Movements seem to be popular these days, don’t they? Especially on the Ghanaian internet (#Kpakpakpa).
Well, why not start my own, for something that has truly been dear to my heart for at least a year now? Yes…words. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the word: “lexivist.” *waits for the applause I deserve for creating my own word again*
Lexivist: a mashup of two words: ‘lexi-‘ (which is more of a prefix, anyway) and ‘activist’. I suppose it’s easy for you to guess what this word means now, but in case the ‘lexi-‘ part is confusing you…
Lexi is the thing that’s the prefix in a lot of cool words, like lexicon (the vocabulary of a person, language or branch of knowledge), lexis (the total stock of words in a language), lexophile (a lover of words, whose more formal version is logophile). So lexi just means, simply, related to words.
Lexivist: a word activist.
Now, on to its essence. It requires a backstory and involves a lot of emotion.
Thank goodness what I’m writing is not affiliated with my school, because in that regard, what I’m about to say is very anarchist: I have a love-hate relationship with this continent we call Africa. My “home”. Love for the obvious reasons – fellow Africans may be able to relate. But hate too, yes. I cannot always deny my strong negative feelings towards Africa. Sometimes, it feels like a cruel trick, a dirty trap.
This is because of my desired aspiration; I want to be a writer.
Recently, for my school’s public speaking competition 2015, I gave a speech titled “It’s Not Only Matter That Matters,” which, in itself ways a play on words, as the first “matter” is a reference to physical matter – as in science – and the speech was itself about undervaluing literature and the arts in African students and schools, in favour of the sciences and maths. The theme I was supposed to be working with was “Culture is not a luxury but a necessity.”
My opening lines were: My name is Ivana Ofori, and math is not my best subject. We live on a continent where the thing we pride ourselves most on is our culture – especially when we get defensive…after which we promptly descend back into complaining about our abysmal development rate.
Then I talked about how, perhaps, we weren’t just lazy talkers, and how we’d invested so much time and resources into what we believe will push us forward: education. Then I stressed on something else I believed to be true: we love it when our kids excel at the sciences or maths in school. Even my family members are no exceptions. It gets very frustrating. Some people ask “What do you want to be in future?” and leave it as an open question at first, but in their minds, as the words come out of their mouths, it’s actually multiple choice, and the only three options are:
I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was ten. People always thought that it was cute, and that sooner or later, I’d realize that it was far more interesting and practical to be a doctor, so they would give me stethoscopes for my birthday. When I was about twelve years old and I discovered I had the ability to argue for myself, people picked up on it and decided that I’d make a great lawyer. I’m sorry, but, um, nah. Now everyone expects me to be an engineer, so, well, I’m here doing IB Higher Level maths and physics and, though I’m not entirely hopeless, struggle in nearly every class, because trying to understand everything feels like kicking frantically in a raging sea that’s doing its best to try and drown me.
I mean, personally, the only thing I’ve ever won a prize for academically, since coming to this school, has been the English Language prize. And in the eyes of too many of my classmates and, well, other people, I can’t really be a ‘shark’ (slang translation: very smart person) because, it’s just, well, English!
I posed this question to the audience: “But, despite all our pride and Pan-Africanism, how much emphasis do we really put on our literature and our arts?”
I’ve been filled with so much frustration for so long about my passion (arts) and my ambition (author) being so disapproved of in my community. I’m tired of seeing the disapproval in people’s faces when I say I want to be an author/poet. It got to a point where I started to tell people, “I don’t know,” when they asked me the question just to avoid seeing The Look on their faces – the Ghanaians with the abysmally limited minds.
I made this point too: When I tell people I want to write, they tell me that it’s unlikely I will ever be a successful or rich writer, not because I’m bad at it, but because I’m African and I’m in Africa. True story: I was discussing something with a physics teacher the week before the orator competition and the Dreaded Question came up. For some reason, I gave the truthful answer. You know what he told me? Exactly what I’ve just said above. He advised me to become an engineer instead. I was too tired to argue at the moment. Fifteen minutes later, though, out of his office, I was crying tears of frustration.
He told me that Africans are the problem – that they have certain ‘mind-set’ that makes them not value artistic professions as much as they admire the traditional ones. And I was just there thinking, “But aren’t you, by discouraging the pursuit of the literary arts, displaying the exact same kind of min-set you are telling me of?”
It got to a point where I resigned myself to believing that I was going to grow up either following an undesired profession and earning money but hating my life, or being a penniless, destitute writer whose works don’t sell, who lives and dies alone at a very young age, while everyone around me goes, “I told you so.”
Oh, Africa. I don’t know what to do about it, really. In all honesty, would this be as much of a problem if I was, say, an American living in the USA and descended from, like, Ireland?
But if anything at all, the incessant negativity that I receive is just igniting the easily-aroused rebel in me, making me want to fight harder than ever for words.
Long story short, I’m done with the prejudice against lyrical aspirations and pursuits. I love words, and I love to write. And I want everyone who believes in what I believe in, to join me in my fight.
Hence the creation of lexivism. Lexi-activism. Word activism.
Words, you see, are powerful. The proof? There’s more than one way to interpret the coinage “lexivist”. It could be
- An activist who shows his/her action through the power of words.
- An activist whose cause is to fight for the recognised significance of the power of words.
Why not both?
I want to be a young inspiration for anyone in the word who feels like me; or who may feel as if words are not as powerful as science, even if it’s the thing closest to their hearts. Let’s not discourage those who want to pursue the literary arts, especially in Africa. Let’s stop telling them that telling stories isn’t as important as describing the particulate nature of matter.
But a lexivist’s job is not that limited. A lexivist is one who fights for literacy. A lexivist is one who believes in the significance of reading.
A lexivist is one who promotes the literary arts.
A lexivist is one with a passion for words.
A lexivist is one who speaks/writes his/her heart out.
A lexivist is a passionate logophile, lexophile, bibliophile…a lover of words.
A lexivist is anything else you can think of.
I am a lexivist.