By John Owoo
(In Accra – Ghana)
The 2020 edition of PaGya Literary Festival, which ended last week at the Goethe-Institut in Accra, has undoubtedly sparked interest and appetite in writing and publishing in local Ghanaian languages.
Indeed, the opening discussion between Prof. Kofi Anyidoho (University of Ghana) and Prof. Danabang Kuwabong (University of Puerto Rico), which centered on “Preservation of Ghanaian Languages through Literature”, also touched on the upgrading of Ghana’s linguistic heritage.
Both academics, who have several books in both English and local languages to their credit, examined the relevance of literature in indigenous languages such as Ga, Ewe, Twi, Dagaare and Dagbani as a way of promoting Ghanaian languages, literature and national development.
They were of the view that literature, when adopted in all levels of education in the areas of prose, drama and poetry, can play a critical role in informing and orienting the population on actions to take that will result in human development.
Undeniably, African literary studies have for decades been rooted in a distinction between Europhone literatures and Afrophone literatures. Each of these two genres was associated with a detailed set of qualities resulting in European language traditions being described as global, written and modern, while those of Africa were often labeled as local, oral and traditional.
They acknowledged the challenges inherent in writing in local languages but added that these are not unsurmountable while stating that enhancement of the teaching of local languages in schools is not only about enriching these languages but also augmenting knowledge about our culture, traditions and history.
German poet, translator and essayist Jan Wagner, who read from his poems participated in a virtual discussion on “Translating Poetry” with Ghanaian poet Nii Ayikwei Parkes, which heralded a poetry fiesta that encompassed several members of Ehalakasa poetry collective.
They dilated on how rhyme, which constitutes one of the features of poetry, is particularly challenging in translation. Both poets equally touched on the issue of rhythm which is often achieved with the use of rhyme as well as other stylistic devices such as assonance, consonance and onomatopoeia, which are difficult to reproduce in another language.
Equally insightful was a discussion between the internationally acclaimed Ghanaian artist Ibrahim Mahama and musician / activist Wanlov the Kubolor on the subject “Art on the Edge”. Moderated by the Dutch / Ghanaian creative mastermind Ama van Danzig, the two artists expatiated on issues relating to the expansion of art parameters in Ghana while zoning in on new and alternative voices and the issue of colonial ghosts.
Another talk involved two former Ambassadors – D.K Osei and Kabral Blay-Amihere who disused the topic “Traversing the Globe – A Diplomatic Conversation”, they engaged themselves with a lively discussion on a wide range of issues relating to the diplomatic front.
Various activities that took place during the three-day event include presentations, book readings / signings, workshops, publisher interactions, panel discussions and book launches and others that were largely held through video link ups and live-streaming.
With dozens of authors, poets, editors and publishers on site alongside members of the general public participating virtually and physically, this year’s festival was a huge success, despite minor challenges with internet and technical equipment.
Goethe-Institut Ghana sponsored PaGya Literary Festival 2020.