Archive for novels

Stories…

Posted in Ghana, Of Stories And Their Telling with tags , , , , , , on May 21, 2010 by elisabethefuasutherland

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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