On What It Means When A Man Falls From The Sky and some other things 

No spoilers.

You know I have home training.

What It Means When A Man Falls From The Sky is a collection of short stories by Lesley Nneka Arimah. I got it on iBooks because I was finally trying that packing light for a trip thing and didn’t have space for an analogue (haha) book.

At first I didn’t realize that this was a collection of short stories so the first one took me completely by surprise.

After finishing the first bit, which I assumed was chapter 1, I thought that the author was ending that section on a note of suspense (and oh it was!)… and that the story would continue on the next page. Hai I was wrong. That was the end of the story. So I went quickly through the 5 stages of grief – in 30 seconds or less – and I started the next story. I’m still disappointed. I feel cheated and I want a full novel out of that one.

But what a collection of stories it is! It brings to mind Roxanne Gay’s Difficult Women – in that I had similar feelings of being pleasantly surprised at the effortless blending of fantasy in the writing.

I don’t know if I’ve described this how I mean it… Y’all know I live for fantasy genre, but there are fantasy novels or stories that make you fully aware from the beginning that you’ve entered a fantasy story. Some are really great, but most times they feel heavy and manufactured… and I often feel like I’m starting a chore where I have to remember a bunch of very manufactured names – of places, characters, magical creatures, eras, power sources… you know?
This doesn’t happen with Lesley Arimah’s stories. The fantasy just. is. Easy. Smooth. She has such imaginings! As I read each story, I would often briefly pause and smile about how clever and how imaginative the author was. That was an added dimension of enjoyment and wonder. Being imaginative is not a prerequisite for writing a great book – for indeed a lot of great books don’t have a lot of imaginings in them, and some books with a lot of imaginings are quite wack.

I like the way Igbo writers keep memories of Biafra alive in their writing. Though now after reading this book, I begin to wonder if they feel… like an obligation to do so… is that a bad word to describe what I mean? It’s not like I think they hate doing it, but perhaps there are subtle pressures that mean this has to feature in their art.

I feel these subtle pressures a lot when I’m making art or designing… a subtle pressure to show my Ghanaianess… whatever that means. Not that I want to splash kente or adinkra on everything, but that I want some people to see this and know where I’m from. A pressure to represent because representation is important. I think sometimes that I would like to make something stripped bare of everything. You get me? No, I didn’t think so.

On Difficult Women.

When I finished the first story in Roxanne Gay’s ‘Difficult Women’, I had to take a break and figure out whether I wanted to cry or not. I think I tweeted at some point, that I had just realised that the book would make me feel feelings.

At that point, I thought it would just be the usual mix of sadness, triumph, hopefulness, anger, pain, and that familiar feeling of oh-my-God-Roxanne-Gay-is-an-amazing-writer. I was pleasantly surprised, and then thrilled by her historical futurism, allegory and fantasy stories. No spoilers 🙂


Whether with a tweet, an article, or a short story, she is excellent at making me feel feelings, and this book was no exception. What I was not expecting were the historical futurism, allegory and fantasy stories. No spoilers. I’ve quipped a couple of times about counting Gay as a fantasy writer because she wrote a Black Panther prequel. I was not entirely serious, but I am now and I’m paying attention. There is a story about a stone thrower who marries a glass woman which sent my mind reeling with all sorts of imaginings… Most of the best stories ever, I believe, leave you imagining more… because they never seem like they really ended, and this story – Requiem for a Glass Heart – is one such story.

It’s an eclectic mix of fantasy, gritty realism and a whole world of heartbreak, wonder and stubborn home in between. I loved everything about Difficult Women, and I am now quite happily a Roxanne Gay stan for life.

To say I enjoyed reading it doesn’t seem like the right way to characterise my experience. It is not light reading, and if you have trauma in your past, this book is likely to bring up memories… Even without past trauma, a reader will find many of these stories dark. The thing about that darkness is that there are usually glimmers of light, but not in the usual neat ways where light overcomes happiness and every thing is cast in maximum saturation. The darkness is complex and contradictory and there is not a lot happily ever afters, but this doesn’t mean there is no happiness at all… it is what it is

I received my copy – an uncorrected bound proof – from Susan de Soissons of Little Brown Book Group, via Ghana’s favourite literary event organiser @BrunchoverBooks. Follow @BrunchoverBooks on twitter for book chats, book swap events and giveaways!

