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The Art of Ama Ata Aidoo is a documentary produced and directed by Yaba Mangela Badoo, a shortlisted writer for Golden Baobab Prizes in 2012, which celebrates and explores the artistic contribution of one of Africa’s foremost writers and patron of Golden Baobab, Ama Ata Aidoo.

The feature-length documentary charts Ama Ata Aidoo's creative journey in a life that spans seven decades from colonial Ghana, through the tumultuous era of independence, to a more sober present day Africa where nurturing women's creative talent remains as hard as ever.

The documentary was premiered last week at the British council in Accra. Among the audience were Golden Baobab’s Executive Director, Deborah Ahenkorah, Abena Karikari, a participant of the Masterclass jointly organized by Mbaasem Foundation and Golden Baobab as well this year's  longlisted writer for Early Chapter Book Prize, Ricky Ansong.

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Africa Writes 2014, an annual festival of literature that is considered as ‘UK’s biggest celebration of contemporary African writing’, had a special focus on Ama Ata Aidoo, a playwright, poet, novelist and academic from Ghana. Aidoo’s address—conducted in the form of a moderated interview or conversation with translator and critic Wangui wa Goro—was preceded by a short film on her life and literary achievements. Dr. wa Goro had in her introduction said that the aim of the conversation, that she hoped would be ‘our fireside conversation’, was to reflect on Aidoo’s expansive literary career and the main themes that have emerged from her work. 

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Aidoo is a member of the Advisory Board of the Accra (Ghana)-based Golden Baobab Prize for African Literature. Also attending the annual festival that features book launches, readings, author appearances, panel discussions and workshops for children and youth was Zahrah Nesbitt-Ahmed, a member of the 2014 Golden Baobab Prize for African Literature evaluations team. In describing the event, Zahrah said, “I was fortunate enough to attend Africa Writes with Ama Ata Aidoo - it was one of those situations where you cannot believe you are in the same room and listening to her speak. She is so funny and at the same time seemed like a strong woman who speaks her mind - it was one of those things that I will always remember.” Davida Wulff-Vanderpuije, who provides Public Relations support for Golden Baobab was also present and speaks about the 2014 Africa Writes Festival.

Africa Writes is an annual event; do you attend often?

This year was my second time at Africa Writes festival. I first participated in it in 2013.

What was your impression of Ama Ata Aidoo's interview with wa Goro?     

This segment was the highlight for me. I was in enthrall of Ama Ata Aidoo’s verve and engaging personality. She spoke with feeling about each of her works, including an anecdote on how people still haven’t forgiven her for the death of Anowa. As an interviewer, my personal opinion is that wa Goro did not make the most of the broad scope of questions she could have asked AAA. The segment was interspersed with a docu-film on AAA (shot by YabaBlay), and it seemed to me some of her questions had already been addressed by AAA in the film, thus we could have benefitted from other perspectives not covered by the film. In fact, to some of her questions, the witty AAA told her people could easily Google that, confirming to a certain extent, the feeling that parts of the conversation were ‘wasted’ on questions we already knew answers to. However, AAA more than made up for it. She was introduced as a ‘living literary legend’ by wa Goro, and appreciative laughter and applause from the audience say we all agreed. From the moment AAA started to speak, it was obvious we were in the hands of a master storyteller, taking us on the journey of her early life and school days in Wesley Girls High School, to the body of works and teachers who fuelled her passion for writing. Naturally, the WGHS old girls in the audience hooted delightfully with a most unladylike sound at the mention of our great school (or maybe that was just me..:-) In all, it was a great conversation, leaving us feeling like time flew by too quickly and it was over before we knew it.

What were the effects of seeing Ama Ata Aidoo, a Ghanaian, on that platform being interviewed by wa Goro?

I had a very proud moment, because this was the main event of the entire festival. For me, it was the double draw of having not only a Ghanaian, but a leading author whose protagonists have often been women who make radical choices and defy traditional gender roles at that. As she reflected on the main themes of her works of fiction, I got a real sense of her heart and work for the empowerment of women, and it was inspiring too.

