Accra: An Outsider’s Brief Perspective

 

 

I’ll call him Nana, which may or may not be his name. We see him at a library where I also bump into my friend, Gail. My Ghanaian writer friends, led by Nii Ayikwei Parkes, have decided, in a short space of time, to do a tribute public reading and discussion for the late Nobel Laureate, Toni Morrison. Later, Nana will do an article about the event. He will mention the black women lawyers who turned up to form part of the event – indeed, his headline will mention them. He will talk about the library event. What he will not do is give the due credit to the Ghanaian writers who organised the event. Perhaps Nana, like many of my fellow Africans, values whatever comes from outside more than what comes from within. –

It is a narrative which a writer or any artist in any African country is familiar with. Readers in Nigeria show me more love than many more deserving Nigerian writers because of ethnic affiliations or some other biases, while musicians from Tanzania will get more love in Kenya than Kenyans. That writer who penned the gospel words of prophets not being welcome in their own towns was on to something.

READ MORE: James Barnor: ‘I’m finally getting recognition’

At Chale Wote street festival, I meet two visual artist friends from Cameroon and South Africa. They have some prime exhibition space in the festival space. Granted, the space has to be paid for, and my Cameroonian and my South African friends most likely got funding for their exhibitions – funding from the two countries that Ghanaian artists could not access. It’s no less painful to see that Ghanaians are exhibiting on the street in small spaces at a festival in their own country. Despite the conditions of the exhibitions from the locals, an artwork speaks to me enough that I wish I could have it. The Ghanaian cedi is the third strongest currency on the continent so I can only look enviously but I am later surprised by writer Bisi Adjapon when she delivers the artwork to me as a present. It’s a beautiful gift – and one that would likely have cost much more if it had had its rightful pride of place in prime exhibition space.

When I next meet Nana, it’s at a live reggae session at Jamrock in East Legon. The event happens every Friday and Saturday and focuses on classic reggae. Co-owned by a Ghanaian woman and her Jamaican husband, aside from reggae, Jamrock treats you to a Jamaica-meets-Ghana cuisine that blends in nicely with the setting. I call him out on his article. Nii organised it. ‘How did you write an article which doesn’t even mention him?’ Nana is apologetic. I am not sure, though, whether I have shamed him enough to get him to buy copies of the books of the writers he disrespected in his article. I know for certain, art journalist though he is, he has not engaged with his writers’ works, that’s why he couldn’t give them the necessary respect.

There is a certain freedom to being here that I don’t find at home, I think. Or perhaps I, a South African in Ghana, see the same freedom here that Esi, my Ghanaian friend in Johannesburg, sees in South Africa.

Perhaps freedom is overstating it. Maybe we see possibilities in each other’s countries that we don’t see in our own. In certain income brackets, we are treated with the kindness and welcoming attitude that people in our own homes do not treat us with. And so we are surprised at the constant dissatisfaction that our friends from countries we have visited have with their lot. What’s there not to like? Your country is wonderful. Everyone was so welcoming. So friendly. So loving. I want to go back as soon as I can.

It’s not a new revelation yet it’s a revelation I wish I didn’t have to realise all the time. But perhaps if more Nanas showed an acknowledgement and an appreciation for my tribes people and I all over the continent with the same gusto as they do whoever comes from beyond, we may be in for something good. 

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.


Zukiswa Wanner
Zukiswa Wanner
Zukiswa Wanner (born 1976) is a South African journalist and novelist, born in Zambia and now based in Kenya. Since 2006, when she published her first book, her novels have been shortlisted for awards including the South African Literary Awards (SALA) and the Commonwealth Writers' Prize.
Advertising

ConCourt settles the law on the public protector and interim...

The Constitutional Court said it welcomed robust debate but criticised the populist rhetoric in the battle between Busisiwe Mkhwebane and Minister Pravin Gordhan

Small towns not ready for level 3

Officials in Beaufort West, which is on a route that links the Cape with the rest of the country, are worried relaxed lockdown regulations mean residents are now at risk of contracting Covid-19
Advertising

Press Releases

Covid-19 and Back to School Webinar

If our educators can take care of themselves, they can take care of the children they teach

5G technology is the future

Besides a healthcare problem Covid-19 is also a data issue and 5G technology, with its lightning speed, can help to curb its spread

JTI off to court for tobacco ban: Government not listening to industry or consumers

The tobacco ban places 109 000 jobs and 179 000 wholesalers and retailers at risk — including the livelihood of emerging farmers

Holistic Financial Planning for Professionals Webinar

Our lives are constantly in flux, so it makes sense that your financial planning must be reviewed frequently — preferably on an annual basis

Undeterred by Covid-19 pandemic, China and Africa hold hands, building a community of a shared future for mankind

It is clear that building a community with a shared future for all mankind has become a more pressing task than ever before

Wills, Estate Administration and Succession Planning Webinar

Capital Legacy has had no slowdown in lockdown regarding turnaround with clients, in storing or retrieving wills and in answering their questions

Call for Expression of Interest: Training supply and needs assessment to support the energy transition in South Africa

GIZ invites eligible and professional companies with local presence in South Africa to participate in this tender to support the energy transition

Obituary: Mohammed Tikly

His legacy will live on in the vision he shared for a brighter more socially just future, in which racism and discrimination are things of the past

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday