Lecturer, Freelance Writer and Blogger
Being at home all day with a two-year-old is similar to running a marathon.
She sets off into any direction and fast! She has a flair for dangerous things (electronics, sharp objects, vases filled with water…) and as soon as you do not pay attention she might have thrown all textiles in the house into the water-filled zink or emptied her lunch plate into a paper suitcase (both has happened to me today!) Before you even have time to get angry she is on a different project. She laughs and dances, sings and claps.
And then off again. Where is she now? Gotta run!
Today I had a busy day that was marred with the everyday difficulties of professional life in Ghana – first AC not working, then light off and AC and Internet not working and the battery slowly dying on my laptop…and finally - light is back! – but now Internet is not working! I wanted to cry. But instead I opened this envelope my colleague Kobina had given to me earlier in the day.
It contained a beautiful card with a little bird on it and inside a thank you note.
Immediately, my mood changed from deeply sour to quite happy – after all something I had done had influenced another person to the point of writing me a note to say thank you!
“It began in the spring of 1999. I was asked to visit Princess Lolwah al Faisal in Jeddah, as part of a team of senior academic administrators, to see how we could help start a liberal arts college for women, the first institution of its kind in Saudi Arabia. After our visit, we submitted a 20-page proposal, with important-sounding recommendations, and a five-year implementation time-line – and it was rejected!
I felt disconsolate, as I knew intuitively that I had the skill-set that the Faisal Family needed to establish Effat College. So I did what my mother had always taught me: I wrote a thank you note. In a single page I drew up my vision of the college. What I learned later was that there was no one in Jeddah qualified to interpret the jargon in our first official proposal, but that my simple thank you note showed my willingness to help the Princess.”
Fittingly, Grant ended her speech with encouraging the graduates to remember to write their thank you notes. That is excellent advice. However, in addition to that, I’d hereby like to encourage my readers to respond to the thank you notes you get and tell the writers of those notes how your day was turned around because of their thoughtfulness. Or as my mother-in-law often says:
“Thank you for thanking me!”
Catch the free independent I Luv Africa Film Festival (ILAFF) in Accra!
Opening Night/Day One: May 17, 2013
Short Film Screening Series & RWUL Film Q&A
7pm-9pm Location: Goethe-Institut in Accra Ghana
*Opening Night Afterparty @ Reggie Rockstone’s Office-Grand Pappaz Free Entry with ILAFF 2013 Pass
Day Two: May 18, 2013
Film Workshops & Special Screening of “Soul Food Junkies ” 1-4pm Location: AUCC in Accra
Feature Film Screening Nairobi Half Life” 6pm-8pm Location: Goethe-Institut in Accra
Day Three: May 19, 2013
Google+ Hangout Online Chat with Filmmakers
Community Art Project with Attukwei Art Foundation 4-6pm Accra
A wonderful initiative by Creative Storm is the Maternal Health Channel on GTV on Thursdays at 8PM and on TV3 on Fridays at 8.30 PM. The program sheds light on maternal health in Ghana, or rather the lack of it.
The series started with the story of Charity, a woman who did not survive giving birth.
MHC write on their very active Facebook page:
“Every maternal death is an intensely personal tragedy and it is essential to hear the stories of those who have suffered in order to illuminate an issue that is both immediate and far more complex than it seems on the surface.
We can change; Ghana can achieve Millennium Development Goal #5, the reduction of maternal mortality by 75% in the year 2015. The first step is EVERYONE having a discussion about an epidemic that is far too often overlooked. The first step is with YOU.”
As a mother and a daughter and a citizen of the world, it angers me terribly that women should have to give up their life when giving life. We know it takes 9 months, we know you need vitamins and clean water, we know giving birth is a risk and a hard job, we know how to create the best possible chances for both mother and baby to survive – still women are dying for no good reason at all.
This week, they go to Kute Buem in the Volta region, see pic.
Personally, I think The Maternal Health Channel is one of the most important media initiatives in Ghana I have ever seen. It is massive, well thought out and quite digital (facebook, vimeo, tumblr, on Twitter use hashtag #mhcghana). If you agree with my sentiments or, better yet, with their mission to save more mothers and babies in Ghana, please spread this information to your networks, discuss online, blog on it and watch the program!
Last month, I was moderating a talk on the Creative Economy in Ghana for the Adventurers in the Diaspora series follow them on Facebook to never miss their events!). What is the creative economy anyway? I did some research before accepting the job and came across a very inspiring 400 page report made in 2010 by the United Nation’s Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) PDF here.
Some highlights of the report, in my opinion, were its case studies including Nigeria’s Nollywood and the Africa Remix exhibit.
The report also offered 10 key messages for policy makers:
- Whilst in 2008 there was a 12% reduction in world trade, exports of creative goods and services continue to grow at an average annual rate of 14% over the past 6 years, with the potential to become one of the most dynamic sectors of the world economy.
- Growth is particularly apparent in ‘south-south’ trade: trade in creative good and services there grew at an average rate of 20% per annum over the same period, and the creative economy took an increasing market share of south-south trade.
