The Art Of Ama Ata Aidoo: “A Young Girl’s Voice Doesn’t Break: It Gets Firmer”

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“This documentary celebrates Aidoo and her work and brings it to new audiences in a way that will inspire future generations. ” 

Watching Yaba Badoe’s docu-drama on the life of Ama Ata Aidoo  – one of my favourite African writers – at its launch in Ghana last week, was pure delight.  Ama Ata Aidoo is Africa’s first female published playwright and undeniably one of Ghana’s most influential poets and short story writers.

Masterfully directed by Badoe and with Amina Mama as Executive Producer,  “The Story Of Ama Ata Aidoo,” follows the writer over a course of a year during which she travels to her ancestral village in the Central Region of Ghana and is feted at a Festschrift organized by friends and colleagues at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She then attends the premier of her seminal play about the local African experiences of the slave trade, Anowa, performed by UCSB Theater.

The film recognizes Ms Aidoo’s  achievements in a world in which such stories are all too rarely heard.  Beautiful African melodies and rhythms form the background for readings and interviews about and with Ama Ata as we follow her journey. The cinematography is truly stunning.

Ama Ata herself did not requisition the film but as she put it, let the filmmakers “do their own thing.” She describes it as “their portrayal of me,”for which she is grateful, but would not necessarily have told the story in the same way.

Speaking at the launch which was held at the British Council,  Esi Sutherland Addy described Ms Ama Ata Aidoo as a legend whose works represent “five decades of creative engagement.”

The film was followed by a question and answer session which saw animated discussion and heaps of praise for Ms Aidoo and the filmmakers. The packed auditorium itself spoke volumes about the popularity of this Ghanaian author.

To end the evening Ms Aidoo had a word of encouragement for  would-be and fledgling writers:  make a habit of writing and don’t let anything get in the way.

“(Writing) is the most important thing, so please write,” she said.

Ms Ama Ata Aidoo’s published works include: Our Sister Killjoy, Changes, No Sweetness Here and Diplomatic Pounds, her most recent and one of my favourite.

Hats off  to a woman whose voice has only gotten stronger with the years. I  can’t wait for her next work.

See the link to the film here:  http://amaatafilm.com/

AAA writing

Some of the team behind this  documentary :

Yaba Badoe

Yaba Badoe
Director/Producer
Yaba Badoe is a BBC-trained, award-winning documentary film maker and writer with many years experience in broadcast television. She has made arts and culture based documentaries for the main terrestrial channels in the UK.   In 2003 she directed a one hour documentary about the life and work of Nobel Laureate, Toni Morrison, for BBC4.  Her latest film, The Witches of Gambaga (Fadoa Films, 2010), won the 2010 Best Documentary Award at the Black International Film Festival and 2nd Prize, Documentaries at FESPACO 2011.

Amina Mama

Amina Mama

Producer
Amina Mama is one of Africa’s leading activist feminist scholars. A former Chair in Gender Studies at the University of Cape Town’s African Gender Institute for 10 years, she founded the journalFeminist Africa, has taught courses in African cinema and co-produced The Witches of Gambaga. She is currently on the faculty of Women and Gender Studies at the University of California, Davis.

 

Abena P.A. Busia

profile-Abena-Busia

Interviews
Professor Abena P. A. Busia is an accomplished poet and cultural critic best known for her role in directing and editing the award-winning Women Writing Africa Series, a ground-breaking project that familiarized her with the lives and contexts of generations of Africa’s women writers. She co-produced, with filmmaker Akosua Busia, The Prof: A Man Remembered (Prince of Peace Productions, 2008) and is currently Chair of the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies at Rutgers University.

 

 

 

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MOVIE REVIEW: Amma Asante’s Belle Premieres At Silverbird Cinemas, Accra

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A stirring period drama with historical importance, Belle is a must-see for Accra moviegoers. Based on the true story of a mixed-race aristocrat who lived in 18th century England, it is directed by Amma Asante, an award-winning actress and director who was born to Ghanaian parents in the U.K.

The movie premiered in Ghana at the Silverbird Cinemas on Friday, September 12 to rave reviews. The event was preceded by a cocktail reception at the theatre’s Silver Lounge.

