Woman Writes Penetrating And Scorching Book On Africa ‘Mother Thou Art A Continent’: A Book Review
By Cassandra Lizaire NEW YORK BEACON, pgs. 23&26 November 29, 2006 newyorkbeacon.com
“The next time you sink your teeth into a chocolate bar and sip that hot chocolate before you go to sleep, say hello and thank you to Africa,” chides Theresa Kwofi in the introductory pages of Mother Africa: Thou Art A Continent. To be sure, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, Africa yields more than 75 percent of the world’s cocoa, yet consumes under 5 percent of their produce and has even less say in the pricing of the beloved cocoa bean.
“When you adorn yourself with those shimmering stones called diamonds…and golden rings, say a little prayer for Africa,” the author advices. “If a ‘diamond is forever,’ as the popular saying goes, then I believe Africa, the birthplace of diamonds…must be held with the highest respect…” So Kwofi begins, gently scolding, patiently guiding readers through to the evolution of the African continent, dispelling misconceptions with historical fact and present-day truth. A truth, Kwofi says, has been diluted and even feared.
Theresa Kwofi, a Ghanaian-born poet and writer, mother, grandmother, and successful career woman, first released Mother Africa in the spring of 2000. Culled from a collection of essays written by Ms. Kwofi as a Creative Writing student in Brooklyn College, the idea for the book germinated in 1997 at the encouragement of colleagues, Kwofi, who had been living in the United States for about twenty years had long witnessed the wooly, often incomplete, portrayals of Africa in the Western media, and the misconceptions they breed.
“The Western world is forcing too many things on us and our culture is gradually becoming diluted,” argues Kwofi. “The Africa that they show you in the media, it hurts. All they show people is, Oh, they’re dying of AIDS! They don’t have food to eat, and flies are flying all over them and people are dying in Darfur! – Why don’t you take your time to find out why are they dying? What are the root causes?’ A critical and inquisitive thinker, Ms. Kwofi encourages viewers to look closer at what they hear and see in the media, and what they read in the pages of her book.
We must begin to ask the shunned or difficult questions. For example, when faced with the devastation in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ms. Kwofi marvels: “It is amazing for people to look down on this beautiful piece of land, rich in mineral resources, as the poorest country on the continent of Africa.” Instead of simply ingesting, Kwofi promotes tireless questioning. Accordingly, where the media fails to extensively report not only the strife and violence in countries like Darfur and the Democratic Republic of Congo, or the innocents sacrificed over Conflict Diamonds of Sierra Leone, but also the underlying WHY, Kwofi takes up her pen in search of the answers.
” I write to educate people; that’s my mission.” Theresa Kwofi states simply. After living thirty years in the United States, she still views herself as “a stranger in a strange land.” Separated from the communal society of her native Ghana, she observes as an outsider, learning about Ghana and Africa as seen in the eye of the Western world. Accustomed to voicing her blunt view of history and the international community, Kwofi says, “Colonialism is long gone but the white man still has a long hand; I call it a remote hand. He is using it through me because I have gone to his college, have mastered the Queen’s English and so now I have ‘arrived,’ she says with a hint of sarcasm, “but I am not that bush girl that has ‘arrived’. I am that bush girl who now has it all so I know what to use to fight back.”
An African flavored, no-nonsense volley of facts and cultural instruction, Mother Africa: Thou Art A Continent is a labor of love from a woman who has lived the contents of her work and identifies not only with the struggles, but also the pride and achievements of Africa. Infused with historical and geographical lessons about Africa; refutations to unfounded African stigmas and stereotypes; as well as essays on the time-honored Akan oral traditions as preserved by Kwofi’s relatives and neighbors in Ghana, the text educates while engaging readers.
Writing, financing, and publishing this collection of essays, largely through independent means, Ms. Kwofi looks forward to suppport of this and future projects. Inviting us to come to “together, wear our intellectual spectacles so as to read and place Africa at her proper position. This land is not a tiny country, a place or a state. It is truly, a huge continent…”
For more information and the author and her projects, inclulding the upcoming poetry collection, TIME IN CONFLICT, please log onto www.timeinconflict.com.
Pan African Author Defines Her Homeland Boldly
By Charles Baillou Caribbean Life Books
November 29, 2006 Brooklyn/Staten Island Page 44
The continent of Africa, according to the author of “Mother Africa: Thou Art A Continent,” is often written about by outside observers with too llittle understanding or appreciation of the contributions its offspring and resources have made to most of the world.
To read this collction of enlightening essays, reviews, historical fact – from a woman from Ghana who offers poignant insight into the cultural and traditional life-altering disruptions generated by Europe’s colonial adventures from the 15th to 19th centuries, is a gratifying delight.
This book, through several “interactive” maps not only outlines the natural resources, but details the origin of the various peoples of the continent. Indeed, it is an invaluable primer for students – from elementary school age to universities – interested about an in-depth understanding of the inhabitants of Africa, the world’s largest contiguous landmass.
The author, Theresa Kwofi, a woman of Ghana’s Akan people, notes that she was compelled to write this book after encountering a Guyanese man who once argued that Guyana, a country in South America was bigger than Africa.”
That encouonter, Kwofi, of a generation which benefited from the decolonization of the Gold Coast from Britain, led by its first president Kwame Nkrumah, who renamed it Ghana after the ancient West African empire, says in this book that the lack of knowledge displayed by the Guyanese man convinced her that she “should bear the African banner and ring her bells loud and clear over the rooftops.”
