The Just Read It Book Meetup played host to 5 Ghanaian Writers and 4 Nigerian Writers on the 23rd of November, at the e-Ananse Library, University of Ghana. The event which officially launched the Project Lit Community in Ghana was organized Booktique Ghana (an online bookstore) and e-Ananse in partnership with International donors such Giving Book Day and Hub City Bookshop, as well as other corporate donors.
The objective of the event was to officially launch a grass-root literary movement targeted at promoting the love of reading and providing culturally sustaining books to young adults in Ghana. Speaking at the event, the co-owner and founder of the project stated that the main goal is to empower the future generation as readers, writers and leaders as well as read, discuss and celebrate books that affirm the value of young African adults.
The Guest List
The event featured robust conversations on the books, Spoken word poetry and networking. The authors were Selassie Mensah (Ghana), social worker and writer, author of the novel Padiki, Nnamdi Oguike (Nigeria), author of the collection of short stories, Do Not Say it is not your Country and winner of the 2019Miles Morland Scholarship for Stories. Bisi Adjapon (of Nigerian and Ghanaian origins) writer, former international affairs specialist and author of the novel, Women and Frogs and Sylva Nze Ifedigbo (Nigeria) writer and Op-ed columnist, author of the novel, My Mind is no Longer Here were hosted.
The event also featured authors, Marjy Marj (Ghanaian-American), author of the novel, The Shimmigrant and Olukorede Yishau (Nigeria) journalist and author of the novel, In the Name of Our Father. ProjectLit Also featured tech in literacy by providing authors from WorldReader, a platform to discuss online publishing in Ghana.WorldReaders presented multiple Burt Award for African Literature winner in Ghana, Ruby Yayra Goka and Akua Serwaa Amankwah winner of WorldReader “Inspire Us” competition.
The audience greatly enjoyed performances from Stevie Adu-Mensah, author of It’s Cold oo, William Du Bois Yaw Sakyi Kumi a Ghanaian spoken word artist, photographer, slam poet and mixed media visual artist, popularly known as Koo Kumi and a poem titled ‘Letter to the gods delivered by Lamer the Poet.Femi Morgan, a writer and arts curator, author of Renegade wowed the audience with his bold yet beautifully articulated poems.
Salasie talked about rape and the process of forgiveness. Members of the audience spoke eloquently about the Ghanian society and the silences that it asserts to protect public exposure and family pride.
Mensah talked about bullying in his book, It is Cold O. A story about Armah, a 9 year old girl being bullied for the little grey in her hair. Mensah performs his reading of the short story. While Euphoria her childhood friend is gaining fame as a dancer she has to save herself from negatives mete on her for her hair. ‘ In Ghana, it is like a right of passage to be bullied in school, in your environment and at home ‘. Mensah said he had gone to schools to talk about the ills of bullying. ‘We need to give the children a platform to talk–we have not had a conversation with the children’. He said.
Word Reader–an app where you can read online present two authors, Amankwah, winner of the Word Reader Inspires Contest and Ruby Goka, a short story writer. Amankwah wrote the story from intergenerational points-of-view. They spoke on the reading culture, ‘When people don’t read from the beginning it becomes a chore. So it is important to get them hooked with what they are used to’.
Nnamdi Oguike draws people into his book by his camamaderie. His short story ‘Prophet’ is relatable and deep. The winner of the Miles Morland Scholarship leaves you breathless with his conversations. His book is a collection of 12stories in 10countries. ‘it is about what life does in different places but asserts the oneness of humanity. There are different places but there is only one sun that shines’
Marjy Marj, a Ghanaian-in-Diaspora who is the author of the novel, The Shimmigrant, a book about migrant life in the US urges writers to write from the readers perspective. Marjy Marj is a boisterous. Her writing style was inspired Kwame Alexander, another respected Ghanaian writer. She tackles themes like marriage, economic hardship and identity, the indebted servanthood. In conversation with Marjy Marj, Bisi Adjapon said that income inequality has also contributed to the value placed on the human being in Africa. ‘You don’t need to have being on a ship to be a slave. You could be enslaved in your own country.’
Project Lit Ghana and its donor partners gave free books to all attendees and participants. The books included international bestsellers such as The Hate you Give & On the Come up by Angie Thomas,The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Becoming by Michelle Obama, Monday is not coming by Tiffiny D. Jackson, Everything Everything by Nichola Yoon, Dear Martin by Nic Stone, Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie among others.
Engaging Bisi Adjapon’s book is a riveting engagement on sex, sexuality and a coming-of-age sexual life of a young girl. Adjapon said ‘we are quick to stick labels on people sexual preferences in recent times’. She spoke about the culture of guardedness mete on girls. Olukorede, in conversation, added that the book explores the history of Ghana and the stereotypes on the different tribes in Ghana. He said ‘we should never gloss over those sailent themes for its sexual explorations’ .
The book also bears upon prejudices even amongst Africans, in the book against Nigerians in Ghana, which led to the growing Afrophobia in certain African countries. Adjapon advocated that intermarriages between countries should be encouraged, she said ‘The farther apart the gene pool is the more intelligent you are–it had been scientifically proven’.
The border shocks between Nigeria and Ghana and the scare, and the fear that foreigners will take over are unfounded’ she said. ‘Politicians always blaming foreigners. There are the ones who use those stereotypes that we have built against ourselves to win elections and perpetuate themselves in power’ Adjapon noted.
Femi Morgan, author of Renegade, Whispers and five other books of poems, sat alongside Olukorede Yishau, author of In The Name of Our Father, and Nze Sylva Ifedigbo in a robust conversation on Nigeria’s corruption, creative process, and thematic directions.
Femi Morgan said that he is inspired by the faux a cosmopolitan nature of the cities he had lived in Nigeria and his poetry is different from his personality because he is a recluse and quiet person while his poems have been described as bold and no-holds-barred. Olokode Yishua noted that his work was written a long time and has gone through several editorial fires.
He said that the novel explores the dynamics of power between the church and the state and the extended connections of corruption and crime amongst the poor. Nze Sylvia Ifedigbo said that his novel was written in a month. He signed up with the Nanowarimo programme during his work break and had produced a first draft. His book which explores the economy of migration from within the country leveraged on the desire for young Nigerians to take flight by any means.
All three books have received critical attention in the year 2019. All three books were selected amongst the Books of the Year at the Lagos Book and Festival. ‘Renegade is currently being translated to Portuguese’ Femi Morgan said at the event.
Olokorede Yishua said that his books has found its way to research institutes, international libraries and has been explored by scholars at Masters, Bachelors and PhD levels. Nze Sylva’s book has garnered a cult following with brilliant sales rating in the year.
The event ended on a high note with pictures and book donations to the e-Ananse Libraries.
Jane Muse, reporting from Ghana