2017: My Year of Acknowledging the Log in My Own Eye

The title makes it seem like I’m just now going to start doing this, but it’s catchy because New Year and all… so let’s go with it and pretend this hasn’t been sitting in my drafts for more than a year 🙂


At some point perhaps 3 years ago, in the midst of an argument with a male friend about “a woman’s place” I got so severely frustrated and depressed that I thought there was no hope in the world. Dramatic, I know, but he was a black man who had moved to the USA from Ghana when he was 12 and one of the first people to really connect me to racism – in that I actually knew him and he recounted experiences to me. We would share readings on the subject and discuss the unfairness of that system and that’s how we remained friends really… 

But here he was, using some of the same kinds of arguments racists use to justify their oppression to justify my oppression as a woman. I don’t think I cut him off, but I stopped talking to him about that stuff, and since that was really the only stuff we talked about, we just stopped talking. 

Then last year, that memory popped into my head, probably triggered by a tweet I saw. That and other incidents of oppressed people who should know better oppressing other people weighed me down – I believe at some point, a prayer was said by me – “I want to stop caring!”, I cried out. (Lol, I annoy myself sometimes with how moist I get smh) 
And perhaps this is an answer to that prayer by some entity I didn’t ask, but it’s working for me and I accept it.
“When you point a finger at someone, three fingers are pointing back at you”

I don’t remember if I read it or heard it but it stuck in my head, and for some reason connected with my thoughts about all the hypocrisy I saw in activist spaces I’m part of. Anything I thought I saw in someone else, I examined myself 3 times (roughly) for similar. In this there’s no conclusion yet, because I haven’t figured out what to do with it, fully. I mean, it certainly hasn’t made me shut up when I spot an injustice, the main difference is I think of the related injustices I myself commit and then I’m able to frame things better and approach people from a place of understanding and way less judgement. This isn’t completely satisfactory to me though, I feel like I can do more… or differently. 

What do you think? Thoughts & ideas welcome – leave them in the comments (and stop whatsapping me Anji & co)

More rewarding in terms of General happiness has been my application of Kuukuwa’s Finger Pointation Theorem to my personal life and relationships. I’m more thoughtful in my work interactions,  as well as in my interactions with my friends and fam (well, most of the time but I’m trying!) 
Basically, when I get irritated or mad at someone, I examine my own role in the situation and how I might be at fault too. And while at first I felt I was silencing myself and should just let out everything I feel, with time and practice I noticed I mostly only confronted people when I had really really thought through the situation. More of that in 2017, I hope. 

That Time I fell Out of Love With The Black Stars

Oh how I used to love this era of the Black Stars! To me, they were a bright spot in the generally dark and dreary world that Ghanaians are expert in manoeuvring through… a beacon of hope and love which caused us to (pretend to) cast aside our political, religious, and other differences and unite in support of our nation. They were my darlings, my honey booboos, my “island of reality in an ocean of diarrhoea”… my Blackity Black Stars.

As for most politicians, everyone knows they don’t care about us, and the only symbolism that Ghana evokes in them is a cash cow… so they milk-milk-milk-milk with all their strength, leaving her nipples perpetually raw and sore.
but not my Black Stars, I truly thought they saw the light that out forebears saw…

That light that shone bright in Ɔsagyefo’s eyes. That light that moved through Theodosia as she crafted the first breathtakingly beautiful red-gold-green-black star Ghana flag. That nova in all of us (except those politicians and the people that feed from them ugh), flickering constantly… occasionally burning bright only to be dimmed again by the latest governement nonsense that Citi fm reveals to us.

For me they remained a bastion of patriotism, a group of gallant gentlemen who set off to win or lose, raise the flag of Ghana high. Everything else could be going horribly but the Black Stars would put on the mantles of our national heroes and live(!) for Ghana. That was what the Black Stars was to me.

 

And then Brazil dollars-on-a-plane happened.

It was the second time I used the phrase “animguase akwaaba” with meaning. I was so ashamed. When international friends brought it up as a joke, I laughed too and joked but herh the way it was paining me inside my heart?! I began to look at all of them with new eyes,  like “Ooooh, so this is just a job to you eh?”

It’s not like I expected them to work for free – I mean we all have to eat oh – but their actions reminded me too much of the bloodsuckers we already have plundering our national coffers. Their apɛsɛmenkomenya was smelling so bad. Not just the players, the GFA and everything associated with the Black Stars started smelling so bad. 

