SƐBETICAL REVIEW

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Hallo people! Ok, so as part of my April readings, there was this one. I left it out of my post last week because of this review. I first read Awere Damoah early last year, which was his popular book, “I speak of Ghana.” Not a bad read – although I felt the humour was a bit too dry in some parts, and the commentaries were not as rich as I would have liked them, and so I was happy to have another from him to read. Mind you, this has not been published. I was privileged to get access to the review copy, which is a good thing, I think. Further changes can be made to make this more brilliant than it already is.

Yes, I enjoyed this one much more, I must admit, never mind that I had to scroll through 11 pages of introductory write-ups, acknowledgements and ‘praises’ (see why I will forever love hardcopies? Anka maflippie to chapter one dadaada! Ha!)

This is a book of 25 chapters written in epistolary form, with a bonus chapter to end it. Through these chapters, you can’t help but get fond of ‘Wofa Kapokyikyi’! He reminds you of that ‘I-don’t-care’ Uncle we all have in our families. Those ones who will tell the biting truths and turn their faces the other way right after…haha! I liked particularly, his wise sayings – the Akan proverbs, basically because I am a sucker for such, but also because it made the book even more richly Ghanaian, in my opinion. His ‘Wᴐfaase,’ Nana Awere Damoah, might have taken his candidness from him, although you can tell that soberness allows for some decorum when he is the one behind the mic, lol!

It is a read that will have you stop and reflect, stop to laugh (both mirthlessly and heartily) at our Ghana, take you through various levels of anger and frustration. It will have you exclaiming PREACH IT BROTHER! at some point and you bowing your head in shame at other points (especially when you can’t help but admit you are a part of the ‘offenders’) – which happened when he mentioned the illegal u-turns and detours used on the motorway! Yeah, offender number one (no, I don’t drive but I encouraged my dad just once to make that u-turn after the toll point and it became a daily ritual *bows head again*).

I was happy to be sent to Nigeria, or ‘Amalaman’ (suddenly craving Amala and Gbure soup) as he calls it, a few times. His Okada Experience cracked me up!

I got onto the back of the okada and we set off.

“There is something wrong,” the driver said after just about 10 metres.  “I think I have a flat tyre, I can’t go on anymore.”

At this point, I couldn’t see Frank, they had gone on ahead of us. Maybe I should call him, as there was no way I was going to flag another  okada!

The driver got off and checked his back tyre. It was OK – no puncture. 

“Oga, ibi like ibi you. This be your first time on bike?” I didn’t answer him!

“You dey shake, you for be steady.”

But then again, what I can say now is typical of Damoah, is how he says the funny and the ugly as they are, and so you get the real picture very easily (and this runs through all the chapters).

Chapters 10 and 11 were well-appreciated; a peek into the author’s life.

Then there was Chapter 9! A good dose of knee-stuffing there…it was a refreshing chapter on “how our past SHOULD NOT constrain our future.” Very Amped! Message there brought to us through the morale of a highlife song (Time Changes, by Akwasi Ampofo Adjei, a.k.a Mr. AAA, Dada Thick, Shining Star, and the Kumapim Royals Band)

Now, to what I didn’t like!

I love reading! I haven’t read as much as I wish I had, but in all my reading of English texts, when the author decides to bring in any other language, it is not ‘Englishized.’ I have read English texts in which the writer breaks off in French for a while (chooses to footnote or not) or Latin, or Yoruba, or Swahili, and I would have loved to read this book’s title as ‘Sɛbetically Speaking.’

It is very important to me how we treat our local languages (both in speech and writing). I understand that it is a coinage, but if I remember my morphology correctly, in breaking the word down, I should have a root word that makes sense;

So…let’s enter a Morphology 101 class briefly

Sebitcally = Sebi[root] + -tical[bound morpheme] = Sebitical[Base] + -ly[bound morpheme]

Now to the root, ‘Sebi’ and I can only say it is a corruption of ‘Sɛbe,’ for whichever reason. In other words, the root of the coined word does not exist, in my opinion, and that is troubling. This runs through the book; corrupted spelling of Akan expressions, and it breaks my heart.

Speech sounds are beautiful (with the stresses and tones and all); especially speech sounds of our local languages…it is why Yoruba praise poetry moves me to tears, it is why I think Ewe sounds romantic (a conclusion I arrived at after learning what ‘Koene,’ which I hope is not another corruption, meant) and oh please understand that it is more the reason why I can’t see ‘Sebi’ and pronounce it as ‘Sɛbe.’

I won’t go too far with this lest it gets too sentimental, but generally, this was a good read, something all Ghanaians can relate to, appeals to my realist side, and I will recommend it any day. If the Akan characters had been put where they should have gone, this would have been almost perfect a read for me. I hope the author takes this well and does some reconsideration, ‘sɛbe mpɛn aduasa.’

Kudos, Sir!

See you next week. Till then, this has been;

Yours ‘sɛbetically,’

Amma Konadu Anarfi.

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