Category Archives: GH2013

Introducing: Noella Wiyaala. You May Thank Me Now!

The year was 1988. It was a hot day. I know this because we weren’t in the rainy season, and all days outside of the rainy season in Ghana have one temperature: hot.

There we stood; a ragtag mix of children with short-cropped hair, brown and beige uniforms and shoes shined with that wonderful black polish my father kept in his room and that I sniffed in secret pleasure when he was away. He had angrily forbid me from doing this when he walked in on me with my nose buried in the tin. I didn’t understand his ire then, but I do now. How was I to know I was getting high? If he had just told me I was taking myself down the path of becoming a crack head, perhaps I would have stopped. Or perhaps not. That polish DID cause such a calming rush within me…

What was I talking about? Oh yes. The choir.

Perhaps this was only something that was done in my Christ-centered primary school, but there was a fair amount of fakery that took place within its walls. For ages we had a “basketball court” with neither balls nor nets, a “soccer patch” with no grass or goals, and now we had a “school choir” with no real singers. There was an important visitor coming from abroad who was touring our facility, and we were tasked with entertaining them.

I forget the name of my teacher at that time, but by day he was our Technical Drawing teacher and – apparently – a chorus conductor by night. I remember when he selected me to be a part of the small “choir” he’d cobbled together.

“But, sir,” I protested, “I can’t sing.”

“It doesn’t matter,” he said sternly. He then told me I would sing soprano.

Anyone who’s ever heard my speaking voice knows how absurd this notion is. I have always had a deep voice, and it’s only gotten deeper in adulthood. I wanted to sing tenor, but he forbade it. He instructed me and all the other girls (for ALL girls are sopranos in Ghana’s primary school system) to sing like this. “This” was a horrid imitation of the mewing of a sack full of dying kittens. He demonstrated how he expected us to belt out the words to the hymns approved by our school’s Director. Mr. Technical Drawing waved his pencil (he didn’t have a baton) and sang our phrase with the pitch of a man having the juice squeezed from his balls.

It was awful, but come presentation day, the honored guest clapped her hands in delight and it all seemed worth it.

This is the sort of training female singers in Ghana receive. As a result, we have a bunch of “artistes” who do not sing within their natural range and produce really awful music. We pretend we like it, they keep performing, and society suffers. becca-jesusWith the exception of Becca, Efya and Sena Dagadu, I can’t conceive of a single Ghanaian female artist whom I’d pay money to see, let alone buy an album from. That’s why I’m so blood excited to have been introduced to Noella Wiyaala.



Just look at her. Isn’t she stunning?


Her voice, her look, her vibe…it’s all so very refreshing. Everything about her is a departure from the cookie-cutter commercial mold that many Ghanaian women in the music industry try to force themselves into. Just like an alto trying to sing soprano, it just doesn’t work.

I only found out about Wiyaala a week ago via Anita Erskine’s Facebook page. Her story is truly intriguing, and I mean that in every 80’s feel good rise-to-the-top-from-nothing reference possible. She comes from the Upper West region of Ghana, a part of the country which is renowned for its natural splendor, but still mired in abject poverty and social amenities circa 1772.

As legend has it, she asked her mother to allow her to sing in front of a local bar in Tamale where she did so well that a crowd began to gather and give her mother money. Add a trip to the big city, a promoter, a little sprinkle of the internet and the rest is history! If this doesn’t have the makings of a Crush Groove: GH edition, I don’t know what does.

Wiyaala’s latest hit single is an anthem for the Black Stars in commemoration for the upcoming World Cup in Brazil. It has all the trappings of the success Shakira enjoyed with Waka Waka: This is Africa. Everything about Wiyaala’s performance of Go Go Black Stars…Goal! is right for the moment. Her look is modern and unique. The track has that thumping quality requisite for an anthem. And that voice! Good heavens.

Have you watched the video? Great. You may thank me now. J

So, What do you think of Wiyaala? Have any stars or causes risen to fame in association with football? (Or soccer for us Yanks) For example, I just learned about the #ProtectTheGoal Campaign that was trending on Twitter recently. It’s a cause to fight HIV/AIDS. Go ahead: Share and Discuss! ↓

Why Camps and Cons Are Oh-So Thrilling

Don’t misread what I’m saying oo! I’m not talking about Concentration Camps and Con men. I feel like I have to clarify this at the onset because I have an (unjust!) reputation for being a cynic. No, Random Readers and MOM Squad, I am referring to something far more pleasant and saccharine than bullets and barbed wire.

In ancient days, there were always feasts and festivals over the course of the year. Have you ever noticed that? The Greeks would get naked and gather for the Olympics, the Jews would have their Feasts of First Fruits and Unleavened Bread, Ghanaians had (and still have) Aboakyer


blogideasBecause it is important to gather with your tribe – with people with whom you share common interests, goals and passions. Remember in the Bible when Elijah thought he was all alone in his dedication? God quickly checked him and thundered from the heavens:

“Look here, fool! I gots 7,000 prophets who ain’t bowed their knee to Ba’al!”

Yes. Those were the Almighty’s exact words, and if there had been a YahwehCon, perhaps Elijah wouldn’t have felt so alone. That was just poor planning on his part. 7001 and one prophets? Now there’s a party!

When you do something unique and out of the ordinary in the physical space that you occupy, it’s easy to be lulled into the belief that you’re all alone. That’s why camps and cons are so vital, in my view. Space and tech camps for kids, SXSW for geeks who love music, and Comic-Con (and its Southern younger brother, DragonCon) are gatherings and feasts of our modern age. They bring you, the isolated weirdo in your village, to a realm where you can congregate with like spirits. You feed off their energy and they nourish themselves off yours. And you know what? People at Cons and Camps are usually the nicest folks you’ll ever meet, because it’s in that environment that they can take off their masks and be themselves.

That’s why it’s KILLING me that I will not be a BlogCamp14 in Accra this year!


Even as I type, the tweets and live feeds from people converging on the city are charged with expectation. One user said he didn’t know why he was so excited to be going. I refrained from pointing out the obvious: That’s it’s going to be freaking AWESOME, that’s why you’re knickers all on in a twist, my brother.

auditFirst of all, the event is at the Kofi Anan Center for Excellence. Second of all, there’s free Wifi – which is pretty much an anomaly in Ghana. And third – just wait for it – there’s free coffee All. Day. Long. Java fuels a blogger’s loins and fingertips. (FYI: Authors drink tea. They are in it the writing process for the long haul. That much caffeine would cause a pulmonary aneurism.)