The fact that after chopping our dollars, they went on to whimper out of the competition – they even lost to common USA! Ahba! 

And now as I write, bile fills my throat and the fires of rage burn in my eyes as my inner voices sing an angry chorus which swells to a crescendo… just kidding, lol, lol
Anyhow charley, if all this was just a job they were doing for money, then why the heck did I get so emotionally invested in this? It’s like that time I realised I was sadder about the state of Manchester United than I had ever been about the state of all my romantic relationships…

<moment of clarity. Kuukuwa out>
When I’m doing my job, do I expect people to go through terrible traffic jams, stay in long long queues to buy tickets and access my place of work and then watch me work and cheer for me?

No.

Do I expect my mundane daily activities to be broadcast live so people rush all over the place to find the nearest TV and watch me work for the paycheck?

No.
So why oh why should I also stress myself just to watch these just work for their cash.

When they’re busily drawing, losing or playing some lackadaisical ball bi like that too oh?!
No, daabi, aawo. I would rather try to join the Virgin Male Pastors Club, Bawjiase chapter. And besides, I still have Shatta Wale #SM4Lyf 

How The Old Man Died and Other Stories

He was a very respectable man.

He had been involved in politics and governance for more than 48 years – almost as long as his country’s existence as a polity.

He was fabulously wealthy, and although his wealth came from his government roles and connections, he had managed to mask that fact so cleverly that people swore he came from pre-colonial money and that corruption had nothing to do with his numerous assets. Only his wives and children knew his real origin story – he reminded them anytime he thought they were being ungrateful, which was all the time.

He had a mild heart condition… Comfortably under control… Monthly visits to the best private doctor in all of the United Kingdom guaranteed that.  His health was top priority, so he took the best drugs, ate the healthiest meals and exercised regularly with his highly-recommended French personal trainer.


He was currently driving on the softly rolling hills of the village which was more or less his property. It was a cool afternoon, and in a fit of boredom, he had uncharacteristically decided to drive himself.  It had been well over a year and he had missed the feel of the subtle subtle subtle hum of his brilliantly-restored Rolls Royce beneath his fingertips. As he drove, he wrinkled his nose in distaste at the poorly appointed hovels along the red dirt roads. From time to time, he would pass by a farmer on her way home, her head supporting an oversized load, and reluctantly nod almost imperceptibly in response to her frenzied sycophantic smiling salute.

“Poverty is a state of mind” was something his pastor always said, and in those moments he agreed wholeheartedly. He was hardworking, and even though he started life like them, his perseverance had brought him far.

With a self-congratulatory smile, he passed by the swirling brown river that split the village into two and thought about the payment he should have received about a week ago from the Italian mining outfit. With a slight frown, he decided he would instruct his lawyers to send them a stiff letter as soon as he got back home – he did not like people who did not pay their bills on time.

It was in that absent-minded moment that disaster stuck.

A group of little children suddenly dashed into the road, chasing a small animal and not bothering to look around first – cars were, after all not often seen on that village road. He swerved sharply, and his body released a cocktail of stress hormones, narrowing vital arteries and causing his not-so-strong heart to skip several beats. He had the presence of mind to brake just before he crashed into a tree, but had no extra energy to signal the boys, who were at this point staring wide-eyed at the car and it’s mysterious occupant.

The eldest amongst them grabbed the hand of a girl who was about to run towards the vehicle. “Don’t you remember what grandma said?! He doesn’t like it when people go near his car. He will arrest you oh!”

And so they stood uncertainly as he sat for about ten minutes and then slumped forward in the seat. When the staring game got boring for them, they ran off to find another rat – the nice fat one they had smoked out was long gone now.

It was almost 4 hours later when a yawning Ama told her mother the weird story… and 8 hours after that when Ama Maame mentioned it to her friend Adjo on the way to their farms… and another 6 hours till Adzo told Kingsley, the cook from the big house who was gossiping away in the market as usual… And because the big house was so big, and the old man didn’t like how the servants smelled, it was another 5 hours before Kingsley heard that the old man was missing.

By the time they found the car, he was barely breathing. As there was no doctor at post in the little community clinic he had “donated” some ten years ago, he had to be rushed to the nearest city hospital. There were no beds in the first one they got to, and his son Maxwell, doctor and Chief Director of Public Health wasn’t answering his phone, and so he was rushed to another hospital.

