Welcome back to part 3 – the final installment of the series: GH at 60 | Our Writers & Their Books.
As a person of Ghanaian heritage, I enjoy discovering new Ghanaian writers and learning about our pioneer writers. Being a lover of African literature and literature of the diaspora, I find that Ghanaian authors and their work aren’t as popular as Kenyan, South African, Nigerian or Zimbabwean literature.
GH at 60 | Our Writers & Their Books is a series that highlights and celebrates various Ghanaian writers and their work. If we don’t celebrate our own, who will? I hope your TBR lists grow once you take the time to appreciate these writers and their work through the series. This is the final installment of the 3-part series and it’s NOT exhaustive by any means. The list is arranged in alphabetical order, of last names.
Note: Images were taken from Goodreads and the respective writers’ websites.
Ama Ata Aidoo
Prof. Ama Ata Aidoo is one of Africa’s foremost woman writers. She’s a feminist, poet, academic, playwright and novelist with many notable works under her belt! Her first play – The Dilemma of a Ghost was published back in 1966 and her debut novel – Our Sister Killjoy was published back in 1977. Aidoo received the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best Book (Africa) for her novel entitled Changes in 1992 and she’s the author of many more poetry collections, short stories collections and plays. Her works highlight women experiences like gender and power dynamics, Western influences on African women and women protagonists defying stereotypical gender roles in family and society. On March 16th of this year, the The African University College for Communication named its new creative writing center after this phenomenal woman- Ama Ata Aidoo Center for Creative Writing.
Prof. Kofi Anyidoho is a prominent Ghanaian poet, literary scholar, cultural activist and educator. He’s published 5 collections of poetry and some of these collections are accompanied with audio of the poems in Ewe – his native language. Anyidoho has won many awards for his poetry like the BBC Arts and Africa Poetry Award, Davidson Nicol prize, the Langston Hughes award, Valco Fund Literary Award among others!
Ayi Kwei Armah
Ayi Kwei Armah is a highly acclaimed Ghanaian novelist, poet and pan-African. Armah’s work is known to critically examine moral integrity that exists between the past and present, with poetic energy. He’s best known for his debut novel – The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born which was published in 1968 as well as the epic historical novel – Two Thousand Seasons (published in 1973) which received mixed reviews and actually received harsh criticism from Chinua Achebe back in 1987. Last year I attended a talk that featured Ayi Kwei Armah and Ayesha Harruna Attah (who was featured in part 2 of this series) and he discussed his latest projects in hieroglyphics.
Kofi Awoonor was a phenomenal poet, literary critic and professor of comparative literature. He is the author of novels, plays, political essays, literary criticism, and several volumes of poetry like Rediscovery and Other Poems (1964), Night of My Blood (1971), The House By the Sea (1978), The Promise of Hope: New and Selected Poems (2014) just to name a few. Awoonor made it a point to bring his Ewe culture and ancestry as well as contemporary religious symbolism to depict Africa during the era of decolonization into his poems and other works. Awoonor passed away in the Westgate shopping mall attack in Kenya back in September 2013, but we (Ghanaians and other fans of his work) always make it a point to celebrate him and his great legacy during his birthday. This year on March 13th (his birthday) the hashtag – #Awoonor82 was dedicated to honoring the legend, who would have been 82 years old this year.
Joe de Graft
Joe de Graft was a well-known Ghanaian writer, poet playwright and educator. He’s best known for his play Sons and Daughters (1979) which encourages the youth to follow their dreams. He uses the play to inform Ghanaian youth that careers in medicine, business and law aren’t the only careers that lead to success and inspires them to find interest in the arts like music, dance, writing etc. De Graft is also known for his works Beneath the Jazz and Brass (1975) and Muntu (1977) and Through A Film Darkly (1979). He left a legacy with the launch of the Mfantsipim School (his alma mater) Drama festival.
Yaa Gyasi is a Ghanaian-American novelist who’s debut – Homegoing, has been receiving well-deserved praise ever since it was published last year. I absolutely loved Homegoing and I explain why in a personal book review I posted last year. But we’re still waiting for Yaa Gyasi to grace Accra with her presence ohhh! Hopefully she’ll plan a trip soon, so that Ghanaians can engage with her and her book at a reading.
