Monthly Archives: June 2017

Factory Girls

4am. I am beyond late.

The idealistic part of me hated the job but the realistic part urged me and told me to go gather life experience and sauce for my writings. I’d read Emile Zola and how the repetitive imagery of darkness fills Germinal. A white horse trapped in the bowels of the mine remained untainted and my classmates and I took turns pontificating about why a horse could remain a solid pure white in a dark and dirty mine…Happens the horse symbolized hope. Hope of the common man’s resurgence after the ruling classes’ exploitation of them and blah blah

This morning though, darkness didn’t dominate my surroundings. The area was fairly lit and I stood in a sea of people, mostly women who were here to make croissants, brownies, cinnamon rolls and whatever else for the president. The task was simple. Perform the work of a human-robot picking and stacking containers with as much of what was rolling out on the carousel. And in an orderly fashion. These human robots had been at this task for years and their dexterity and pace was unmatched. How long? Twenty, thirty years? They were very protective of their work and reflected a collective sense of pride and confidence at being this excellent at their task. The task of stacking plastic boxes with cinnamon rolls for thirty years?! I shat on their ‘achievement’. I was not in awe of excellence at a career in stacking. The simplicity of the task rather exhausted me and I zoned off deep into my thoughts for life.

It was the era of the Octopus. He lay on the White House and puppeteered everything with his great long tentacles. I suppose he ate croissants too. Or did the Octopus eat croissants? Cos if he did like other normal people, he wouldn’t stir such trouble…then again, the idea of trouble is subjective so…. He probably ate croissants, that or at least some of the baked goods that this Bread company got its profits from. I wondered if the women would all pass E-verify checks. It was that or no work. You’d return home if you went hungry. Then again it was strikingly clear that this place was full of the Wall people. The people who were supposed to stay behind the Wall once it was built. They made no attempt at speaking some English and were very unapologetic about talking trash about other people just because they thought they had some kind of code language. I looked sideways at them. Another group of people here was the Dark people. The Wall people dominated though. Some of the Dark people had very dark lips, a slur and frankly needed the paycheck for the next pair of trendy sports shoes. What a life.

My guess was that the factory made more than five thousand pieces of baked goods each day. The ones that didn’t get sent off were frozen to be sent off later. A lot of the Wall people had a gold tooth or two. Was it a trademark like the Indians and Senegalese and their elaborate rings? Outside of this, I also noticed that some of the Wall people had backs that were tense and curved with years of repetitive work that no one wanted. I decided on day two that whatever this was wasn’t for me and with renewed thinking, I learned not to look down on the Factory Girls’ hustle.

They were right after all to be this protective of their work because no one else except they could do it this well.

The Octopus could have their work if he wanted to. After all, he had eight tentacles and near perfect business acumen.

Make America great again.

Songs of Sorrow, Kofi Awoonor

I
Dzogbese Lisa has treated me thus
It has led me among the sharps of the forest
Returning is not possible
And going forward is a great difficulty
The affairs of this world are like the chameleon feces
Into which I have stepped
When I clean it cannot go.1
I am on the world’s extreme corner,
I am not sitting in the row with the eminent
But those who are lucky
Sit in the middle and forget
I am on the world’s extreme corner
I can only go beyond and forget.
My people, I have been somewhere
If I turn here, the rain beats me
If I turn there the sun burns me
The firewood of this world
Is for only those who can take heart
That is why not all can gather it.
The world is not good for anybody
But you are so happy with your fate;
Alas! The travelers are back
All covered with debt.
II.
Something has happened to me
The things so great that I cannot weep;
I have no sons to fire the gun when I die
And no daughters to wail when I close my mouth
I have wandered in the wilderness
The great wilderness men call life
The rain has beaten me,
And the sharp stumps cut as keen as knives
I shall go beyond and rest.
I have no kin and no brother,
Death has made war upon our house;
And Kpeti’s great household is no more,
Only the broken fence stands;
And those who dared not look in his face
Have come out as men.
How well their pride is with them.
Let those gone before take note
They have treated their offspring badly.
What is the wailing for?
Somebody is dead. Agosu himself
Alas! A snake has bitten me
My right arm is broken,
And the tree on which I lean is fallen.
Agosi if you go tell them,
Tell Nyidevu, Kpeti, and Kove
That they have done us evil;
Tell them their house is falling
And the trees in the fence
Have been eaten by termites;
That the martels curse them.
Ask them why they idle there
While we suffer, and eat sand.
And the crow and the vulture
Hover always above our broken fences
And strangers walk over our portion.

