On Call-Out Culture

Call-out culture at it’s core, is a great way to denounce bigotry. What I love(d) about it – in it’s social media manifestation – is how it gives people who are ordinarily not powerful a way to speak up about powerful people and systems and be heard.

I used to learn so much from call-outs – both mine, and others.

Then things started changing, slowly so most of us didn’t realise at first what exactly was happening and why we were uncomfortable with that new wave of call-outs. Some people began to advocate for “calling-in” – a kinder way to call out, because sometimes humans screw up not because they are evil, but there are still unlearning and you recognise that.

Nii Kotei made a couple of posts about canceling people, calling out and calls for civility which fitted right in with my musing about these things.

I sometimes reflect on why I am so uncomfortable with calling out as it is done these days, and here’s where I’m at:

Power Analysis is Key

I appreciated and supported calling out on twitter in the past because it had to do with power. At the time, people who ordinarily did not have any power in certain context could speak up about powerful people, systems and the harm they caused them. And they were heard because twitter was fresh and new and exciting and great (yay). Those call-outs were punching up – at unrepentant bigots, bigoted systems, powerful bigots and I was down with that, charley.

… but now, what I often see with my jaded jaded eyes is a lateral punching. A punching sideways. Punching laterally. Cite me. just kidding. No cite me, for real.

And most of the time, it looks and feels like a mean-spirited pile on. And occasionally it doesn’t even look like that lateral punching thing – it’s plain old punching down. It’s bullying.

I also understand that often, people without power are told to pipe down, or to change their protesting tactics by the powerful. So I also get the opposition to the opposition to call-out culture. I get why some people who suddenly have a way to be heard, an avenue to confront the bigotry which makes their lives difficult do not appreciate being told there might be something toxic about the methods.

The way I see it, there’s social media currency now and that’s power too. The kids call it clout… as in, me and my fellow kids call it clout.  The number of followers a person has – of course, but also who follows a person, and or how quickly they can get people online to “take a person down” sometimes based only on they say a person said or did. It’s scary sometimes. Like that time people destroyed a Korean models career by making up a fake story based on a photo of her and circulating it, or that time a Ghanaian man was put in mortal peril because someone put up photos of him on whatsapp and said he was an armed robber. The man had to shave his beard off and go into hiding for a while.

This social media currency is a form of power too. I think we who are marginalised in offline spaces, but have this online power should think about how we use it, because god forbid we become like the oppressors we claim to fight when we taste a tiny fraction of the sort of power they have, right?


Can we call-out, call-in, or call-alfresco without the bullying?

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.

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?


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?

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 

to the Kuukuwa across the street

There’s a Kuukuwa who lives in the house across the street. I know this because her mother keeps screaming out her name. Whenever I hear that exasperated drawn-out “Kuuukuwa!” my mind flashes back to episodes of my life as a teenage bookworm. I would often lie curled up in bed, completely immersed in a novel, or hide out in the mango tree behind our boys quarters with my nose buried in a book. And ever so often, my mother would call out for me to come assist her in the kitchen. I always heard her calls, but I quickly became an expert at ignoring ignoring and ignoring!

After two or three unsuccessful prolonged “Kuukuwas”, my mother would barge into my room in irritation. She had different tactics – all in an attempt to instil the desire to help with housework in me. (lol)”. One of the regulars was a short speech/warning that went something like “Kuukuwa, so you didn’t hear me calling you. You’re lazy oh. Come and help in the kitchen or else!” And on very special occasions of despair, she would finish with a “Your husband will put your groundnut soup in a bottle and bring you back home with it oh.” I would usually respond with “Why won’t you ask Fiifi?” (my brother) … or when I was feeling pretty wicked, I would mutter to myself “groundnut soup. Hoh! Did Marie Curie spend her teenage years making groundnut soup? And why would I want husband when all he does is sit in the living room and watch tv while you slave away in the kitchen!” Sadly for young teenage Kuukuwa, these episodes almost always ended the same way – my eyes awash with a film of angry tears while I cut onions, grated nutmegs or ground kpakpo shitɔ in the asanka while glaring at the blender angrily. 

So when I hear the woman across the street call this much younger Kuukuwa, I imagine her hidden away in some corner, trying to get five more minutes with her book… five more minutes in that fantasy world. Five more minutes of imagining herself hand-in-hand with Anne of Green Gables, trading best friend secrets and naming the beautiful springs and trees around them. Or perhaps she’s imagining herself as Hermione right now, feeling Hermione’s hurt at being thought of as a know-it-all and yet powerless to stop her hand from shooting up because she knows the answer… she always knows the answer. 

And sometimes when I imagine this Kuukuwa I have never seen, I think about giving her a pep talk. I tell her to keep on being herself for her love for reading will shape her in the most delightful ways. I tell her that all the recipes for Ghana food are online and that cooking is so easy – she can learn anytime. “Feed your imagination, Kuukuwa. Practice writing yourself. You will never regret it. Write that fantasy novella you’re thinking about writing. The one that you’ll stumble across when you’re 25. That one which will drive you to wild laughter when you read it 11 years later. Laugh at, but be proud of the naive and yet amazingly imaginative paragraphs. You will smile when you remember that Kuukuwa of years past and you will be glad you kept hiding yourself say to read… 

but don’t hide in the mango tree though, those red ants are evil and they attack as a giant coordinated team!

Don’t let the light of your imagination dim, Kuukuwa. Don’t let anyone try to stifle it, and oh they will try – albeit unintentionally and without malice for they don’t know better – but don’t let them stop you.”

Another short untitled one

She felt droplets of saliva land on her left cheek and upper lip.

He had worked himself into a righteous rage, and his speech had reached the heights of passion.

Ghanaians are hypocrites!” he screamed as the heads around his bobbed up and down, smirks on smirking faces because the owners knew that even though they were Ghanaians, they were not Ghanaians because they were certainly not hypocrites. 

“Back in Europe,” the people are always honest, they tell you the truth as it is. “My students – 9 year olds – they tell me plainly all the time – ‘Francis, that is very stupid’ – and I am not offended because we all say exactly what we think”

The heads bobbed up and down even faster – nobody wanted to nod too gently and give the impression that they did not already know that these things happen in Europe all the time.

She had never been good at knowing when to shut up “Perhaps, they just didn’t respect you

Black Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter
Yesterday, it was a mantra
Today, it’s a plea

To escape oppression, the oppressed must become superhuman, angelic, without fault, without blemish…
Because anything you say or do will be magnified out of proportion. It will become the excuse the oppressors use. They will be blind to their own faults and expect you somehow to magically transcend the limits of human perfection.

Woe betide you if you act human.

For the moment that you make a mistake even they themselves make, all their oppression will be justified.

You think education, nobility and respect will save you from racism… till you find yourself standing in shock by a street in New York… wearing a three-piece suit and horn-rimmed glasses…all your degrees and awards flashing before your eyes as you stare at the hateful white guy who just passed by you and called you “fucking nigger”.

When did you realize you were black?
It was the moment I started to read and understand histories of slavery… of PanAfricanism… Of Apartheid
That’s when I knew.

I’m still in mourning.

Black Lives Matter
Yesterday, it was a mantra
Today, it’s a plea

It’s so hard to live in this world that old white men created

It’s so hard to live in this world that old white men created – especially if you’re just an ordinary black person.

The extraordinary ones have got it good – the stooges and their descendants, you know, the ones that sold their own brothers into slavery, the warrant chiefs, the zealous christian converts who went to destroy their people’s temples etc… and the nice noble savages, the women who had kids with white men..etc And the rich black people – the rappers and athletes, the theiving heads of states, government officials and their friends and families.. see where I’m going with this?

First the white men came to our lands in Africa where we were minding our own damn business, looted our gold and art (some spent decades trying to prove we didn’t make such fine art that they were incapable of making themselves) Then they destroyed our cities and stole our people away to Europe & the Americas and forced them to be slaves in the most inhumane… most evil… most horrendous circumstances.

These white people, they whipped our people, treated them like animals, they killed them.

Hundreds of years later and they are still doing this to our people and it hurts so damn much.

I’m reading news and tweets from Ferguson and I’m tired all all this crap. Like, you won’t make reparations, okay fine. Just let us live in peace then. It’s so unfair that young black men get killed for holding a toy gun but a young white man gets calmly talked to and asked to lay down his weapon after shooting up a cinema.

I’m so tired of it all and it hurts so much because I know it will never end. Like, why didn’t they just leave us alone in our continent in the first place. Why enslave us, steal from us, destroy our monuments and colonise us. What the fuck did we do to deserve this shit? How can all this just be because we were created/born with a different skin colour?

You can’t escape this world that old white men created. If they left you in Africa, they left you in countries that they carved up because of natural resources… with no fucking concern for the peoples and clans they separated. They left you in countries poised to fail at independence because they had stolen so much from them and they controlled the markets and EVERYTHING. And if you got a president that wasn’t a fucking stooge and looked like he was leading the country to some semblance of dignity, they killed him and/or guided your country gently into civil war.

If you’re an ordinary black person, once you step outside your continent (except parts of North Africa & South Africa… and Trassaco Valley), everywhere you go in this world your chances of being treated like an animal increase exponentially. Even in India, where the people were colonised and enslaved too, because they have fairer skin and straighter hair, they feel they’re better than you and they might kill you.

They love our buttocks and penises and music and clothes and athletisicm and our “black culture”, but they never loved us, charley.

And if you die & you were bad, you go to hell and suffer. If you die a good person, you go to heaven with old white God where you’re still a second class citizen because everybody knows white people sit closer to Old White God on his right hand side.

PS: If you feel the need to tell me about “agency” and “exceptions”, can you not see that I’m mourning? Go blog about it on your own blog, you kwasia.

RIP Prof. Karel Bakker. Of brief interactions & lasting memories

archiafrika conference

Professor Karel Bakker was a voice of clarity in the chaos of my early explorations of what it meant to be an African architect. I met him at an ArchiAfrika Educational Network conference in Accra, and he left a lasting impression. I’m sad I will not get to meet him again.

Recently I’ve been thinking of perhaps doing my PhD closer to home, and South Africa came to mind when I remembered Prof. Bakker telling my friends and I about funding opportunities at his University of Pretoria.

At the that conference , he said something’s that have stayed with me – about being African and loving Africa being deeper than the colour of your skin. About how diverse the peoples and architectures of Africa are, and how that meant an African architecture had to go beyond the visual… A sentiment I agree wholeheartedly with as I search for my identity and place(s) as an African architect in this world.

His death also reminds me of one of my biggest failings as a person, something I’m always saying I’ll fix… which is keeping in touch with people I’ve met and liked/ admired. At that same conference, I rubbed shoulders with giants of academia in the field of the architecture of Africa.  I promised to write, and I haven’t. I’m fixing that tonight.


Heavy thoughts…

Thoughts and prayers with the family in these difficult times.

Use Your Brain.

Many many years ago, someone came to your land and decided that you were less human because of your dark skin, and because God said so. The person said you descended from Ham so were cursed to be a slave for eternity.

Today, you have decided that someone is less human because she has a vagina. You said a woman is destined to serve you because God said so.

This same God gave you a brain. Perhaps you should use it every now and then.