>Why Is Africa Begging?

> Last night, I went to the Goethe Institute in Accra to see their current exhibit open. I go to a lot of these events, being a lover of the arts, but this one was special becuase the artists were school children – well, rather youths – and hence represent the future of Ghanaian art.

There were giraffes, portraits, market scenes and animal sculptures – most notably a beautiful plaster owl made by a young man not much bigger then the owl itself.

But there was also a piece that grabbed my attention because of its clear message. Allison Elisabeth and Pele Vuncujovi had together created the African continent in papier maché – richly decorated in red, green and gold. In the middle of the continent a pair of black hands mysteriously stretch out, as if they were asking for something. As you stand back to look at the installation, you see a question mark circling the hands.

In the picture the artists by their work.

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>Dead Aid Debate

> Surfed into Guernica Magazine ( a wonderful web based magazine on art and politics!) and saw this interview with writer and economist Dembisa Moyo.

Moyo has recently written a book, “Dead Aid”. Her agument is that aid dependence is doing more to hurt than to help Africa. And that aid is being sustained not because there is evidence of progress, but because of the 500 000 people who work in the “aid industry”.

At the same time African governments are not taxing their people and hence people also expect little of them. Opaquness rather than transparancy, corruption rather than efficiencly describes governance in Africa.

Some people, like her teacher at Oxford and Harvard
Paul Collier, feel she is mostly correct and that her wishes of slashed aid will come true because of the current economic downturn.

Others like writer Madeleine Bunting thinks Moyo’s liberalist views are poorly underpinned and wonders what will happen to the poorest people, like the HIV infected, if aid is terminated.

The other day I met a fellow who works with the Millenium Challenge initiative to build roads and make agriculture more efficient in Ghana. A project costing USD 547 million. Some of the projcts he described, like facilitating the supply of vegetables to Accra and the harbor in Tema, is something I have never heard the Ghanaian government(s) suggest.

Then the question is why, is it because someone else is already doing it?

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>The Perfect Picture : Film Review

> So I have now been to see the wholly Ghanaian produced film, The Perfect Picture, I wrote about earlier here.

Shirley Frimpong-Mansu is the super-woman behind script, directions, casting and editing. And it was perfect! I went with my husband and some friends and we all had our laughs and loved the high audiovisual quality…as well as the story line. Three good friends – so good you wish you were one of them – are looking for love. One gets married in the opening scene, one is a man-eater and the last one says she will never marry. Here the intrigues start.

The film held a high tempo and included a entertaining and believable characters, references to daily life in Ghana “you make it sound like I could just go and pick up a baby at Koala!” (Koala supermarket being a popular supermarket in Accra) or “I’m not a fan of weddings, but you my friend make it worth every pesewa!” (pesewa being the Ghanaian equivalent to cent, penny or öre) and even a fun, feminist take on car chase.

The film also contained obvious product placements that were acceptable only because we have never seen Ghanaian ones before. For instance, one can only feel excitement when the three friends even went to see a film in the same cinema complex we were watching them in!

And then sex. Appearantly, the film set itself apart from all other Ghanaian productions EVER when it showed a kiss on the lips between the newlyweds in the first scene. After that, we got both scenes from different bedrooms (see the trailer above) as well as “sex-and-the-city”-kind of girlfriend talk on the topic. I think the Ghanaian audience was shocked at times (even though the scenes never really went beyond regular Hollywood steam) and at one point a woman sitting close to me in the dark exclaimed:

Oh, will we watch just kiss-kiss-kiss?

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>Return to Ghana

Bronx Princess Trailer from Yoni Brook on Vimeo.

So, I have been back in Ghana for a few days and already experienced horrible traffic, ants crawling on me in my bed and power black-out(s) – as well as a lovely high-life concert, seeing friends and eating a lot of sweet-tasting tropical fruit(s).

Sometimes, especially when outside of Ghana, it is difficult to believe that I acctually do live here. It is hard to explain how life in Ghana is like, it is hard to remember what the heat feels like, what it means to be a foreigner here, how much one can miss foods and items just because they are not available. How wonderful it is to greet your wide-smiling neighbor.