What are some of the impacts you think such events will make on the literary scene in Africa?

Africa Writes is fertile ground for showcasing established and emerging talent from Africa and the diaspora, so it brings the knowledge of these writers to a wider audience. The festival has become a big celebration of contemporary African writing that is expanding and pushing new boundaries. This bodes well for the literature scene in Africa. African writers are diverse in their approach to telling their stories, and challenging the very notion of ‘African literature’. This is exciting for the continent and its diaspora because we get the benefit of the rise in genre fiction and the development of different narratives. Crucially, it challenges us to be the authors of our own stories.

It was a real delight when Davida came into contact with the 2013 winner of the Early Chapter Book Prize, Ivor Hartman. Answering the question on how the two of them connected at such a big event, Davida responded:

He was a panelist on a segment titled 'Imagining Future Africa' which discussed the impact of innovation and technology on African sci-fi, speculative and fantasy writing. This was a bold discussion on a genre that writers on the continent are engaging with as they imagine their own futures. After the talk, I approached Ivor and introduced myself in connection with Golden Baobab.

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Any concluding remarks?

I'm looking forward to the time when Golden Baobab pitches camp at Africa Writes.

 

 

 

 

 

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Executive Director, Miss Deborah Ahenkorah, inspired participants of this year's Ashesi Innovations Experience (AIX) with her story on how she started Golden Baobab during her second year at the University. She described the numerous challenges she faced while setting up an organization at that stage of her life. She went further to advise, "You are likely to fail after your first try but try again."

About Ashesi Innovations Experience (AIX)

The Ashesi Innovation Experience (AIX) is a two (2) week-long programme targeting Senior High School students in Ghana. It aims at giving participants the tools and skills necessary for success in the 21st Century. This year, the program brought together 90 High School students who explored various opportunities in Entrepreneurship, Robotics and Design while being groomed to be ethical leaders in their societies.

The programme comprised of peer evaluations, coaching sessions and motivational talks. Miss Ahenkorah together with Golda Addo and Solomon Martey shared their experiences on social entrepreneurship to motivate the students gathered. Participants had firsthand knowledge on how to start and sustain businesses as well as how to tackle various challenges in one's community.

In sharing her thoughts, Miss Ahenkorah said, “It was an honour to be part of AIX2014.  I could see eagerness on the faces of the participants and I hope they go to inspire their generation with the knowledge and skills they have acquired. I want to congratulate Ashesi University for organizing this programme.” 

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Golden Baobab has begun evaluating stories for the 2014 Literature Prizes. This year, the Prizes received a total of 210 stories from 12 different countries across the continent. The reading season of the evaluation process is in its third week.

The Evaluation Process

The evaluation process is made up of two sessions: the reading season, which spans from July to August and the judging season in October. Before the reading season, stories that were received for Literature Prizes are put into packs: four stories per pack for the Early Chapter Book and eight stories per pack for the Picture Book. Each week, a reader receives a pack of stories and a score sheet to record evaluations. At the end of the week, stories are returned and readers receive new packs of stories. Evaluation of the stories is guided by The Golden Baobab Evaluation Handbook Book, a 22-page document which spells out responsibilities of the readers and the criteria for grading stories.  For diverse perspectives, a story is read at least twice by different readers. Stories that get the lowest scores during the reading season are dropped and the highest scoring stories make the longlist. The judging season begins after the longlist is selected. During the judging season, the longlisted stories are evaluated by six judges to select a shortlist and winners of the Golden Baobab Prizes for African Literature.

Meet the 2014 Reading Team

Members of the reading team are volunteers dedicating two months of their year to sift through stories that were received during the Call for Submissions to select a longlist.  This year, 22 readers from Kenya, Singapore, India, Canada, Germany, South Africa, USA and Ghana form the panel. They consist a physician, a primary school librarian, a publisher, an English Teacher, a drilling fluid engineer, students and graduates. The diversity of readers is to enable Golden Baobab select stories which will be lauded and appreciated by a wide variety of readers all over the world.

Our reading panel had a little chit chat to know each other better. Below are snippets of the conversation and some of the responses will definitely make you smile:

If you were God for a day, what is the first thing you would do?

