Q&A: Words on the Times – Kwame Osei-Poku

AiW note: Earlier this week we published Kwame Osei-Poku’s review of Limbe to Lagos: Nonfiction From Cameroon and Nigeria (2020, The Mantle). Compiled by Dami Ajayi, Dzekashu MacViban, and Emmanuel Iduma, Limbe to Lagos is an edited collection of non-fiction narratives that brings together ten writers pooled from Nigeria and Cameroon. You can read Osei-Poku’s review here.

“Limbe to Lagos is an assortment of awe-inspiring writing that appeals to all the five human senses in terms of imagery, and which also draws out a peculiar sixth sense: reminiscence. The editors themselves highlight this power of the anthology to evoke reminiscences of readers’ own experiences, as they note in their introduction of the collection that: “Here are stories that are true because and because they are windows that open into our contemporary African existence” (Limbe to Lagos: pp xi).”

We were delighted to have the opportunity to catch up with Osei-Poku for his Words on the Times – an AiW Q&A series inspired by the spirit of community and resilience, intended to connect the blog’s communities through their experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Purchase details, and some words about the book’s release into the #COVOID from its publisher – and an invitation! – are below…

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AiW: Could you tell us a bit about your own work and the ways that the pandemic has affected your plans and/or things on the ground there with you?

Kwame Osei-Poku: Having recently won an African Humanities Program (AHP) postdoctoral fellowship to work on a book manuscript, the Covid-19 pandemic and its attendant effects have posed myriad challenges to my ability to research and write in a consistent approach. Usually, the fellowship offers a two-to-three-month residency for its fellows away from their home countries in AHP affiliated institutions in other African countries. While the residency has proven to be effective over the years, AHP fellows in these Covid-19 times have had to forfeit residency in the first window (Oct to Dec 2020). I doubt if the second window (Jan to March 2021) for residency will come off all. 

As result, and in my view, the amount of writing I could have done in an unfamiliar country and in solitude has been whittled down to occasional ‘escapes’ from home to write at least a page or two or three in a few hours. Because I have to help out with two children who have been home for almost a year as schools have been closed down, and also help out with a newborn within the period, as well as other chores at home.

Fortunately, I am on leave from my teaching duties. That is how I get to find some escape time to write when the inspiration hits me to write within this pandemic period.

AiW: In what ways are you working now that you weren’t before? 

The usual ways of doing things have changed, and the adjustment to these changes is a whole new adventure. Long periods of writer’s block is such a reality, but in between, I have strived to write, not by typing on a PC, but resorting to the old-fashioned way of writing by hand in my note books and journals. 

For instance, in a bid to find archival information, which was not forthcoming because of the lockdown in the UK due to the pandemic, I published an article in December 2020 which was meant to elicit information from some targeted readers. The purpose of the article was achieved, as a week after the publication, I received an email from a Professor in the UK who liaised with an archivist and a research informant to provide me with very valuable archival information which will obviously improve my book manuscript.

Although the progress of my writing is snail-paced, I am clearly making some gains which to a large extent will aid in my general research and writing.

AiW: What have you found most supportive and/or heart lifting in this time?

The smiles and giggles of my six-month-old son and the constant probing, singing and laughter of my six-year-old daughter and eight-year-old son give me the motivation to push on in these stifling times.

Additionally, as the context of my work is within the colonial period, I have had to read a lot of historical materials as a means of uplifting myself, and cheering myself on that I get to acquire new perspectives on certain historical quandaries.

AiW: How can our blog communities support you?

Keep reaching out to every cogent and inspirational voice that seeks the cultural revitalization Africa and the producers of cultural knowledge on Africa.

AIW has been a wonderful and useful source of information for me since 2012-2013, and I believe the whole team deserves massive felicitations for an excellent job done over the period to encourage marginal and new voices within the space of African cultural production. 

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IMG_20190113_135653 (1)Kwame Osei-Poku lectures at the Department of English, University of Ghana, Legon. He is currently working on a manuscript about Colonial period African-authored travel writing as his postdoctoral research under the auspices of the African Humanities Program. He obtained all his degrees from the University of Ghana (fully home grown) and has traveled widely for Academic conferences and training programs. His research interests span from African-authored travel writing, Creative Non-fiction, Horror and terror in African literature, and Popular culture (poetics of Ghanaian masquerades).

AiW Review: A Sense of Africa in The Exploration of Reminiscences: A Review of  Limbe to Lagos: Nonfiction From Cameroon and Nigeria 
“Limbe to Lagos: an excellent collection of the mind of Africa.” ~Kwame Osei-Poku

paperback: directly from The Mantle
ebook: Kindle | Kobo 

Help support indie books and publishers!

“The Mantle publishes nonfiction and literary fiction by emerging writers from around the world, with a focus on authors from Africa.”

When we had a chance to speak to publisher Shaun Randol at The Mantle on the publication of Limbe to Lagos mid-last year, the pandemic had hit hard with their books going out into the “COVOID”.

“While the Big 5 have enough cash and weight in the book ecosystem to ride out a few hard months, indie publishers like The Mantle are wobbling. The Mantle had planned to release five books this year, with three of them in the Spring. But with bookstores closed, Amazon.com de-prioritizing book sales, and unemployment skyrocketing (which means less money for book purchases), it has been an extremely frustrating and financially debilitating time. Even our distributor took a beating and had to create an online fundraiser begging people for donations to keep them afloat.”

We asked how our book communities might be able to help and…

“Read and review our books! Interview our authors! The more word gets out there about these great writers and their books, the better. With bookstores closed book clerks can’t recommend (or hand-sell) our books to curious customers, so we need the online community to help spread the word. Anyone who wants to review our books is welcome to a free ebook copy (or if you’re in the U.S., a paperback) and our infinite gratitude. And if you want to interview a writer, let us know and we’ll try to set it up.”

We look forward to hearing from anyone who’d like to review any books or interview any of The Mantle’s authors and become an AiW Guest writer. Don’t hesitate to contact us and/or submit – details at the link. All are welcome, as are any ideas big or small. 

See the catalogue at https://www.themantle.com/
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Categories: Research, Studies, Teaching, Words on the Times

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

1 reply

  1. I’m moved by your prosaic works. So involving and engaging!

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