A recent graduate of University of Ottawa's Visual Art program, K Darch [the obruni in the picture - ed.] is a visual artist and writer who has produced and exhibited work with a humanitarian focus on Canadian social issues. Last year she lived in Ghana for 8 months teaching art and literacy at a community library, which sparked continuing volunteer work with women in developing countries. She is currently living and working in Toronto, and plans to return to Ghana soon.
Five Questions with K Darch:
1. How long have you been writing poetry?
When I was a kid I wrote silly rhyming poetry that read as song lyrics, but I've mostly been writing since I was about 15.
2. Who are your favorite poets? Which poets have most inspired you and informed your work?
The first poet I ever really read was Charles Baudelaire. In high school it was T.S Eliot, E.E. Cummings, Adrienne Rich, that whole modern bunch. Then later, Pablo Neruda, Nicole Blackman - a New York based spoken word poet. But I'm more influenced by song lyrics than anything else. Sometimes I hear amazing poetry in the most obscure, 80's pop music.
3. What do you hope to accomplish with your poetry?
To make sense of things, to make my own heart race, to communicate thoughts and feelings that go beyond the tables-and-chairs world of the everyday.
4. What do you think can be done to better promote African literature in Canada?
Canadian audiences are totally ready for African literature, as well as African art and dance. There's a spontaneity, jubilance, courage, and sensuality that comes out of Ghanaian cultural expression that is so refreshing in a culture that tends towards the analytical and the abstract. There's a cynicism here which Ghanaian culture sort of flies in the face of, and that's its strength.
There's so much talent in Accra alone, and with a bit of support from over here, and some on-the-ground work in Ghana, I know it wouldn't take long to round up an anthology of totally original poetry written by young Ghanaians. I think there's a lot to be gained from the collaboration between the two cultures.
5. You have taught art and literacy in Ghana, with a special focus on women. Through that work, how do you now see the position of women in Ghana in regards to literature - both in reading others work, and writing and sharing their own?
Like I said before, I think North America is really ready for literature that comes out of Ghana. In crude marketing terms, Africa is the flavour of the month right now, with movies like Blood Diamond coming out, and The Constant Gardener, as well as celebrity involvement, particularly that of Angelina Jolie. The interest is there - the work just needs to be put out there.
Before I left for Ghana I read Hustling is not Stealing: Stories of an African Bar Girl, and Exchange is Not Robbery: More Stories of an African Bar Girl, by John Chernoff, and I was fascinated. I always tell people that it's a different world over there, and these books capture that like no Westerner ever could. Until then, the only representations of Africa I had been exposed to were written/produced/controlled in some way by Westerners. These books were narrated by a young Ghanaian woman and we follow her trajectory from, I think, Bolgatanga all the way to Accra where she makes a living through prostitution. I was captured by the energy behind her voice. The book just crackled with it. But it took some North American dude to recognize that value and put it out there.
I met a lot of kids in Ghana who felt like reading and writing was a waste of time. It's time for Ghanaians to get serious about literacy, to recognize the value, not to mention the marketability, of their own stories and their own voices.