  • Press the earth's reset button.
  • Create harmony and love
  • Make everyone honest.
  • Give me more hours in the day please!
  • I'd instill some intrinsic motivation in all my jaded students. 
  • I would probably take away the concept of violence from human minds.
  • Rainbow colored beaches. And then I would take us all back to the Garden of Eden and save a ton of complications.
  • I’ll give the title back to God. I think He’s doing a great job.
  • Wow, I don't think I have the strength, patience or wisdom to be God, but I think I would pause the world and sprinkle love dust on everyone (yes, I said love dust), I think if we all remember to love others above ourselves most of the problems we are facing will seize to exist.

Interesting things about you that you dislike?

  • I say a lot of things I don't mean. I seriously need a filter. 
  • I am a perfectionist. Really drives me mad when I have an important assignment to undertake.
  • My ability to touch my nose with my tongue. That must mean my tongue is way too long, right?!
  • None or very few of the things I pursue in life seem to have any correlation with being a real-life adult making real-life money... is quite worrying at this point. 
  • I am a worrier by nature - and I have extremely "thin skin" and tend to take everything too personal. I have tried to "toughen up", but it hasn't worked so far and since I am heading towards the 50s, I have kind of given up on it ;)
  • I have an unexplainable dislike for peas. I don't know why, but I see peas and I just can't eat them.
  • I am a huge over thinker. I like to ponder and nit-pick at every angle which can quickly get exhausting.
  • I don't often think ahead, and recently that's come to bite me in the backside.
  • Boring habits of mine that can be annoying to others is my tendency to be nitpicky.

 

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Great news for illustrators, artists and designers in Africa!! Golden Baobab has extended the deadline for submissions to the 2014 Golden Baobab Prize for Illustrators. The new submission deadline is Midnight GMT, Friday, August 22, 2014. 

The goal of the Golden Baobab Prizes is to discover, nurture and celebrate talented African writers and illustrators of children's stories. There is a $7500 cash prize at stake as well as the opportunity to be celebrated as Africa's leading children's illustrator.

If you are an African illustrator/artist, get excited and ready to submit! Do share this news with any illustrators/artists you know. 

Find our rules and regulations in English, Francais, Português and العربية. For submission details, visit  submit your illustrations.

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Golden Baobab has extended the deadline for submissions of its Literature Prizes to midnight GMT on Monday, July 21, 2014.  This decision came about when several writers faced difficulties during the submission process.

Prize Coordinator, Delali Kumapley says, “This is a mop-up exercise; we realized a lot of people made unsuccessful attempts to submit to the Prizes so we decided to give writers two more weeks to make their entry submissions. Those who submitted to the Prizes and did not receive acknowledgment and those who intended to enter the competition should take advantage of this opportunity. Again, we wish to apologize for any inconvenience that was caused during the submission process.”

The extension will not affect the evaluation process; everything will go on as scheduled and the winners of the various prizes will be announced in November this year.

To submit stories to the Prizes, visit: http://www.goldenbaobab.org/prizes/submissions/submit-your-story

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Every few weeks, I meet someone who tells me they want to be a writer. Quite often they say they want to write for children or have started writing to give their children something more fun to read. They work in the evenings, after long days behind desks and putting little ones to bed. They tell me they have been workin on it for 6 months or 6 years. All of them want to know how to get published. Many of them imagine it will be much more glamorous and profitable than it’s really likely. Quite a few of them have multiple books they have abandoned, half or a quarter way because they could not find inspiration or had ran out of ideas. I must have met dozens of people with this story in the last 5 years or so. There must be thousands of these hopeful storytellers across Africa but where do all their stories go? Very few of them are ever published by a traditional trade publisher. To be fair, there are very few strictly trade or children’s book publishers on our continent to begin with.

Writing textbooks or other educational materials would certainly be a more sensible and reliable source of income for those who wish to write professionally for children. We have not begun to fully mine the potential of technology to unleash our stories into the world. Why haven’t we? I could point to the many institutional roadblocks and structural inequalities of the publishing world. I could lament our odd preference for work from beyond our own shores.