Feminism is not a ‘One size fits all’

Before falling into the temptation of providing a definition of feminism and its attendant compulsion to be bound by the definition, I would like to use this post to help our new generation of feisty lady feminists understand that feminism is not only limited to the literal fight against the male species.  The ideology is not a mere reduction to whether we are better than men or an unnecessary desire to be at par with them constantly.

Feminism is intellectual and subjective and like all other discourses and opinion, you must examine it for yourself (esprit critique) before you get lost in the all attractive tendency to base your whole life and line of thought and argument on only a distorted aspect of the idea. We are so quick these days to get so defensive over our nature as women and what men do or do not do and then run to the umbrella of feminism for justification.

Just because Descartes preached the need for critical thinking, independent thought as well as skepticism does not mean I jump on the bandwagon and live a life of complete skepticism of everything I am presented with. Also, just because I read a few lines of J.P Sartre does not make me suddenly go off and denounce my Catholic faith in favor of existentialist thought. To start off, the term feminist isn’t even African. In that sense, we can argue that the concept is lacking in addressing the African woman’s unique struggle. What I am driving at is the fact that before we get too quick to prescribe solutions or adhere to schools of thought, consider your own unique situation and apply your subjectivity. I love Ghana Feminist blog because the curators identify that the concept is a huge foreign umbrella that needs to be tailored to the Ghanaian woman’s unique situation. Ideas are appealing, they are the foundations for thought. If you accept an idea for what it is and remain only at foundation level, without building on it or questioning it and more importantly adding your own subjectivity to it, you go no further than a building stuck at foundation level.

Chimamanda in her Feminist Manifesto argues that girls need not spend too much time on their hair because while we do that, our male contemporaries may be using that time to self-develop. Though I adore Chimamanda, I am not obliged to prescribe to every thought she presents, though she is a force to reckon with in academic conversation.  In that sense, I as an individual with reasoning capacity will, examine the information presented and see if that opinion works for me. After all, though Chimamanda and I share a common sex, we cannot lump our experiences as women from two entirely different cultural heritages, ethnicity and nationalities, experience, etc together and claim to have a common world view. Surely based off of all these variables, we are different. The thing with our generation these days is that we’re quick to jump on bandwagons and adhere to opinions without thinking in-depth. One of the reasons for my disinterest in online debates is the fear of saying something stupid and distorted that would come back and haunt me. I intend to lean on one recent online conversation to push the argument that

  1. Many schools of thought including Feminism is not a one size fits all; just because it’s an attractive or popular ‘train’ does not mean you must jump on board
  2. Subjectivity is an art our generation needs to develop; accept an idea or perspective and turn it around mentally; a cow’s four stomachs can be perfect imagery for this claim. Let ideas simmer in your head and develop your own theory. Also, realize that it is unintelligent to lean on parts rather than the whole context of an issue
  3. Knowledge is life long. life is a learning curve. You may rubbish one thing today and actually accept it tomorrow, do not be dismissive of ideas and perspectives. Also, the fact that something works for someone or someone swears by an idea does not mean you disrespect or reduce it. Their reality is not your reality.

I will make reference to one online conversation to build my claims; more specifically a recent reaction to a Nigerian talk show on Youtube called ‘King Women’ on Twitter.  A friend sent it my way and I hated the title immediately but then I loved the show and the idea of celebrating women’s success stories. I questioned the idea of female success being tagged with the crux of male success or dominance. Why couldn’t the show be called ‘Queen Women?’ or something feminine at least? We went on and on over this and I doubt I accepted his views though I made comments that demonstrated I had. I’m still thinking about his comments.