BlogCamp is the brainchild of Kajsa Hallbert Adu who is supported by an excellent cast of executives who have re-injected enthusiasm into the world of the digital arts. All forms of social media and the content produced therein are given equal attention at BlogCamp. Photography, Vine videos, Keek, Twitter content and the Grand Mammy-of-it-all, the traditional 500 – 1000 word blog are discussed, work shopped and honored at the end of the night.

Lawd, I wish I could be there. All those laptops and smartphones and cameras… I can hear it now:

“Chaley, my phone died! Any plug in this place??”

“Herhhh…I left my power chord. Can you believe it? What? I can use yours? Thank you!”

“Of course I’ll take a selfie with you!”

“Yo. Is that Kobby Graham? Oh no, I won’t ask him for a selfie. I’ll just take a stealthie…” *Click!*


I could waffle on, but you get the point. And besides, I have to shut down and prepare for an 8 hour drive to Ohio to pick up the kids.

Oh! Some of you on this end of the pond have asked if Mind Of Malaka won. It is with some angst that I must report that MOM did not make the shortlist for the awards, but that’s okay! It was great to be a finalist. That you Allison, MX5, Sister Deborah, Ms. Davis, Swaykidd and Alex in Wonderland for your votes and to everyone else who voted for MOM secretly. You guys are the best audience I could hope for and make every keystroke worth the while.

What is your tribe? Are you a Trekkie who is fluent in Java as well as Klingon? Or perhaps high fantasy is more of your thing? Perhaps you’re more into Steam Punk? What Cons and Camps have you been to or would most enjoy attending? Discuss! ↓


The Trouble With ‘An African City’

an-african-city-cast-620x400There is a new web series online called ‘An African City’, and if you have any device imbued with magical internet powers and any connection to Ghana in any way, chances are you’ve heard of it. Created by Nicole Amarteifio (whom I’ve had the pleasure of meeting once at a bazaar), the show styles itself after ‘Sex and the City’ and seeks to tackle some of the same or similar subjects in an African context; or at least that’s my assumption.

I was going to write this post 2 weeks ago, but I decided against it because I didn’t want to go on a rant about something another woman’s art. It would be better to let it be, I figured. But then the BBC came a-knocking (for my BFFFL. I was second pick) and I said some things and shared some thoughts on air that I should thought I should probably clarify on my own e-space.

By and large, people do like the show…but this is probably going to be the only place where you hear/see that there are people who DON’T. Until the third and latest episode, I was certainly among that number, and it pained me in a way I had never previously experienced.

I heard that the series was coming out two weeks before it aired and when D-Day arrived, I greedily clicked play and watched the first episode. Minute by minute I become more and more disturbed by the subject matter and the interactions between the main characters and the supporting cast, that supporting cast being Accra in total.

There is a very real phenomenon of separatism in Accra society that has existed since the 80’s. Ghanaian society, like many West African nations is separated by class rather than by race, and within each class there exist peculiar subsets. One of these is the Returnee – or Been To – subset. These are small, insular groups who spend half the day, every day, complaining (in part) about how poorly Ghana is wrong, how they have to yell and spit and be cruel to get their way, and cannot abide by the reality that *gasp* water can/does go off on a regular basis. They treat the locals as though they are inept and beneath contempt. These are precisely the type of people I try to avoid whenever I am in Accra…and now they were on my iPhone!

I was crushed. I desperately wanted to love the show, and I didn’t.

What was I to do? I asked for reactions from a few of my closest friends: women who are in the entertainment arena, who have returned to Ghana and/or have strong connections with Ghana via heritage. They shared my disquiet.

“Okay…is this show taking itself seriously, or are they parodying Sex in the City?” asked Ama*.

“It’s taking itself seriously,” I replied. “It’s not a parody.”

“Then I cannot condone it,” she said, her voice getting more and more shrill. “This is exactly the type of behavior that was such blight on our culture in the 80’s and 90’s. I couldn’t get past the first five minutes for all the caricatures and stereotypes of a Returnee.”

She talked for another 35 minutes and came to the conclusion that she would never watch the show again.

I asked Milicent* her thoughts and she was just as critical. She lives and works in Accra and has chosen never to live abroad.

“It was just too much Ghana bashing at the onset. It rubbed me the wrong way from the beginning,” she replied. “You know, I was sharing my thoughts about it to one of my guy friends who is connected to the show, and he dismissively suggested that the only reason I didn’t like it is because I was the type of Ghanaian who only enjoys watching ‘Concert Party’.”

To put it in context, saying one was the type of Ghanaian who only liked ‘Concert Party’ is akin to saying one was the type of Black American who is only sophisticated enough to enjoy watching ‘Good Times’.

I asked another friend whose opinion I value tremendously hoping she would tell me I was overreacting. She told me I was spot on, as far as she was concerned.

“Some of the situations are just not realistic,” she added. She referred to a scene in the restaurant where are the women were dining. “For instance, the entire table would not go silent if you took something with your left hand. Furthermore, if you were raised by proper Ghanaian parents, this is something they would have taught you anyway.”

That scene in particular really bugged me. I suppose it’s because I identify more with the waiter than I did with the 5 women sitting down to eat. Whenever I dine in Accra, my thoughts often turn to how these people make ends meet on tips and poor wages, how they cannot perform their duties because management doesn’t always provide the items listed on the menu and how flustered they often become in the face of abrochi privilege. I feel like the writers could have afforded these people a bit more dignity. I also think they could have tackled the enduring subject of erratic electricity and water with a bit more wit instead of engendering a complete bitch-fest.

Don’t get me wrong: there is plenty to love about the show if you look for it. The fashion is fantastic, it is well produced and a number of the actresses hit it out of the park with their craft. And of course, it gives many women in the Diaspora something to look forward to watching on the weekends. I don’t believe for one moment that the show’s creator meant to condescend to Ghanaian plebian society, but the privilege of those with power and access is that they have permission to condescend and dismiss, even if it’s unconsciously, and will be forgiven for it…usually. This is why those of us with power, privilege and access must use it responsibly.

