OKYEAME

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The post-independence era in Ghana saw the rapid rise of a new generation of thinkers, writers and poets. Freed from colonial oppression and political determinism and inspired by the radical Pan Africanist thinking of philosopher, revolutionary and then Ghanaian Prime Minister, Kwame Nkrumah, they sought to explore the experiences of the African from a new intellectual framework. Founded in 1961 by The Writers Workshop, literary organ Okyeame was key in this development.

Taking its name from a traditional Ghanaian figure, the “spokesperson” or “linguist” responsible for channelling communication between a leader and his people, Okyeame sought to give voice to Nkrumah’s dream of a new African identity. Articles calling for a Ghanaian poetry whose content and form was based on oral tradition, drum poetry, and the dirge ran alongside traditional oral works translated by leading contemporary poets such as founding editor Kofi Awoonor, and texts were interspersed with icons and Adinkra symbols. But Okyeame, like its namesake, was not simply a mouthpiece. It was also an “interpreter” and an “ambassador in foreign courts.” It provided a platform for a new generation of writers to experiment with a versatile, hybrid Pan-African linguistics that combined African oral influences with African American literary devices; rural with urban imagery; phonetic innovations with lyricism and wordplay; and dirge rhythms with jazz free-play. As Awoonor recalls, “we were like the foot soldiers of Nkrumah in the cultural field.”

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traduction française par Scarlett Antoniou

Prenant son nom du personnage Ghanéen traditionnel, le “porte-parole” ou le “linguiste” responsable du cheminement de la communication entre le dirigeant et son peuple, Okyeame rechercha à donner une voix au rêve de Nkrumah concernant une nouvelle identité africaine. Les articles demandant une poésie Ghanéenne dont le contenu et la forme reposaient sur la tradition orale, la poésie des tams-tams, et le chant funèbre courrait le long des æuvres orales traditionnelles traduites par les plus importants poètes contemporains tels que l’éditeur fondateur Kofi Awoonor et les textes étaient parsemés d’icônes et de symboles Adinkra. Mais Okyeame, comme son homonyme, n’était pas simplement un porte-parole. C’était aussi un “interprète” et un “ambassadeur dans les cours étrangères.” Il procurait une plate-forme à une nouvelle génération d’écrivains pour expérimenter avec une hybride, douée en tous genres, de linguistique du creuset africain qui mélangeait les influences orales africaines avec des moyens littéraires africain-américain; les images rurales avec les urbaines; innovations phonétiques avec le lyrisme et les jeux de mots; et les rythmes de chants funèbres avec du jazz improvisé. Ainsi que nous rappelle Awoonor, “nous sommes comme les fantassins de Nkrumah dans le champ culturel.”  

PEOPLE

Kwesi Brew, Atukwei Okai, , Efua Sutherkland, Geormbeeyi Adali-Mortt, Michael Francis Dei-Anang, Ayi Kwei Armah, Ama Ata Aidoo

FAMILY TREE

  • Phylon Magazine, US (1940)
  • Presence Africaine, France (1947)
  • Black Orpheus : A Journal of African and Afro-American Literature, Nigeria (1957)
  • Transition Magazine: An International Review, Uganda (1963)

RE/SOURCES

  • Okyeame on Wikipedia
  • “Forward”, Okyeame, Vol. 1, No. 1, 1961.
  • Kwame Botwe-Asamoah. Kwame Nkrumah’s Politico-cultural Thought and Policies, Routledge, 2005
  • Gerald Moore. “Review of Okyeame, No. I (1961)” in Black Orpheus, No.10, 1988, p. 66
  • Atukwei Okai. “The World View Of The Psyche Of A Poet: A Tribute To Mr. Kwesi Brew”, Accra Daily Mail, October 22, 2007.
  • Ata Britwum. “New Trends in Burning Issues in African Literature”, University of Cape Coast English Department Work Papers Vol. 1. 1971.
  • Edwin Thumboo, “Kwesi Brew: the poetry of statement and situation,” African Literature Today, London, 4, 1970, p. 322-330
  • Solomon Iyasere. “Cultural Formalism and the Criticism of Modern African Literature”, The Journal of Modern African Studies, Vol. 14, No. 2, 1976, p. 322-330
  • Richard Priebe. Ghanaian Literatures, Greenwood Press, University of Virginia,
  • Donatus Nwoga. “West Africa: Gambia, Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone”, The Journal of Commonwealth Literature, 6, 1971, p 15-24
  • Albert S. Gerard. European-language Writing in Sub-Saharan Africa, John Benjamins Publishing Company, 1986
  • Ben B. Halm. Theatre and Ideology, Associated University Presses, 1995, p 181
  • Christel N. Temple. Literary Pan-Africanism: History, Contexts, and Criticism, Carolina Academic Press, 2005
  • Kwesi Yankah. Speaking for the Chief: Okyeame and the Politics of Akan Royal Oratory, Indiana University Press, 1995
  • Pan African Writers’ Association website
  • Thanks to Manu Herbstein for his assistance
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