In one of the episodes, a successful Nigerian lady architect mentions that there is a difference between being submissive and obeying in marriage.Capture d_écran 2017-06-14 à 11.39.52 AM

She further explains that submission is about the possession of power but the decision to relinquish it. Obeying is powerlessness and unquestioned compliance. I agreed with this paradox of power and submission. She gave the example that if a woman has the same economic power as her husband and decided to travel and the husband asked her not to go, and she granted his wish, that was submission. The fact that she has the power to make her trip happen but deciding not to because he asked. The contrast with sheepish obedience though is being powerless (in this case economic) and obeying simply because you have been told not to travel.  (And actually not having the means to go anyway ) If you listen to this part well enough, you would realize there is an underlying message of the need for feminine economic independence.

Capture d_écran 2017-06-14 à 11.40.08 AMThough the message of submission has been distorted in our African society with the sad backing of religion and made to appear as a term that only applies to females, I think it is also very much applicable to males contrary to popular belief. Moving away from the gender conversation, if a human loves you, they will ‘submit’ to you. All we hear is wives submit to your husbands’. I do not blame some women for clinging onto what society feeds them. However, the fact that society feeds our thoughts and perspectives does not mean subscribe to everything it tells you. Matter of fact, submission does not mean lay down and be a doormat ladies! Both humans can submit to each other if it works for them. For women such as Jumoke , her subjectivity and personal interpretation of a word ( that sadly connotes being a doormat in society) allows her to navigate her relationship with her husband. Why then will other women come online and rubbish or disagree with a concept that they may not have fully explored or personally analyzed for their own unique situation(s)? Jumoke’s definition of feminism is different and works for her. She is successful and confident enough to share an opinion that she is entitled to. One of the online commentators wrote  ”Women like these mislead other less informed women out there who look up to them. I feel sad for them.” What I think is that no one needs to allow themselves get misled. First of all, you do not have to subscribe to everything you are fed. #LessonOne. Rather cultivate the habit of independent and subjective thought and then you won’t be misled. Also, there is no need to lose emotions. Be sad for causes that need sadness.

img_1796 In conclusion, I will copy and paste my three motivations for writing this post.

  • * Many schools of thought including Feminism is not a one size fits all; just because it’s an attractive or popular ‘train’ does not mean you must jump on board without taking into consideration your unique situation
  • * Subjectivity is an art our generation needs to develop; accept an idea or perspective and turn it around mentally; a cow’s four stomachs can be perfect imagery for this claim. Let ideas simmer in your head and develop your own theory. Also, realize that it is unintelligent to lean on parts rather than the whole context of an issue
  • Knowledge is life long. life is a learning curve. You may rubbish one thing today and actually accept it tomorrow, do not be dismissive of ideas and perspectives. Also, the fact that something works for someone or someone swears by an idea does not mean you disrespect or reduce it. Their reality is not your reality.

Here is the entire conversation

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vG7yo5m_T9s&t=3879s

Letters to a YOUNG NOVELIST I Mario Vargas LLosa

Capture d_écran 2017-08-23 à 1.49.49 PMNote from the blurb ;- “he (the writer) lays bare the inner workings of fiction, all the while urging young novelists not to lose touch with the elemental urge to create.”

One of the truest reasons for my huge attraction to fiction is my recognition of the existence of inspiration all around us. There are stories all around! The story of your neighbor, your own life, the events that unfolded between you and the random man or woman you met! Or the dramatic break up of your friend who never listened to your words of wisdom on that waste relationship. Seriously, there are countless reasons to create! Having this in mind, I was happy to read about not losing the urge to create in the blurb of this book and discover a narration of how to grow the spark for writing.

The book is a collection of short stories, each crafted with a specific message to be delivered. I smiled as I read the parts of the book that addressed my fears/secret wishes and maybe uncertainties. How revealing it all felt! Without even going over my head with excitement and a stark fascination at how piercing its truths were, I had to remind myself that of course, this was more or less a manual of some sort created with aspiring writers in mind. One of these truths that pummeled through me addressed the aim of being a best-selling writer. Was my aim selfish or legitimate?