So what’s the trouble with ‘An African City’? Like any media phenomenon, not everyone can universally agree to love it…which is a good problem to have. It gets people talking, and talk turns into publicity and publicity turns into dollars. I pledged to keep watching the show for three episodes before writing it off, and I’m pleased to say that by the third webisode entitled ‘An African Dump’, it had begun to redeem itself. You all know how much I love toilet humor.

What do you think of the show? Are you in the love it, hate it, or couldn’t care less camp? Do you think I’ve been unfair in my analysis – or am I right as usual? :) Discuss!

What Does ‘Independence’ Mean For You?

Ghana is 57 today. Wow. The gravity of that statement really just struck me. Fifty-seven years old as a sovereign nation…

I wonder if Kwame Nkrumah, Ebo Taylor and my sainted grandmother imagined on that glorious Independence Eve that Ghana would look as she does today fifty-seven years on. Most likely not. I shall never forget my grandmother sitting in her courtyard on a stool, spitting and muttering that Ghanaian life was “much better under colonial rule.”

“You could go to town and get a job just like that!”

Then she finished feeling her cassava and set about pounding her fufu.

Today, African twitter will filled with messages about Ghana’s independence. Most of them will be negative. We will gripe about waste, water shortage, dumsor-dumsor (power outages) and the disobedient cedi that refuses to rise. Other’s still will throw an obligatory ‘Happy Independence Day’ on the status line of their Facebook wall and continue with the day. Between the griping and the compulsory well wishes, would it be possible to spend some time thinking about what our independence means to us?

Sure, Ghana is a mess, but it’s a beautiful mess. It’s OUR mess: Ours to own and ours to clean up. Being independent means that we do not have to look to outside forces to save us from ourselves. The Big 6 and the thousands of unnamed and unsung heroes and heroines in the fight for freedom from colonial rule did their part individually to prove that we are a nation that can conduct its own affairs. We are a sovereign nation. We owe our allegiances to God, our country, each other and no one else!

Would we really trade our freedom for running water and constant electricity? It’s easy for me to ask that question from where I sit in comfort in the Diaspora, isn’t it? To be honest, I don’t struggle with half of the ailments that afflict the ordinary Ghanaian. The currency I deal with is stable. My kids eat 3 meals a day with snacks in between. The roads I drive on are safe and well maintained. Still, I don’t think any of these physical comforts would ever comfort me in the event that I found myself subject to foreign rule. The knowledge that I am allowed to enjoy certain liberties but still be considered a less than free is unfathomable.

We have an incredible opportunity to begin to learn some form of patriotism and pride for our country. My generation was never taught civics, patriotism or any sort of history about Ghana unless it was in relation to someone else’s. Thankfully, these attitudes and trends have changed recently. We are seeing more and more young entrepreneurs turn their focus on Ghana’s problems and try to figure out creative ways to solve them. The generation that were the immediate beneficiaries of our Independence Dream turned reality are partnering with us too. You see these partnerships in several facets, including the arts, science and business. Ambolley, the Simigwahene of 1960’s fame (and beyond) has recently done collaborations with Sway and several other current hip-life artists; Dr. Yaba Blay consistently and doggedly engages young female writers, guiding them on how to hone their thoughts and their craft; and Patrick Awuah built and implemented a university and new way for the young Ghanaian to think about and engage their society. This is what independence is! That we are free to think, believe and choose how to live our best lives under our own terms. Ghana is FREE forever!

(Unless you’re a criminal.)

ghPerhaps we might spend this day being grateful for the gift and opportunity we have been given. It has not escaped any of us that our government is a failed one. We can wait for them to get on board with innovative ideas, or do what every other individual in any progressive independent society has done to date: band together and fix our problems ourselves. And when election time comes, vote on ideas; not on party and tribal lines. This is what a responsible citizen of a free nation does. We have the resources, and Heaven knows we have the education. Let’s spend this 57th year continuing the good work that has been executed, and destroy practices that have failed us thus far.

Long live Ghana!


What does independence mean for you? Does it mean greater dependency on the government? Do private citizens have a duty to their nation, or only to their families and themselves? How does the concept of independence play out where YOU live? Discuss!

The ‘Price’ of Panty Theft

They never shoulda gave you Negroes malls OR independence!

They never shoulda gave you Negroes malls OR independence!

Are you all fired up? Good. Then we can begin.

A story that is quickly eclipsing all others in Ghanaian news this week centers around three girls, a few bagful’s of panties, and human rights abuse in Ghana. The “facts” have been hard to decipher, since everyone with a smart device or PC has managed to put their own spin on it, but what is clear is that there was a theft and public humiliation afterward.

When I first got wind of this video, it was accompanied by a message that Ghana police were stretching their powers in making the three young women (allegedly Legon University students) crawl on all fours from Shoprite to the exit doors of the mall. As it turns out, neither Ghana police nor Shoprite had anything to do with the incident: it was the management and security personnel from Mr. Price, the South Africa based retail company that are the orchestrators of this miscarriage of justice.

The incident has truly knocked at the conscience of thinking Ghanaian society, particularly those who identify as ‘middle class’. If this sort of treatment can be meted out at an establishment like the Accra Mall – the symbol of upwardly mobile society and pulse of the city – then one has to wonder if any of us is safe in any establishment.

Thieves are routinely abused in Africa. That’s always been the case. I was seven when I saw my first mob attack. A young boy – he may have been 16 – had stolen a shirt that was hanging on a drying line. I was living with my grandmother in some flats at Asylum Down. In the midst of the caked, black earth, a throng of people came out of nowhere after the boy had been caught. They hurled insults at him, bloodied his face, kicked and beat him until a tall man in blue rescued him and locked him up in a ‘volcanizer’ shop. I don’t know what happened to him afterward, but that vision stuck with me. My cousin said he got off easy.

“In Teshie, we burn thieves with car tires,” she said simply. She was 10 years old. Burning people for theft was normal.

People are deeply polarized when it comes to how these girls were treated. Some say they got exactly what they deserved. Others say they even got off way to easily. Others still are appalled. I say we should all be disconcerted, and for good reason. There is no doubt that what these young women did was wrong. They cannot be excused for stealing. However, because anyone who has ever owned a business or baked a biscuit knows that people DO steal, we set programs and policies in place to cover that vice. That’s why retail store have loss prevention departments.

