• The Makings of You

    Nii Ayikwei Parkes’ début collection encompasses the story of a triangular trade in reverse – a family history that goes from the Caribbean back to Sierra Leone, and in his own life from London to Ghana, and back again.

    His gift as a poet is for the most rewarding kind of story-telling, including those stories told with wit and an engaging ambivalence about himself. His narratives move unerringly to a perfect punch-line, but in the collection as a whole there is a refreshing lack of complacency in his willingness to move out of his comfort zone and explore areas of imaginative fantasy, as in his “Ballast” series, a tour de force of defamiliarisation, where he imagines how the slave trade would have gone had its mode of transport been the hot air balloon, rather than the slave ship.

    There is much humour, but it comes from a family tradition of knowing that “our jokes weren’t really funny, they were just sad/ stories we learned to laugh at”. Like all poets with a largeness of heart, with no embarrassment about embracing the deepest feelings, Parkes has an especial sensitivity to the promise and acute sensitivities of childhood, both his own and others.There is much humour, but it comes from a family tradition of knowing that “our jokes weren’t really funny, they were just sad/ stories we learned to laugh at”. Like all poets with a largeness of heart, with no embarrassment about embracing the deepest feelings, Parkes has an especial sensitivity to the promise and acute sensitivities of childhood, both his own and others.

    Nii Ayikwei Parkes’s poem Barter from The Makings of You (Peepal Tree) is featured on tube train posters throughout London as part of the fantastic ‘Poems on the Underground’, celebrating 150 Years of the London Underground.

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  • Voices of Ghana: Literary Contributions to the Ghana Broadcasting System, 1955-57 (Second Edition)

    Ghana’s first radio programme of original literature, Singing Net, began in 1955 as part of the development of a national radio station in the years leading to independence in 1957. Its centralaim was to bring Ghanaian writers to the forefront of cultural programming as part of the Africanisation of radio in Ghana. It was a critical cultural expression of the radical changes that were unfolding across the colonial world. The programme successfully introduced listeners to a series of pioneering Ghanaian authors who would go on to become significant figures of Anglophone West African literature in the early postcolonial decades: Efua Sutherland, Frank Parkes, Amu Djoleto, Geormbeeyi Adali-Mortty, Albert Kayper-Mensah, Kwesi Brew, Cameron Duodu, J.H. Nketia and many others.

    The anthology, Voices of Ghana (1958) is a collection of the poetry, short stories, play scripts and critical discussions that were aired on the Gold Coast (later Ghana) Broadcasting System (1954-1958).Both Singing Net and Voices of Ghana were edited by the BBC producer, Henry Swanzy.

    The context of Ghana’s independence, the singularity of the anthology’s history, and the significance of many of the writers all contribute to the importance of this text. This second edition is a timely intervention into recent debates within postcolonial studies and world literature on the importance of broadcast culture in the dissemination of “new literatures” from the colonial world. It includes an unabridged version of the 1958 text, a new introduction and footnoted annotations,which draw on extensive research undertaken in Ghana and Britain. It will appeal to a general readership with an interest in Ghanaian literature, 1950s broadcast culture, the figure of Dr Kwame Nkrumah and the making of a national literature in the era of decolonisation, as well as engaging scholars. The new edition presents a deeply insightful and engaging history of Voices of Ghana and reintroduces the original works on the occasion of the anthology’s 60th anniversary.

    Victoria Ellen Smith is a Lecturer in the Department of History, University of Ghana, Legon

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