Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Last Few Days of the Year

Here's wishing all my friends accross continents Happy New Year.
May the coming year bring righteousness, joy and peace to our lives, our homes, our city, our province, our country and the whole wide world.

I will enjoy the singing of Auld Lang Syne ...... May our circles of friendship be unbroken!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

GHANA 2008

The first Kibi visit in November, meeting the students and the teachers.

No pictures yet. I arrived Sunday evening and was met at the airport by two of my sisters and two of my nieces. It is great to be met at the airport. Conversely the airport feels a lot more orderly and peaceful than years ago when we first began to travel.

Accra feels a little different this time. Perhaps Canada really is HOME! I have already had my hair done in braids and am looking quite nice I think. I have met family on both sides - my husbands and mine and all are doing fairly well.

Tomorrow we advance to Kibi, Kyebi or what you will to see what is to be done about the library. I will take my camera so you can see through my eyes...eventually.

Best wishes,

(the blogger returned).

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

TENACITY! Lesson One from Mrs. Clinton

Lesson one from Hillary Clinton is TENACITY.
Don't slack, loosen or quit your hold, no matter what.
Her eye has been on the end even when she had not fully conceived the goal, while it was just an uncommitted germ cell in an embryonic ovary.

She has been tenacious through her education as a young woman in law school and after her heart beat was awakened by Martin Luther King and she met and married her savvy husband Bill and found the dream which then doubled. Nothing has deterred her, not Whitewatergate or Whitehouseimproprietygate, when most feminists may have been tempted to divorce an errant husband in one self-satisfying drama of revenge and justification. No!

Hillary has taught us to dream the dream and to hold on to the dream, taking the plusses and the minusses. Hillary has taught me to keep the drama low and not to be the victim and to keep counting the 'yea' votes one by one. Eighteen million she came up with. Hats off to Hiilary and the victory of tenacity. Tenacity like Hillary continues to be a force to reckon with.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Obama etc.

Obama has won the Democratic primaries and made history! I hope the Americans commit to making even larger history for the elections. Rev. TD Jakes had much to say about that on a CNN site well worth reading. Worldwide, this event will serve to lift the expectations of Black people and minorities everywhere. We are aware that this event is about America yet it touches the rest of us in very real ways. Life is about the present and the future, the past should only help to strengthen our resolve for better tomorrows.

I have learned many lessons from watching both Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama on CNN news everynight. I have enjoyed most of the presenters guests and analysts for these months, all except Lou Dobbs who leaves me feeling that there is something beneath that cultivated exterior. Larry King, Anderson Cooper and Wolf Blitzer, I like, but we need a true woman anchor, a colorful personality, smart and intense, yet cool and professional. How about Arianna of the Huffington Post? She's smart but doesn't come accross like a bully as do Nancy Grace and Judge Judy. John King will be very happy to rest his electronic map. He must be so fed up of crunching those same numbers night after night although he was a good sport and never showed it. I must say CNN is riveting in it's ability to keep us hooked on the news inspite of many repetitions. How they manage to keep circulating the same news through out the day from program to program is amazing. I believe them when they say they are the best news team.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf

Late last night, I chanced upon a documentary on the first year of Her Excellency Ellen Sirleaf's presidency of the West African country of Liberia. It ended about 2am. I was really tired after teaching dance that evening but I could not take my eyes off the unfolding real life drama on the TV screen.

What would inspire this woman entering her golden years, to attain to such a difficult and dangerous position, at a time of life when her peers would be retiring and seeking rest and pensions after years of service.

The woman I know, if she had worked hard and long for many years, would be inspired toward the comfort of a beautiful, exquisitely decorated suburban house, complete with landscaping, and a nice chauffeur driven upmarket car. Her son and daughter would probably have second and third degrees from American or European universities, and most likely would be working for corporate America and so on and so forth, in that general vein.... and why not? That is the good life. Indeed Sirleaf Johnson may have all of these as she held positions at Citibank and World Bank.

But Madam Sirleaf's older sister said their mother always said, "Ellen will be great!" Maybe that's what did it. It is my intention to research more about this woman, who walks her treadmill in the morning, dresses traditionally African, who has an unprecedented number of women in her cabinet. Ellen Sirleaf rises daily to fight against overwhelming poverty, extreme corruption, disorderly mobs (made up of exmilitia men and ex-renegade soldiers who laid waste the contryside in the days of Charles Taylor), opposition party members, (some of whom should have been tried and incarcerated for everything from war crimes to corruption) and unchecked multinationals who have exploited and mistreated Liberian workers for decades. She has very little on her side except hope and the undependable promises of aid from donors like the World Bank and IMF, who give with one hand and take back with the other hand and both feet!

Hooh! (Ghanaian groan) It's clear that her life is in danger from day to day and yet she faces confrontations as they come. She listens with grandmotherly compassion to the aggrieved, making everyone feel significant. She shoots straight with honesty and conviction in her dealings, never shying away from the difficult issues, whether with demonstrators or her own cabinet members. She doesn't run and she doesn't hide. How long can she keep this up?

