Posted in Uncategorized on February 5, 2012 by elisabethefuasutherland

Chronicles of Harriet

State of Black Sci-Fi 2012:
Why it is important to show race, culture and ethnicity in Speculative Fiction

In this blog, I will be addressing authors and soon – to – be authors directly, however, as readers of Black Sci-Fi, it is good to learn the creative process, so as to become more savvy readers, better able to discern good literature from not so good – thus saving yourself valuable time and money.

How different is your speculative fiction world from the present-day “real” world?
The closer your world is to the present, “real” world, the more you can rely on the reader to make correct assumptions about racial, cultural and ethnic identity in your novel. The less it is like the present world, the less you can rely on the reader to make correct assumptions; you will have to do more work to situate the reader’s experience in this…

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An Interesting Find

Posted in Uncategorized on October 6, 2011 by elisabethefuasutherland

http://bikelordz.com/

A documentary on BMX trick riders in our very own Accra. Watch the trailer on their website.

Flashback to Spring

Posted in Uncategorized on June 20, 2011 by elisabethefuasutherland

Simon and I rehearsing the futterwacken for our masquerade scene as Beatrice & Benedick In Much Ado

Excerpts from My Summer Journal

Posted in Uncategorized on June 19, 2011 by elisabethefuasutherland

What the title said 🙂

First day of work, finally. Seattle Storefronts still hasn’t assigned YSW space so we are having our first rehearsal in Lincoln Park, West Seattle, about an hour from where I am staying on Capitol Hill. I took about three hours to get here, because I took about three wrong buses and ended up getting a lift from a nice man named Michael who happened to know the program. I have to send him an email to tell him when we open.

When I finally arrive, the group is scattered about a shaded meadow in twos and threes, reading aloud from giant Complete Works. I recognize the Arden text that Darren uses for the First Year group. These are mostly Second or Third year students, mulling over the old English in the grass with their scene partners. I meet Meme, an enthusiastic looking college freshman with curly hair and sunglasses and the other intern.

I notice that Darren is a little disorganized, but he waves it off before I say anything, explaining: it helps the kids with a sense of responsibility; they know if they don’t get it done, nobody will… it’s a collective thing to get the work done. He leans back into the duo he is listening to, “be flexible and don’t get married to one particular reading”, “feel the burn before you react”, “make sure to react”. The familiar language diminishes my disorientation. I settle into the ground, open up my paperback copy of Much Ado, and listen.

 

It comforts me so much to know that he has done this a million times and still has no idea what’s going on.

 

We have a venue of sorts now. Cornish College of the Arts. It seems very much like what I am dreaming of, and when I walked in for the first time (this sounds ridiculous but it did happen) my heart skipped a beat. My heart literally skipped a beat. All arts and no liberal. Places like this survive, even in corners of the American Northwest. I am not completely crazy.

 

The middle bit drags. I have now watched Beatrice and Benedick more times than I care to count and as I slowly and unwillingly memorize their lines as they dialogue in loops, I realize how much this is annoying me. And that I wouldn’t mind doing it every day for the rest of my life.

 

It is three weeks until Much Ado opens in Volunteer Park. We have not yet done a full run, although one was scheduled for today, due to the fact that people are still in school, having finals and graduating. Some of the kids are off-book but many of them still have scripts in-hand and everyone once in a short while calls out, “line!” Meme, the other intern, missed the 9.40 ferry from Vashon and so I am left here, sitting on the steps just inside the Lenora Street entrance as Darren explains what needs to be caught up and done in preparation for First Year. Next week, he is going on a camping trip with his daughter, leaving Meme and myself in charge of rehearsals. Try to work small, he says. I totally agree.

The first scene up is the pre-wedding scene with Hero, Beatrice, Margaret and Ursula.  “We’re still inventing,” is what Darren says to questions about blocking. This Hero hasn’t worked the scene before. They play around with different configurations of chairs. Darren has dragged in about six wooden chairs with a very odd folding mechanism, which he says was patented pre-1900. They eventually settle in a perpendicular line, and a wooden coat hanger is added to the ensemble.

I read in Benedick for the wedding scene. It is the first time so many cast members have read through a scene, and it goes smoother than expected, with Meme and myself jumping in as Leonato and Benedick. We skip the Beatrice and Benedick bit, having practiced it to death during the week, and after wards I am left to direct Don John and Borachio, who has been cast as a girl.

I suddenly became very comfortable, maybe it’s the first one-on-one I’ve had, maybe because it’s a girl and a pretty girly guy, maybe because they are actually listening to me, but I slipped on my director’s shoes. I grabbed a chair, remembering what Amy had told the Greencastle team about getting lower than the kids, and sat with it facing backwards, adding some informality. They read through, relaxed, the most tension-free I had had anyone, Tova was on her feet, almost dancing, Stefan was loose although he held some of the awkwardness natural to him in his body. Stefan got up to work with Pedro and Claudio on the deception scene and Tova and I are left. She is only partly memorized and so we run lines until Charlie walks in, a girl doubling as Hero and Conrade. We run the drunk scene, and again I am sitting on the ground as they caper around, acting intoxicated, and again the strange thing happens. They stop when asked, listen when I speak, glow at my compliments, work at my suggestions. And they keep their energy high. I am awed and humbled.

