Arts & Culture

The PAWA of Africa’s literati

The PAWA of Africa’s literati
  • PublishedDecember 9, 2014

Q: Let us talk on what made you what you are today – your poetry. Many of your fans say reading your poems is like living a real story told by a master storyteller. What is the trick?

The trick is simply that an artist must first question why he wants to become an artist. That is fundamental. Artists are crucial to a people’s recollection of themselves. They are the custodians of a people’s collective memories. In the Soviet Union, the poets declaimed their poems. I thought, hey look, we also do the same in Africa. Our Griots and praise singers perform exactly the same roles. Then it clicked. People can be so in love with literature. For example, there was a time in the 60s, when thousands of people in Moscow filled a stadium for 4 hours, in the freezing cold listening to poetry recited by the hugely popular and revolutionary young poets, Yevgenyiy Yevtushenko and Andrei Voznessenky.

I am a great admirer of Kwame Nkrumah. I am astounded by his elaborate vision for Ghana, for Africa. Nkrumah believed that black people were capable of taking care of their own affairs. That lit a fire in me. My burning ambition was to do for African literature and for poetry, what the Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah, did in the African realm of politics. I wanted to demystify poetry and make it accessible to the common people. I knew it was a monumental task I had set for myself but I set my sights on achieving it.

Q: You also have a collection of childrens’ poems, why the interest in children?

My interest was kindled when my wife, Beatrice, and I went to look for books for our children and we couldn’t find any written by a Ghanaian or African for African children. All we saw were foreign books written for children in other climes. I recognised this is an opportunity and a challenge! I said: You are a writer, do something about the gap. That was how it started and so far, I have published three volumes of verses and chants for children: “The Anthill in the Sea”, “A Slim Queen in a Palanquin” and “A Pawpaw on a Mango Tree”.

Q: What advice do you have for those of us with unwritten stories in our skulls?

Read, read and read. Then start to write your own story. As a beginner don’t worry too much about structures, plots or suchlike. Just put to paper the ideas that flow into your head. First, write the stories in their raw state; then let other writers or the editor guide you, putting them into shape. This practice becomes essential to the process, which becomes a habit, then a lifestyle; and finally your blueprint.

Written By
Femi Akomolafe

Femi Akomolafe, a noted Pan-Africanist, columnist for the Ghana’s Daily Dispatch, Modernghana.com, and regular contributor to the New African magazine, has published two books on the continent.

1 Commentaire

  • It is very interesting indeed to read the story of professor Atukwei Okai. His road to greatness in African literature is really rocky, but that’s how it is of all great people. His contribution towards the formation of PAWA is highly appreciated. His call on re education of our minds with to reading habits needs a very positive response for the better future of African literature. Let us give him a pat on the back for his remarkable contribution to African literature.

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