She more than others, in world politics in recent times is the true revolutionary. I will be watching her as she leads this unlikely democracy, which is born out of years of civil war and loss. Indeed I will be praying for her. She will need a lot of help and I hope that America which has historical connections with this small country will find her cause worthy of real help. There will be many lessons yet to learn from her. And perhaps someone will follow her up soon with yet another documentary in the last year of her term.

I think of Winnie Mandela who began so well but was in the end affected by the corruption and dangers of her time. I wish Ellen well. " Finish hard", we cheer her on! I echo what her mother said when she was only a baby: "Ellen will be great!"

Friday, May 09, 2008

The Guelph Public Library is 125 Years Old

My librarian friends at the children's department of the GPL


Yesterday night I attended the GPL Gala at the Westminster Square Branch to celebrate all of 125 years and to promote the new main library which is yet to be born.
Sixty Guelph authors, guests and members of the public heard speeches from Norman McLeod the Chief Librarian, Susan Ratcliffe, Thomas King, the keynote speaker and Mary Mulholland of the Friends of the GPL. Dean Palmer unveiled the commemorative Triptych.
I didn't know that Guelph was home to so many authors and as our names were called we walked up the red carpet to applause. My notables were Bob Munsch, Linda Hendry, Janet Wilson and Jo Ellen Bogart, Dave Carter, Edeet Ravel, Stephen Hennighan, Amy Baskin, Jane Lewis and Werner Zimmerman.

30 million copies of books by Bob Munsch have been sold worldwide. WOW! I believe Linda Hendry and Janet Wilson have written and/or illustrated about 50 books each but the gathering wasn't about numbers and fiscal success, just simply about books and authors and the celebration of imagination. Our guest of honour, Tom King, said that writers didn't write for money. Well, making money while writing is very helpful especially if it is one's job or if one wants to spend more time doing it. But it is true that we write really because we feel we have something that begs to be said and also because we feel we can say it in such a way that people would like to read it.

There were trays and trays of cheese and grapes and so much left over at the end. The jazz by Bebopamoeba was electric, enlivening atmosphere. It was nice to meet new people and renew old acquaintances. I didn't take a camera but there were many photographers and am sure we can expect some photos on some internet site soon enough.

I would like to say thank you to the staff of the Guelph Public Library who put on a great gala and who went out of their way to celebrate Guelph authors on the anniversary of GPL, the very first public library in Ontario.

Happy Anniversary GPL!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children's Books Awards

Baba Wague Diakite's Art
1:30pm at Ryerson Community School, Denison Street, Toronto: About forty people gather at the library to announce and celebrate the Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Book Awards. Started in 1976 by Sylvia Scwartz in honour of her sister Ruth, their family have since 2004, renamed the award for both Sylvia and Ruth whose work honoured children; Ruth as a bookseller and Sylvia as a photographer. The award ceremony was simple and sweet with the welcome and introductions by Brian McBurney the teacher-librarian of Ryerson school and Janet Stubbs of the Ontario Arts Foundation. Fule and I were the entertainment, and who better to tell of than Ananse. That trickster spider has been my favorite theme this week and as the owner of all stories, he claims even the ones in books. Ha!

Lorraine Filyer of the Ontario Arts Council, introduced the student jurors and the shortlisted books of both categories of the award: Picture Books and Young Adult books. She also gave us a glimpse of the process of choosing the winners.

Kenneth Oppel won the YA award for his book "Darkwing" and Duncan Weller won the picture book award for his picture book "The Boy From The Sun." In attendance were Carol Solway and Herb Solway representatives of the Schwartz family and the foundation, the principal of the school and other people connected with the OAC, libraries and education. There was a delightful 3 month old baby girl in pink and blue jeans and about thirty five students including the jurors and their friends. At the end we ate chocolate cupcakes and juice. Yum!

Sunday, May 04, 2008


Hand made by the artists of Puppet's Elora: Annerose Schmidt, Bev Matheson and Connie Smith.
Oh Anansi, is this so?

Yesterday, I heard two Anansi stories at Trinity Presbyterian Church, Bayview Avenue Toronto , where Fule led a drum workshop. I met two women from Jamaica and Eunice from Barbados. One of the ladies told me two stories she had heard as a child.

Anansi had three kids at a certain time by his beloved wife. One day, he brought home four fingers of plantain for supper- perhaps it was all he could afford. So he called his family together and shared them out, one finger for his wife Aso, and one for each child.

Then he returned empty-handed to his room. "How about you Anansi?" Aso asked. "Aren't you hungry?"
Anansi made a sad face and said he was happy to sacrifice for the good of his family. Having thus stirred the heart of his wife, she immediately broke her plantain into two and gave him half, which he ate quickly.

The others each in their turn offered him half, and each time, he graciously received.
Who had the most food in the end?

In the second story, Anansi said he was cured from gossiping. The other animals decided to test him so the bareheaded vulture announced that he was going for a hair cut. Try as hard as he did, Anansi could not prevent himself from asking his neighbours, " Pray tell, and where is the hair that vulture's going to have trimmed? It can't be on top of his head, he-he!"

" Gossip!" his neighbours cried.
They say it was the only time the trickster was tricked.
I say, be careful what you say when you hear wonderful things!

Friday, May 02, 2008

Ananse Owns All Stories or Does He?

photo courtesy: Puppets Elora
About three years ago Connie Smith formerly of Puppets Elora, approached me to retell an Ananse story for a puppet show. The whole idea of puppets aroused my interest immediately, having once enjoyed those strange puppets on Ghana TV, playing musical instruments with jerky motion, all those many years ago. My other memories of puppets in my youth was a Punch and Judy show I watched at the Goethe Institute in Accra, Ghana and of course Sesame Street on GBC. Yes, I believe there was a puppet show on Sound of Music too, with a yodelling goat. I trust my memory!

So I went and watched "Babushka 's Doll", a puppet show staged by Puppets Elora, at the Westwood School, to meet the puppeteers and acquaint myself with the unique artistry of puppets in storytelling. A visit to Connie's house and several email edits later, "Anansi, The Spider-Man of Africa", was scripted by Connie and I and ready to be sculpted, stitched and otherwise created, by an amazing group of women known as Puppets Elora. Later on Fule provided a sound track.

Here's where memory fails, for am not quite sure when we premiered the show at the Gorge Theatre to a fantastic audience, but I do remember the show and it was great! So here's a photo of Ananse and His good looking wife Aso-Yaa discussing who really should be the owner of stories. If you have a chance to see Puppets Elora this Spring, seize it. It is very well worth every dollar!

Annerose the sculptor and puppeteer made a mask for me, representing Nyame of the Sky, for in this story Ananse has opportunity to speak to Nyame.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008


photo credit: Greg Coman
I love Yankadi, not only because I don't breathe so hard when we dance it, but because of its curvy, loose and comfortable flow and also because it is so good to dramatize. Last Saturday while recovering from an attack of the flu, I was still able to teach Yankadi at Studio Soleil's African Dance workshop at Ballinafad.

Here's a photo of my favorite Jiwani dancers, Rocio, Kiah and Mary at last February's Song of Wagadu: Song of Africa show at the GYMC, Guelph.

Friday, April 25, 2008


Maureen and Stephanie
Searching for the sun on a cloudy day,

Memories will do just fine,

If caught and stored in digital pixels,

full colour and pleasant on a day like this.

by Adwoa

Saturday, April 12, 2008


Kathy Knowles and Adwoa at the North York Library! Photo by Tony Aidoo.

When I was young, at probably nine or ten years old, we lived in a suburb of Accra called Ringway Estates. I guess it was really a sub-suburb because the original area was the traditional land of the Osu Ga people, so the larger area was called Osu-RE. I liked Osu-RE, because we had our own departmental store, the GNTC about two hundred metres one way and down the street, there was Modern Bakery and later Afridom and Fifo which had a very friendly store manager. Our part of Ringway was also home to a busy night life with kenkey sellers, kelewele sellers and in the day time a true 'Yo ke Gari' (Gari, beans, fried plantain and zomi) seller. Ringway was a bustling lively area. We had the best Chinese reataurants, Mandarin, Pearl of the East and another one whose name escapes me. My cousin owned the Ringway Hotel, but he never invited us there and then there was the large Penta Hotel, which someone squeezed on the corner opposite the British Petroleum gas station.

Ringway had much to offer. Mark Cofie the business man, opened Rendezvous at the BP where we bought our first slushies. Later on he started a restaurant nearer Osu proper where we could buy not only slushies but doughnuts and popcorn. We saved all our money to spend at Mark Cofie's. Sometimes we bought cotton candy, which we called candy floss, at a corner store near Mark Cofie's. It was a little later that the Patisserie Mondiale opened next to Modern Bakery and there lay the greatest temptation, for Patisserie sold cake in slices! By then we were in Highschool. In those days Patisserie's cakes cost fourteen to sixteen cedis a slice, but somehow we convinced my mother that it was worth it. She always said their cake mix had been whipped to death. My sister Ako and I did not mind how much whipping the cake had taken. The icing and fillings were out of this world!

Ringway also had the best night clubs but we were not permitted to go near them, not until we were done highschool and even then, we went to those places only occassionally and without naming exactly where we were going. There was Keteke, the start-up club, where the initial middle class jammers had begun their life of fun. Old timers who had forgotten the passing of the years, still continued to visit Keteke where the youth thronged. Then there was the more sophisticated Cave du Roi . A little later, someone built Black Caesar's palace, which must have been an ugly building, but we thought it was the greatest building ever for it's imposing Castle-like entrance. That was the place where the decadent rich went who had money to spend.

Ringway was where a number of President Kwame Nkrumah's ministers and cohorts had built their homes in the fifties and sixties when Accra was becoming modern. Conversely, Ringway also boasted the Danquah Circle, named after J.B. Danquah of the opposition UNCP who had died, jailed in Nkrumah's infamous Nsawam prison. Ringway was home to the Abbey Road Boys hip boys who tried the new substance, Marijuana and suffered for it.

Our street, was home to the Polish Embassy, the Hungarian Embassy and the American Embassy Annex. We had our own cobblar at the street corner, who was also a fireman and many of our friends lived within walking distance. When much later I met my husband in faraway Kumasi, surprise, his family had just moved to Ringway!

At ten years old, the best thing about Ringway was a library my sister and I discovered, called Osu Children's library. We shared one library card and we only borrowed Nancy Drew! Back and forth we walked, returning and borrowing books, probably until we had read the last Nancy Drew. By then we were off to boarding school. (It is probably more likely that we lost a book and never went back).

So here comes Kathy Knowles, who has founded Osu Children's Library fund and who is growing libraries all over Accra, Ghana, like tomatoes in her garden. Kathy is a chance librarian, chance library builder, or more truthfully a Destiny-Librarian. She has found her calling in life as though it were a penny on the ground which she stooped to pick up. Starting her first library under a tree with her kids and neighbours kids, she has gone on to found over a hundred libraries of all sizes and shapes in Ghana. Her libraries are sometimes housed in a school room, or someone's house or held under a tree. Her foundation has also built at least two beautiful library buildings, one in the Nima slums and another elsewhere. Kathy is a champion of Accra children many of whose success in life will be directly attributed to Kathy Knowles-Canadian, and Ghanaian-child and book lover!
Anna, Tony, Maureen and I, listened to Kathy Knowles speak on April Fools day. Anna Aidoo and her husband Tony and girls, represented the Ghanaian Consulate in Toronto. Anna was resplendent in her kente kaba and slit! I really enjoyed the coffee and biscotti afterward but it was Kathy who inspired us all. We were inspired by her vision, compassion, the size of her work and the dignity with which she treated her Ghanaian employees and the many children who benefit from the library. This love and dignity is obvious in the books she now publishes for Ghana and Africa but which I feel must be read here, in Canada and everywhere else. She has captured what very few people are able to do: the beauty of the African people. Beyond that, Kathy has captured hope!

This month I have started a campaign for a children's library in the small town of Kibi which the citizens call Kyebi, in the Akyem Abuakwa Traditional Area, where the Okyenhene reigns. It has been my great pleasure and inspiration to meet Kathy Knowles.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Ohenewa-Olympic Wrestling Princess

dorothy, justo, adwoa, ohenewa and fule at Bollywood Bistro
Bollywood Bistro in Guelph is our favourite place to dine, especially when there is something to celebrate and this week there has been much to celebrate. Bollywood Bistro is owned by our friends, Guelph citizens, Harish and Neena Naidu. There's history spanning at least seven years which bind Neena and Harish, in love, to our hearts. Watching Bollywood Bistro rise from the dreams of our friends into the place of eastern beauty and culinary excellence it is now is a story which I hope will one day be told! I am always inspired when I eat there!

But this blog is not about food. It isn't even about a remarkable afternoon of recording Justo's Bubi songs and thererafter, a celebratory dining among friends, sistahs and brothas; it isn't even about the delectable samosa, or butter chicken or Dorothy and Justo's rapidly spoken Spanish breaking up the English spoken on our table, it is about meeting Ohenewa.

It happened just as we were done dessert, Fule, Justo, Dorothy and I, and done discussing the French president, Sarkhozy and his wife Bruni on their recent trip, when I used a twi phrase, "Ye n'ko?" translated "Shall we?"

I had already noticed the black woman sitting on the next table waiting for her food to be served. She swung around and asked, "Are you Ghanaians?"
"Yes," I said. Then in that instant it dawned on me. My eyes grew as large as oranges..."You are the wrestler", I said standing up. And she was.

I had passed her months ago on the 401 headed for Toronto and had read her name and Canadaian Olympic advertisement on the back of her car. It said something like Support your Canadian Olympic Athletes, beneath WWW. OHENEWA. COM. That same day I had googled her name and read everything about her on her website. I knew I wanted to meet her!

So I went over to her table and hugged her. Dorothy had read about her in the Mercury and she likewise hugged her, we moved her over to our crowded table and devoured her news, every bit of it. It was as satisfying as the samosas and chicken tikka masala I had eaten. Then we had to leave. Outside it was snowing...again. Spring was in Bollywood Bistro but outside it was winter. We know that in the end Spring will win over winter so we are making plans to connect again with Ohenewa and are planning to watch her wrestle in June. I was quick on the draw like a tourist with camera in hand. Here we all are at Bollywood Bistro making friends!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

LOBELA Extensions

Historias, poetas, negras, africana, madre, abuela, traumatithandes........

