We mourn your ascension
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.
Son of Mother Africa
Father of South Africa
Conqueror of Apartheid
Your mother is proud of you
And tonight she’ll embrace you.
Nkrumah, Ghandi, Teresa,
King, Malcom, where are you?
Welcome your dear brother
With a calabash of fresh palm wine
For he has a lot to tell you folk.
Like incorrigible beggars
In the presence of plenty,
They looted and raped
And looted and killed
And looted and stole
Till they thought they
Were kings. Beggar kings.
For twenty seven years,
You were shackled
Bound by weaklings
Who’d placed their hope
In their chains and guns and dogs.
They labelled you terrorist
For they were terrified of you
Even when they called you prisoner 46664.
But with each day your mane grew back.
Your spirit stirred, patiently waiting,
Sharpening your claws on Robben’s walls
And then finally you roared.
They peed in their khakis
And dropped their cigars
As the false foundations
Of apartheid on which they’d stood
Crumbled like tired bread before their eyes.
At the mention of your name
At the smell of your presence
At the sighting of your shadow
Even before you roared, they died.
But unlike them you’re an eagle
You don’t feed on the dead
You, Gracious Spirit, are not a vulture.
After you ‘d lashed them with your kindness
After your words had punched them
In the balls and they lay wriggling like a dying snake
You stretched out your arm to them.
An arm stronger than Shaka’s spear.
You stretched out your arm to them
Even before they could beg your forgiveness
You showed them how humanity must treat humanity.
You showed freedom is worth fighting and dying for.
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela
Today, we mourn your ascension.
We pray that many more like you will come.
Rest in perfect peace, Madiba
Live on Warrior King.
Rest in perfect peace.
Copyright: Nana Kofi Acquah 06/12/2013
I am an avid follower of your blog. I like your photography but I love your words even more. Your wisdom has blessed and kept me sane on a number of occasions and right at this time in my life, I think I am cracking from all the emotional and psychological pressure I am under. I don’t want to be counted among the African or black fathers who were not there for their children so I am hanging in there but it is tough.
To put it simply, I feel used. I am married to the first girl I ever fell in love with. We attended the same school, same church and she was my world and I was hers. Even though we attended two different colleges, we managed to make time to see each other as often as we could. We didn’t have Skype and Facetime but we both did our best to stay in touch.
I love my wife deeply. Two years after we got married, we decided it was time to have kids. Today, we have four. Our oldest are identical twins and partners in crime, aged 10. Our third child is 7 and our last one, 3. I love my children. They are such a blessing.
I’m sure you’re wondering why a man who claims to love his wife and children be having problems? Well, I think I have reason to believe that my wife married me not because she was head over heels in love with me; but because she sat down and coldly made a calculated choice. I was a good choice: Responsible, healthy, God fearing, and fun.
Nana, I don’t know if I am making myself any clearer but you see, when we got married, we couldn’t take our eyes off each other. Sex was passionate and fulfilling. My wife isn’t the kind who comes up with the “I have a headache” excuses but sex, since we start having children, feels like a chore she has to perform. Something to get out of the way so she can pay attention to the more important stuff: her children.
For the past 10 years, it’s been impossible to have my wife to myself. We can plan to go to the movies or go on a vacation but the truth is, the moment we step out of the door, she gets anxious and worried about the safety of her children. We will be in the middle of a movie at the cinema and you will notice she’s lost concentration. Probably wondering if one of the kids had done their homework or taking their medicine. So yes, I have managed to have her to myself a few times but this is only in body. Her mind is always on the more important stuff: Not me.
Nana, can you relate? Do you think I should grow up and just perform my responsibilities? Am I a whiner? Are there any responsible men out there who can relate? I feel, my wife, as adorable as she is, was raised to be a super mum but a lousy wife. If I leave her, my children will never forgive me because she really is a wonderful mother to them but they have no idea how miserable I feel.
So when the children leave home and start living their own lives, will she finally make me a priority or will she turn her attention on her grand children?
For how long can I live like this? I have no intention of cheating but I feel really vulnerable when I meet ladies who seem to take a genuine interest in me. Honestly, I am not having an affair or anything. I can’t bring myself to it but don’t you think it might be better if I get a divorce but fully support her and the children? At least then, it takes away the hypocrisy. It was never me she wanted. She wanted kids and someone who will help her raise them. Now she has the kids, and I will help raise them but at least, can I get my life back?