What Actually Happened

Unaware that there are security cameras all over the store, the girls were captured in the act, marched up to the front registers, and made to pay for their items. There are reports that they were made to kneel on the floor of the store premises before made to crawl out of the store by mall security. They were then jeered at and taunted by the (overwhelmingly male) crowd. The whole affair is sickening, but the worst has to be when a man reaches down to jab his finger between one of girls’ exposed butt crack. Their humiliation and molestation complete, they were eventually let out of the mall into the night.

What Should Have Happened

Every retail chain has a policy on how to handle theft. Some work hand in glove with law enforcement and have police on the premises to arrest perpetrators immediately. Others have loss prevention personnel on site with powers to detain thieves until they are arrested, made to pay a fine, or locked up in lieu of payment. Other retailers literally give thieves a pass, hoping that “good customer service” will encourage thieves to put down their stolen items and either leave the store or pay for them. Are we then to understand that Mr. Price’s policy is to compel thieves to pay – which would then mean they are paying customers, not thieves – and then force their customer to crawl through the floors of the enterprise on all fours? I truly hope they will release a statement clarifying their policy.

What is Our Role as a Society?  

When I saw the video, I saw a horde of Black men abusing three defenseless Black women. That’s what I saw. I sent a tweet, saying that I “hate feeling ashamed of Ghanaian men.” The gender police were quick to jump on pieces of my tweet.

Women were in the crowd too!

Women should have spoken up and intervened for these girls!

Are we now saying it is only men who bear responsibility in these instances?

And my favorite: Malaka should not feel ashamed of Ghanaian men. Judging the whole for the actions of a few is not fair.

Anyone who knows me (or vaguely thinks they know me because they read this blog) knows that I am a big supporter of Black men – on and off the continent – whether they be accomplished or have the potential for accomplishment. I praise them when they’ve earned it, and when they’ve disappointed me, I let them know. It seems to me to be a balanced approach; until the Thought Police insinuated otherwise.  There are some brothers and sisters may deride me for saying this, but I have absolutely no problem with a man leading…but you better freaking well give me something to follow. Ghanaian men in general continuously harangue about their role as “men” (a loaded noun on its own), as the heads of “this or that”, as “God-appointed leaders” because God made man first, and made woman from man (a point that is rehashed at virtually every wedding ceremony), and do this with such consistency that most of society not only accepts this, but believes this. But part of leading is protecting, and even more than that, deeply considering what true leadership is.

So if I as a woman am supposed to abdicate my role as a potential leader in order to make space for your presumed gender-based leadership, does that then require that I sit aside and allow abuse to unfurl in my presence even when its meted out against someone of my own sex? The presence of the women who also did nothing to stop this atrocity says yes.

Let’s face it. Women in Ghana are scared to speak up. We are raised to be silent, and when we do speak, we must choose our words carefully so that we say the “right thing”. Those that do buck the trend (of the Ursula Owusu  order) are called all manner of names. Still, that hasn’t stopped these women from speaking up against gender based violence, nor should it.

There have been some who have asked if the security guards would have been as quick to force a group of high school/university boys to crawl on the floor as they did these women. No one can answer that question definitively. What if it had been an old lady and her husband caught stealing? What if the thieves had been a group of White women? What about if they had been a trio of Lebanese men? Does the treatment you receive in our consumer establishments –whether you are in engaging in dishonest enterprise or not – hang so much on your race, class and gender at the time?  Does one’s privilege protect you from certain types of treatment and furthermore, liberate you to intervene (or not) in the face of another person’s mistreatment?

The bottom line is we all have a duty to protect one another, because we’re human beings, and because it’s right. Our first reaction in grotesque instances like these should not be to whip out a camera and hope that YOUR version of the video goes viral. To do anything else reduces our society to the lowest denominator of barbarism. If we as a Ghanaian society are going to adopt Western comforts, ideals and amenities like malls, independence from colonial rule and camera phones, we’d better be prepared to adopt the rules and norms therein.


What are your thoughts? Did Mr. Price’s personnel behave appropriately? Should specific cultural norms take precedent over corporate values in these instances? Discuss!

Open letter to God and His Part Time Servants: No. Really. We Need Fewer “Churches” in Ghana

Saints and the Most High:

We need fewer churches in Ghana. Considering Jesus never once preached in a church (churches differ from synagogues, right?), I don’t think this is a very controversial statement. Jesus preached on mountains, by rivers, in the city square…if you – Mr. Pastor – really want to get the gospel out into the world for the love of the gospel, get out of the four walls of your church. I have a proposal for you: Give up your church real estate and allow the people to use it for something more useful.

You use your church building – what? – twice a week, maybe? That’s five days out of seven with no use! The Lord doesn’t approve of waste, and as soon as I can think of a proverb about waste, I’ll drop it on you. In the meantime, let’s get back to that proposal.

If you take a look back at history, you will find that many of the world’s prominent scientists were also Christians. George Washington Carver, the famous African American botanist, was a devout Christian who refused to accept any glory for his breakthrough work, and Gregor Mendel was a monk. Who is more devout than a monk? There are dozens of other names from antiquity that I could throw at you in order to serve my purpose in persuading you, but we must look ahead, not behind.

What I would like to ask is this: Why not turn your houses of shouting into centers of science? I mean, let’s be honest; it hasn’t done the majority of the country much good, has it? You’re all still praying to God for food, jobs and clothing, but nothing of note has happened, has it? That’s not fair. The pastor and first lady are probably getting fitted for a new suit or a brand new Benz this week…but that doesn’t do the rest of the congregation much good, does it?

If your church is supposed to reflect the glory of God, why doesn’t it have a garden? God feeds the beasts of the ground and the birds of the air…so why haven’t 20% of you dedicated part of your property to feed yourselves from the very ground that you own? Take a Selah on that and join me in a few minutes.

How else might your church be more productive? I don’t know…how about you ask all your barely employed – but very educated – members to offer remedial classes to the kids in the area who can’t/don’t go to school for a number of reasons so that they are not so behind in their classes?


Or how about this? How about you just abandon the whole enterprise if that seems too hard (or won’t generate enough money for your pockets) and turn your church into an Imaginarium. There. I said it. Your church, just 100 feet from two other churches in either direction, would be better put to use if you allowed people to come inside and daydream for an hour or four.