I'm listening to the cadence of consonants
beyond my ability to decode
feeling peace within soft vowel sounds
past organic boundaries of comprehension
because there is no threat
of my being misunderstood
in this place

Justo Bolekia Boleka has come from Salamanca, Spain to Guelph with the soft songs of his Bubi people of Equatorial Guinea to tell us a story of songs, poetry, culture and cultures, connecting and interacting with dissonance and assonance and sometimes (we hope), in harmony. He speaks Spanish to Dorothy Odartey-Wellington's third year Spanish literature class, which on this day has attracted Hispanics and Spanish speakers from as far as Toronto and London, Ontario, to hear of the little known, one and only former Spanish colony of Africa, which has been influenced at various times by the French, the British and the Portuguese... an amazing amount of colonial activity for a country of 500,000 people living on the main land and several islands.

Of course I did not understand Justo, as I speak no Spanish but did still enjoy the sounds of the Spanish language and his gestures and expressions, and his very occassional forays into English and French. I had the pleasure of chatting with him before and after and the event and do believe I have some insight into this lecturer's philosophy and persuasion. One had only to listen to his songs, to feel compelled to enter his world, where the Bubi live, striving for victory against a past and a present filled with variations of dissonance!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

It takes a Village: It takes a leader

Hillary Clinton has popularized the idea, "It takes a village to raise a child." We have heard that this is an African proverb and it sounds like the kind of nugget-form wisdom that Africans are so adept at shaping. Which ethnic group formed this proverb? Does anybody know? Is it Zulu, or Xhosa, or Ewe or Yoruba, or Akan? The idea speaks of the power of community but the effectiveness of the ratio does not cut it in todays global capitalist world...imagine 1000: 1 , the ratio of adults raising one child. This idea becomes effective when the village develops ways to raise a whole generation effectively and this is possible.....100 adults raising 10000 children. Now in her bid to raise a country, her new Arkansas -American proverb would read, It takes a leader to raise a million kids. A new ratio! 1: 10000000.
It seems people believe more in this latter ratio, for all the trouble people go to worldwide, to find leaders, make them, worship them and keep them in power!

So let us think of ways to raise the ancient child....Africa. Infact everywhere people are thinking of this same issue, from pop stars to world politicians to world banks and world bussinessmen as well as world intelligentsia, world academia, backpackers, churches, moral societies, foundations and individuals.

How hard it is! It was easy enough to exploit the ancient child and make tons of money from it when the motive was singular.....EXPLOIT! And Africa has been exploited by outsiders and insiders and continues to suffer thus. But now, because of conflicted motives, see how hard the opposite proves to be......In the end it is about MOTIVE! True change will come about when SINGULAR VISION is constructed first on LOVE and SACRIFICE. Is this possible? The commitment must come from within. But who can stand against the forces of globalism? Only China has withstood this test and is still on it's feet, with the free-world running over themselves to trade.

Sometimes it seems much easier for a person to raise a million children than for the entire village to raise a child.

The human ratio is 80: 20.... or 20:80.., This is what I have heard...
Are these statements true....?
20% of the world's population own 80% of its resources.
20% of the worlds population use up 80% of the world's resources.
20% of the world's population create 80% of the waste.
20% of the world's population oppressed 80% of the world's population
20% of the world's population provide 80% of the Aid
Which percentages do you belong to?

Saturday, March 15, 2008


Greg Coman took this motion photo of Stephanie dancing
This March break, my daughter Stephanie and I have been watching America's Best Dance Crew and we have been thoroughly entertained. I love dance and it's great that we can catch high level reality dance shows like this one and So You Think You Can Dance on TV! We have decided to take Hip Hop this summer. My first lesson from Stephanie has been the popular Soulja boy routine which I have just nailed. Now I must buy the music.

As I watch what these competitions do for the art, I think of course of African Dance and Africa and what competition would do for it. I am convinced that ours is the most vibrant of the dance forms and I would like to see it develop on the continent, raised to the professional levels found in shows like UMOJA and les BALLET GUINEENNE. At the moment professional pathways wish to annex African Dance to Modern Dance, emphasizing professionalism in relation to training for modern dance. This idea is so neo-colonialist as to make Nkrumah and Sekou Toure turn in their mausoleums in West Africa. Yes, let us rise up and make something out of the mother of all dances! Let us keep classic and folkloric forms alive and find the many possible contemporary forms which could exist.

Among the dances of Africa, the dances of Guinea have found the greatest expression worldwide. Little wonder, as the people whose roots reach deeply into the ancient Malinke culture have the fastest feet even if the Zulus have the highest leg raises. As well, they have the djembefola, whose showmanship excel their other drummer relations, in part, because of the portability of their drums and also because of the investment they have made as a people to their culture. They have been the greatest cultural ambassadors from Africa and we salute them. Notwithstanding there is great expression of rhythmic culture throughout Africa and we ajure the many peoples and cultures of Africa to you show themselves to the world.