Nana, I feel really sad sending you this email because this is the first time I have written or said anything bad about my wife. She’s a good woman; and an even better mother. Far better than the mother I had but I am hurting. I am hurting because I grew up unwanted and pretty much rejected and was hoping that in marriage, I will find someone who will genuinely love and care about me, for once. The wife I had before we had children is gone. She made me feel wanted. Today, I feel as unwanted as I used to feel in childhood. My children are really blessed with a great mum but it doesn’t make the pain of feeling unwanted any less painful.
Nana, can you help???
© Nana Kofi Acquah at 12/03/2013 09:37:00 pm
© Nana Kofi Acquah at 12/02/2013 07:34:00 pm
It is not an unusual night. Tonight is like every other night. The lazy moon didn't even show up for work and the lousy stars are shining half-heartedly on the drowsy village like they always do this time of year. Even the crickets and frogs have called the night off. Two voices slip out of the blanket of darkness and reach our distant ears.
It is a young man poking a young woman’s ribs with his sweet words, as she struggles to muffle her giggles with her palms, right behind her grandfather’s hut.
The old man is snoring violently in between his three wives, or so poor girl thinks. Soon, she will learn the walls have ears, when her grandmother grabs her by the ears and drags her to the house of the man who made her pregnant.
A game that brings children into the world cannot be called a bad game necessarily; but there are customs and traditions and homages that must be paid. You don’t just walk into someone’s compound and pluck a flower?
So, he must compensate the family for the theft. He must do the honourable. He must provide even more than the demanded bride price of six well fed cows, six pieces of original Dutch wax prints, three bottles of schnapps and one gallon of palm wine. Then all will be forgiven. The two families will be joined.
The child that is born will bear the father’s soul but will belong to the mother’s clan. It is the Akan way. The father meets with the elders of his clan and a name is conjured for this new member. If it lives beyond the seventh day, it is assumed the child has come to stay and must therefore be named; and happily welcomed.
Child! Here, when you see water, call it water. When you see salt, call it salt”. The ancient words crack through the lips of the elder as he holds the child high up in the sky for all to see.
Colonialism imposed English, French, Portuguese, Arabic and other languages and religions on Africa. New lines were drawn, territories were redefined but underneath all that elaborateness, you can see the ancient strands. These photographs are from La Cote d’Ivoire. Truth is, they might as well have come from Ghana or Togo or Benin or even Nigeria.
I believe Africa will only find itself, when we take the discourse of African Unity out of the confines of white collared conference rooms and into the farms and villages and reconnect and salvage whatever is left of what once worked.
Have a great week.
Imagine someone being gang-raped. They’ve been screaming and crying for help but no one hears. Moments before they pass out, they see their own siblings come into the room. They think “Thank God, finally help has come” but even before they finish their thought, their folk give the rapists high fives, get them out of the room and take over raping the victim even more fiercely than those who started. This is Africa now. The people with the most power to protect, care and develop this continent are turning out to be worse than the colonialists they took over from.
Being an optimistic, progressive African feels a lot like climbing a very steep mountain with bare hands and no shoes. No. Being an optimistic, progressive African feels a lot like climbing a very very steep mountain with bare hands and no shoes whilst the leaders perch at the top holding gallons of oil, pouring it on every side so you slip and fall; and they do it with so much passion, one would think it is their god-given assignment to hammer down every nail that sticks the head out. It seems to be in the interest of African leaders, that Africans don’t develop.
Fortunately, the Africa story is not one that is going to have a sad ending. This continent has survived many things, and with the help of God, it will survive these looters, whoremongers, gluttons, cannibals, thieves and robbers too. Africa’s story will end well, even though the current chapter is overly dark. I see the new African in the Fred Swanikers, Elikem Kuenyehias and Komla Dumors. I see the new African in the Bright Simmonses, Chimamanda Adichies, Ory Okollohs, Mohammed Jahs and all those young students at African Leadership Academy and Ashesi University. I see the new African on Twitter, Facebook and Google+, being the change they want to see; even though nothing seems to change like they want to see.
Recently, I had the privilege of having lunch with Ama Ata Aidoo, Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, Nii Ayi Parkes, Martin Egblewogbe, Nana Fredua Agyeman, Nana Nyarko Boateng, Nana Ayibea Clarke and Kinna Likimani. It was humbling and inspiring. That lunch, gave me enough reason to not give up, to keep hoping, to keep pressing, to keep praying, to keep dreaming until we become the Africa we ought to be.