Of course, this is nothing more than my own personal pipe dream. Church in the 21st century is a big money making machine. Every month there is a new churchprenuer sprouting on the scene with a “fresh revelation from Gaaad”, and he is not going to let the chance to fleece hapless sheep go by. By Lord, I wish you would make it so!

I beg you: Hear my prayer, oh Lord of hosts, because it’s probably one you don’t get to hear that often.  Open the minds and the hearts of those who claim to be your people. Cause them to give up the ground they covet so deeply. Cause them to suffer the little children to come into the church not to sit, but to THINK, Lord! Compel these your saints to invest in scientific tools so that they can assist in their own deliverance. Did Christ not even have to carry His own cross in order to save the world? Why must these your people, who claim to have the mind of Christ, not also believe they have to put their hand to the wheel or their wit to the test and generate their own vehicle of deliverance?!

Oh, Gaaad!!!

Sorry. I didn’t mean to slang your name like that.

Oh, God!

What?? A pool table made of mud, dung and bamboo. Genius!

What?? A pool table made of mud, dung and bamboo. Genius!

Imagine what our country would be like in just five short years if we had an Imaginarium every 100 feet or so in our midst? Where people – young and old – could come and meet and share ideas…no matter how impractical or ridiculous…and NO ONE would laugh! Imagine if teams of students got together and said “You know what? We can make that happen. Let’s begin to build some prototypes!” After all, the iPhone began with someone’s idea, did it not, Lord? And other people bought into it, did the not, Father? And those with a mind for vision invested in it until it was perfected, did they not Great One?!? But what is a smart phone to You, You who created those creepy, electrified jelly fish things in vast deep of the ocean?

ATV made of tin, wood and flip flips

ATV made of tin, wood and flip flips

Our country is teeming with youth who are full of creativity and ideas, but they have nowhere to make their creations come to life. They need houses of science and thought. Ghana needs her own Renaissance. I see the buds of change beginning to show, but we need your rain to bring the change! The universe screams that you are a God of art as well as science. There’s just too much cool stuff out there in the dirt, the sky and the sea to prove that You are.

So, I beseech you Lord, download into your Ghanaian (and several folks in Atlanta) there is a need to develop the whole human being. I know why You don’t answer many of these prayers, Father, because me sef, I roll my eyes when I hear them. Science will save us, not shouting.

Ummm. Okay. Amen.

Have you ever been to an Imaginarium? Aren’t they amazing? If you hear of any projects in Africa that need funding that will improve lives through science, kindly share the link in the comments section below. There’s always someone on MOM ready to give towards intelligent enterprises!  

Why and How Ghana is Going to Lose the GMO Fight

If you sit in the lobby of the African Regent in Accra during the brunch hour, you can literally watch the direction the country will be going in unfold before your eyes.

You’ll find out what’s coming to your screen in the coming months.

You’ll discover the latest celebrity gossip.

You’ll even discover what you’ll be eating for the next 200 years. All it takes is a keen, observant eye and a pair of listening ears.

The African Regent is the ideal meeting space. It’s within walking distance from Accra’s international airport. It is easy to get to from either direction of town. You can’t miss it because it is SO huge and colorful. It bills itself as ‘Simply Afropolitan’, which depending on your philosophy can be a good or bad thing. ‘Afropolitan’ has become a synonym for ‘bourgeois’, or in some circles also less flatteringly know as Afro Sell Outs.

I was sitting in the lobby of the Regent a few weeks ago waiting for a friend to join me for lunch. We had been playing dodge the first week I was in Ghana and we finally said “enough with the madness” and set a firm date. I chose a seat on the elevated portion of the lobby, adjacent to the bar so that I could see him when he walked in and also admire the enormous Christmas tree that towered over all the guests and visitors. I was early and he was late, which gave me ample opportunity to indulge in one of my favorite pastimes:  people watching. And people watch I did!

Men in business suits and shiny shoes strode purposefully by. Women in jeggings and weaves wandered past.  Hotel staff draped in beige and brown print uniforms looked everyone in the eye and greeted each person with a smile and nod. “Can I help you find anything? Is everything okay?”

Brown and Grey

Brown and Grey

Soon I was joined by two English men on my elevated perch. One was markedly older than the other, but they were both dressed similarly, in buttoned down shirts and khakis. They chose a seat with a table and pulled out some files, laying the papers carefully on top. They began to chat with one another about this and that. I didn’t begin eavesdropping on their conversation until I heard them say something that piqued my interest.

“I expect that this should all go rather smoothly,” said the brown haired one. (Let’s call him Brown.)

“I wouldn’t be so certain. It could go either way,” replied the grey haired one. (Grey… obviously.)

“We’ve just had a fantastic meeting with the paramount chief of the area, and he’s completely on board. Trust me, it will be fine.”

Ah. What were these guys talking about, I wondered? They began muttering and I went back to surfing the internet on my phone. Ten minutes later, an old Black man in a blacker suit joined them at the table, apologizing for his lateness. He had just come from another meeting. The Englishmen rose to shake his hand. No apologies were needed.

“We wanted to bring you up to date on the project,” Brown said. “We have some exciting developments that I think will benefit all.”

Look at his head.

Look at his head.

Black (our Ghanaian character) nodded and offered a lopsided smile. He couldn’t wait to hear. Neither could I, but their voices grew hushed. Eventually, Grey spoke a little louder.

“I think what is important to note here is that this is a business opportunity. It’s not foreign aid, it’s not NGO, it’s business. And that’s what the people need.”

“And the seeds are already proving very effective against climate change,” added Brown. “We’ve seen tremendous results in other countries. They are resistant against extreme heat, drought… and war.”

What the heck did that mean? I can only surmise he meant that his GMO organization will be there to feed the African masses after we’ve hacked ourselves to death. CAR immediately sprung to my mind. I leaned in closer. Black was nodding enthusiastically.

“Yes. Yes!” he squeaked in that way that only old men who are losing testosterone can. “This is very lucrative. Very attractive indeed.”

There was more muttering and then the meeting was over. In just 12 minutes, Black had promised to get the “paperwork” going and he was off. Grey stood to his feet and made a jubilant phone call.