Dido Elizabeth Belle (1761-1804) was the daughter of a British admiral and an African slave. Under Asante’s masterful directing,  the movie depicts her growing up in Kenwood House, Hampstead, under the guardianship of her father’s uncle Lord Chief Justice Mansfield.

Belle lives an unusual life – she is brought up as an aristocrat and even inherits a fortune from her father after his death. Yet her skin colour and illegitimate birth confer on her a curious social status – higher than a servant yet not quite equal to her white cousin Elizabeth, with whom she grows up.

Asante captures the tension of this dynamic with an exquisite romantic period drama full of beautiful cinematography and Jane Austen-esque  lushness. She interprets the grown-up Belle as a dazzling young woman, radically challenging the racial norms of her time and indirectly having a seminal role in history.

“I thought it was amazing. The characters really suited their roles; it was well researched, very well acted,” said Silole Mpoke, who attended the Premiere. “I found it fascinating that a young African girl could fight against slavery,” she said.

In the movie, Belle’s influence on the Lord Chief Justice ultimately impacts his landmark ruling on the infamous “Zong” case:- a judgement that became a catalyst for the abolition of the slave trade in Britain.

The pacing of Asante’s movie is flawless, her characters so believable and compelling that it could easily have run on a little longer – if only to see how  some of the supporting characters would have developed  for instance gentleman suitor Oliver Ashford, whom Belle  gets engaged to, but eventually leaves.

The  film covers many rousing themes: racism, slavery, feminism and justice. Under Asante’s expert direction the end result is heart-stirring and thoughtful. She says the lead character Lord Mansfield, (Tom Wilkinson), was inspired by her own father, who passed away during the making of the film.

“What I wanted to do was to tell this history through the story of a woman, the man she falls in love with… and even more importantly in some  ways a woman and her father,” Asante said in an interview at the recent Isle Of Man Film Festival in the U.K. “It’s a paternal love story as much as a romantic love story.”

Dido Belle,  played by rising British star Gugu Mbatha Raw, is joined by  a stellar cast which includes Academy Award nominees and other notable actors such as Tom Wilkinson (Lord Mansfield),  Emily Watson as Lady Mansfield, Sam Reid as Belle’s ” true love” John Davinier, James Norton as Oliver Ashford, and Miranda Richardson as Oliver’s mother Lady Ashford.

Ghana’s handful of talented, successful female film directors include  Akosua Busia, Julia Asante and Shirley Frimpong-Manso, director of the acclaimed film “Love or Something Like That,” who is a fan of Amma Asante’s work.

“I am really looking forward to seeing the movie,” Frimpong-Manso said.

“Belle is an inspiration to everyone who is looking to achieve the impossible.  A masterpiece by  all standards,” said Nana Twum Barima Yeboah, Silverbird’s Marketing Manager.

“It is a great time to celebrate one of our own in the arts industry,” he said.

Belle is currently playing at Silverbird Cinemas Accra Mall and Weija.

Times: Accra Mall – 4:20 pm, 6:30 pm /Weija – 6:30 pm

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BELLE

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SILVERBIRD CINEMAS ACCRA  TO PREMIERE BELLE 

09 September, 2014

Silverbird Cinemas, Accra Mall is proud to announce the premiere of Belle, the breathtaking 2013 period drama by BAFTA award-winning director/writer Amma Asante, a Ghanaian/ British national.

Based on true events, the movie tells the story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, the mixed race daughter of a Royal Navy Admiral who was raised by her aristocratic great-uncle Lord Mansfield in  18th century England.  Though the social mores of the time make Belle an outsider, she is nonetheless educated and raised by Lord Mansfield as an aristocrat alongside his daughter Elizabeth.

Belle’s lineage affords her certain privileges, yet her status prevents her from fully engaging in the traditions of noble social standing. Whilst her white cousin Lady Elizabeth Murray seeks eligible suitors for her hand in marriage, Belle is left on the sidelines wondering if she will ever find love. Fortunately she meets an idealistic young Vicar’s son bent on changing society.

Raising Belle gives Lord Mansfield an unusual perspective on the practice of slavery. in his role as Lord Chief Justice, Mansfield ultimately delivers a verdict in an infamous case, playing a crucial role for the abolitionist movement in England.

This 104 minute movie has won worldwide acclaim since it was released in May 2014.

The movie is inspired by a  1779 painting of Dido Elizabeth Belle, posing beside her cousin Lady Elizabeth Murray at Kenwood House estate in London.

Belle stars Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Tom Wilkinson, Miranda Richardson, Penelope Wilton,Sam Reid, Matthew Goode, Emily Watson, Sarah Gadon, Tom Felton, and James Norton

 Date: Friday September 12th, 2014

Time:  6:00 pm to 9:00 pm.

Venue: Silverbird Cinemas Accra

Cost: GH25.00

 Special Exclusive: Director’s  Presentation: Amma Asante, will give a brief presentation about the movie via live feed from Europe just before the September 12 showing.

 

 

 

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Movie Review – Love Or Something Like That

 

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Award-winning Ghanaian film director Shirley Frimpong Manso has scored a winner with her latest movie Love or Something Like That – a heartwarming drama about a newly-wed couple whose lives are turned upside down when they learn that one of them is HIV-positive.

The movie is a love story between Kwarley, a beautiful, dynamic surgeon (played by Ghanaian actress Joselyn Dumas) and her husband, played by John Dumelo.

The pair have been married only a few weeks when the diagnosis hits them – just at a point when Kwarley, who has been fanatical about protected sex – “I’m a doctor after all,” – decides to go on the pill rather than to use condoms with her husband, so that they can have deeper intimacy.

Frimpomg Manso’s treatment of the impact of HIV infection among educated, upwardly-mobile professionals is sure to resonate deeply with its viewers, especially in Ghana, where UNAIDS warned this month, that new infections among the educated middle-class are on the rise. This movie is a must see for African movie lovers who want a new approach to old themes.

The effect of the news on the couple’s relationship unfolds in a plot which is well-crafted,
and movingly executed by an award-winning cast. Christabel Ekeh (Ghanaian) and Nigerian OC Ukeje, are in turn funny and compelling as supporting male and female leads. Ukeje who stars as Henry, Kwarley’s ex-painter boyfriend, is particularly convincing in his complex and dramatic role. ( Note: the pot smoking scenes).

What makes the movie stand out is Frimpong Manso’s  depiction of raw emotion and reaction after the HIV-positive status is revealed. Stigma, jealousy, betrayal and anger unfold in natural harmony with the movie’s plot and believable characters. Other themes in play are Kwarley’s dilemma over career vs marriage,  friendship and faith.

The story, which  is set in an urban middle-class setting, is filmed against a
backdrop of Accra’s glamorous restaurants, neighborhoods and shopping malls, with brilliant cinematography, sound and special effects.
By contrast, although safe sex messages are emphasized throughout the film, Kwarley’s best friend Asantewaa, played brilliantly by Ghanaian Nana Mensah, is having an affair with a married man, and has little to say on the subject, aside from her hesitation in knowing her HIV status.
I hate to be a “spoiler” so I won’t go into further details.

Ghana has been touted as a global trail-blazer in the fight against HIV-AIDS, recording an impressive reduction in mother-to-child transmission of HIV, increased availability
of antiretroviral treatment and reduction in HIV prevalence among sex workers.
UNAIDS is currently spearheading a new campaign dubbed “Protect The Goal,” focusing on the middle class.  Already,  UNAIDS global, Ghana Protect the Goal Partnership and Ghana AIDS Commission, have  heartily endorsed Frimpong Manso’s latest film as a useful tool for raising some of the sensitive issues around the issue.

FrimpongManso is a film director, writer and producer and also founder and CEO of Sparrow Productions, a film, television, and advertising production company based in Ghana.  Love Or Something Like That  was co-produced with Ghanaian Ken Attoh and Dumas and directed by FrimpongManso.

In addition to great potential for raising public awareness on HIV,  her latest film, with its multi-national cast, shows the marks of indisputable  market appeal beyond the shores of Ghana and Africa.

Love Or Something Like That is currently showing at Silverbird Cinemas, Accra and Weija.