“I venture to suggest that you not expect quite so much and that you not count too much on success. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t be successful, of course, but if you persevere in writing and publishing, you’ll soon discover that prizes, public acclaim, book sales, the social standing of a writer all have a sui generis appeal;  they are extraordinarily arbitrary, sometimes stubbornly evading those who most deserve them while besieging and overwhelming those who merit them least. Which means that those who see success as their main goal will probably never realize their dreams; they are confusing literary ambition with a hunger for glory and for the financial gains that literature affords certain writers (very few of them ). There is a difference.” 

This right here is an answer to the thought that has long gnawed at me. I wondered constantly how best selling authors ‘did it’. Was there a special formula to becoming a best seller? Did it have anything to do with how the material was sold or marketed? Did it have anything to do with the title of the book in question? Who decided if a story was worth the hype or not? Did the story have to be overly intellectual and loaded with lofty allusions or was I going to be fine writing about mundane things? How about the countless writers already on the scene? How do I ’emerge’ from the lot? I actually told a boy manfriend about my dreams of being a writer and he replied asking me if I knew the number of books that had already been published and if I really thought I could stand out? Did this remark ruffle my feathers? I kept my composure on the outside but on the inside, I crumbled and hated him immediately.  However, this quotation just allayed the ‘fears’ I had created for myself. Reading this quotation though, I found the answer! Consistency and a focus on the desire to create versus a fixation on the thought of success whether in the shape of fame or monetary were not the more important question. What mattered was wanting to write and keeping at it regardless of all the odds.

And how do you know you are cut out for writing? Here you go; “deep inside, a writer feels that writing is the best thing that ever happened to him, or could ever happen to him because as far as he is concerned, writing is the best possible way of life,..” 

But of course, I more than agree that writing is “a mysterious business, of course, veiled in doubt and subjectivity” DOUBT! Doubt and subjectivity! How many times have I done and undone lines because I felt I didn’t sound smart enough?

How does it all start? “a man or a woman develops precociously in childhood or early in his or her teenage years a penchant for dreaming up people, situations, anecdotes, worlds different from the world in which he or she lives, and that inclination is the first sign of what may later be termed literary vocation”. These lines explained the constant pang in me to write. I do have a penchant for dreaming up people and situations. Whenever I meet a person, I try to get to know them as much as possible and listen to all of their stories. I also allow different perspectives to air and will only cut in if I feel what I am hearing is absolute nonsense I can not deal! Yet even with all of that, there really is a drop of truth in some kinds of trash talk. So I still listen just to be able to bring all these together in a rich melange for stories.

But why do I like literature though? Answer – Because my age old mantra has reminded me that literature mirrors life and that it is a way through which life’s events can be reflected.  Yet for some reason, an interesting truth about fiction that I know I knew subconsciously but never happened to consider forthrightly was the fact that we write to alter reality! We do! Well I do! ; ‘The secret raison d’etre of literature / what they (writers) were (are) obliged to fabricate because they weren’t (aren’t) able to live it in reality and, as a result, resigned themselves to live it only in the indirect and subjective way it could be lived: in dreams and in fiction. Fiction is a lie covering up a deep truth: it is life as it wasn’t, life as the men and women of a certain age wanted to live it and didn’t and thus had to invent.

Bam!

Brunch and all types of Crazy

 

Image-2

Adoma swooning over all the endless possibilities of life

 

Outside sitting in open spaces observing people and trying to figure out what their lives look like, I love discovering new food, tricks, and hacks that are supposed to bring some magic into my food love life. How else was I supposed to know that Basmati rice is way less starchy than Jasmine rice?! For this reason, Jasmine is the only kind of rice that assures the best Omo tuo  . Well that’s what my aunt said at least.

 

The mention of brunch translated into a subtle reason to party all day long, and why would we turn that down?! In addition, being the person I am, I had to taste every single thing that had been laid out on the table. There was French toast and a bowl full of some brown gooey substance. It had bananas lying indifferently in it though ( it had to be something edible and maybe nice because unlike Ghana bananas that have a sharp flavorful natural taste, bananas out here taste pleasant enough and I like them ) so I dug in and put some on my toast.

Image-1 (1)

Banana Foster on Toast

The only thing that stopped me from going back for more of the brown stuff on my toast was the fact that I’m trying to get off eating so much bread. I finally asked for the recipe of this brown addiction and I was told that the name to start off is Banana Foster and the recipe is on this link.