 

There, they sat – secretary, cook, driver and old man in a Gye Nyame plastic chair, for 2 hours… until a distraught Maxwell ran in, barking orders at nurses and orderlies.

He secured a VIP ward for his father in less than 20 minutes.

 

It was too late.

The old man died.


 

 

other stories…

The autopsy showed that the death was quite avoidable. Apparently the simple, nonsurgical procedure that would have saved his life could have been performed by a 5th year medical student. It was such a pity that the community clinic was not resourced with basic personnel and equipment.

Maxwell and his siblings were devastated. They resolved to make sure a thing like this would never happen again.

Each sibling immediately started making arrangements for personal clinics and doctors for their mothers’ house.

Selina, the youngest, also a doctor, started the first air ambulance company in the country.

On Memory 

I have often wondered about memory – how are our memories constructed, and why do we (consciously and unconsciously) construct them they way we do?
As I traveled with my mother to Sokagope about a month ago, we had had a conversation about my childhood…

 It started when a baby boy in the bus threw a messy tantrum. Shaking my head in a amused superiority,  I said something  along the lines of “I would never have done that – I was a quiet well-behaved baby”. 

Now, I know this because I have been told by aunties, grandpeoples and uncles… but mama burst into laughter and said, “yes you were quiet but quietly doing naughty things”. 

I feigned shock – I mean, it’s not the first time I’ve heard this, but it’s the first time I’ve heard it from her. I always thought I outsmarted her! Darn. 
Anyway, my latest latest favourite story from my childhood is about the teacher who taught me to love mathematics. In my memory, it is the epic story of my love for one of my favourite studies teachers (extra classes tutor) and how we fought against all odds to achieve something I don’t even remember anymore. 

Of course my mother remembers it differently… Apparently I wasn’t always the maths shark you know me to be 😊. Up till class four, I would get between 90 to 100% in every subject… except maths… I was languishing around 50% or 60% there. I wouldn’t swallow this dubious information hook, line & sinker if I were you – it’s clear my mother has an agenda :-/

Back to the story – naturally, this inexplicable poor performance in Mathematics which I am clearly naturally good at worried my parents so much that they found me a maths tutor who with careful instruction, clever quizzes and outright bribery got me to a 90-100% grade level. Boring.
Now I don’t remember that – I remember hating the “Cedis and pesewas” topic because my little brother would tease me about having a clever mouth except when it came to answering cedis and pesewas” questions (No wonder I used to beat him. I should go beat him now even. Nonsense)

 And oh, I remember, I remember that I LOVED Mr. Abanga. My mum said I sometimes wouldn’t eat lunch until I saw him and that I wouldn’t shut up about everything he taught me.

 I remember he taught me to write “w” the way he did – Beautifully. I remember I wanted to scratch his girlfriend’s eyes out. (I still do, now that I think about it. If you’re reading this, come let’s fight) 

I also remember he took me to the Efua Sutherland Children’s Park for a show and that’s where I first saw Tic Tac and learned the Philomena Kpitingeh dance (If this makes me sound older than 16, then change Tic Tac to Efya, and insert Efya song). 

I remember he bought me a necklace – a bit of string with a glass trinket hanging from it which was my most treasured possession until… I forget when… my next great love interest I suppose.

My mother tells me the funfair was my reward( or bribe) for scoring 10% over the 80% target Mr. Abanga set for me.

I liked hearing my mother tell me her version of events, and I totally understood her when she added how worried she was about the appropriateness of the whole thing when she realized how serious my infatuation was… Apparently when he realized it, he tried to create distance between us…. But it was tooooo late, I knew his house and I was scoring 90% – 100% in maths. 

He left Ghana eventually and though he came back briefly, I don’t know where he is now. Mr Daniel Abanga, if you’re reading this, thank you, thank you, thank you and please get in touch. We can talk about how you remember all of this ❤️

…….
The other thing I remember differently is not as heartwarming…

So! I have a vague memory of eating the most delicious pastry ever when I was a child. They called it “tyt” which I’m pretty sure is almost definitely actually supposed to be ‘tart’ lol. I remember it as a creamy, delicious yellow bread-like pastry, and so therefore when I heard a woman shout “yeees tyt” at Tema roundabout as I sat with my friend Sarpong waiting for a trotro to fill up, I immediately told him about it. And then I bought one. And bit into it. Waiting for the Angels to break into song. It was disappointing. Tasted like cardboard soaked in the tears of disappointment of Arsenal and Liverpool fans and fried in the oil off the faces of heavy-breathing Accra Hearts of Oak fans. 

