heard about!  So I had to make do with online reviews.  And eventually I will see, and probably buy,  a copy of the actual book.

I admit I had originally thought I would be able to attend earlier in the week, but that didn’t work out.

This is not to say that I didn’t buy anything; I did.  A couple of children’s books as gifts and a couple of adult books for work – all from Sub-Saharan Publishers who I am always happy to support, plus I usually find they have something which interests me.

Caine prize 2015 front cover 500I am looking forward to seeing and buying a copy of the latest Caine Prize collection of short stories which Sub-Saharan are co-publishing with New Internationalist, and other publishers on the African continent.

I always wonder how many people go to these Ghana International Book Fairs…

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Mid-year summary from one Accra reader

I do try to post something about my reading, and bookish activities, on a monthly basis, but I just saw
Boston Bibliophile’s mid year summary, which rather appealed to me:

Six new-to me authors:

  1. Laurence Cosse
  2. Emma Donoghue
  3. Alan Bradley
  4. Roger Smith
  5. Lauren Beukes
  6. Dan Rhodes

Six tried-and-true authors:

  1. Ama Ata Aidoo
  2. John Le Carre
  3. Paul Torday
  4. Neal Stephenson
  5. Robert Littell
  6. Tony Morrison

Six books I really liked:

  1. A novel bookstore, by Laurence Cosse
  2. Snowcrash, by Neal Stephenson
  3. Abina and the important men, by Trevor Getz & Liz Clarke
  4. Room, by Emma Donoghue
  5. Legends, by Robert Littell
  6. A reliable wife, by Robert Goolrick

Six countries I’ve visited in my reading [obviously not physically! and the actual number is much, much higher – probably hovering around twenty or so]

  1. South Africa
  2. Zambia
  3. Cote d’Ivoire
  4. Germany
  5. UK
  6. France

Six bookish events I’ve enjoyed

  1. Vice-President Mahama [of Ghana] reading from his manuscript by his official poolside, with other Ghanaian writers
  2. Launch of two books by doyenne of Ghanaian writing, Ama Ata Aidoo
  3. Nii Ayikwei Parkes [author of Tail of the blue bird] reading in Accra on a recent visit
  4. Launch of Elikem Kuenyehia’s book, Kuenyehia on entrepreneurship
  5. Launch of massive two-volume work, Reclaiming the human sciences and humanities, at Univ of Ghana Legon
  6. readings at Goethe Institut, including Ama Ata Aidoo, Kojo Laing and Taiye Selasi

Six bookish things I am looking forward to

  1. Reading VP Mahama’s newly published book, My first coup d’etat, when it is launched in Ghana
  2. Reading the Caine Prize 2012 collection, African violet, when it is published by a local publisher here in Ghana
  3. Getting, and reading copies of the 2011 Burt award winners’ books – again whenever they eventually get published here in Ghana
  4. Attending the next Ghana International Book Fair at the end of September
  5. Attending the Ghana Library Association special 50th anniversary congress in November
  6. Monthly gatherings of Accra Book Club

Vice-President John Mahama launches book in US

Not surprisingly there have been several stories about the launch of Vice-President John Mahama’s book My first coup d’etat and other true stories from the lost decades of Africa in New York.

I was privileged to hear a few months ago excerpts from the first chapter, and it sounded interesting, funny and at times poignant.  I really look forward to being able to buy and read a copy here in Ghana.

I also think it is great that a senior politician has taken the time to write.  We definitely need more of this.

Links to some of the stories:  from GhanaWeb and VibeGhana (taken from GNA).

A book launch and two readings – a busy two weeks in Accra

A couple of very busy weeks on the books and information side – that is, apart from work which included a four-day workshop on critical thinking and writing – and I am feeling rather guilty about not posting earlier.  No really valid excuses though.  But the long weekend for 1 July (Ghana’s Republic Day) is definitely providing a bit of inspiration!