“We’ve just had a wonderful meeting with a chap,” he said, sweating with what I presume was glee. “It shan’t be long now…”

He disappeared to the other end of the lobby. I couldn’t hear the rest of his conversation. But I had heard enough. So this was how my country gets sold out, eh? It’s the same old tricks, but different players; and as David S. says “same khakis with a modern twist.”

So why do I say Ghana is going to lose the GMO fight? Well, the answer is simple: we are working at the wrong end. The problem with Ghanaians in the Diaspora, and even some at home, is that we don’t really understand how the country works. We have an idea of the way it SHOULD work, and try to affect change from that angle. We fall flat 80% of the time, and that’s a crappy success rate. Everyone knows how ineffective our government is: EVERYONE. Keep that in mind. So what do you do if you want to make it in Ghana?

Skip government altogether. That’s what Grey and Brown did. That’s what the boys from Jungle Gold did. That’s what the Chinese did! They went directly to the gatekeeper, and Ghana’s gatekeepers are our chieftaincy class. By the time you or I or the government gets around to 1) discovering that there is a problem let alone 2) trying to solve it, it’s too late. Mole National Park has already had 12% of its forest cut down to make room for Chino Agribusiness.

If we want to keep the likes of Monsanto, Pfizer and whoever else comes to Kotoka with sole intentions of defiling our population, we need to get out from behind our laptops and smartphones and go into the hinterlands. Talk to our community leaders and elders. Show them the devastating effects that Big Pharma and Agro have had on other nations. Even the great America cannot withstand them! Don’t let them sell the country for a bottle of Schnapps, flattering words and the false promise of “business opportunity”. Opportunity for whom?!

Appealing to the government to stem this influx is just not going to work. These people are in office (when they do show up for work) to collect a salary and build houses. How can the same Minister for Environment keep his position for 30 years and not have set up a national recycling program for all the plastic that litters our streets? Is THIS the guy you are now going to appeal to? Is his ilk actually interested in any form of national development? All the government is there to do is to put a pretty bow and seal of approval on the package that these multi-national corporations have cooked up with our unwitting traditional rulers. They don’t study. They don’t think. And they don’t really care.

As my grandmother would say advise yourselves.




Returnees: The People I Just Want to Slap in Town!

It’s not often that I’m moved to violence.

Okay. That’s I lie.

I consistently harbor violent thoughts. But it’s rare that I ever act them out. I fear jail. The closest I’ve come to violent behavior was just last week when Somebody* and I were on the Tema Motorway. There was gridlocked traffic. The air was thick with exhaust and frustration, and every driver was looking around for an “in”. Somebody had just glanced down at her gear box for a split moment when the driver of the car behind us laid into his horn. The trotro in front of us had moved a whole 3 feet and he wanted us to go!

Somebody looked into her review mirror and threw her left hand up.

“And where do you want me to go?” she asked rhetorically.

And that’s when he did it. The old bespectacled sod in the green Peugeot flicked us off. Oh no. We were having NONE of that! Two brown skinned hands shot out of either side of Somebody’s vehicle and gave him an eyeful of the bird for the next three miles.

I was shaking with road rage and fought back the ferocious urge to get out of the car and bang on his hood. Who did he think he was? Argh!! … And then suddenly I recognized his modus operandi. This douche bag was from New York. A “Returnee”. God, how I hate them. I wish I could line them up in a Rawlings’ style firing squad and slap the mess out of each and every one of them, or at least play an extended game of Fronthand/Backhand the 90% of the entire lot.

It’s not fair to lump all Returnees into the same bowl, but doggonit if the majority of them don’t make hard for me not to. In case you’re sitting there scratching your head about 1) what a Returnee is and 2) why I think I could distinguish myself from one, I’ll take a quick second to alleviate your confusion.

A “Returnee” is a Been To, as in someone who has “been to” America/UK/Russia/Greener Pastures. They come back to Ghana bathed in a cloud of Versace (both cologne and clothing) armed with knowledge, a hard won accent, and a gross sense of entitlement. They usually arrive at Kotoka under the auspices of wanting to make their contribution to the national development quota, but generally they are in Accra to find out how big of a slice of the national cake they can get with as little cost as possible.

You can’t miss a Returnee. They are an aberration of a Ghanaian. They are loud, crude, rude and worst of all, condescending. Do I consider myself a Returnee? No. I haven’t yet returned to Ghana from abroad, and the moment I do, I will do my utmost to put off as much of America as I possibly can. No way am I going to be associated with this clan of misfits.

In many ways, Returnees are more annoying than expatriates who have also come to Ghana in search of the 21st century’s version of gold. These people have lived in Ghana in some measure previously. They have grown up without water and electricity. They know what traffic patterns are like. They KNOW that all of our systems are corrupt. But unlike the expatriate, who comes also armed with knowledge of our corroded systems – and say sets up a non-profit restaurant so he doesn’t have to pay taxes on any of his sales – the Returnee spends 80% of his day complaining about the system and trying to punish the ordinary Ghanaian for the circumstances that they find themselves in.

I recently went to dinner at a friend’s house in Cantonments. There was a girl who came breezing in with a pair of Valentino shoes and a Peruvian weave down her back. You couldn’t miss her. She was stunning. Her name was Stella, Sheila, Samantha… I don’t remember. I couldn’t be bothered to remember her name 10 minutes after she began talking. I was so put off.

“The thing that frustrates me about Ghana is that I have to be a proper bitch to get anything done,” she said. “I have to yell and raise my voice to get results. It’s the only way to get things done around here.”

She demonstrated how she got people to move by snapping her fingers and barking commands.

“Bring me this!”

“Go get that!”

“Are you mad, or did you not understand what I said!?!”

I was appalled. How could one so lovely be so UGLY?

“I’ve never found that I have to be domineering to get results in Ghana,” I said (almost)sheepishly. I was trying to keep my irritation in check. “A kind word, a joke and a ‘thank you’ have gotten me everything I need.”

Stella-Sheila disagreed vehemently. At a certain level, she said in very measured tones, being nice doesn’t pay. You have to DEMAND respect from Ghanaians in order to get results.

This was nonsense. Other than getting up and slapping her in the face on behalf of all the people she’d most likely offended in town THAT NIGHT alone, I had to find a way to restore my people’s honor. Dr. Phil came to me in a fog of thought. I asked her a pointed question.

