Monrovia — It is a common notion in Liberia that if you want hide something from a Liberian, hide it in a book. This notion stems from a belief that Liberians do not read.
This notion is, however fading out evidenced by the turnout of Liberians who rushed in with curiosity and excitement to listen to two Ghanaian authors, Kofi Akpabli and Nana Awere Damoah read their works of arts and creativity, at the Peace Café and Royal Grand Hotel Conference Room in Monrovia.
The two Ghanaian authors who came on the invitation of Forte Publishing, the organizer of Monrovia READS, on the first of two nights at the Peace Café in Sinkor, read a few lines of their fine arts that captured the audience of young writers, guests and members of Monrovia READS, a literacy program that brings writers to interact with their audiences. On the second night, at the Royal Grand Hotel, Mr. Akpali who is a freelance Journalists and a two-time CNN Multi-choice African Journalist Award winner, read one of his award winning pieces from his Book, Tackling the Ghanaian. The article he read is titled "The Serious business of Soup in Ghana". The creative piece, which described the various kinds of soup and its importance, captured and mesmerized the audience, when he introduced the piece as this: "Soup is not a child's play. It must not be served in a cup, nor should it be served without meat or fish. Soup must have pepper, and must never have sugar."
In his piece, he mentioned the westerner's idea of usually disrespecting soup, and pointed to an instance when he worked along with a French lady called Maria, in a Buckinghamshire restaurant in England.
"One Day Maria was drinking this yellowish stuff from a cup. When I asked what it was, she said soup. Then she asked if I would like some. I said to myself, soup in a cup, when will people get serious?"
Nana Awere Damoah, who holds masters in Chemical Engineering, but started serious writing in 1993 when he was in form six. He won the first prize in the Step Magazine National story writing competition.
He also read one of his pieces "You know you are in Ghana" from his book I Speak of Ghana.
He read: "You know you are in Ghana when street lights are visible decorations by day and invisible shadows by night. You know you are in Ghana when politician pays you to get him into office, only for you to pay him when he gets out of office."
This captivating introduction tickled the audience into laughter, with many saying "This, too happens in Liberia," as they related to Liberia's street lights situation and the politician's attitude.
Upon reading each of their pieces, some youth in audience who had confusion in writing their stories, asked questions such as "What makes a good writer? How does one begin writing about themselves? What are the steps to becoming a good writer? Their questions were answered, after every reading and many questions were asked, that three hours speed away like thirty minutes due to the eagerness of the listening audience.
"It was a very interactive forum that young people even decided that nothing will stop them from writing about their own experiences as Liberians. And that is very good for Africans to write about themselves, or the external forces or westerners would step in and write experiences of other people," said Akpabli
In an exclusive interview, Akpabli further said they came to Liberia on behalf of Monrovia READS, 6.0 to attend a symposium and read to their audience. And the two days experience at Monrovia READS, people who came to see how they do their readings in Ghana, asked questions laughed at the jokes which they were able to relate to some societal similarities facing both countries.
"This is the first time Monrovia READS has reached out to another African country to invite readers from Ghana, which I believe will mark the beginning of a good relationship. Monrovia READS is making strives and we as publishers, my partner Nana Damoah and I have plans of creating a greater relationship with Forte Publishing and Monrovia READS, to see how we can jointly publish books together between Liberia and Ghana," said Akpabli
"We are also planning to invite our counterparts to Ghana to read to our audience. We were also received by the Ghanaian Embassy which shows some cultural exchange in the future. We believe that the cooperation's at the cultural level and the literacy is as important to the cooperation of the economy and political level as well," he said.
Speaking about his lecture at the symposium entitled "Warrior To Writer" which talked about the Young Africans in the flight of representation. He said it looked at Africans who have experienced post wars scenarios and how they can represent their experiences of their countries in their stories. And the questions to ask are: What are they writing as Africans or have they written enough, what are the symbolisms they are using and what are their effect?
Mr. D. Otheniel Forte of Forte Publishing, and Organizer of Monrovia READS and host of the Ghanaian authors or DAkpabli Team, said he invited the DAkpabli team, because they're doing some great work in Ghana. And their readings, style and approach are all ingredients that spice up their events.
"We expect their visit to yield several fruits... A strong cultural link and collaboration between both our literacy programs, and a shared learning experience," said Forte.
When asked why it was important to invite the foreign authors, he said it is important to support literacy, regardless of where it is hosted. And it is even more important to share with others who are doing the same thing as you are doing.
"Both Monrovia READS and DAkpabli are building and improving the literacy programs in their countries. They're finding indigenous means to their unique problems. This is invaluable firsthand knowledge being created. They're in it using a one-size-fit-all approach. There's always a lot to learn with building and starting afresh. Their presence here gave them deeper insights into our particular difficulties and indirectly shed light on theirs," he said.