Fathers & Daughters – An Anthology of Exploration

Njabulo Ndebele once famously called for ‘The Rediscovery of the Ordinary’. In African Studies, events within civic and public spheres have so dominated the field that it has almost been impossible to define the ordinary in any other way outside the public sphere.

The African family has thus been assimilated to the discourse of the public and the domain of intimacy and privacy has been rendered non-existent. Given the notorious reputation that African men have of being patriarchal and often not paying serious attention to their female offspring, the subject of African men’s attitudes to their daughters has also not had any attention in the field. It has also been a challenge to discover what women think of their African fathers.

By combining essays from women about their African fathers and vice versa, this Anthology will not only provide a significant set of insights into the relationship between fathers and daughters but will also explore the gap in the perception of African fatherhood.

Contributors include prominent African scholars, writers and critics such as F. Abiola Irele, Simon Gikandi, Tejumola Olaniyan, Anthonia Kalu, Harry Garuba, Leila Aboulela, Paul Zeleza, Helon Habila, Abena Busia, Véronique Tadjo, Obiageli Okigbo, Zina Saro-Wiwa, Ama de-Graft Aikins, Sarah Ladipo Manyika, Catt Thomas, Izundu Uchenna et al.

Key Selling Points
• Ato Quayson is a respected and celebrated academic with a huge body of publications on the theoretical and practical aspects of African literature and culture in postcolonial studies internationally.
• The complexity of the relationships explored in this collection will help generate an abiding interest in this subject and encourage further forays into what is a fascinating yet completely unexamined area of African life.
• This book will challenge the way Africa is perceived from ‘within’ and ‘without’ by opening new avenues for debate and debunk the myth of Africa as a patriarchal haven with the insinuation that African men pay little attention to the upbringing of their female offspring.
• This first volume will contribute valuable insights to the debate on courses in social anthropology, sociology and cultural studies in schools, colleges and universities internationally.

Mr Happy And The Hammer Of God & Other Stories

Dear All,

I thought I should share with you my impressions of a young Ghanaian writer, Martin Egblewogbe, whose short story collection — Mr Happy and the Hammer of God — I have just finished reading. Epithets like “fresh”, “imaginative” and “exciting” are often marshalled to introduce new writers, but in the case of Mr Egblewogbe I think a set of strong superlatives are in order; extraordinary, excellent, and experimentally innovative barely capture my sense of what I have read. The short stories each conceal an enigma, sometimes of a profound existential kind, and at others merely due to some form of bafflement on the part of the protagonist of the story. Thus, after every story you are required to pause in reflection. This also means the stories are best savoured slowly and one by one. The influence of master spinners of narrative enigmas such as Kafka and Beckett are well in evidence in the collection. What is perhaps most interesting about Mr Happy and the Hammer of God is that Mr Egblewogbe has devised a clever way of telling the stories so to betray only minimal geographical or and other locational markers. There is just one story that can readily be shown to be set in Accra. This form of placelessness thus gives the stories a universal appeal.

My favourite? Hard to choose, but the one that made me laugh the most (yes, he also happens to have a wry sense of humour) was titled “Down Wind” and is basically about a man having to shelter from the pouring rain inside of a phone booth. To while away the time, he uses a phone card to begin phoning people he knows, apparently at random. There are three problems that become readily evident as the story unfold: first is that the previous occupant of the phone booth happened to have filled the booth with “noisome effluvia from his nether end” (what us ordinary mortals simply call a fart!) and so he is trapped with the terrible smell inside. The second problem is that he has an excruciating and inexplicable pain in his legs for which he seeks sympathy from the Doctor, who is the first person he calls. Third, and perhaps most worryingly, is that one of the people he speaks to tells him he has been accused of a heinous crime and that this is to be found on the noticeboard with the glass case. Try as he might, he cannot fathom what crime it is he has committed and so spends some more time phoning other people and try to get them to tell him what is on the accusatory noticeboard. This ends in failure. The story ends up being a parable about extreme loneliness, and we find eventually that it is not just he that is lonely, but all the other people he has just spoken to. Another one, “Small Changes Within the Dynamic” is about a man, who having caught his wife blatantly sleeping with another man on his own bed, begins a tortured disquisition with himself about how he is going to kill her. I will not spoil it for you by telling you how the story ends. Brilliant.

Please note that I write this without any personal knowledge of Mr Martin Egblewogbe and also from the professional perspective of someone who has taught literature for many many years and is always on the lookout for great books to read and to teach. I strongly urge you all on this list to get hold of a copy of the book. We may well be bearing witness to a major voice not just in Ghanaian literature, but in African and world literature as well. Watch that space.


ps: The book is published in the UK by Ayebia publishers, but copies can be found in all the major bookshops in Accra.
pps: Mr Egblewogbe is a lecturer in the Department of Physics at the University of Ghana.

Ato Quayson, FGA
Professor of English and Director
Center for Diaspora and Transnational Studies
Editor, The Cambridge History of Postcolonial Literature (2 volumes)
Martin Egblewogbe was born in Ghana in 1975. He has a BSc and M. Phil in Physics and is currently working on his Ph.D at the University of Ghana, Legon where he is a lecturer in the Department of Physics. He enjoys writing short stories and poetry in his spare time and has contributed to several anthologies. He also currently hosts the radio show “Writers Project” on CitiFM in Accra, Ghana where he lives with his wife and daughter.

Bu Me Be: Proverbs of the Akans

Bu Me Be: Proverbs of the Akans is the most extensive bi-lingual Twi Proverbs Dictionary published since JG Christaller’s A Collection of 3600 Twi Proverbs (1879). Kwame Anthony Appiah’s Introduction demonstrates how these proverbs can be interpreted within the tested and contested theories of meaning and literary production to show how they compare with philosophical musings from ancient Greece to England. To understand these proverbs, one needs to understand the culture from which they come. The matrilineal culture traces the familial lineage from the mother’s side hence the Akan saying that; ‘a child may resemble the father, but he has a family’ – the family being a reference to one’s mother and others within the mother’s bloodline.

This is invaluable. Our languages cannot grow as literary languages unless we also develop tools that will enable their effective use. Our languages must be in dialogue with not only the languages of Europe but also those of Africa and Asia. This dictionary is an important step in that direction.

Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Director, International Centre for Writing and Translation, University of California.

If language is a window to reality, then Appiah’s Bu Me Be may be justly described as an opening to an entire universe. This collection will be useful not only for linguists, but for anyone that takes Akan culture seriously, from anthropologists to historians, to cultural critics and even to modern-day product advertisers. It is a veritable treasure trove.

Ato Quayson, Director, Centre for Diaspora & Transnational Studies, University of Toronto.

An invaluable collection of some 7000 proverbs that speak to the depth and nuance of Akan and Asante life, thought, belief and social organisation.

Emmanuel Kwaku Acheampong, Professor of History and of African and African American Studies, Harvard University.

Key Selling Points
The bi-lingual arrangement makes this dictionary unique and user-friendly to non-Akan speakers. A specialist African language text that will be of interest to academics and students on African history and language courses.
An informed collection of over 7000 proverbs published over a century after Christaller’s book of 3600 proverbs was first published.
Appiah’s Introduction contextualises the nuanced meaning of the proverbs to reveal the wit and wisdom of the Akan language and how it compares with other world languages.