Two recent Accra book events

In the way of things here in Accra, I attended two book events back-to-back last week [sorry for not posting about them earlier – any excuse would just be that].

One was a set of readings at the Goethe Institut by Kojo Laing, an older Ghanaian writer who has published only a few works – under the auspices of the Writers Project of Ghana. His books are not the easiest to read, and listening to Laing’s answers to questions one could understand why.  Although he grounds his work in Ghana, Ghanaian life and culture it has many fantastical elements in it. At times I almost felt like saying that he was on a rather different planet to we mortals! Plus I understood why I had struggled to read, understand and finish the three of his novels which I have read.

  • Women of the aeroplanes
  • Search sweet country
  • Major Gentl and the Achimota wars [not read]
  • Big Bishop Roko and the altar gangsters – the only book I actually have, and of course, I forgot to bring my copy to be autographed! 

The other book event I attended was the launch of a huge (more than 1,600 pages!) two volume work entitled Reclaiming the human sciences & humanities through African perspectives (edited by Helen Lauer and Kofi Anyidoho, and published by Sub-Saharan Publishers). This compendium of historical and contemporary essays/articles was launched at the University of Ghana, Legon, and obviously aimed at academics and senior level students.  I actually arrived early, and watched as the Nketia Conference Hall at the Institute of African Studies gradually filled up.

The programme more or less kept to time, but it still went on.  However you count it, fifteen eight minute speeches/comments/presentations still mount up to two hours,  but I suppose there were a lot of people who had to be recognized and who would be offended if they were not publicly acknowledged.  There wasn’t an auction, for which I was very grateful, but there were plenty of copies of the books to be bought.

I did buy a set for work, but felt that it was a bit much to purchase for my personal collection, even though it was sold at a relative discount!

Interesting that both these events involved rather challenging tomes!

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Recent books, libraries and information events

The last couple of weeks have been full of events related to books, reading, libraries and information, so
maybe I should take a bit of time to mention some of them.

The first two were what I would call “regulars”:

Ghana Voices, which part of the Writers Project of Ghana , featured prize-winning author Elizabeth-Irene Baitie reading from her latest novel for teens, The twelfth heart,  a boarding school based story. This was the evening that Accra suffered floods, so the audience wasn’t as large as expected, but Baitie is not only a good reader, but enthusiastic about both her writing, and her professional work. I already had a copy of the book, so at least I managed to get the author’s autograph, plus it has moved from a TBR shelf to my desk, which is definitely up on my priority list.

Accra Book Club had its monthly gathering, and this time the book was Ann Patchett’s widely acclaimed book,
State of wonder, which interesting enough I think we all read on Kindles! Although we were all somewhat critical of certain aspects of the book, that didn’t detract from its being a good choice for a book discussion. Our next discussion will be Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, so I’ve started that – again on my Kindle.

The last three are more work and professionally oriented:

One of the Africa representatives of Elsevier,  a large
publisher of STM (science, technology and medicine) books, journals and other materials, did a presentation
of several of their database products, including ScienceDirect and Scopus . It was obviously a sales pitch, but still interesting
nonetheless. And a good opportunity to meet three colleagues whom I hadn’t seen for a while. The only thing
which upset me was the fact that twenty-seven people had signed up to attend, but only ten actually came!

I also did a quick visit to the 10th Ghana International Book Fair, which took place at the Ghana
International Trade Fair. As I went in the afternoon, there were large numbers of schoolchildren in uniform
around – some looking at books, the odd ones reading some, and others just rejoycing in being at the Fair on
an officially sanctioned outing. I didn’t buy much – as most of the books available are either textbooks,
supporting material for basic education, or books for children. I did want some dictionaries but couldn’t
find the variety I was looking for. I wasn’t happy.

The last event was the Ghana Library Association Seminar and AGM – a one day event which alternates every
year with a two day Congress and AGM at which elections are held. This year’s event was held a bit earlier
than usual – to coincide with the GIBF – whose theme did include libraries, after all – and was held at the
Ghana International Trade Fair. Close to a hundred librarians from all over Ghana gathered to discuss the
future of libraries, and how our own association will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2012. There was lots
of interaction between friends and colleagues, though as usual there were many issues left unresolved.

Now I have to catch up with work!