I can still hear Ngugi’s fatherly voice as he told us, the young ones on the table: “When you close your eyes, how do you see Africa in the future? That is you. You will be responsible for that Africa”.
“You have to organise yourselves”. “ One thing I am sure of, everything in life begins small. So have big dreams but start small”.
There is so much I heard that day and hopefully I can share some more with you later but today, I want us to just remember Ngugi’s words: “Everything in life begins small”.
The future Africa I see has already began. Today, it is like a tiny seed that has dropped between the rocks. Most people will ignore it but just give it time. Gradually, it will split the huge, stubborn rocks apart, cracking through, breaking free, sprouting and rising, until finally a might tree stands, where a seed had once fallen. A mighty tree that will give shade to all of Africa's children.
Africa’s story isn’t over yet. Africa’s story will end happily.
“Marriage is what smart boys and girls stay away from at all cost… Marriage is boring… Marriage is imprisonment… Marriage is death….” You can continue the list of negative things you’ve heard about marriage here…
“Love is Death” is an expression of endearment in Akan. Paradoxical yet holds so much truth. If you’ve never felt like dying for or because of someone, you’ve never really known Love. Don’t let soap operas and love songs deceive you. Most people today, even some grown folk, don’t know Love.
The problem with not knowing Love is, you can’t tell when s/he passes by, gives you a hug, blows you a kiss, offers you a hand or even perches on your couch from morning till evening, everyday till you’re bored with them.
The problem with not knowing Love is, you can easily mistake a fat pay check, quick hot sex, expensive gifts, common interests, hobbies, attention, infatuation and generosity for it.
Love is a lot of things, yes… but one thing love is not, is sex. Sex is a sub-set of Love; and therefore doesn’t do very well on its own. It is the conversations after the orgasms, the attention… the remembering. It’s the honouring of covenant and being there to raise the children or dream together, earning your wrinkles together, greying together, finding your path together and walking it faithfully with wobbly feet and much laughter till you both drop.
I love Love. Love gives meaning to even the most mundane of things and experiences. The nicest movie is made all the more nicer when you watch it with the one person you Love the most. Love is the queen of all spices and Life’s most important ingredient.
So if you find Love, stop searching. If you’ve found Love, don’t let them go. If you haven’t found Love, remember you may be hurt a million times as you search but once you find Love, it will be a billion times worth more than every tear you ever shed.
(The photos are a celebration of the wedding of Francis and Rhoda, my favourite couple) at Kokrobite, where all the fun happens).
Yesterday, I had an exhausting, stressful flight from Yaounde-Douala-Lome-Accra on an airline that seemed more keen to help me miss my flight than catch it. I arrived and quickly bundled data on Airtel so I could go live for the BBC Focus on Africa’s 100 Women’s series, moderated by the indefatigable Ory Okolloh. As a self-declared African Male Feminist, there isn’t enough platform to share my work on women and I wasn’t going to let this one slip by. After settling into my studio and logging into Skype, the internet connection was so poor, we had to drop the interview. Even the call quality was so poor we couldn’t settle for a phone interview. How can we build a country around the poor always sacrificing for the rich?
So when you turn on the radio and you hear an old soldier and his politician cronies quoting Churchill and Lincoln and everybody unAfrican and trying to preach to you about sacrifice, you get pissed. I am pissed because the only people sacrificing in Africa are these women:
Look at this lady. She hawks bread on her head through Accra’s scotching heat but she doesn’t let that deter her. She is technologically in touch. She is politically engaged. She is business savvy. I look at this photograph of her, using her mobile phone to film a political rally and I ask myself: “Does she have a facebook account or youtube channel? Is she on twitter?” If she isn’t, it is quite obvious she will like to be… and she is the one sacrificing because in spite of the high cost of internet data, high cost of electricity and water, in spite of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly chasing her around to seize her bread and butter, she is determined to make something out of her life. She, in my opinion, is qualified to talk about sacrifice:
Now, look at these three girls and a baby. The government of Ghana just demolished the shack they live in at Old Fadama, popularly called Soddom and Gomorrah, Accra’s biggest slum. Who cares where they sleep tonight? Who cares if it rains tonight? Who cares if they get raped tonight? Who cares what happens? Who cares? But come tomorrow morning, they will find a carpenter and start rebuilding their lives again. They can talk about sacrifice.
Then there are these women in a cocoa farming village in La Cote D’Ivoire. Nestle donated a three classroom block in their village; originally intended for only the children. The community decided, since they are all uneducated, to run a system where the children go to school in the morning, the teenagers go to school in the afternoon and the adults go to school in the evening.