You No Sabi?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on April 11, 2011 by elisabethefuasutherland

I stumbled across an interesting post by Kobby Graham a couple of days ago: “Lying to Ourselves in Someone Else’s Language”. He speaks about the glorious phenomenon that is pidgin English and how it has grown and flourished over the years because we as a people have OWNED it. He also juxtaposes this to the Queen’s English as it is taught in schools. English can be a beautiful language, it’s constructs and cadences fascinate me but it can also be tedious and stiff if taught so, as it is in many a Ghanaian school. There is no flexibility in the language used back home, no room for experimentation, for novelties.

What struck me though, out of Graham’s post was a quote from Nii Ayikwey Parkes, writing for the June 2010 edition of DUST magazine, which if you don’t know, you should check out, but the quote was:

“People [should] stop apologizing for who we are and start to write language the way we speak it…”

Graham states:
“Why do you think our English plays, television programmes and adverts sound so forced… so fake… so pretentious? They rarely reflect the way we really speak, much less how we feel, what we think or what is going on in our life and times.”

Now I am guilty of this forced, fake, pretentiousness too; I have many a time tried to write a scene or a short story telling a Ghanaian story without using the language. It doesn’t even have to be straight pidgin, but we all know there is a very Ghanaian way of setting things out in a sentence, and I realized that I needed to write how we speak and not worry about trifles like grammar and “correct” sentence construction.

We must tell our own stories, and the only way to do that without whittling ourselves down to it is to use our words and our language, whether it be pidgin or Ghanaian English.

Just a couple thoughts.

Read the full post by Kobby Graham at
http://kobigraham.wordpress.com/2011/04/11/lying-to-ourselves-in-someone-elses-language/

Study Break

Posted in Uncategorized on April 8, 2011 by elisabethefuasutherland

Well, now I really haven’t posted in a while 🙂

As you might have guessed, school has managed to kept me wrapt in angst as we approach the final six or so weeks of class. I am caught up in work for class as well as the spring concert of a world dance group I am involved, and on top of all that, my latest project: summer arts classes for high-school aged kids in Accra, Ghana.

But I’m taking a mini-vacation from all that for a second or two…

Going back to my obsession with stories, like that old saying: until the lions get an historian, tales of the hunt will always glorify the hunter. Who better to instill the values of chronicling in than our young ones? Who better to learn our history, and write it down, and keep it in minds and hearts? Yes, we ourselves, this current generation are largely ignorant of our history before the arrival of the Portuguese and the intricacies of the cultures of our own highly individual tribes. We have lost so much and we continue to lose because we are not telling our stories, we are not writing them down or preserving them in forms that can be looked back upon. What we have are shades of a Western fallacy which we parade as “entertainment”.

I want our children to learn to tell real stories. Their stories.

I laugh when I hear people complain about how Ghanaian music or movies never win awards. Why do you think that is? Think about that for a little, will you?

Just a couple of late-night randoms brought on by my blanking on a paper.

Back to work.

Multicultural

Posted in Uncategorized on August 18, 2010 by elisabethefuasutherland

Multicultural

A quick apology, I haven’t posted in a while since I have been busy with all sorts of fun stuff, including the aforementioned costume designs for a holocaust memoir which has been rewarding but trying, to say the least. But don’t let me bore you with details of my personal life, on we go.

Ghana is an ethnically and thus culturally diverse country, and most Ghanaians usually identify with their tribe and hometown before their country, although there is also a pretty strong sense of national identity in West Africa and the wider world. When I speak about culture, I speak of both the national identity of Ghanaian and the internal identity of being Fanti or Ewe or Asante or Ga and how the population (especially the metropolitan population) has adapted to and assimilated all the different cultures it is made of. Ghana has also had foreign influences for a pretty long time, and these influences have also made their mark on the society and helped shape it into what it is today. The country is truly, in many ways, a melting pot.

Where am I going with this? I do feel like this diversity is not represented in our films and our stories, especially the English-speaking movies. In my opinion, various tribal identities and cultural values should be asserted in movies to not only give a more realistic picture of everyday life but also to educate younger people and foreigners who do not know as much about Ghana as Ghanaians. In doing this, a writer and director must be careful to be respectful of each tribe, because a badly written script could promote elitism among tribes and cause unnecessary tension. In comedy, good-natured fun can be poked, but even if the point is to be shocking, the director must exercise caution. We are a good-natured people but we can take offense easily.

It is quite possible to include Westerners, Asians, Middle Easterners and other Africans who have been assimilated into our culture in our stories; the trap most filmmakers and storytellers fall into is relying on the identity of these “foreigners” as foreign as a form of appeal, and not as having been assimilated into Ghanaian society and culture. One thing that annoys me sometimes is seeing white girls used in local music videos, especially poor quality ones, as if the presence of an “obroni” will somehow make the video better. At the end of the day, all the artist winds up with is a bad video with bad dancing (for they often can’t dance) and nothing to show for it. The increased fame of Majid Michel who has Lebanese heritage has less to do with his acting skills and more with the color of his skin (but we shall delve into the subject of acting on a later date). Shoot me but fair-skinned actors and actresses have about triple the chance of success. Case in point: Nadia Buari. Then again, these are personal opinions.

What I would like, is for these people to be represented in a way that educates the public about their heritage: the heritage of the Lebanese people in Ghana, the heritage of Ghanaian Indians, Ghanaian Filipinos etc. When did they get here? How did they establish and maintain such a strong presence? How are they different? How have they become the same?  Think about it, how much do you know about the history of the Lebanese in Ghana? Any other major non-European group?

It is my dream that we learn to explore and celebrate our diversity in our stories.