- The right mix of public policies and strategic choices are essential if the potential of the creative economy for economic development is to be achieved. It is important, especially in developing countries, to develop a functioning ‘creative nexus’ to attract investors, build creative entrepreurial practices, and offer better IT access and infrastructure.
- Policy strategies must recognise its multi-displinary nature – its economic, social, cultural and environmental linkages.
- It is important for governments to review IP rules to avoid constraints and adapt to new realities.
- The creative economy cuts across arts, business and connectivity, driving innovation and new business models. There should be a drive for better broadband infrastructure especially in the South. (my highlight)
- The creative economy is both fragmented and socially inclusive. Pragmatic policy-making requires a better understanding of who the stakeholders in the creative economy are, how they relate to one another and how the creative sector relates to other economic sectors.
- Policies for the creative economy also have to respond to demands from local communities for education, cultural identity and social inclusion, and environmental concerns. An increasing number of municipalities are using the concept of creative cities to formulate urban development strategies and reinvigorate growth.
- The firmness of the market for creative goods and services is an indicator of the importance of demand for ‘creative products’ in the post recession era, and should attract greater market share.
- Every society is rooted in a creative economy, but each country is different, and needs to think about its particular strengths for development. There is no one-size-fits-all policy.
The panelists Korkor Amartefio, Cultural practitioner, Dzifa Gomashie, Deputy Minister Nominee for Tourism, Culture and Arts, Odile Tevie, Nubuke Foundation and Zagba Oyortey, new director of the Ghana National Museum, framed some issues for Ghana:
1. Little data
We do not know the size of the creative economy in Ghana. Not how much the arts market is worth, how much beads and traditional crafts add to GDP or what the growth of the music industry is. Room for much research! With this type of data, we could canvass for more of number two on this list!
2. Little Government support
Apparently, government has not yet discovered the creative economy as a potential future gold mine. It seems, we are to busy with galamsay small scale gold miners, maybe…MUSIGA ha sbeen supported with a house, we have national centers of culture around the country, but apart from those structures (of which some seem to be falling apart), government is not surrounding itself with Ghanaian culture, promoting Ghanaian artists on their travels nor collecting Ghanaian art.
3. Lack of cooperation/information
From the discussion, a problem can be to find a space for an event. A suggestion was made to create a list of possible venues, their cost and availability for cultural practitioners to use. At a different event last week about marketing for cultural organizations, the lack of information was again highlighted. Organizations need training on how to sell themselves, but also structures for promotion and information sharing.
The creative economy is much related to education, however the UNCTAD report itself does not really make the connection as noted by Pascal. In Ghana, creativity is not necessarily celebrated and on all levels of the economy we can see the effects of the lack of creativity. All from the 10th person selling the same food stuff in the same place to the bank that does not brand itself for any particular customer group or the CEO who never promotes creativity.
5. Money for enforcement of new laws
Since last year, Ghana has a new set on Intellectual Property laws (remember the “kenta” shoe?). That is great, but how do we make sure those laws are enforced?
The cure for it all is ENGAGEMENT. I was happy when the National Museum’s Mr Oyortey mentioned this in his very first contribution for the evening. The institutions need to engage with their audience and their counterparts, we the public need to attend events, buy art and let the creative economy make all our lives more sustainable and more fun!
Photos by Naa Oyoo Quartey/Ganyobinaa.
On Sunday, we were reached by the news that the Kantamanto Market in central Accra was on fire. Horrible pictures of the event on CitiFMonline. Luckily the day had just started and no casualties were reported. While politicians come and walk the now ashen site, market women cry out in grief over lost livelihoods and journalists try to count the number of market fires we have had in recent years, the opportunity here is to think of how we want to build and maintain a market.
I suggest we take a look at Aga Khan Architecture Awards (AKAA) for market construction. Amazing, beautiful and functional markets have been built before!
Central Market in Koudougou, Burkina Faso
“Koudougou’s central market combines a covered hall with space for 624 stalls with a further 125 buildings containing 1’195 shop units, the vast majority of them small spaces of only 6.20 square metres. By virtue of its size, the project provided an important training ground for local masons. The market buildings are made almost exclusively of a local material – compressed earth blocks – using traditional Nubian techniques of arch and vault construction. Such self-sufficiency was deemed particularly desirable in light of the increasing costs of imported materials.”
All pics from AKAA. Read more about the Central Market here
What I love about this market, apart from it being built by fireproof materials, is the beauty and light…Can we not build things that are pleasing to the eye and built to last?
Last week, the finalists for the 2013 Aga Khan Architecture Award were released.
Labor day in Ghana had a strange feel to it with the theme of the day being “Pensions: Your Right and Responsibility”, and at the same time large scale strikes are ongoing on what I believe is the same topic! Medical doctors in public hospitals and pharmacists have been striking for four weeks and relationships are seemingly frosty between the parties of the conflict. For instance, National Labor Commission is suing the Ghana Medical Association, the President is suggesting workers should increase their productivity and “not with strikes and agitations” and the Ghana Medical Association last week said the President should stop begging and meet demands!