So they breastfeed their babies in the classroom, they have to drive some of the kids out for disrupting their class, they have to go out and change diapers, cook for husbands, return hoes and cutlasses but they always come back to finish the class and return the next day. They know about sacrifice.
You walk through Ghana; and most of Sub-Saharan Africa and almost every woman you see is a beast of burden carrying stuff on her head, carry loads where a crown should have been; and we shamelessly drive pass them in our Landcruisers and Benzes and encourage them to sacrifice some more. Sacrifice my foot!
Mauritius, to many Africans like me, was just a sugarcane country with beautiful beaches but my recent visit (I was there for African Leadership Network's Africa Awards) has been a good lesson in humility for this proud Ghanaian.
(Sega is the national dance of Mauritius. It has origins in the music of slaves on the island, and is usually sung in creole)
For the first time in my life, I was embarrassed for the country of my birth. This is not to say, I wasn’t aware all along of the many plagues that accost us. Far from that. I was embarrassed because, in the past, anytime the issue of development came up, Ghana got to be compared to our immediate neighbours; and once you do that, we are not faring badly at all.
Sometimes also, there’s the tendency to compare Ghana to the US and the UK and we would immediately point out how old those countries are, compared to our meagre 1957 date of birth. I was a proud Ghanaian with lots of excuses that made me comfortable but Mauritius knocked them all out without a blink; and I felt naked and humiliated. Please, if you don’t know much about Mauritius, I will encourage you to do some reading.
I have finally come to the conclusion that Ghana; and pretty much most of Africa, is where it is because we don’t have enough people who really care enough. I have observed that in my immediate circle of friends and acquaintances, we complain about electricity when OUR lights go off, we complain about water when OUR taps don’t flow, we complain of the health care when we or someone we love is sick but as long as we are not immediately affected by the social problems around us, we don’t care. I believe this lack of interest in the bigger picture, the communal, is our country and continent’s biggest handicap.
In fact, one of the nicknames of Ghana’s late president JE Atta-Mills, was “dzi wo fie asem”, which simply means “mind your own business”. That sounds like good advise till you realise that you indirectly smoke what your neighbour smokes, and drunk drivers don’t often die alone, they take a lot of innocent souls who are minding their own business along with them. No culture, or people or person is really an island.
When Africans, especially the empowered, the elected, the educated, start caring enough, this continent will finally break free from the shackles of oppression, poverty, hunger and death that hold us. This continent has been exploited by others long enough. The least we can do for her as her children, is to care, provide and protect her but we are turning out to be worse than the colonialists and imperialists we so often accuse.
I dream of the day when the African will refuse to drive a certain kind of car because their conscience won’t allow them to park a car worth $250,000 or even $50,000 by a rubbish dump or throw a lavish banquet when the children of their employees go to bed hungry.
I dream of the day when our politicians will stop flaunting their Armani suits, Tag Heuer spectacles, rolex watches and fully equipped Toyota Land Cruisers, whilst they convince teachers and doctors that the country is broke so they can’t get a raise.
We must rise above the level where the only thing honourable about the people we call “honourables” is the labels on their backs, the size of their bank account and how beautiful their young wives and lovers are and not the fulfilment of their assignments.
I implore every African leader to visit Mauritius and learn what good leadership can do for a people, even if all they ever had was terrible bouts of slavery, sugarcane and beautiful beaches. We have no more excuses.
I picked up the call to hear Akua's warm voice. Not as warm as on normal days, but warm enough to assure me that not all is lost. Who in town didn't know about Efo Kofi's unfortunate end in Kenya?
We talked like old friends always do; and after we caught up on everything that needed catching up on, she let me know her reason for calling: This photo of Efo Awoonor, which I took at her wedding ceremony, was so loved by the Professor that he'd had it printed large and framed in his house. She also let me know that one of his final wishes was that it will be his official photograph when he joins the ancestors.
It was a humbling call. I have had the privilege of photographing some of the icons of our nation. I wasn't born in Nkrumah's days but at least, I took what as far as I know, is the last real portrait of Kofi Ghanaba, the Divine Drummer, Professor Joe Nkrumah and my portrait of Ama Ata Aidoo (our sweet mum) graces the cover of the book that celebrates her 70th birthday.
On the fateful day that I made Efo Kofi's photograph, he specifically requested that I make a portrait of him. He liked how he looked, and he was in his elements... so full of life and humour. I did a candid, not a real portrait but I hear he loved it all the same.
