Writers Project of Ghana. He also edits the "Ghanaian Book Review" and has a keen interest in literature. He mainly writes short stories and poetry.
Martin is currently studying at Clemson University, South Carolina.
Five Questions with Martin Egblewogbe:
1. For non-Ghanaian readers, can you tell us the story of Anokye's death? What similarities do you see between it and the death of Jesus?
To distill from many available versions, Anokye was a 17th century priest/mystic of the highest order and one of the key architects of the Asante Kingdom. Anokye embarked on his final, and most difficult mission: to find a cure for death. This entailed an expedition to the world of the dead, during which he lay in a coma, with instructions to be left in absolute quiet. However, after a week, some relations feared he was dead, and fired muskets in grief. This ended Anokye's life. In an extended version of the story, while his funeral was in session, Anokye met with a farmer on the outskirts of the town, making it known that he had actually found the antidote for death but would not release it, due to the disbelief/ wickedness of human beings.
The essential similarity here is that both Anokye and Jesus had eternal life on offer. Both Anokye and Jesus went into the world of the dead. But here the divergences become wider and wider: Anokye and Jesus return from the dead, but to different after-effects, and different conditions. Obviously this poem is incapable of dealing with all the issues arising from a thorough comparison of the two.
2. Why did you choose to refer to Jesus and God by their Hebrew names?
This is to place emphasis on origin. Anokye is very Ghanaian, and his life takes place in a specific geographical scope. Jesus and God, via Christianity, are essentially globalised entities. In order to maintain a hard link to their origin in Isreal, I decided to use, as closely as possible, their original names.
3. Some people will likely be offended by your referring to Anokye and Jesus as "Magic Men". What was your intention in grouping the two together under that term?
No offence is intended, even if the felt offence was in placing Jesus and Anokye in the same category of nomenclature. The intention was, of course, identification.
4. At the end of the poem, the speaker seems to turn to the reader and address him/her directly. Who was the "reader" you envisioned being addressed in this part? Fellow poets? Fellow Ghanaians? Both?
Primarily -- sadly -- the reader was myself. However, I believe that many Ghanaians ought to find this of interest, even if only in terms of literature: why are our legends not appearing in our writing? There is such a rich trove of metaphor and trope to be found here. The absence of this in Ghanaian writing is odd. And bad.
5. Do you think hybrid beliefs can exist, that the stories of Jesus and Anokye can live together in the minds of Ghanaians over the long-term, without one eliminating the other? Or must people make a choice?
I do not know whether people must make a choice; but certainly some do not. I speak here of many Ghanaians who have successfully hosted various religions in their souls; hosted Jesus and Anokye in their hearts, believed in Yahweh and Sogbolisa at the same time, and indeed, managed to live in, and be exponents of, two different cultures all their lives. (One would say that the last statement is better put; "managed to live outside two different cultures all their lives", this being the effect of the last statement in question).
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