“So tell me. Do you like the person you’ve become?”


I pressed her further. “This angry, yelling, condescending woman. Do you like who you are when you look in the mirror?”

I laughed, as if to make a joke. But we both knew there was no mirth in my query. She was a self-righteous bitch, and she needed to know what she looked like to the rest of the continent. Backhand!

What did she say in reply? I can’t recall, because I was done with the conversation. I left the dinner four minutes or so later. I wanted to spit. Returnee indeed.

Oh! How could I forget. Can I tell you what’s even more annoying? Is when all the Returnees are in a group, trying to assess whether the ordinary, run-of-the-mill Ghanaian is good enough to fraternize with, or what level of courtesy he/she should be afforded based on how many years they’ve lived abroad, if any. Fronthand!

The sadder portion of this is that people like Samantha-Cynthia and the Peugeot driver make it hard for those of us who really want to come home. And I mean come HOME; with all our bad roads and electricity problems and philandering presidents and eco-waste. It’s still home. Unfortunately, it’s this kind of behavior that has Ghanaians looking at ALL of us with a certain measure of contempt and no small amount of defensiveness. I saw it every day.

You! Yes, you reading! Are you guilty of these crimes? Repent! For if I see you in town and I’m with A-Dub on the wrong day you may find yourself cussed out. No one likes that sort of condescension. Small London you’ve lived in and you want to misbehave.

Ghanafour: Have you ever seen a Returnee have a tantrum in town? Did you want to SLAPPPP the mess out of them? Tell your story here. ↓ Don’t be shy.




Preparing For My First Reading in Accra

I’ve got my shoes. MAKSI is making my dress. I have my books packed. I think I’m ready.

Almost everyone in the MOM Squad has read my debut novel, Daughters of Swallows, either in blog form or on paperback. You’re familiar with its contents. The book covers a myriad of topics, ranging from marriage, romance, sex, violence, classism, the condition of the human spirit… there’s a lot covered in 271 pages, and the hardest question to answer is: “What is this book about?” No one, including myself, has been able to succinctly answer that question.

Every writer gleans material for their craft either from personal experience or the experiences of others. Sometimes, we writers create worlds of fabricated and fantastical experiences to make our tales more engaging and/or to inspire imagination. Could there really be an alien craft submerged in the ocean that manifests your most dreaded thoughts and torments you with them? (Sphere) Could you really harvest DNA from a fossilized mosquito and breed an island populated with pre-historic reptiles? (Jurassic Park) Can little British actually kids fly on brooms for sport? (Harry Potter) Could my now grown-up daughter actually have been molested as a child? (Daughters of Swallows)

As I have been preparing for my reading in Accra next week, I’ve spent a great deal of time thinking about who’s going to be in the audience. It’s open to the public, so there is no predicting who is going to occupy what seat. But there is one person I know for sure is going to be there… my father.

He picked up on the forth ring.

“Hey! Abena Owusua. What do you want?”

“Hey, Daddy.” My heart was pounding. “How are you?”

“Oh, I’m fine.”

“I hear wind. Are you driving?”

“No. I’m at the beer bar with my friends.”

I chuckled and checked the time. It was 2 pm in Accra. Prime drinking time on what I was sure was a hot African day. My dad was still talking, bringing me back to the conversation and taking me away from thoughts of how much the man loves his beer.

“Do you know what? I received a threatening call and had to go to the police station to file a report,” he groused.

“Who threatened you?!”

“Some fool called me from MTN after I ported my phone to Vodafone, asking me why I made the switch,” he spat. “He said I will see what will happen to me in 24 hours. 24 hours passed two hours ago, and nothing has happened. Idiot like his type.”

“Do you know this person, Daddy?”

“No… but they will get to know me!” he thundered. “They are messing with the wrong old man!”

We both fell into a fit of giggles. My father really fancies himself to be Ghana’s Top Blow Man; a Chuck Norris or Charles Bronson of the gritty city. But time was running out on my calling card and I couldn’t indulge a conversation about how he was going “show” this fellow “where the power lies”. There was no point in stalling on the purpose of my call.

“Daddy,” I asked gingerly. “Have you read my book?”

He sucked his teeth in mock disdain.

“Ah! Every page I turn to is full of nonsense,” he chuckled. “I ask myself, how could this girl write these things? She was never an awoshia*! But it’s very interesting. I’m so glad…”

That stung a little. True, I was never an awoshia (a girl who never slept in her parent’s house because she was always sleeping at someone else’s), but I read from my father’s statement that he believed my life as a girl-child in Ghana was completely innocent and idyllic. It wasn’t.

“Yes…well…Daddy. That’s why I’m calling,” I swallowed. “There are some things that happened to me that I describe in the book. Well, they happened to the characters in the book. I don’t know if you’ve gotten to any of those parts yet.”

“No, I haven’t,” he said after a while. His voice was a bit more quiet.

I continued, wanting to rush through the conversation as quickly as I could. I told him about one of our employees who had molested me when I was 11. I reminded him of an uncle who had done the same three years before. I told him I didn’t want him to be shocked the night of the reading if I mentioned any of these events.

“Why would I be shocked? I knew all these things.”

“You did?”

My father huffed.

“I even knew when that studio radio presenter was chasing you!”

“Oh…” I’d forgotten about him. I was fifth grade. Fortunately, the guy never got close enough to touch me. I wonder now if my dad had something to do with that.

“Look, there is nothing you can say that can shock me,” he said knowingly. “In fact, when you get there, tell it. Tell it! Say it all!”

He was almost yelling his encouragement. I felt a small lump rise in my throat.

“Okay, Daddy. I will.”

“Good,” he said. I could tell he was frowning into the phone. “And when you are coming, bring my salad dressing.”


“Salad dressing…salad dressing! All types!”

“And your gin. Yes, I know.”

We snickered for a bit before saying good bye.

“Love you, Daddy.”

“I love you too. Say hello to your sister and brother for me.”




I put down my phone and squared my shoulders. If my pants weren’t so tight, I might have skipped around the room in delight. I have never been so ready for anything in my life.