Today, I’d like to talk about fear. This is the one thing that all those who have told me they want to be writers have in common. They are afraid they can’t finish writing their book or it won’t be good enough if they do, afraid of the inevitable rejection letters or their book won’t sell. I am not immune to these fears. For years, my particular brand of fear was that people would think that I couldn’t really write if I chose to write solely for children. My fear fuelled my excuses for not doing the only thing that would actually make me a ‘real’ writer: writing. I have a theory that this is why after many years as Africa’s only Pan-African children’s literature prize; Golden Baobab only received 180 story submissions for the 2013 prize. 180 stories? On a continent with billions of people? That is deeply depressing, especially since we have no shortage of writers; just a shortage of opportunities.

The Golden Baobab Prize and its writing and illustration workshops, represent one of the few, reasonably accessible opportunities to become a real writer. The stories submitted are written by Africans and for African children, in settings that are relatable, with characters not so unlike the children themselves. So why aren’t there more entries? Where do all our stories go? They go nowhere and we are going nowhere as long as this is the case. Stories can be as powerful as bullets. They can shift perspectives and ignite passions. They can keep our history and heritage alive. They can change the future for one child and a whole family. If you want to be a writer, you don’t need to keep telling everyone. This week could be your chance. I’ve already submitted my entry to the Golden Baobab Prize. Where is yours?

 

 

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 A few weeks ago, we started our search for our very first Golden Baobab Media Fellow! The Golden Baobab Media Fellowship is a highly selective program that provides journalists or journalism students the opportunity to write articles and features to promote the children’s literature scene in Africa, while gaining exposure. We received many impressive applications and we are happy to say that after a thorough evaluation we have settled on our first ever Media Fellow and we are excited to introduce her to you!

Her name is Bontle Senne from South Africa and for the next six (6) months, she will be helping to raise awareness about Golden Baobab’s work through well-written, creative and informative pieces which will be published all over Africa.

Profile of Bontle Senne

Bontle is a blogger, web editor, speaker and literary activist on the board of NPO Puku Children's Literature Foundation and NPO READ Educational Trust. She writes stories for FunDza Literary Trust and regularly speaks on social media and children's literature at international literary festivals and conferences including the University of South Africa's Children's Reading Conference 2012, Frankfurt International Book Fair 2012 and 2013, Salon du Livre (Paris Book Fair) 2013, Etonnants Voyageurs - Brazzaville, Congo 2013 and Etonnants Voyageurs - Saint Malo, France 2013. She also presented the fourth annual Beyers Naude Memorial Lecture at the University of the Free State in 2012.

We welcome Bontle to the Golden Baobab team! Watch out for her articles!

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On Saturday, 14th June, 2014, Mamle will facilitate a Master Class on Writing for Children. This Master Class is being organized by Mbaasem in partnership with Golden Baobab and is being funded by The African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF) and The Royal Bank Limited.

Mamle Wolo is a writer of Ghanaian and German parentage. She was born and raised in Ghana until the age of 14 when she moved to the United Kingdom. She completed her secondary schooling there, after which she studied at the University of Cambridge, where she obtained her B.A and M.A in Modern Languages and her MPhil in Latin-American Studies. She returned to Ghana in 1992 where she has since been resident and works as an independent Ghanaian consultant working in development and specializing in the fields of Education, Gender and Child Labour.

Mamle took up fiction writing in the late 1990s and has since written numerous short stories, all of which have been published in various anthologies and journals in Africa, the UK and the US. One of these is The End of Skill which was nominated for the Caine Prize for African Writing in 2009.  Mamle also won the first prize in the 2011 Burt Award for children’s writing for her story, The Kaya Girl, scooping the top prize for an unpublished manuscript.

In July this year, Mamle will be a lead facilitator of the first creative non-fiction writers workshop in Kampala, Uganda, which is being organized by The African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF) and the Uganda Women Writers Association (FEMRITE).