I have to admit that I am usually fairly happy to attend book launches here in Accra, though I do admit that I tend to prefer those that involve fiction and/or some kind of historical orientation.  Business and management related books I tend to be a bit more picky about, but an invitation to the launch of Elikem Kuenyehia’s Kuenyehia on entrepreneurship was irresistible. Held at British Council Accra, this was a pretty high powered affair, with fairly sophisticated decorations, and many VIPs or should I say VVIPs present (including Sam Jonah as Chairman, Nigerian businessman and entrepreneur Tony Elumelu as Guest of Honour, Joyce Aryee as Chief Auctioneer and Kwasi Kyei Darkwah as MC)!  It was also great to see several Ashesi students and alums assisting in making the programme go smoothly – I know a lot of effort goes into this!

I attended two book readings:  one by Nii Ayikwei Parkes – which was held at Sytris, and wonderfully described and photographed by my colleague, Kajsa, so I won’t really go into any details, as she has really said it all.  Sytris was a good location, and having a small cafe as well meant that we were not only feeding our brains and hearts!  It was great actually seeing Nii Ayikwei Parkes in person, and hearing him perform some of his poems.

The second reading, held at the Goethe Institut, as part of their collaboration with Writers Project of Ghana,  was also by an expatriate Ghanaian/Nigerian writer, Taiye Selasiwho is known for having coined the term “Afropolitan”. There were excerpts from her short story “The Sex Lives of African Girls” which was published in Granta 115 and also from the manuscript of her forthcoming book, Ghana must go, which is due to be published in 2013. She was funny and at times biting in her critique of contemporary Ghanaian life.  Definitely someone to watch out for!

And because it was the last week of the month, there was our usual Accra Book Club gathering, a relatively small group, as usual, discussing – not in much detail though – Dan Rhodes Little hands clapping.  Most of us didn’t really like it, but that was OK.  And while munching on our pizzas, we talked about other books, including science fiction, the Twilight series, and the phenomenon of Fifty shades of grey – which none of us had read!

I am not sure what events will be coming up in July – but I am sure there will be some.  A good time to read though, as the weather here in Accra is definitely cooler!

Ama Ata Aidoo launches two books in Accra

I can’t talk much about the programme for the launch of Ama Ata Aidoo’s books which took place on Friday 23 March – her Essays in honour of Ama Ata Aidoo and Diplomatic pounds & other storiesbirthday [though not her 70th if I heard correctly] – because I am a little ashamed to admit that I was horribly late due to a combination of car issues plus parking.  But I was very glad to see that the venue – British Council Accra – was absolutely full, and that the Vice-President of Ghana, John Mahama, himself an author, was able to deliver his keynote address, even though he was due to travel that very evening!

Despite coming at the end of ceremony I was able to see a few friends and colleagues, including Ivor Agyeman-Duah of the Centre for Intellectual Renewal who organized the launch,  and buy the books. One is a collection of short stories, entitled Diplomatic pounds & other stories and the other is more academic as evidenced by the title Essays in honor of Ama Ata Aidoo at 70: a reader in African cultural studies.  Both are published by Ayebia Clarke who has a great reputation for publishing books on Ghana, and indeed on Africa

I must definitely buy a couple of copies for work.

I wasn’t able to get the author to autograph them, but I think there will be another opportunity  soon – as Ama Ata Aidoo is due to give some readings at the Goethe Institut as part of the Writers Project of Ghana on 28 March.

Not an opportunity to miss!

Two recent literary events in Accra

Two literary events during this past week, and they took place back to back – on the 18th and 19th of January.

The first I have known about for quite some time, as it involved a senior colleague at work. The second was totally unexpected – and I literally had less than three hours notice [admittedly partly my fault]!  The first was a book launch, the second wetted my appetite for a forthcoming work.  Again the first was fairly formal – with speakers on a podium and a high table, while the other was outside, around an alluring blue swimming pool which pulled my thoughts towards a dip, even if it was only my feet!  The first was academic though impinging on policy and the Chairman did not mince words; the second was supposedly non-political – at least in the contemporary sense – though the readings from the forthcoming book written by the Vice-President of Ghana referred more to the politics of the 1970s, while blended in with recollections of growing up in the northern town of Tamale. And as I write, I realise that both books have children on their covers!