I got a tip today about a documentary film, The Bronx Princess, about a girl in the US who goes to see her father The Chief in Ghana over the summer after graduation. The trailers available (I posted both above) look really promising, I wish I could see it (lucky people in Sweden can see the whole documentary here).

Without even knowing what the documentary is like, I am guessing it will be hard for the Bronx Princess to choose where to live when her summer comes to an end and how to explain her time in Ghana to people who havent been here yet.

ps. I love the music sung by Akua Taylor in the trailers. Ghana’s next international star?

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>Ghanaian Comedian in Sweden

Kodjo Akolor is a rising star in Sweden, this year on radio and as a presenter in a popular TV-program. Performing in Swedish and “African English”, I really enjoyed his politically themed stand-up you can view above, making fun of African elections, Nelson Mandela(!) and Swedish problems that needs to experience Africa

“I have a job, money, food and an apartment…and it is so extremely difficult”!

Remember where you heard about him first!

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>Ghana High Quality Film Production!

> I am truly looking forward to see the film The Perfect Picture, premiering on Friday here in Accra. Correction: Premiers 3rd of April 2009.

The movie features the famous Ghanaian comedian KSM and some other faces also look vaguely familiar.

From the trailer, which you can see here, it looks like a high quality movie (!) recorded here in Ghana by Sparrow Productions (also the organizers of Miss Ghana). And it will apparantly be showing henceforth (correction: 17th of April 2009) in the new Silverbird cinema in the Accra mall (which I wrote about here).

I am surprised and happy, since I thought the film industry in Ghana had permanently settled for Nollywood-quality and distribution, which even though it can be interesting lacks the “fantasy element” of good, expensively-produced cinema. Also, the Nollywood movies – though enourmously popular – tend to paint a stereotyped picture of Africa, in my opinion. A film like this can paint that other picture of Africa that I am interested in. What do you think?

Just like for the play “Romantic Nonsense” I saw recently by Nii Commey, the topic of the film is the love lives of the “getting-married-generation” people about to turn 30, having to make some important desicions and getting to know the difficulties of first year married life.

Chale, I don’t know why, but that seems interesting to me!

Pic from the official website from the movie.

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>Book of the Month: Reading the Ceiling

> I came across an interesting-looking book in the Silverbird Bookstore in the Accra mall last week and now that I have finished it, I can wholeheartedly recommend it.

The book “Reading the Celiling” is written by the Gambian author Dayo Foster. It is Foster’s first novel, and it is an excellent first attempt, producing a lovely main character in reasoning young woman Ayodele and other believable characters like her strict mother, warm Auntie K, annoying Moira, desirable Yuan and kind priest Foday Sillah.

Her description of everyday life in West Africa is also spot on with descriptions of beach outings complete with ice-chests and bbq, a daunty rented two-room house, an altruistic choice of career in Mali and the profitable Mercedes business in the Gambia.

But it is not an “African novel” per se, it is a successful literary examination of choices we ahvein life which made me revisit some of the choices I have made thinking about their possible alternatives.

I enjoy books which take you to another world in which you look around and find the familiar faces and locations as described in the book. Crafting that kind of “real” world in a novel is likely very difficult since just a choice of a few words, saying too much or too little can distort the picture in my head.

The first few pages about Ayodele’s choice that will come to determine her life can be read here, in a website constructed for the book. The site also has more information about the young author and some extras for us who have read her book already. I say, join the club!

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>Vagina Monologues in Ghana

>Just like Nana Darkoa, I went to see the Ghanaian producation of Eve Ensler‘s play the Vagina Monologues yesterday. It is playing thios week at the Efua Sutherland Theathre at the campus of University of Ghana in the outskirts of Accra.

The famous play is basically iintroducing us to the vagina, beacuse what do we know about it? Many women have not seen their own vagina, much less appriciated it! It being played in Ghana is no coincidence. It is being played all over the world as bringing awareness to violence against women and the V-day movement.

It was a really good performance, we all had most fun when the V-word was said on stage in Twi, Ga, Ewe, Nzema…and I can reccomend it to everybody, especially women of all ages.

It runs Saturday 28 and Sunday 29, both days at 7.30 PM. The theatre is just close to the main entrance of the uni.

