Stories…

In my first post, I talked a little about storytellers who tell stories that are not their own, but this is not the entire problem. There is also a problem with storytellers who do not share their own stories.

The average Ghanaian is a very private individual. We as a people tend not to share details of our private lives, in fact, avoid this as tenaciously as possible. People who can write also tend to keep their work to themselves and close friends/family, probably because of a fear of exposing inner thoughts and emotions to outsiders. We love to play the blame game and gossip about an ‘other’, the government, politics. There are those things that are ‘safe’ to talk about, the problems that everybody has, the ‘normal’ things, problems with ECG, NPP or NDC all the three letter acronyms we use in our everyday life. Also, the arts have never had the best reputation as a “serious” area according to most Ghanaian parents. The image of the starving artist has very much been propagated in Ghanaian society by the cautious parent who wants their ward to go into more “reputable” professions: medicine, law, accounting.

You cannot be a good writer without exposing yourself or your values; good writing requires vulnerability, and in my opinion, this is why most Ghanaian mainstream works are dry and generic. Ghanaian writers are not prepared to invest themselves in their books. This is also probably why there are more textbooks, guidebooks and how-to’s than there are actual novels. Even memoirs or biographies are very specific about what is in included in order to preserve as much of the person’s personal life as possible. I am not saying that one should divulge every itty bitty detail, but there is a need to invest some of one’s self into a work.

There is a separate issue with the film industry stealing the storylines of Western works or reproducing inane screenplays, and being over-celebrated for this, a la Shirley Frempong-Manso. Strides have been made in the Ghanaian industry with regards to picture quality and directing but stories remain fundamentally surface-level. We seem to have lost the depth and cultural values evident in much older movies, such as is evident in the work of Kwaw Ansah and older TV series (shows).  The movies being produced now, particularly the English-speaking ones, have a distinct lack of character, following after the international (Hollywood) scene’s gravitation towards stories that require minimal thought to process.

It is my dream that Ghanaian storytellers will begin to tell their own stories instead of copying the international trend.

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11 Responses to “Stories…”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    I sing of a well is a pretty good movie, though. There are some quite good movies out now

  2. Anonymous Says:

    I think there is a lot of copying of Western films, that is true but we should be less hard on people who are making an effort to improve the industry.

  3. Selasi Ewurabena Ahema Tsegh Says:

    I agree with you completely and i think in our family we can start that sort of revolution in writing because quite a number of us have inherited from Nana Efua the gift of writing. Its high time Ghanaians stopped pretending and face the world, themselves and better yet their writing head on

  4. amonoo1 Says:

    I like this. I am thrilled by the way you “haul” the mediocre anchor of GH writers. Frankly dem dey bore. listen to a couple of hiplife tunes…in fact all hiplife tunes…say the same thing (it isn’t as if they are saying any deep thing too). anyway I am not about to waste my words on a people who have decided to perpetuate this shallow circuitous mentality. I am pro-politics though. Imma ransack all ’em shallow politics from the motherland. Keep the the lead thinning and the sheets rolling!

  5. Excellent post. The bit about the “starving artist” stereotype- very true. Looking forward to reading more of these 🙂

  6. Matekwor Says:

    I have wondered what exactly was celebrated in the “improved” movies of today and as I did so, I thought it may be an encouragement for higher standards to be set. It is so sad, I have to laugh because we are still marking time.
    In speaking about writers fearing to invest more of themselves, it is also crucial to note that in Ghana especially, we do not always have a very welcoming audience. It is already almost a shame to chose a career in the arts, and then to share intimate details of your life (failures included of course) empowers the lips of others to include you in the “others” that are talked about…

  7. The problem is that African contemporary art was ambushed by the global media just as it was taking its first steps. Relatively speaking we started late and have been trapped in a vicious cycle of being overshadowed by other cultures even as they continue to consolidate in strength and influence.

    We now have the platform of the internet to level the playing field but it will only take drastic changes in style to get our writing up to a globally competitive level. Our writers must gain faith in their own creative potential or they will never stray from the bland formulas they now rely on for an income.

  8. Selassi Says:

    “You cannot be a good writer without exposing yourself or your values; good writing requires vulnerability…”

    Made me think about a quote I’ve kept along the way, not exactly to the theme of Ghanaian writers but…

    “Writing is a process, a journey into memory and the soul. Why do I write about certain themes and certain characters only? Because they are a part of my life, part of myself, they are aspects of me that I need to explore and understand”. Isabel Alllende

  9. I totally agree with you about the copying of western storylines for gh movies, of late most of the movies being produced just don’t make any sense to me. And the bit about ghanaian parents looking down on the talent of art. Just sad. But over all this is a good piece, keep it up.

  10. Thank you….I think our movies should reflect us(who we were, are and will be,possibly), our culture and values…great post bella

  11. Susubiribi Says:

    A well thoughtful post. I’d like to add that the culture of nurturing writing skills, to enable a person put thoughts together in words that capture exactly what their imaginiation is, is grossly lacking. I believe everybody has a story to share. Unfortunatley, telling a story in a captivating manner that hold your listener ‘ears bound’ and merely having one are two different things. Until we master this art very well, there would be huge loopholes in our stories, even when we retell already told stories … i mean copy, copy!!

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