It’s going down at:

Ghana Voices Series

November 27th, 7 – 8pm

Goethe Institute, Cantonments



Meet The (Pleeenty) Women Who are Ruining Ghana

There is a well called Stupidity in Ghana. It runs ever deep. Our politicians, civil servants and officials – elected and otherwise – draw from its depths daily. I, like most of you, have never visited this well, because I’ve never had the means or need to. One must be oiled with copious amounts of Greed in order to slip past Common Sense and sip of Stupidity’s waters. However if I had been corrupted by Power and Promise, the trinkets  that holding a high office in the land provides, I’m certain that I too might be drunk off Stupidity, as these three women are.

Victoria Hammah, (now sacked) Deputy Communications Minister

Rachel Appoh, MP for Gamoa Central

Bernadette Banongwie, Deputy Director of Education

#Vickyleaks exposed a fissure in the dyke of our supposed sound government, and gave way to a full-fledged #Deputygate. An avalanche of misfortune has begun to tumble. The stories of these women are intertwined, and at first glance will remind one of a sinister Dickens novel, a chapter from The Babysitters Club, or a hastily scripted Lifetime movie… or perhaps even an episode from (((MOM MODE!!!)))


The earth was dry, cracked, and parched. Rain hadn’t fallen in the Upper West District for almost a month now. The once verdant landscape leading up to Nadwoli-Kaleo had been  rendered bruised and skeletal, the aftershock of ‘galamsey’ – illegal mining.

Bernadette Banongwie bounced along in the air-conditioned 4×4, wishing she was anywhere but here. Still, duty called and it was her mandate to answer. How she wished she was back in Accra, or even Kumasi! That is where women of distinction such as herself belonged. Imagine a whole Deputy Director of Education being sent to what is tantamount to a remote outpost! She knew why she was being sent: she was the Deputy Director, not the Director herself. When it came down to doing less than pleasant tasks – like speaking at this event in this enclave – she was always sent to represent the government. It annoyed her.

But Ms. Banongwie was a patient woman. She would bide her time and strike only when it was pertinent. After all, she could not hit out at her boss or other superiors; that would be professional suicide! But that didn’t mean that she could not make those beneath her tremble and recognize her power.

Soon, the driver announced her arrival at the site of the inauguration. Girls Club Executives were being inducted that day, and she was there to give the keynote address. She eyed her driver suspiciously, careful not to say too much during the ride or answer any personal phone calls. After Victoria Hammah’s demise just a day before, one could not be too careful with the company one kept. She alighted from the vehicle and shook hands with the Administrator of the Club.

“Oh! Madam Director, you are very welcome!” said the toothy woman in a blue and white cloth.

Bernadette smiled and didn’t bother to correct the woman. Madam Director would do just fine. She followed her host to a rickety seat under a tree and viewed the girls who had lined up to greet her through compassionless eyes.

She despised them for their poverty.

It was true that every government since Nkrumah had left the far North out of its development plans till today, but that didn’t mean these women and girls had to look as though they couldn’t find the means to get by! Feeling irritation rise within her esophagus, she swallowed hard and plastered a synthetic smile on her face. Once all the necessary introductions, presentations, dances and preliminary speeches had been done, Bernadette sauntered to the podium and adjusted the microphone. Again, she looked at the flock of black faced girls through unfeeling eyes.

The theme of the inauguration was “Girls Education: Moving from Enrolment to Retention and Achievement.” She had written the speech during her flight north, pulling statistics from the UN website and some general sources on Google. She waffled on about statistics: 1 in 3 girls are denied and education globally. Boys are selected to be educated if the choice came down between them and a girl. Education is often denied girls because of cultural practices, discrimination and violence.

She looked up from her notes and gave a stern warning.

“Any girl who finds herself pregnant through loose morals will be severely punished,” she hissed in a shrill voice, looking over the sea of small faces. “Government is investing a lot of resources in girls’ education, and if any girl ruins that chance by getting pregnant, she will have to refund that investment! Of course, this doesn’t include girls who have been impregnated by rape…but for those of you who sleep around with boys and men, you will be dealt with!”

She didn’t have to turn around to look. She knew that behind her, the elder men and women in administration were nodding in agreement with her. She cast a roving glance over the faces of her audience. Some were clearly terrified.

“*Ashawo like their type,” she thought to herself.

food-stews-tuo-zafi-ghana-450x299She left the podium to the sound of weak applause and went back to her seat, wondering what these people proposed to feed her after the session was complete. A dusty bottle of Coke, for certain. Maybe even some rice and chicken stew if she was lucky. God knew how much she deplored tuo zaafi…

“Ei. Did you hear what the madam said this afternoon?” asked Haifa, hugging her arms around her shoulders. “She said any girl who gets pregnant will be dealt with!”

“Yes, it’s good. Some of you like playing with boys too much,” muttered Salma. She was the most bookish of the lot. Her grades averaged 40% on every exam, and while that was well below the national average, it was better than the 23% that each girl earned if they were lucky.

“But what of the boys and men who chase us? Will they be punished?”

“Of course not! It is up to you the girl to keep yourself from getting pregnant. After all, you cannot prove that the pregnancy is for one man or another. They can only say it is you who got pregnant.”

“Hmmm. Do you remember what happened to Aisha last term? Her father chased her from the house after her boyfriend made her pregnant. They said they would also sack her from school. She swallowed broken glass to kill the baby.”

“And she also died… She died very badly.”

There was no chatter after that. The girls walked back to their classroom block in silence, with little hope in their future.



And that is the moral of today’s episode, MOM Squad. While Victoria Hammah PLANNED to steal $1 million, Bernadette Banongwie was successful in nailing Hope’s coffin shut with her utterances. She has stolen the essence of faith from these young girls, and given carte blanche to the men/boys who would facilitate their demise by putting full responsibility on these young ladies. I wonder, has she forgotten what it’s like to be a Black girl growing up in Black Africa? To have so much societal pressure on you, your womb and your vagina merely because you are in possession of both? Would her visit not have been better served if she had talked about options available to these girls whom her job title mandates that she care for? How about abstinence, contraception, or heaven forbid, alternative options for education if you DO find yourself pregnant?

Sweet Jesus, even felons get a shot at a PhD in PRISON if they so desire it… why does a pregnant school girl then have to feel as though her life must come to an immediate end? Are felons more valuable than teen/unwed mothers?

Stay tuned for the next episode of The Pleeeenty Women Ruining Ghana! Rachel Appoh is next!

*Ashawo = whore/prostitute