And the more I look at this photograph, the more I realise why he chose it to be the photograph he's remembered by. It is not a victim I see in that photograph, I see a strong, fulfilled voice, who speaks strongly, even in death.
Efo Kofi, our father and poet is gone
Forcefully ushered into yonder life
By brutal beasts breast-fed on bile
And hopes for virgin-infested harems
Efo Awoonor is gone home
Taken out on a foreign land
By cowards and imbeciles
Who will never know what
It feels like to have a brain
Efo, damirifa due.
Due. Due. Due
(In the picture, Kofi Awoonor (right), sits with Kofi Anyidoho (left) at a family event.)
For the past 3 days, I have been trying to upload a beautifully designed wedding book to blurb.com for printing. These are the hurdles I am dealing with now:
First of all Blurb doesn’t ship to Ghana. In fact, you can’t pay them from Ghana. In fact, Ghana is not even on their list of countries. As far as they are concerned Ghana doesn’t exist. Period.
I know these are the times when you want to scream at the West and their racist ways blah blah blah and totally ignore the fact that Ghana, Nigeria and a few other countries are labelled high risk countries because of how tolerant we’ve been of those 419/ Sakawa boys and girls. It sucks when you are not the one doing the s#iting but the smell still ends up in your nose.
I wish the above was the biggest of my hurdles. It isn’t. I have spent a total of 6 hours over two days in the Vodafone Cafes in Cantonment and Osu. One would think I was uploading data on a 128kb network. My files are still sitting on my desk. I feel robbed but who do I complain to? What difference will it make?
We live in a country where you can buy 3.5gb of data on any of the networks, download a movie that’s 700mb in size and be told your balance is 268mb. Where else in the world do businesses get away with such fraud and incompetence at the same time? My experiences here are not limited to Vodafone. I have bundled data on MTN, Vodafone, Glo and Airtel and my experiences are not far from each other.
I believe consumers like me are fed the rubbish we are fed because the people with the power to correct things are choking on some good meat. They are eating fat and juicy frogs at my expense… and that is Africa’s only problem.
Ours is a culture where the people we appoint, elect or nominate to seek our interest, go and seek only their interest. It is why African countries end up with presidents who are richer than their countries, even though they came into power poor. It is the reason why Nigeria and Angola can run out of fuel, and their citizens queue at filling stations or are left stranded on the roads. It is the reason why almost every young, ambitious university student wants to become a career politician. They’ve seen their seniors develop pot bellies by the minute.
Yesterday, Apple released iOS7. Samsung will react soon. Everybody is seriously making headway in this new world whilst we still dance by the fireside and tell Ananse stories, play ludo and go chasing small small girls. And then we cover all our crap up with nice suits, over-starched boubous and plenty of bad English and French. Nonsense.
© Nana Kofi Acquah at 9/20/2013 08:05:00 am
It was inspiring to be saturated in such a creative environment. These Accra dot Alt guys are really making us proud. If Chale Wote continues in the direction it's on, it will become a festival people fly in from all over the world to witness or participate in.
It was nice seeing Amfo Connolly and his team make a classic African studio in front of "Deo Gratias Studio".
I've read a lot about angels but never thought I'd run into one till yesterday.
The masqueraders were cool to see again. They've become every bit a part of Ghanaian culture.
PS23? Is that PLAY STATION 23 OR PSALM 23? And whichever one you call that, it works for me. Why? I will answer that at another time.
It was also nice to see the Ussher Fort, formerly used as a Female Prison being redefined through Art. Incarceration is a terrible thing and not an experience any human deserves.
One of these kids threw a stone that unfortunately landed on the head of some poor dude and it would have been great if professional help had been seconds away; and considering that a lot of the young guys pull off stunts that are actually extremely dangerous,
I think it will be wise if Accra dot Alt teams up with the Ghana Red Cross or any organisation that can provide a standby medical emergency team.
I have been seeing this guy and his friends on the high street for years, and yesterday I discovered they were attached to a shrine in Chorkor. They are all obviously gay and seeing them performing traditional rituals yesterday got me wondering if there is a particular shrine in Chorkor that only has gay priests? It will be nice to get some answers.
The festival can only get better from here. Kudos to the guys who pulled it off, the artists who performed and everybody who went to see it. According to this poster it is on today too. Unfortunately, I cannot be there because I am on my way to Mali. Thanks for reading and see you soon :).