<shudder> Anyway, on the way to Sogakope I asked my mother about tyt. And got laughed at. Again. Basically, she didn’t feed me much sugar in my childhood and tyt was one of the first sugar-rich things I ever ate. According to her it’s always tasted like that – but as I noted earlier, she clearly has a nefarious agenda here. I therefore reject her memory, and encourage you to reject it as well  – I SWEAR it was soft and creamy and buttery and delicious – so if you have a memory of tyt (which echoes mine), let me know.

Motherfuckitude by Poetra Asantewa – Some Thoughts

Disclaimer: I only do this for art that tugs at my heart and mind. The last time this happened was for Asa’s Bed of Stone. Fyi, this is not a review. Furthermore, you can listen to Poetra’s EP here.

Poetra Motherfuckitude

Listening to Motherfuckitude back to back for a while reminds me of thoughts I’ve thought and shelved for a while… Like how great most of my generation is at being simultaneously connected and detached. I sense this duality in Poetra’s art in general. I mean.. we’ve had to be great at straddling and expertly navigating a number of worlds. We weren’t born into connectivity – we came of age in it. [Side Note: When I see all those articles moaning about how young people spend way too much time online or how the world is going to shit because these young people spend all time on their phones, I snort in amusement because these people have not realised how great we are at adapting and evolving. We balance “real life” and “social media life” (assuming those are actually two separate worlds, but that’s a discussion for another day) because there really is no choice for us. If I video a concert while watching it does it mean I am not enjoying it? If I check out what other people are tweeting about the show I’m watching while watching it and tweeting about it myself does it mean I’m not watching it? I hang out with friends in real life and in real time on twitter all the time – our conversations weaving and wafting online and offline – No biggie.]

Same way Poetra weaves and wafts – No biggie.

Track by track? Why not?


Naked Listeners is chock full of quotables and preach-sister-preach moments. Not sure what I mean about the weaving and wafting? It’s a constant theme throughout Motherfuckitude and in this first track you begin to experience it. The arrangement is just sublime. The bells. The bells. The bells. 

P.O.A takes me back to awkward moments as a teenager crossing over into my twenties – competing thoughts all up in my head – trying to find my feet, my place in the world, sometimes wondering whether I should even bother. It’s about her personal battle with art, plus observations about the field she’s intimately connected to, yet as I listen, I put myself in her shoes and think of my own (fading) struggles to find my spot(s). 

No Panties is a good one in this collection of good ones. Though it’s not my favourite, I can certainly see why it seems to be so many other people’s favourite track off Motherfuckitude, AND it’s not just because she has no panties on. It’s littered with subversion and rebellion which may not be so subversive as it seems to be fast becoming the ‘in’ attitude now… I remember when I first realised Poetra could sing – like really sing. It was at an Ehalakasa event at Nubuke foundation, she came out with a now long-forgotten guy accompanying her on the guitar and charley, it was beautiful.

The Poetry Ain’t Shit melody is delightfully upbeat for such a depressing refrain. The message is familiar – it ties in with P.O.A in rather nicely. And as always, the ever present (does she even realise she’s consciously doing it? do we?) weaving and wafting… weaving and wafting. 

Masked Commoners is another one that clearly brings out that straddling or different worlds I’ve referred to. It’s quite heavy in terms of the theme, but in a good way. There’s commentary on the worlds we live in today; with the uneasy couplings and balancing acts we continue to contend with in our daily lives. As an aside, I would like to note that the music perfectly matches the words.  

All Love is light and breathless. It’s the sort of track I would imagine playing in the background when I’m a perfect date with a person I expect to break up with in a few weeks. It’s the sort of lighthearted yet serious, breathless yet measured anthem for heart-wrenchingly painful moments you know a bottle of wine and 2 bars of chocolate can fix. It draws you in – promising an easy listen – and you fall for it… listening twice.. five times and then it thrusts you into your feels… and then you shake your head with a wry smile because Poetra got you. It’s ditzy brilliance. It’s my favourite.


In conclusion? I love Motherfuckitude.