 

 

 

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KSM Confessions Of A GH Man – National Theatre, Accra

Ghana’s King of stand-up comedy Kwaku Sintim-Misa (more popularly known as KSM) presented a sequel to “Confessions of a GH Girl” on Saturday May 3rd at the National Theatre.
The show, “Confessions Of A GH Man,” was billed as an expose of Ghanaian men embroiled in affairs with mistresses and girlfriends,  guaranteed to produce non-stop laughter.
The programme started out with two musical performances and a short comedy act which lightened up the crowd and got them in the mood. Then onto the main act.
For over sixty minutes KSM was John Toyo – a self taught relationship expert with “experience rather than qualifications” who dispensed wisdom learned from six failed marriages, insights garnered from former patients in New York, all the while chewing on a pipe. And I have to confess I did laugh a great deal – sometimes till my sides hurt.
And yet I left the National Theatre feeling a little disappointed. Not in a huge way…but just a little.
KSM’s insightful and observant comedy shows, touching on socio-political issues in Ghana, have earned him a huge following, especially among middle-class and university-educated Ghanaians. I have been very impressed with his political satire and I think there he is at his best.
By contrast, this show engaged in an earthier type of Ghanaian humor – one that clearly hit the mark for a large demographic of KSM’s audiences judging by the peals of laughter.  There was no doubt at all that the crowd was thoroughly enjoying the portrayal and pitfalls of stereotypical Ghanaian casanovas. At times I found Toyo’s antics contrived and the humor a bit cliched.
But side-splitting laughter is not easy to come by in these troubled times in Ghana and after the night I felt I had got my much-needed therapy. Also, goody bags containing bottles of gin bitters were handed out during the show, which went down a real storm.
Unfortunately, I was “shieing diplo” so I missed out on those treats.
Next time…!!!

Writers Project Of Ghana Monthly Book Reading:

I attended the Writers Project of Ghana book-reading series held on Wednesday April 30th, 2014. I was really looking forward to this event for a number of reasons: I badly needed a literary outlet; I had heard so many good things about this group and they were presenting readings by Ama Ata Aidoo –  a lady who is widely regarded as one of Ghana’s finest writers, and who is a personal favourite of mine.
The Writers Project of Ghana (WPG) is an international literary organization based in Ghana and the United States, with the stated goal of promoting a literary culture in Africa and around the world. Their long-running public reading series enters its fifth year in 2014, and is presented in collaboration with the Goethe Institute in Accra.
The setting was warm and intimate as a small group of dedicated literary buffs sat in the inner courtyard of the main block of the Goethe Institute (Cantonments) to hear Ama Ata Aidoo read. The excerpts were from her published poetry and fiction works, and included An Insider’s View, No Grief, No Joy and one of her collections of short stories – Diplomatic Pounds. I thoroughly enjoyed all the readings, which she presented in her uniquely earthy, frank and gutsy style.
Ama Ata is a Ghanaian author, poet, playwright and academic, and a former Minister of Education in the Ghanaian government. “Writers need readings, audiences, students and readers to make their work alive,” she told the gathering. Describing her poetry as the “least known” of her published work, she says many of her poems are “responses and reactions, especially to her daughter Kinna’s questions. Fascinating.un
While the entire evening was heavenly, what struck me most was her poem Declaration At Independence – a fiery outpouring that spoke of idealism, let-down and abandonment. When I asked about its hints of an untold love story, she agreed,  her eyes twinkling, but said some secrets were best left unrevealed. Of her poetry, the prolific writer says it is her least comfortable genre, but then again she says she has no real preference – “because of the way my imagination works.”
I enjoyed this event and connected with some lovely people. Feel as though I’m on the verge of discovering new things in Accra. I think my literary cravings can actually be fulfilled in Ghana. I’m already looking forward to their next event at the end of May.
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KSM is Back: Ghana’s Master of Laughter – Live at National Theatre – May 3