On a map of the continent of Africa is superimposed the US, China, Europe, Argentina, India and New Zealand, which still makes Africa over 77,000 square miles larger than those six countries combined.
This is an unvarnished and informative means in which Kwofi, a graduate of Brooklyn College, with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Crative Writing, deftly uses maps of the continent to show Africa’s prominence in land mass and resources.
An example of its resources is the several minerals, which come out of the earth of the Democratic Republic of he Congo, to manufacture those vital, technical and household gadgets modern society seems so much today to depend on.
Yet the people of that mineral rich nation remain among the world’s poorest, since those resources rarely if ever benefit the African majority, she asserts.
For example, Kwofi contends, “Politically, economically and socially African nations have suffered (and continue to suffer) enormously due to colonia rule.”
Moreover, she says, “Colonialism has left its perpetual mark on the whole continent of Africa. The shadow cast over Africa due to colonialism, I believe, is what gives the western media the power to ridicule such a giant continent.
“When a foreign culture is imposed on indigenous inhabitants of a place, the outcome is almost always chaotic, and the long-run effect becomes an incurable cancer,” she explains. “Such is the story of Africa.”
And the story, she notes, is as sordid regarding some African leaders as it is of the colonialists.
As an example, Kwofi points to Teodoro Obiang Nguem Mbasogo, the president of Equatorial Guinea, characterized on the CBS TV program “60 Minutes,” as “the Kuwait of Africa” for its oil deposits.
Kwofi finds Mbasogo, one of those African heads of state who considers his presidency as a lifetime position, ill-equipped to negotiate a respectable deal with foreign oil explorers.
As a result, Kwofi says, “This president is gradually draining and laying a perpetual poverty track in that oil rich nation, which the west now deems it right, to call it the Kuwait of Africa.”
This is in telling contrast to what Dr. Kwame Nkrumah envisions, according to pan Africanists when he and other contemporary African leaders such as Ahmed Sekou Toure, of Guinea; Jomo Kenyatta, of Kenya and Julius Nyerere, of Tanzania, set out to liberate Africa from colonialism and into successful self-determination.
While the book covers Kwofi’s experiences in Africa as well as here in US, her pride as an African woman concerned about the condition of people of African ancestry worldwide is clearly defined through her inciteful prose and poetry.
It covers, for example, her critique of poems by Jamaican immigrant Claude McKay and African American Countee Cullen, both of the Harlem Renaissance. While McKay’s poems portray his militancy against racial injustice during the first quarter of the last century, Cullen on the other hand chooses a cryptic and seemingly aloof poetry for poetry’s sake approach, something Kwofi does not find appealing.
“Mother Africa: Thou Art a Continent”, reveals through the views of an African – living in the US – who has sufficent experience to understand the views of Africans on the continent and in the Diaspora. Kwofi explains in her own words their plight with conclusive clarity.
Readers from junior high school to university, in addition to general readers seeking knowledge about Africa would find this book not only informative, but insightful to get a better understanding of African peoples, at home and abroad.
READERS WEIGH IN ON TIME IN CONFLICT: MY POETRY COLLECTIONS WITH AN AFRICAN FLAVOR
1.”Wow! Ms. Kwofi, people need to hear your voice for you have come up with something new. I think we have read enough of basically everything out there and your new voice needs to be heard. Do you know, Ms Kwofi, you are sitting on a very big goldmine?” His favorite poem is ‘Cough And Scoff’. What is your favorite poem? I would love to know.
2. Ms. Kwofi, when I am at work, I rely very heavily on your poem: ‘I Beg Your Pardon’ and at home, I entertain myself with: ‘The Final Pillar’.
3. I love your inspirational poem, ‘Waves Of Life’. It speaks directly to my soul.
A Book Review By Chike Ubadimma– The African, Urbanafrique–January 2005 Edition
MOTHER AFRICA: THOU ART A CONTINENT A COLLECTION OF ESSAYS: Theresa Kwofi
It is often said that necessity is the mother of invention but for Theresa Kwofi frustration was the mother of taking charge of one’s image. Kwofi, a mother and grandmother who left Ghana to make a life in New York, was tired of having ignorant comments about her homeland directed her way. In one instance, someone told her that the small island nation of Guyana was larger than the entire African continent from which she hails. With, that, she decided to educate the masses with a book, even if it meant publishing it herself.
Mother Africa is best in its introductory pages when Kwofi presents a kind of Africa 101 for the clueless. She talks about the mountains of Africa: the Kilimanjaro, the Drakensberg, and the Futa Djallon; the great lakes: Tanganyika, Malawi, Chad and Volta. Kwofi also writes of the mighty rivers: the Nile, Niger, Congo, Limpopo and Zambezi; and describes the Kalahari and Sahara deserts. It is so basic, it’s delightful. She even lists each African nation and its capital city.
Then Kwofi’s frustration – or perhaps anger – begins to seep into the book. Her ire is directed towards the generic white man: she lays the blame on him for what is wrong in Africa.
Kwofi also lashes out at Africans for their belief that all that is white is right. The arguments sometime dwindle down to the ridiculous. As an example, she asks why it is that western journalists have access to all of Africa, while African nations never send reporters to expose the ills of Europe.
From cooking to dialects to marriage rights, Kwofi touches lightly on all of them, but with enough depth so that after a perusal of the tome, you’ll pick up nuggets of Africa you were clueless about before. At the same time, you may wonder why she is spending so much time blaming the generic white man.
Kwofi wrote: “I am an African and I should bear the African banner and ring her bells loud and clear over the rooftops.”