One of my dreams is to found a vibrant school here in Guelph with festival and all, and to establish a professional level school in Ghana! Vive les arts d'Afrique.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Barack- Black and White or Brown

They say he is black, but his mother is white. Can we for some moments look at at his whiteness? Barack is half white and half black. Barack is the look of the future, blending hemispheres and pigments, blending knowledge and compassion, advocating hope. Since when has America been so well represented? He represents the past and the future, the master and the slave, the European and the African and if we look at his skin tone, he's closer to the Latinos, the Asians and the First Nations. Am wondering what's wrong with this picture? Nothing at all. This is 'the one world', 'it takes a village', 'big world-small world,' 'we are one', view, we have needed for so long. What is there to fear? Let the whites see their whiteness in him. Let the blacks see their blackness in him and let the many shades of brown see their browness in him. Barack for America! This is one story which transcends the borders of America to influence the world in a positive way!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Tne News with a pinch of Salt!

In Ghana, refugees from Liberia are clamouring to be resettled in the USA. Much to the annoyance of the Ghanaian government, the Liberians at the refugee settlement are demonstrating because they do not wish to settle in Ghana and want instead to settle in the U.S.A. The Ghana government feels slighted for opening their doors and giving refuge.

What a state of affairs...The Ghanaian government has said, they are not holding anyone in Ghana. They have said the refugees can go back to Liberia, the one place they can return to without needing a settlement visa or landed immigrant permit. Liberia has been at peace for probably a decade or so, since the cessation of violence from the Charles Taylor wars of civil unrest.

Here's the problem: Apparently the U.S.A. which has taken in the largest number of Liberian refugees has determined that they have filled their quota. Additionally the war has ceased, meaning that it should be safe to return to Liberia. Of course, there is a great difference between being a refugee in the U.S. A. and being a refugee in Ghana or for that matter anywhere else in Africa. If you were going to seek refuge, I'm pretty sure you ( and I) would choose the Canada or the U.S.A., places with more wealth and greater civil liberties than other parts of the world.

So one ends up in Ghana for refuge, her cousin ends up in the U.S.A. No matter where one goes, it is a difficult road. Perhaps in Ghana one feels more equal in social terms, yet advancement in life comes with great difficulty. In the U.S.A. the feelings of inferiority and discrimination are more, yet there are better opportunities for the children growing up and those yet to be born. It seems to me that the thinking, once a refugee escapes the war, is life, peace, advancement, prosperity: the desire of all men, which is called by some, "The American Dream". Perhaps it should be called the Human Dream and the "American possibility"? (These days , even the Americans are somewhat challenged when it comes to this dream.)

Can we blame the refugees at Buduburam for wanting tickets and visas to the States? Yet, we can say that in many respects, they have lost sight of the reality of their situation- that their motherland is the only place they have real and instant rights of settlement. Anywhere else, settlement is given as a courtesy, whether in a poor African country or a rich Western nation. Courtesy is best received with gratitude. This has generally not been the case throughout time and place when one considers world histories of explorations and colonizations. As a general commonsense rule, it behoves the host to be a good host, recognizing rights and granting privileges. It behoves a guest to be a good guest, contributing positively to the life and labour of the host. As an immigrant, I take these thoughts seriously.

Monday, March 10, 2008

International Women's Day

I've been wanting to show this photo of Ewurama
March 8th was International Women's Day. I am a woman and I have never celebrated it, neither in my native Ghana nor here in Canada. Even more interesting is the fact that I have never been invited anywhere to celebrate it, and I get invited out a lot.

This auspicious day (I like that word-auspicious)was birthed early in the 1900s, precisely 1908 by the Socialist Party in the United States, where women were struggling for the vote, shorter working hours and eventually, public office- in other words " suffrage." My first encounter with that word 'suffragette' is memorable because I heard it on the musical movie Mary Poppins, and Mary Poppins was nanny to the children of a suffragette, who shouted,"Votes for Women" or may be "Vote for Women".

The day was birthed more than once, as Scandinivanian socialists decreed it to life, and it is here to stay. So why don't we hear more of it? Has it only remained with suffragetes or feminists? Isn't this something all women, indeed all society ought to celebrate whether in churches or neighbourhoods or simply among friends and relatives? Shouldn't it be a day for resolutions and undertakings, not only politically but on a more local, community, workplace level where we can decide to encourage girls at school, women who want to return to school for an education, increase employment for women in management, improve pay, access to child care, security and community leadership positions? Wow, but that's all political! I guess in the end it is really about power sharing and equality.

So go out to coffee, eat, think, talk about it: Is your home, church, work place, and school a place where equality exists for women and men? If this is not the case what can be done to make our world more accessible to all?

Friday, March 07, 2008

Ghana At 51

Panyin and Kakra...a photo of a photo

Wishing you the best of 51 years,

Ghana, once Gold Coast,

Once Ashanti, Akwamu, Ewe and Guan,

Dagomba, Ga, Dagarti and Gonja

Small bites,

Thin slices of forest and savannah,

And migrating peoples, headed south

From the fifth cataract of the Nile

Then from Wagadu- the ancient of empires,

Where the snake Bida was found,

Whose head detached, flew far to the south

So we all marched south

To find the gold and rain.