Bookish activities in September 2011

When I started writing this, I thought September hadn’t been a particular active month for me on the books side.  But then upon reviewing it I realized it wasn’t as quiet as I had originally thought!

I bought nine books at local bookshops here in Accra:

  • 2 cookery books – I just can’t resist buying these, though I don’t always cook from them!
  • 1 novel – one of Boris Akunin’s books, The winter queen, which I had heard of on BBC World Book Club podcast
  • 2 art books
  • 2 pamphlets for visitors/tourists:  one on Twi and the other on Old Accra
  • 2 copies of Ama Ataa Aidoo’s The days, to be given to children as gifts

And then there were two freebies downloaded to my Kindle.

I only completed two books – which for me is unusual:

  • Flat earth news, by Nick Davies:  non-fiction on the media andvery relevant in the days of scandals from the Murdoch empire
  • The historian, by Elizabeth Kostova:   probably the main reason why I didn’t finish many books, as this is over 700 pages long!  An entertaining vampire story

The last couple of weeks of the month was busy.

I went to GAWBOFEST – briefly, as I mentioned in an earlier post.  Like others, I look forward to more of such events, though I know there is a lot of effort involved in organizing them.

Next was one of the Writers Project of Ghana events at the Goethe Institut with Camynta Baezie reading from his novel The African agenda.  I had bought the book a couple of years ago, and quite enjoyed it – an international thriller with African characters!  A pity though that there weren’t more people attending.  I know Goethe Institut puts information onto its website, and sends out emails, and Writers Project also sends out information via Twitter, but maybe these means are still not enough to bring people in?  I guess it also depends on how much publicity the authors themselves do.

And there was a gathering for Accra Book Club, after a gap of couple of months, to discuss Diane Setterfield’s The thirteenth tale. .  The book is a contemporary “gothic” with tales within tales, but with lots of references to reading, writing and books. That was fun.  And we planned our readings for the next six months or so, which was good.

So that was my September on the personal literary side.

Two book launches at Goethe Institut, Accra

Maybe it is just that I am more able to attend events, but I definitely feel that there has been quite a bit going on in the books scene here in Accra over the last month or so.

I meant to attend Alba Sumprim‘s launch of her book, A place of beautiful nonsense, at the beginning of July at the Goethe Institut but unfortunately couldn’t due to having visitors.  But I enjoyed her first book, The imported Ghanaian, as well as her columns from the Daily Despatch, one of the local newspapers here in Accra.  So of course, I looked forward to seeing what she would say and draw for her new book.  I did find a copy – not autographed though – in Silverbird bookshop, and it is now sitting on my TBR shelf.  Looks good for dipping into.

This past week I was again at the Goethe Institut, for another programme organized by the Writers Project of Ghana, this time with friend and fellow blogger, Fiona Leonard.  As those who follow her blog know, Fiona finally published her novel, The chicken thief, which has been available on Amazon in Kindle format for a while.  But for those of us here in Ghana, the launch reading finally came off with lots of physical copies of the book available for sale.  And naturally I did buy one, and of course, did get it autographed!  Readings definitely do serve to wet one’s desire to read, I have noticed!

Another addition to the TBR shelves.  I just wish I could make more time to read, read, and do more reading!

GLA/Goethe Institut organise workshop on “Getting published”

Group photo

I mention the GLA (Ghana Library Association) in this blog quite a bit, which is not too surprising since I proudly admit to being a librarian/information manager/information provider and book junkie!

So since I spent most of today attending a workshop organised by the GLA, with support from the Goethe Institut, I have to mention them again!

And no, being a librarian doesn’t mean that you are living in a dusty old fashioned world – at least I don’t think of myself that way!  What others think?  hmmm, well, that is a topic for another day!

This time the workshop was officially called “Fundamentals of getting published in scholarly journals”, and basically consisted of extremely detailed  lectures, with some questions, on the basics, ethics, editorial issues and referencing – among other matters – all led by the current editor of the Ghana Library Journal, I K Antwi.

I K Antwi speaking

Antwi is the long-serving Librarian at the University for Development Studies in Tamale whom I remember meeting often in the mid 1990s when I used to travel to Tamale regularly on the British Council’s outreach programme, which by the way doesn’t exist any more – just in case someone was wondering!

Plenty of material to absorb though, so I think it will be a good idea to really look at the slides of the presentation!

In the meantime I am including a couple of photos.