Kwadwo Kwarteng is a young contemporary Ghanaian writer who thinks of poetry as a masterpiece of knowledge painted in different shades of words on a canvas.
He is resident in Ghana and currently works with THE MBAASEM FOUNDATION which seeks to raise awareness on women's issues and support women writers.
Five Questions with Kwadwo Kwarteng:
1. The history recounted in this poem is explored often in African poetry and fiction. This makes it difficult to add something fresh to the story. In my mind, you do this succesfully with the lines "we... continue in the footsteps / of ancestors and strangers, / not knowing which is which." What brought you to these lines? Was this idea an original inspiration for the poem, or did they come to you in the midst of composition?
These words came to me in the spur of the moment. They sort of flowed spontaneously into the poem.
2. Do you think that the history, and effects, of colonialism, are "required writing" for African poets? Many would argue that, at one point or another, all poets must try their hand at poems on love, death, sex, etc. They must deal with these "big issues". Do you agree? And do you think that grappling with colonialism is another of those unavoidable "big issues" for African poets?
"Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility." - William Wordsworth
Personally, I don't think any topic should be "required writing" for poets. The most beautiful poems are those that are drawn from inspiration and spontaneity.
That aside, I am also of the opinion that African history must be told from an African's perspective. We understand better the effects of colonialism on our culture and must address this issue through all forms of media including creative writing.
I believe that given the present age of globalization, reversing the repercussions of colonialism is like climbing up a very slippery slope. The best we can do is to preserve our culture by gathering as much of our history as possible, chronicling it and teaching it to everyone. This makes colonialism an unavoidable subject.
3. Your poems that we have published previously on this site were very sonically charged, often percussive. This poem is much less so. Is this because it was written at a different period in your writing life? Or do you adapt your form to suit your subject matter? Or something else entirely?
I decided to try out something different with this poem. Yes, it was written during a different period in my writing life, but I also made it a narrative poem so it would not be cryptic. I wanted to communicate the message as clearly as possible with imagery.
4. Can you tell us a bit about the Mbaasem Foundation, and your role in it? Are there ways our readers can get involved in helping the foundation achieve its goals?
The Mbaasem Foundation was founded by in 2000 by the Ghanaian academic, writer and poet Prof. Ama Ata Aidoo. The foundation is a registered NGO that supports and promotes women's writing in Ghana.
It launched the Ghana Women Writers Forum (GWWF) in November 2009 to help women writers in Ghana to develop their writing to publishable standards. GWWF is open to all women writers in Ghana and Ghanaian citizens living abroad. I work with the foundation as a Research Assistant.
Mbaasem holds a series writing workshops open to the general public periodically.
For further information, please go to: http://mbaasemghana.org/wp/
5. Are you working on any new writing projects of your own at the moment? New poems?
I am working on new poems and prose. Expect to peruse them in the near future.