Publisher's blurb

The first book, Children’s rights in Ghana: reality or rhetoric, is edited by three academics, one of whom, Nana Apt is Dean of Academics at Ashesi University College where I work. I had already seen a hard copy version of the book, which was published in the US. This was a paperback edition, specifically meant for the Ghanaian market published by a UK based company called Mot Juste. I have to admit I was especially impressed by the Chairman, Ken Attafuah, who did not hesitate to be straightforward, yet picked up some of the essentials of each person who played a role in the event.

The second event was readings by various well-known Ghanaian writers, in honour of Bloomsbury (USA) senior editor, Nancy Miller, who was in Ghana for a brief visit, working with the Vice-President of Ghana who is publishing his memoirs – My first coup d’etat and other true stories from the lost decades of Africa. Several of the readings were amusing – mainly for their descriptions of events which many of us know or have experienced. The highlight was of course quite a long reading by John Dramani Mahama of an excerpt from his forthcoming book – he chose a  tale of first teenage love interspersed with how the Acheampong regime impinged on his own family.

A couple of colleagues have written about the event, including Nana Awere Damoah who was also present (see his blog with the same content on Facebook.)  Nana Fredua-Agyeman also commented on writing by heads of state and its relative scarcity here in Ghana.

I safely say that many of us are very much looking forward to Mahama’s book actually arriving here in Ghana.

A real book day

Yesterday was a real “book” day for me – though realistically every day is – but I guess it is because of the slightly out of the ordinary encounters.

First, something personal – collecting a parcel of books from the post office.   Always a bit of a palaver, as parcels are only handled either by the Accra general Post Office (located just off the High Street) or at the slightly newer (but that is a very relative term) Accra North Post Office which is near Circle [the real name is Kwame Nkrumah Circle]…  Luckily I didn’t have any problem finding a parking place this time – on one occasion I went round the small parking lot three times before eventually getting somewhere to put my car.  I know the deal now, so I come prepared:  a  photo ID, money, and a knife to open the parcel + of course a pen to sign the slip.  It was all pretty straightforward, including my usual slight bantering about having to pay to receive books – which I try to maintain are duty-free!   Needless to say, I still end up paying…

So what did I come away with?  A rather motley assorted of novels and non-fiction, including some more literary ones, as well as lighter ones.

Later, I attended a talk by Kathy Knowles and two of her Ghanaian colleagues, on their work in setting up and running children’s libraries (see http://www.osuchildrenslibraryfund.ca/ ).  I had been briefly to the new Nima-Maamobi centre, though unfortunately I hadn’t met any of the people involved in running it).  The stories related by Kathy and colleagues were truly inspirational.   I was saddened to hear though of the bureaucratic behavior exhibited by some local agencies hindering the progress of deprived communities.  I also found it disappointing to hear about the lack of involvement of the Ghana Library Board, or any of its representatives, but then I wasn’t surprised either.

Book item three of the day was the launching of Ivor Agyeman-Duah’s book , An economic history of Ghana (see http://www.ayebia.co.uk/publications_aehog.html ) .   I thought I would be late, but wasn’t – and noticed that there were quite a few police around directing traffic – a signal that a high powered visitor might be expected?  Not surprisingly the function didn’t start on time, but it wasn’t too late, plus I did see several people I know…  Some of the speeches were OK, but unfortunately one was very, very long, and I suspect that the audience may have tuned out a bit.   Certainly there was such a made rush at the end for refreshments that those of us who were buying books, and chit-chatting to friends and acquaintances, went home both thirsty and hungry.   Ok, I shouldn’t grumble; there were a lot more people present that the organizers expected – which is good.   The book doesn’t look like a heavy academic tome, so it should be easy to dip into…   And already a couple of colleagues have said they would like to read some bits of it.