I liked it so much I am planning to go back on Sunday, and then I am taking my husband because I think he should see it too!

I’ll upload pics on Monday!

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>Ghanaian Beads


Glass, recycled, clay, brass, silver, ceramic

Beads in Ghana is big business. In 2007, I made a web search for “beads” and “Ghana” and got 609 000 hits, today I got 655 000 hits. My love of beads which I have written about here, here and the other week here have recently been upgraded to obsession.

Most importantly, I have joined the Ghana Beads Society which convenes the first Thursday of every month at 4.30 PM at DuBois Centre in Labone, Accra. The meetings are enthused gatherings of bead nerds as myself, mostly other (female) obrunis and some (male) Ghanaian bead traders (where are the Ghanaian women who most often wear beads?). In the beginning of each meeting, wonderful beads are being sold for bargain prices, the peak of the meeting is spent learning about beads, feeling their delicate textures, getting shocked by how difficult they are to make/bring into the country and marveling at their various colors. There is also some networking and meet and greet with the founders of the GBS and other bead experts.

I have gotten to meet with bead enthusiasts and bead entrepreneurs like Kati Torda of Suntrade and Trish Graham of Ahene Pa Nkasa. It is truly inspiring how they have rediscovered Ghanaian beads and though determination and a will to learn have upgraded the traditional bead into modern use. See for instance the lovely bead work Kati Torda did for Miss Ghana 2005 here.

And I have started thinking about setting up my own bead business. If I did, I think I would be focusing on bracelets – which I love – and “over-the-top pieces” which would be overtly elaborate combination of the West African beads I have come to enjoy so much. In a few weeks, I hope to go for a “stringing” class to learn how to successfully create jewelery with the beautifully rustic and colorful beads I have already purchased over my first two years in Ghana. Then we’ll see.

I only know, this is not the last time I write about beads.

Pic borrowed (and cropped) from Kati Torda’s photostream on Flickr.

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>Funeral Culture in Ghana

> This years BBC World Service radio play competition had one Ghanaian in the top. Benjamin Kent wrote the play “Funeral Bells” which evolves around the oh-so-common Ghanaian funeral. Loads of people, food and drinks, but often you don’t even know the deceased…

Listen to the play here.

In the pic, my mother-in-law and me at a funeral for someone I’d never met, in a village in Central region, Ghana .

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>Cinema Celebrations

> This weekend, I had the pleasure of visiting the newly opened Silverbird Cinemas in Accra. I am not the biggest fan of watching films in company of strangers, so bloggers Abena, Maya and Que beat me to it. However, not even having the option to go, makes the cinema love grow…For the longest time – probably since early 1990s when TV-sets and videotapes came to Ghana in bulk – Ghana’s capital Accra has been without a cinema. Ok, there are the dubious “video houses” where you rent a film that comes with a private room for you and your company. The one I went to last year had a sofa bed with a rubber cover, hm, wonder what goes on in there…

However, that is now in the past and Accra has now its own five screen cinema, located in the Accra Mall, a shopping complex put together by Broll Management of South Africa, according to afridigital.net. There is popcorn scent all around, red cosy chairs, people to sell tickets (GHC 10 each) and others to rip them apart and say, “welcome, there is free seating”. There is Bond and College-films, Indian Golmaal and the occasional comedy.

So now, when the sun is just too much, there is an opportunity to go into the dark, heavily air-conditioned cinema hall and be swept away. My tip is, bring a blanket and someone you can wrap your arm around. It was really very cold in there.

Pic borrowed from Abena.

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>Pop’Africana is Pan’Africana?

> Stumbled upon (whilst out walking on facebook) the new initiative Pop’Africana, an art/style mag created by some creative minds, amongst others the Editor Oroma who’s blog you can read here.

It seems like this is the time for patriotic initiatives and pan-africaism. Here in Ghana we see a lot of similar initiatives that I have written about before with magazine Canoe, T-shirt companies quoting Africans, websites with African names and content as well as flags everywhere, Ghanaian, Nigerian…Is this a trend or am I imagining it?

The interesting pic stolen from above mentioned mag.

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