 

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Cinnamon rolls with sugar icing

Book Review – Lifted by the Great Nothing, Karim Dimechkie

‘Then there was the checkout lady who had dry yellow hair that sat like a triangle of foam on her head and the kind of heavy glasses that seemed responsible for her nasal voice as she commented on the items she scanned with superlative enthusiasm: “these are just the best ever…..isn’t this the most amazing….oh my God, these are my favorite in the entire universe.” She leaned in close to thank Max before handing him his receipt. her breath smelled of a mixture of white wine, rot, and babies’ heads.’

General Plot

After literally battling with a book whose author I think is trying too hard to sound sophisticated, I chance upon this impressive story whose mundane yet thought-provoking plot excited me. This is a story of the strong relationship between a single father and his teenage son. The depth of their togetherness is highlighted in the funny conclusion that ‘no woman or beard trimmer could ever pull them apart’. The story unfolds from the son’s perspective and touches on culture, immigration, the protagonist’s (the son) search for himself and his roots drawing from snatches of information given him by his father about both their untold pasts. Through a character that wants to avoid his past by doing such things as changing his name from Rasheed to Reed, the author succeeds in blending humor with important topics such as the question of identity in a country where diversity is much celebrated.  Rasheed’s (the father ) story is much comparable to the tale of the ostrich that conceals its head in sand in a bid to disappear forgetting that its whole body is still exposed. Reed (Rasheed) is a Lebanese man whose features; dark, thick and smooth hairy body, as well as accent, all allude to his origin without the need for further confirmation. He chooses to mask these strong statements with a name that is as light as a veil. How ironic. He also tries to imitate American lingua by using the words ‘folks’ and ‘howdy’. The saying of which results in catastrophic outcomes as they always come out sounding as ‘Audi’ (Howdy) and ‘fucks’ (Folks)!Capture d_écran 2017-06-02 à 6.13.05 PM

Why I Love this Story

There’s a billion and one quotes I can relate to especially those ones that surround culture; ‘This is why culture is stupid, Maxie / People think it unites people, but the truth is, it separates even more. We have a good life. We don’t need culture or religion or things like this. / We are individuals, so why come together under a flag or something and say that because we like the same food or soccer team or politics or time of prayer that we are all the same?’  Being Ghanaian and meeting other Ghanaians outside of Ghana has brought me this genuine excitement at knowing that a complete stranger I meet is a Ghanaian too. I probably have felt more Ghanaian than ever outside Ghana yet I agree with this quotation only because sharing the same nationality with another human does not make us necessarily the same. I have felt same as persons from entirely different African nations and entirely different races. Same way I have met some Ghanaians I do not consider being same as only because our experiences are very opposite. Common interests can unite or separate people, in the end, it is a person’s spirit and your ability to coexist that matters. Though a common nationality can foster that togetherness, the same nationality can do more than ruin relationships, ask members of different tribes that belong to the same country for more on this.

Reading parts of the internal musings of the main character only reminded me of who I am! I think it is extremely pleasant to be so much in tune with a character that you wonder if you know them in real life or if you only met them in a book. So Max is out here disagreeing silently with the way his dad’s lady friend is cutting vegetables. ‘He silently disagreed with the way she chopped veggies and the order in which she pan-fried them.’ I disagree silently with a lot of people in my life over many things.

There’s also that part about Max feeling internally elated about his father Rasheed and his friend having a fight. Truth is that when we get territorial and possessive of another person and they, in turn, develop a friendship or attachment of some sort with another, though petty and very evil, we sometimes wish they would fight and separate. When they do though, human as we are, we act empathetic but smile inwardly.

To conclude, I love this book. The title is attractive, the events unfold naturally and it is an easy read whose account will excite you in the weirdest of ways…

Some good quotations

“If you were (are) unflinchingly convinced of yourself, then you were (are) equipped to be a leader”

Side Notes

Max’s relationship with Nadine is an extension of his need for maternal love.

“He yearned for her to draw him near so he could rest his head on her breasts a while…”