If you, like me, are frustrated with the endless list of ills besetting the nation, what better remedy than a night this weekend with Ghana’s undisputed king of satire and stand-up comedy Kwaku Sintim-Misa, popularly known as KSM?
For a hard-hitting show with plenty of laughs don’t miss KSM’s latest offering as he turns the spotlight on Ghanaian men. “Confessions Of A Ghana Man ” is the sequel to last year’s “Secrets of GH Girls” which focused on the love lives and man-grabbing tactics of Ghanaian women. Saturday’s show promises to bring more laughs,  fist pumps and cheers as KSM presents his expose of Ghanaian men with his trademark wit. For the first time, the actor said in an interview this week, he is being directed by his sister – Anima Misa Amoah – herself a renowned actress.
KSM is  a radio presenter, writer, producer and film maker whose one-man comedy acts touch on Ghana’s key social, economic and political issues, making him a household name. His shows, liberally laced  with  satire and farce, have earned him a huge following, especially among middle-class and university-educated Ghanaians.
Reviews of his last show show on Ghana girls described it as “hilarious” and “captivating.” I  remember laughing so hard I had to be forcibly silenced during a Christmas Day day special show of “Chemical Interrogation” a few years ago. Ghana’s former president Jerry John Rawlings and his wife Nana Konadu, who were in the house that night, are among his biggest fans.
Here is an official list of Do’s and Don’t about this weekend’s show from KSM’s official Facebook page  “in the interest of your own health and safety”:
DO’S:
1/ Bring a hanky to wipe away tears of laughter from your eyes
2/ Bring another person to hold on to, in case you fall over laughing
DON’Ts:
1/ Do not bring your brain – you will not need it.
2/ Do not bring a serious attitude – it will be stifled and crushed.
I’m really looking forward to KSM’s laughter therapy this weekend. See you there.
Click KSM’s FB page for more details.
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An Enchanted Night of Collaborative Music With Japan’s Ryu Goto and Ghana’s National Symphony Orchestra

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Easter Monday was a rare magical night for classical music lovers in the Ghanaian capital as the National Symphony Orchestra joined hands with Japanese classical violinist Ryu Goto to present a two-hour performance at the National Theatre.
Mr. Ryu Goto is the younger brother of Midori Goto, herself arguably the world’s foremost classical violinist today. Ryu however, demonstrated such effortless artistry and mastery of technique that he surely cannot be considered less able than his remarkable sister.
The first half of the program featured Antonio Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons.” The Four Seasons (“Le quattro stagioni”) composed in 1723,  is a set of four violin concertos by the Italian composer. The texture of each concerto is varied,  resembling its respective season. For example, “Winter” is peppered with silvery pizzicato notes from the high strings, calling to mind icy rain, whereas “Summer” evokes a thunderstorm in its final movement, which is why the movement is often called “Storm”.
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Mr. Goto launched into this work with incredible passion and commitment, and as the sweet haunting solo notes of his violin soared, the audience knew they were being treated to the rare experience of a true virtuoso performance. Mr. Goto also won the hearts of the audience with two solo pieces in the second half.
His performance overall was not only technically superb,  but beautifully personal and inviting, often punctuated or accompanied by smiles in moments where he was obviously enjoying himself.
Mr. Isaac Annoh is the orchestra’s music director and was the conductor for the night, while German violinist Kwame Thomas led the first violin section.  Clearly, the National Symphony is more of a chamber ensemble than a large orchestra, and the sound they generated was sometimes thin and hesitant. However,  they were harmonious and technically accurate, and Mr. Annoh should be congratulated for guiding the ensemble through some very demanding repertoire.
Following the two solo pieces played by Mr. Goto in the second half, the full orchestra embarked on a lively medley of local Ghanaian tunes alongside Mr. Goto. This time they were definitely in their element, and played with animation and skill. The program concluded with the national anthem, led beautifully by Mr. Goto to thunderous applause. The crowd was in raptures over the performance, showing their appreciation with ovations, cat calls and whistles. Despite a few distractions – noisy  kids, less than stellar acoustics and a late start – this night was unquestionably a hit. The concert was sponsored by the Japanese embassy in Ghana, Toyota,  Daikin, Golden Palm Investments and Ryu Goto.
Interestingly, publicity for the concert circumvented the normal channels of radio, television and billboard ads. Rather it was generated through the Japanese Embassy’s direct network of contacts as well as the http://www.accraexpat.com network. This strategy was obviously a success because the hall was filled with several hundred Ghanaians, expats, and diplomats. Also in attendance were Mrs Elizabeth Ofosu- Adjare, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts , who attended on behalf of the president and the Japanese and US ambassadors.
This author notes that Mr. Goto has visited Ghana before, combining a busy performing career with philanthropic and business activities in Asia and Africa. Among other things he has used music to raise awareness about issues of clean water.
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