Kojo Laing is a poet, novelist and educator. Laing is the author of the novels Search Sweet Country (1986), Women of the Aeroplanes (1988), Major Gentl and the Achimota Wars (1992), Big Bishop Roko and the Altar Gangsters (2006) and the poetry collection Godhorse (1989). His poetry addresses the themes of identity and alienation while his novels combine magical realism with political commentary. Some readers have described his debut – Search Sweet Country as reading a dream with intense vivid imagery and humanization of inanimate objects. Laing’s work is an absorbing experience I hope to encounter soon when I indulge in his debut.
Prof. Atukwei Okai is a prolific poet, cultural activist and academic with many accomplished works and honors. Some of his works include: Flowerfall (1969), Oath Of The Fontomfrom and Other Poems (1971), Lorgorligi: Logarithms and Other Poems (1974), Freedom Symphony: Selected and New Love Poems (2008), Mandela the Spear and Other Poems (2013) as well as children’s books like – The Anthill In the Sea: Verses and chants for children (1988), amongst others!
Taiye Selasi is a writer and photographer of Ghanaian and Nigerian descent who popularized the term Afropolitan, thanks to her 2005 (controversial) essay – Bye-Bye, Babar. Selasi’s writing explores our relationships to our multiple identities – intersectionalities, if you will. She’s most popular for her debut novel – Ghana Must Go (2013). I particularly enjoyed her TEDGlobal talk (2014): Don’t ask where I’m from, ask where I’m a local.
Efua Sutherland was a phenomenal Ghanaian writer, dramatist, teacher, scholar and cultural activist. For about 40 years, she was in the forefront of literary and theatrical movements in Ghana (from the 1950’s) and was a key player in pushing African performance to the university level. She was instrumental in founding various literary establishments like Ghana Society of Writers, the literary magazine Okyeame, the Ghana Drama Studio and the W.E.B. Du Bois Memorial Center for Pan African Culture (which is still in great shape in Cantonments, Accra). She’s well known for her works: Foriwa (1962), Edufa (1967), and The Marriage of Anansewa (1975). Find out more about Sutherland at the Mmofra Foundation – where children and culture connect, for which she is the founder.
Below are some HONORARY MENTIONS comprising of both budding and established writers of Ghanaian descent who you should definitely keep an eye out for. Click on their names to check out their writing portfolios, publications and/or websites:
- Other non-fiction writers: Koffi Addo, Baffour Agyeman-Duah, Ivor Agyeman-Duah, Sylvia Arthur, Prof. Kari Darko, Jerome Kuseh, Kwame Nkrumah (duh!), Derek Owusu.
- Other fiction writers: Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenya, Marcelle Mateki Akita, Akotowaa (spoken word), Afia Atakora, Roseanne Brown, Mabel Dove Danquah, Emmanuella Dekonor, Ekow Eshun, Debbie Frempong, Zoë Gadegbeku, Liz Johnson, N. Maria Kwami, Peggy Oppong, Kobina Sekyi, Ayo Tamakloe-Garr.
- Other YA writers: Nana Yaa Amankwa, Kwabena Ankomah-Kwakye, Adwoa Badoe, Elizabeth-Irene Baitie, Manu Herbstein, CNN Lokko.
- Other poets: Hakeem Adam, Nana Nyarko Boateng, Nana Karikari Prempeh, Poetra Asantewa, Akosua Atuah, Maame Blue, Abena P. A Busia, Nana Fredua-Agyeman, Sutra, Eli Tetteh.
- Other culture writers/essayists: Alisha Acquaye (via Catapult, Elle, Resist & xoJane); Zeba Blay (via The Huffington Post & xoJane); Anakwa Dwamena (via Africa Is A Country).
The end of March is finally here, so the Ghana at 60| Our Writers & Their Books series has come to an end. A TOTAL of 75 Ghanaian writers (including honorary mentions) have been highlighted, as well as some of their work. It has been a pleasure sharing with the world our accomplished Ghanaians writers.
Food for thought: While I feel much pride in highlighting our Ghanaian writers, I also worry that most Ghanaians will never get the chance to read some of these authors’ work. Books by writers of African descent are pretty scarce here in Accra – several titles are either not sold in bookstores or they are super expensive so the average Ghanaian can’t afford them. Readers living abroad can get easy access to all of the works mentioned in this series, thanks to various online bookstores and several well stocked bookstores with African/Black fiction. But how about readers living in Ghana? How can works by Ghanaian writers be accessible to everyone and at affordable prices?
With the plethora of Ghanaian writers and books highlighted in this series, there is no excuse if anyone claims they don’t know (m)any writers from Ghana! I’d love to know who I missed (there are many more writers out there!) – kindly share other writers in the comments. And be sure to share this loaded resource with others, so they can indulge in Ghanaian literature as well.