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Writing African stories, young African writers and the Baobab prize

Posted by abocco on Wed, 07/15/2009 - 09:02 GhanaThink Managing Executive

Deborah Ahenkorah sent some info about Baobab Prize 2009 out recently and it has inspired me to write about African writers and African stories. Growing up, my favorite novels to read were the JAWS (Junior African Writers Series) books as well as those from AWS (African Writers Series). I used to be really intrigued by them and this followed into my love for books like Things Fall Apart (Chinua Achebe), Half of a Yellow Sun (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie) and Our Sister Killjoy (Ama Ata Aidoo). Many of the famous African novelists are still writing but a whole new generation of writers are starting to join the gang and the Baobab Prize is encouraging that. Maybe, I'll also write a novel soon, who knows.

According to the website, "The Baobab Prize is an annual award designed to encourage the writing of African literature for young readers. It has been birthed from a recognition of the dearth of fictional African literature that focuses on the youth and encourages them to explore and develop an interest and pride in the African continent." Winners for the inaugural edition included these stories for different age-groups: Lorato and her Wire Car by Lauri Kubuitsile, Botswana; Mr. Goop by Ivor W. Hartman, Zimbabwe; Strange Visitors that took her life away by Aisha Kibwana, Kenya; and Tortoise and the Thief by Michael Anim, Ghana. This effort was started by Deborah Ahenkorah and Ramatoulaye Shagaya, with support from Bryn Mawr college, where they both went to college. It's great to see African students using available resources at their schools to augment African development in this case - African literature. The 2009 edition is due for a launch soon. Stay tuned.

Ivor Hartman is part of a group, Story Time Africa, which is also focusing on promoting African literature. They highlight different novels by different writers on their Facebook page. It's great to see Africans taking charge of promoting African arts, especially through social media. At this age, where everyone is writing a book, it's good to know African fiction writers are also stepping up their game and using all the tools available to stay alive.

Another friend, Ayesha Haruna Attah is busily promoting her first novel, Harmattan Rain, in Ghana at the moment. It's awesome to see her take on this project and it will inspire many more young Africans to try book publications. I know other young Africans are working on different novels and I will sahre info about them in the future. I haven't read the book yet but I plan to get a copy soon. Maybe I can do a review? Eventually, we'll have to make a movie from the novel, it holds true for many Hollywood movies these days. Where are the upcoming Ghanaian playwrights who will take over from Kwaku Sintim-Misa and Uncle Ebo Whyte?

Adjetey Osekre has also published an anthology called Verses for the Masses. Adjetey is an inspiration, he led me into doing more spoken word and performance poetry, an art that he championed while in Ghana after his secondary school days in Presec. Kwadwo Juantuah made a name for himself when he published an anthology of 100 poems under Mrs. Charlotte Akyeampong's guidance while at Presec and he re-published it recently in the US. The anthology is called 'Morning of Gold'. Kudos to these guys. I am yet to write even 21 good poems that are worthy of publication. I was reminiscing the other day about a couple of short stories I wrote for the Odadee Magazine. Maybe I could write a novel too :-)

Many young Ghanaians and Africans are doing big things and I salute them all. I have said I will try to promote them as much as I can at various opportunities and we shall all endeavour to do the same. Writing and telling African stories, especially with the cultural metamorphosis we are going through is one way to document our culture and pass on the present times of our nations unto future generations. A lot of our history has been documented in books, whether fact or fiction. Like we used to say in Presec Editorial board, "the pen is mightier than the sword". A lot of people are taking to blogging, heck, someone published a best-seller of blog entries. Now, that is something I can work on. Let's continue to encourage our writers to write about Africa, the issues affecting us, the topics of the day and document the stories that will define us in the old-school literature forms that will be adorn libraries all over the world in the future.