On dry Sahel lands our footprints lie

Roots pierce deeper

Than our many tongues

Finding the core at the centre of earth

We cling to the genesis of one long story

Of trials, wars, divisions

and now friendships

Seeking a future bound to each other

We could be stronger

We could be taller

Allowing the past to serve the future

And if it will not

Then let it go

Let it die

As we speak with new tongues

and sing new songs

And dream a new conciousness to life

We march on to find the gold and the rain.

At 51, I daresay we've come of age

We know the stage

We can write a new play

It is time to reach ahead for a blessing

Time to grasp a better day

by Adwoa Badoe

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Toronto Festival of Storytelling

It was Dan Yashinsky who invited me to tell at the 2004 festival opening at the ROM. I couldn't believe I would open this august event at the ROM. It was the closest I had ever felt to stardom. The moment was almost too big for me but I held my own. I had come far from that day in December 95 when I read my book Crabs for Dinner in a nervous whisper at the book launch. I have since told stories at the Toronto festival in 2005 and 2006. My memory is a little shaky but I think I told tales of Ananse on the Fools Night of April 1st 2007. Tonight, I found this photo of the 2005 festival where I told Gassire's Lute at the great Story Concert, with some of the finest tellers, including the marvellous Jan Blake!

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Beauty Speaks

adwoa, during her ten minute speech on self re-making in Canada . In the photo, the mayor of KW and MPP of Conestoga.
I am thinking more and more about beauty. I want to speak more and more about beauty in particular reference to the continent of Africa and especially Sub Saharan Africa which is often displayed naked, hungry and sick and whose beauty struggles to be seen within and without. Last week I was at an event at which I told a story. It was a story of origins which explored ideas od identity and belonging. The story went very well indeed, bringing itself alive in ways I had not expected. Sometimes, I speak with a voice much wiser than my own. The response from the audience was tremendous and as I basked in well wishes an elderly gentleman approached and asked where I came from originally. Of course, I said Ghana. "Ghana is poor, right?" he said.

"No." I said. "We have had some struggles but we have found oil. It is getting better." I smiled at his confusion. Not for five minutes could he handle the beauty of the story I had told. The beauty of Africa! All he wanted to see was the Africa of rags and hunger, disease and despair. Yes, we know it is so but show us please....the Beauty! This year I have determined to increase my profile as a public speaker. In January, I spoke to the Third Age Learners on Awakening the Sleeping Giant- the place of arts and culture in Africa. Infact my speech was about beauty. Last week I spoke on 'Re-inventing Yourself in a New Environment'.
When I speak about Africa, my focus is beauty and possibility. It is my hope that we may all discover beauty in life; our lives as well as theirs, whoever they may be!

Thursday, February 28, 2008


Tokwe is one of the very first traditional Ghanaian dances I learned at about age eleven and a half, at the University of Ghana. No, I was not a child genius, my secondary school, Achimota, was close enough to the university that our club could take lessons, some afternoons, at the School of Performing Arts. Tokwe is a coming-of-age dance of the people of the GA-Adangbe traditional area. The dance is characterised by abrupt changes. The rhythm song alternates between two patterns so that the dance is punctuated by intermittent staccato hip-shaking, foot-shuffling, 360 degree turns. I plan on teaching Tokwe next session and combining it with the other Ga-Adangbe dance, Kpatsa which is another precocious youth dance. Here are the Southern Volta Association dancers exiting the stage after their version of Tokwe.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Afri-Canadians Celebrate in Kitchener

The way We Ewes do it!
On Saturday, we all gathered at the Rotunda of the City Hall in Kitchener for the African Canadian celebration of Black History Month. Outside, the Serbians were peacefully protesting the independence of Kosovo with flags unfurled. They sent us flowers as our event began. If you have never been to this event, you'd do well to go next year. It gets better every year- great food, great culture/s, great company, camaraderie and Africans decked out in fashionable attire- But for the fact that it is held indoors, it would be another great 'durbar' (gahthering) called by an African king!

Although this event is minus palanquins, chieftain litters and umbrellas, all the same it calls for royalty and this time, we had none less than the mayor of Kitchener, the MP of Kitchener -Waterloo, two MPPs and the commissioner of Citizenship and Immigration of KW. Each delivered a speech of releveance, inclusion and support. The leaders of KW did themselves proud.

This time around, I gave the keynote speech, ten minutes exactly, on "Re-inventing yourself in a new environment" . I think ,I look re-invented don't you?:) I borrowed a line from the Disney commercial which boasts the cutest little boy saying, "You can do whatever you want!" Of course (from my perspective and considerable experience), with much effort, focus and determination or, and this is true too, just purely by chance! Some people are lucky, or if you are so inclined...blessed! (It is far better to be blessed!) In any case my aim was to motivate and encourage. After my speech, four panelists gave us the indepth on their experiences.... 'win big, or moderately', each and everyone of them had to overcome great obstacles. The moral.... if you want to immigrate to Canada, do it when you're young and single and can return to school and work nights, while you have no children to care for....! This is serious advice from me and them. I think we should ask Canada Immigration to post that on their website. To be forewarned is to be forearmed.