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“These are high level meetings and most of the time, there are no representations for the arts or children. It’s an economic meeting where they discuss health, security, etc. But what about issues related to the arts, authors, illustrations, children and what we are feeding their minds with?  So it was an honor to have been part of this extremely important discussion to contribute our perspectives to how we think the future of Africa should be shaped.”

Those were the words of Executive Director of Golden Baobab, Deborah Ahenkorah, who was present at this year’s World Economic Forum on Africa in Abuja. The World Economic Forum is an international institution committed to improving the state of the world through public-private cooperation. It engages political, business, academic and other leaders of society in collaborative efforts to shape global, regional and industry agenda.  Together with other stakeholders, it works to define challenges, solutions and actions, always in the spirit of global citizenship.

During the forum, Miss Ahenkorah was on a panel that discussed Education in Africa and she recalls, “I shared on education and my view was - as much as education focuses on quality, it should not over-run the basics of what information you are providing the children.  As we are building schools and libraries, we should pay extreme attention to what our children are being taught because this influences their thinking pattern.” 

The World Economic Forum was preceded by a three-day Summit of Global Shapers in Africa. Global Shapers Summit is a gathering of 100 young people in Africa who are doing interesting works that are impacting the continent. Participants of the summit interacted with Rwandan President, Paul Kagami and Former President of Brazil, Lula Da Silva. The highlight for Miss Ahenkorah was when Former Brazilian President walked into the room to a rousing applause and according to her, “Mr. Lula went round to shake the hand of every single Global Shaper, looking each of us in the face with a genuine smile. Key take away from the summit's conversation was: you don't need qualifications to bring about change. You only need to listen to the problems of your people and solve the problems. It's not politics; it's problem solving.”    

 

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Golden Baobab's award

On Monday, March 24 this year, Golden Baobab was awarded the Best Children's Publisher of the Year in Africa at the annual Bologna Children’s Book Fair in Italy. The award was in recognition of Golden Baobab’s efforts to help improve and develop children's content on the African continent.

The Bologna Children’s Book Fair is one of the most important international events dedicated to the children’s publishing and multimedia industry.  It is a meeting of authors, illustrators, literary agents, licensors and licensees, packagers, distributors, printers, booksellers, and librarians. It also serves as a platform for finding the very best of children’s publishing and multimedia production, for generating and gathering new contacts while strengthening professional relationships. This year’s event saw an exhibition of more than 30,000 illustrators, writers, exhibitors and trade operators from all over the world. 

The Bologna Book Fair in Italy

In the words of the Executive Director of Golden Baobab, Deborah Ahenkorah, quote, “We are absolutely honoured and delightfully surprised that Golden Baobab’s nascent publishing efforts have been recognized while we launch our publishing activities this year.”

Photo of award winners

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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When the African Women's Development Fund (AWDF) announced that it would be holding a three-day workshop on Results Based Management (RBM) for eight of its grantees, we at Golden Baobab knew we had to seize the opportunity! We put in our application and Nanama Acheampong, the programmes coordinator of the prize was accepted as a participant.

The RBM workshop took place from the 13th-16th of May, 2014 and was held at the beautiful Laico Regency Hotel in the heart of Nairobi, Kenya. 

About RBM

RBM is a strategic management approach which involves, among other things, accurately defining goals and objectives, planning activities to achieve them and effective report writing.

Programmes coordinator’s experience at RBM

Commenting on the RBM experience, Miss Acheampong said, “I was excited about being a part of the RBM training because it did not only give me the opportunity to network with women from different parts of Africa who are playing similar roles as I am, but it also helped to improve my planning, implementing and reporting skills. These will enhance my performance in my current role as coordinator of the prizes.” 

 Snapshot of presentation at the workshopSnapshot of presentation at the workshop 

According to Miss Acheampong, Awino Okech, a facilitator at the workshop, was absolutely brilliant in how she led the workshop, weaving individual work, group activities and presentations into the mix to ensure that they are properly understood and put to use, the new things they were learning.  

Awino Okech,facilitator at the workshop

In all, Miss Acheampong left the workshop knowing the importance of ensuring that goals/desired results are accurately defined and realistic and how to properly and effectively capture impact made during report writing.

 

 

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