Thursday, October 28, 2010

Singing in a strange land

I have been living in Ghana for ten months now. My friends and fans are always asking me, when will you write a story based in Ghana. I never voiced this answer, but in my heart, the answer has been "never". I remember the psalmist's words: "How can we sing the Lord's song in a strange land". I felt that I could not write a story based on a place that was foreign to me in very fundamental and complicated ways.

I can write about my experiences here, then I would certainly be forgiven for any ignorance of customs. But to incorporate fictitious characters into the landscape, I felt that I needed to understand Ghana much more than is possible in my three year stay.

That changed this weekend. We visited the second largest city in Ghana, Kumasi which is the seat of the Ashanti tribe in Ghana. We went to several museums and learnt much about the rich heritage, customs and beliefs of this proud tribe. On the long drive home, in an effort to entertain the children, I (with their help) created a story based around one of the beliefs that we had heard. I still need to do considerable research, but I think it is the start of something new!

(The photo is of the current Ashanti King seated next to the Ashanti Golden Stool, a sacred part of the Ashanti history)


KeVin K. said...

Not only as in "great" but as in "full of wonder."

As you know, Ghana is a place I feel spiritually close to, though I recognize that feeling is really only a reflection of my parents' love for the land and the people they knew over fifty years ago. It has always been a dream of mine to visit Ghana to see if that sense of connection has any basis in reality. (Cognitively, I suspect not, but I can't bring myself to not hope.)

As a writer there is a wonder in learning a world and culture new to us -- one that exceeds our own ability to create individually. I'm reminded of Tony Hillerman and his love for the Native American cultures of the American southwest. He began with no real connection to the people and world he came to love and grew to become recognized by those peoples as their advocate, ally, and spiritual brother. I wish you the same journey.

I envy you -- and your children -- your experiences.
And I look forward to reading what you craft from them.

Charles Gramlich said...

I think it's definitely a matter of acclimating. Eventually a new place becomes home.

Liane Spicer said...

I hope you do write those stories, Carol. I'm looking forward to reading them.

My fascination with Ghana is tied to the close association between Trinidad-born Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael) and that nation. I've also been lucky to meet his sister Nagib (in another incarnation) who also sings its praises and who has made me long to visit there. You and your family are incredibly lucky to be able to explore this land and culture first-hand.

Jewel Amethyst said...

My fascination with Ghana lead me to fashion my lead male character in my first published novel on a Ghanaian that I know. I've never been there, but having been around that Ghanaian native left me with a rather weird connection to the place.

Your children are indeed fortunate to have such experience. I hope you do write those stories. Maybe an African Adventure series?

Carol Mitchell said...

We are lucky in many ways. I had an experience this weekend which really showed me how far I am from even scratching the surface of this country. I will blog about that a little next time around!