Posted: January 30, 2014 in Essays
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Photo credit :  http://www.ghanabusinessnews.com

The ‘’Danger of the Single Story’’, a 2009 TED talk by the award-winning Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has fast become a reference point. Long before that, Adichie’s mentor Chinua Achibe in an interview with the Paris Review in 1994 (The Art of Fiction, No.139) had recounted an African proverb that has since become popular -‘’until the lions have their own historians, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.’’ They both sought to relay the importance of narratives told in the two sides of a coin. It is interesting but to have two icons from different generations talk about the same issue perhaps shows the utter importance of getting our own people to tell our stories. Historically, Ghana has always been a force in African writing.  Writers like Kofi Awoonor, Kofi Anyidoho, Ama Ataa Aidoo, Kwesi Brew, Cameron Duodu, Atukwei Okai, Gladys Casely Hayford, Ayi Kwei Armah, Kwame Dawes and Nii Ayikwei Parkes have grandly laid Ghana’s name in gold on the map of writing.

 But as always, a nation’s greatness is not measured by the past or the present but the future. The turn of the millennium has brought a renewed interest in African literature. In the last decade, we have seen amazing talents like Zimbabwe’s Noviolet Bulawayo, Nigeria’s Teju Cole, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Kenya’s Binyavanga Wainaina and the likes. What has accompanied this interest is the growth of local publishing houses. In a recent tweet, Binyayanga Wainaiana spoke of how Kwani? (a publishing firm he founded) is bringing  back the excitement that greeted the African Writers’ Series in the 1960s in Kenya. Some African writers in the diaspora have found a way of having their works published by local publishers in their home countries. This has not only given the authors large audience but has also made world-class books available on the local market at a cheaper cost. Some publishers even hold exclusive worldwide rights to some of these works. The home writer, on the other hand, benefits from this growth.

In a sharp contrast to what is happening in Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria, Zimbabwe and Uganda, Ghana’s literary output is slipping further and farther away in flames. The Ghanaian publisher has not been able to compete during this period. The focus of the Ghanaian publisher is still on producing educational textbooks which seemingly are more profitable. Sadly, most of Ghana’s best writers of this generation live on the internet- blogging and putting their works on social media with the hope of at least getting some readers. The more persistent ones opt for self-publishing. It has become a common practice for young writers to put their works on Amazon with the hope of raising some money so they can print locally. Unfortunately, in most cases, the force of economics decides otherwise.  

It does not matter what path of publishing that one chooses in Ghana. One will come to appreciate that the high cost of printing is a put-off.  This is one of the factors that make businessmen-publishers see this as no venture. Coupled with the increasing shutdown of bookstores, the businessman-publisher has no option but to pursue what will be profitable.

This Ghanaian odyssey is a complex paradox knitted in a way that will take a complete synergistic effort aimed at reversal by all stakeholders. In this state, I speak of the great Ghanaian talents that world has not seen yet. I speak of Jonathan Dotse whose imaginations paint the future in astonishing awe. He writes science fiction. I speak of Jesse Jojo Johnson whose mythopoeic, adventure and high fantasy pieces evoke a feel of classical European literature. I speak of Amma Konadu whose depth of interrogation of contemporary romance is an admiration. I speak of Aisha Nelson whose weave of contemporary psychology questions the Ghanaian. I speak of the many folks who are waiting for a take-off.   

We need to bring back the columns that encouraged writing and talked about books. We need to bring back Okyeame, the literary magazine that excited many talents. We need to bring back Talents For Tomorrow that blessed this nation with amazing talents. We need to bring back By The Fireside, Fun World and the others  that stirred our talents up when we were children. We need to bring back the editors of newspapers who were not only interested in the news but also books. We need to bring back the Valco Short Story Contest. We need to be Ghana again. We need to bring back out made us who we were. We need to tell our story again.

E.C. Osondu wrote about a group of children in a refugee camp in his 2009 Caine Prize winning piece, Waiting. They lived everyday expecting that someone would come for them. They waited   for food and water in queues, chasing trucks and fighting one another for what would keep them sustained to see yet another  day  of troubles.   Their hope was that some photographer would come and take pictures of them so that the Red Cross would send it abroad. Maybe, someone would come for them. And so they waited. . .  Like, Osondu’s plot, the writers of this generation are waiting for that glimpse of hope. I guess it is more about social suicide more than anything else.

 Above all, I pray for a day a kid  can dream of becoming writer in Ghana without worrying about the bills.


  1. Simply put we need action than words. We need men to work and not direct. we need funds and not promises. we need commitment and not sweet talks. we need togetherness and not factions. Ghanaian writing is suddenly alive thanks to social media but what we need is old and the new to work together


  2. Alfred says:

    A thought provoking piece by all standards. The problem of our dwindling literary fortunes, I believe is as a result of the low readership base. The Ghanaian simply stopped reading, probably because of our econonic woes. Who reads when there is work to be done? However, your piece should be looked at from the top, where most decisions are made. The budding African writer needs resources to be able to make impact, but until then, the stories will be on our minds and probably die when the writer dies


  3. Wonderful!

    I agree with Nana Ofosu Agyemang too;
    “we need committment, not sweet talks;
    we need togetherness, not factions.”

    And the cherry on top of this fantastic cake is A.C.T.I.O.N


  4. Hope we get things done, soon. You’re on point.


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