The performing group from the Southern Volta Association, gave a vibrant show of drum music and dance. The multi-generational group rendered an authentic feel of the Ewe culture of Ghana, at the end of which we all joined in with the GOTA dance and Agbadza.

I must mention the great food by the great cooks in the community, the smooth MC of the event and the drum solo of Gerima Harvey Fletcher, my friend in rhythm. A happy shout out to Phyllis Peprah who works incredibly hard for the success of this event, to Albert Soga and his family, to Atsu, Mike and Gustav, Evelyn, Emefa, Sena and Edem Quist. Here's a photo from Esther. This is how we do the Agbadza!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

While We Wait.......

fancy shirt, Fule!! Fule is the director of percussion for JIWANI
So I'm waiting for photos of the Song of Wagadu: Song of Africa show. In the meantime, I have been out and about doing Blck History presentations particularly in schools. I also presented at the "Reading for the Love of it," conference 2008, where I made three interesting connections. First is Michelle Muir a Spoken Word Artist and Storyteller who took the time to come to my workshop, even though she was presenting. I am hoping to make connections there for future events. Then I met two authors, Eric Walters and Chris Dinsdale and Chris' wife Amanda. Eric Walters is a prolific Canadian writer whose books often make it to award lists for Young Adult novels in Canada. He tells me he has a lot of nterest in Kenya. Then there is Chris who teaches in New Market whose book has been nominated for Red Maple. I hope he wins the top spot!

Yes I'm still waiting for the pictures of my show and also the CD of the epic telling by the same name: Song of Wagadu: Song of Africa but today I was in New Central P.S. in Oakville for what I call "The Celebration Workshop". What a blast! The students from grade 6-8 were engaged, energetic and enthusiastic. We even had some parent participants. I was wondering whether to tease you with my new CD cover design but am thinking I'll stay with another post-show photo of Esther ( from Uganda ) and Fule. It is so nice to make a new friend and we hope to stay connected. We knew some great Ugandans in the UK when we were younger. Shout out to Lucy Lutara, Grace and Lincoln.

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Song, The Dream

Dreams came true as Gerima played solos next to Njacko
Soon I will have photos of the February 9th event, Song of Wagadu: Song of Africa. My evening went very well, with a full house on a snowy cold night. What can I say? I am filled with gratitude. I am truly grateful to all who came to celebrate the night with me from Guelph, Kitchener-Waterloo and as far as Toronto! I am winding down from the night and must soon plan to release the CD of the stories. I will keep you posted when that happens but now I must prepare to speed through February, giving all sorts of performances and workshops. May the days be bright and the winds tame. May our tires grip the road and safe transport be ours during the month of February!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Song of Africa

I am getting excited! Yesterday I was interviewed by a reporter, Thana of the Guelph Mercury, concerning my show, Song of Wagadu: Song of Africa. I am feeling the tropics in my blood inspite of the snow. Talking about snow, last friday which was the first of February, a winter storm blew over much of Ontario. I had to cancel an engagement in Alliston to stay safe. It was the same evening Phil Bast, journalist, came to shoot a video report of our practice. What a night! We were not sure of anything, who would make practice, if Phil could brave the weather. In the end he did brave the weather, a number of us could make the practice but the studio was closed: SNOW DAY! Stress! Solutions!

We ended up practicing at our church on Watson Street and Phil shot the video which you can find at http://news.guelphmercury.com/videogallery

Please note: that was a practice. The show will be so colourful!!!


Saturday, February 02, 2008

Song of Wagadu- The Ancient

Angela Abrokwa-Ampadu will perform as Wagadu's Western face, Agada! Agada is red for the unbroken bloodline with the ancestors!

Identity roots anchor Angela firmly within the cultures of Africa, as far as she is from the land of her birth.
Within identity lies strength, whether its is ancient, or whether it is created within recent memory. The strength of identity is proportional to its acceptance by the majority and the power and frequency of reinforcements, over time and ages.
This is the task of the 'griots' or the 'jeliw' who motivate and invigorate contemporary generations in continuity with the past. The story is alive, it lives in the retelling; it lives with each new deed and personality, worthy of note. It is the people who make the story. It is the story which makes the people. The story grows longer with the passing of the days.
May you live within our story. May our story live in you.
pssst: You don't want to miss our show! Feb 9th 2008

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

January Speaks

I've been silently watching the new year unfold its early intentions before my eyes. Unfortunately for her, many of the early goings and comings were written before the close of the last year. She carefully follows through; there is this expectation between the past and the present, something to hold the future steady on the tracks of time. It takes patience to paint the changes within a new year. Even so, colour appears on the frozen gray canvass of the new year and transcendent visions establish the substance of hope firmly within the soul, waiting to manifest as January gives way to February and March. The new year will sing its own note and already I'm humming along.

Watch Out for show-time on February 9th: Song of Wagadu: Song of Africa, featuring Adwoa Badoe, Njacko Backo, Jiwani, and special friends of mine.