Personally, I have been very upset about the doctors strike now entering a month! I find it hard to gauge if the strike is well grounded. On the one side, earlier discussions on doctors and the work situation have haunted me; doctors fresh from university waiting more than a year for their first pay check, doctors in the rural hospitals working day and night in poor conditions with no extra pay and frankly just the statistics suggest we have an impossible situation on our hands, Ghana with 25 million inhabitants has 2,843 medical doctors. That is about 1 doctor per 10 000 inhabitants! To compare, Ivory Coast, Zimbabwe, Cameroon and Nepal are doing better! (according to WHO) and Sweden has 38 physicians per 10 000 citizens (says Global Health Facts)…
On the other hand, if you have sworn the Hippocratic oath, how can you go on strike and let innocent people suffer?
I was not there alone…
Come see me moderate a panel on Ghana’s Creative Economy with some distinguished guests this Thursday.
25 April, 2013
Golden Tulip Hotel, downstairs in the Branch restaurant
I am excited about the topic and accepted to moderate the discussion as I feel I have some small understanding of it, as I love culture and creativity! Although I was a little bit worried about discussing ways forward with the deputy minister and some heavy weights in Ghana’s cultural life like Korkor Amartefio and Odile Tevie as my comfort zone is maybe is more in the alternative arts and online part of the creative economy of Ghana. Well, organizer’s AiD (follow them on FAcebook to never mss their events!) seem to still have confidence in me and if for nothing else, I hope to unveil some new directions from the new director of the Ghana National Museum, Zagba Oyortey.
See you Thursday eve!
Since I was a little girl, I have been interested in bats. I’m not sure exactly why, but it seems they are animals that do everything “the other way” – sleep in the day, fly around at night, snuggle comfortably upside-down, eat either BLOOD or was it fruit? – and that is all interesting, don’t you think?
Fast forward to 2004 when I visited Ghana for the first time and saw something strange in the trees around 37 military hospital, smack in the middle of Accra. Was it not …? I was told about the fruit bat colony that lives there, presumably waiting for a king – with the bat as his symbol – who was rushed to the hospital and never came out again…During the day, trees in the area are clad with what looks like brown fruits, but around sunset those “fruits” come alive and the sky turns grey by all the bats that take to the sky! It is an amazing sight!
A few years back, I met someone working on documenting bats and their life for a tourism project and I though, yes, that would be nice! Bat safari! Learning more about these puzzling creatures! Climbing trees! Hanging upside down with tourists! But alas, nothing has happened and bats are not, as far as I know, contributing to Ghana’s GDP in any significant way.
Last week, bats resurfaced in Ghana’s foremost newspaper the Daily Graphic in a lengthy article by James Agyei-Ohemeng and it was even suggested: Bats are Ghana’s best-kept wildlife secret! Apparently they are also crucial for the health of Ghana’s forests (and timber, so I take back the GDP comment!) and a research project is currently underway in Sunyani!
Pic borrowed from susano.tripod.com.
Today I am starting work with @ashesi alumni and Faculty Intern @MrOpoku for #ashst He's a great guy and colleague! #ff recommended.
“@IanJazzi: I see my people making progress. God bless our homeland Ghana.” >> Great! I'm interested in some youth examples! #ghanarising
“@aoa4eva: @Ashesi Can non-students audit #ashst classes?” >> Currently we do not have space for non-Student auditors. Why not work here?
“@novisid: are the pairings a requirement for the class? If yes I want to be there some.”>> We often do group work. Today I assigned pairs.
@ttaaggooee I love it when your inbox tells YOU that :-) have a good weekend!
Today peer-reviews in #ashst class @Ashesi . We are starting with "higher order concerns" before we go to details. http://t.co/axwHW084ZW
RT @ValaAfshar: The higher you climb, the less likely it is for you to hear no's. When you do, admire the courage, and listen with empathy.
@nnenna Please do you know in which African universities Chinese is being taught? #inthenameofresearch cc @elidot @EmekaOkoye
RT @elikplim19: @kajsaha left a comment >> Much appreciated, thanks. And you were right about forgotten aspects. #strikeinGhana
Another big issue is supervisors. How to handle them, understand them or just get them to answer emails! #IASGSN
Interestingly, many seem to struggle with "theoretical frameworks" and data collection. The core of the trade we are learning. #IASGSN
Graduate students meeting done! It's interesting how helpful it is to discuss your research issues with other students... #IASGSN #PhD
RT @reginafuller: @kajsaha please email notes, etc for those of us who couldn't be there. Thanks! @SharonBenzoni
Yesterday, I was mulling over the doctors' strike in Ghana, I just do not know what to think! Do you? http://t.co/4bUrs8c6cS (blog post)
RT @dz0sh: @dfiak @kajsaha the life of a person is a basic human right that liberals hold dear so a death penalty is very extreme in my opi…
Now discussions with the Institute of African Studies Graduate Student Network at the Balme Library. Today's topic: How to publish. #PhDlife