Friday, September 06, 2013

System of 'down'

At a recent reading in Accra an audience member asked me about my perspective on insanity after I read an excerpt from one of the new stories for my forthcoming collection THE CITY WILL LOVE YOU (no info yet, but you can keep an eye on my Random House page).

Later, (readers from Accra will understand how my mental leap happened) I started thinking of how, in Ghana, the word 'down' is used directionally in a sense that doesn't lead to a basement - or to wherever Curtis Mayfield said hell is (note what the B-side of the song was when the 7'' was released). If a Ghanaian says bus stop down, they often mean down a slight incline away from or down a road away from 'bus stop'. 

I believe this is how our city's mental asylum ended up naming a whole neighbourhood. In England, it would have been Asylum Valley or something cute like that; in Ghana, it's Asylum Down - and I kind of like that; it's more militant, like saying DOWN with ASYLUMS, because - in truth - my view, my perspective on insanity is that many of the people who get put away for a while are just bad actors, they're simply not very good at acting normal. The rest? Well, we can talk about that if you meet me in Asylum Down!

what i'm reading/listening to
Some Betty Wright compilation - full of innuendo

Friend of My Youth by Alice Munro

Monday, April 08, 2013

Pebbles, 1980

This poem is from my book, The Makings of You. Written as a 'small-history' tract in honour of my baby sis, I thought I'd share given recent events, and the irony that Bobby - the angel Gabriel - Mugabe is a) still alive b) still in power c) up to tricks like Maggie in the run-up to elections

Pebbles, 1980

Back then I was six, still learning to throw
grass spears, running headlong into the full
mysteries of Accra. Of course there were things
I would find out later; Richard Pryor catching fire

trying to freebase, the launch of CNN, the invention
of Post-It notes, the reason why my mother cried
out so loud that night at the end of January when
the rains came with no warning and left muddy waters

stagnant along the road to school. I recall I was

so in love with my English teacher that I wanted her
to be my mother, and I had learnt the National anthem
after the coup d’├ętat the June before. It was the year
Ayitey and I learned about politics; with only one TV

channel we had no choice: crowded around the bright
orange box from Philips, we watched black and white
images of Zimbabwe gaining Independence. We were
so proud because Mugabe’s wife was Ghanaian; it was our
victory. We juggled the sweetness of words like "struggle"

and "justice"; we could even pronounce proletarians – we were
joyous freedom fighters whose only moments of sadness came
at bedtime, and on the day Daddy said John Lennon was
shot. A year so full of drama we almost missed the swelling

of Mummy’s belly, her widening nostrils, the slackening of

her pace and lowering of her heels. But who could forget
the kicks you dealt our ears in the months before you emerged
in October – so violent that Daddy chose to name you Pebbles
after Fred Flintstone’s restless redhead daughter – Imagine that!

This was how you arrived three days before Margaret Thatcher
claimed "the lady’s not for turning", your tough reputation
preceding you, crying out louder than Robert Mugabe,
your limbs all funny, jerky as a man on fire.

what i'm reading/listening to
Kassav -

We Need New Names - NoViolet Bulawayo