The daughter of a Ghanaian diplomat, Emma Akuffo was born in Russia in 1965. Her childhood years were spent in a number of countries including India, Italy and Ghana, finally settling in Britain with her parents, two brothers and two sisters, at the ripe old age of 11.
Emma holds a PhD in biochemistry and works as a Research Scientist. She lives in England with her husband and two children. When she is not pushing back the frontiers of medical science or engaged in a mad rush after her children, she enjoys cycling into the sunset, swimming in moonlit waters and creative writing, particularly from an inspirational perspective.
A number of Emma’s poems have been included in anthologies from Dogma Publications and Forward Press. Her work is also featured at, amongst other places, brightlightmultimedia.com.
Emma’s poem ‘Love spoke’ was awarded a diploma in the UK section of the Scottish International Open Poetry Competition, 2004.
Five Questions with Emma Akuffo:
1. What role have Ananse stories played in your life? How have they shaped your writing?
I have vague recollections of hearing the Ananse stories in my childhood so I cannot pinpoint how it has influenced my writing (apart from writing "Anansesem," of course)! However the subconscious is a peculiar beast and particularly in our formative years, most things we see, hear or feel will influence how we perceive and respond to our world throughout our lives. So I won't be surprised if a little something of Ananse stories creeps into my writing every now and then.
2. What has the subject of "Ananse stories" allowed you to explore in your writing that you otherwise could not?
Using the poem itself as an example, the characters in the Ananse stories are probably not that different to ones we encounter in real life!
3. You recently participated in our Roundtable Discussion on women writers in Africa in which, when speaking about girls access to literature, you noted: "The poorer, less literate, families will not prioritise education and may actively discourage girls from pursuing education to a significant level. Therefore, we must not forget to reach out/communicate to these less visible parts of our society. Certain traditions remain but there should me some means of compromise." Is there a way, perhaps, to harness the power of Ananse stories to help achieve these goals, and to negotiate the suggested compromise?
Definitely! Children and young people are influenced and motivated by stories (real or imaginary) that teach ideals, concepts and morals. Perhaps Ananse had a wife or daughters that aimed and succeeded in doing something bigger than expected from them? If not, it's about time someone started writing with such characters in mind...
4. When you write a poem like "Anansesem", are you intending it for an audience? If so, is that audience Ghanaian? English? International?
"Anansesem" is primarily targeted at Ghanaians who grew up listening to such stories and can identify with the characters, but also aims to reach beyond that audience, to arouse the curiosity of international readers who do not know these stories to find out more. I'm not sure if they were published internationally. Perhaps any reader who knows of these books can shed some light?
5. Are you working on any new poems or projects that may interest our readers?
I'm trying to tie off many loose ends at the moment, not least of which is the OGOV anthology. I nearly lost what I had compiled so far when my computer crashed recently but luckily it was backed up on disc. I'm also trying to lay down some other commitments to make way for my passion for writing, so watch this space!