Kuukua and the Difficult Doors

Number Six!

(Update: individual OTC stories are no longer available, but you can download them all in a single PDF collection on my OTC site.)

Back of Kuukua and the Difficult Doors

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Kuukua and the Difficult Doors

There were invisible threads on the ceiling now. My roommate Nana Konamah and I had gotten fed up. The architects of this hostel must have had some sort of sense impairment when they were designing, because this nonsense of the light switch being on one side of the room and the fan switch being on the opposite wall had been making our lives unnecessarily difficult. If the room was too hot or too cold during the night, NK would have to walk all the way to my side to regulate the fan speed. If she fell asleep with the light on, I would have to walk all the way to her side to turn it off. I’d never liked sitting down and doing nothing about problems that could so easily be solved with thread, so now our room had a very small-scale version of the complex thread system I had built in my room back home. It proved immensely helpful in instances just like this one…

“Felicia is coming!” NK whispered urgently. The next second, I pulled a string from my bed and the light went off. NK hadn’t even had to sit up.

“Don’t say anything,” I warned Princess, who was beside me in the dark now.

It was way past lights-out, and I was exhausted, but I’d promised Princess I’d help her with her physics homework when I had time. It turned out 11 p.m. was the earliest I’d been free enough to help anyone on a Monday night, and Princess wasn’t even the first person I was helping tonight. I was not, however, ready to get in trouble for it with Felicia, my hostel prefect. I already did enough weeding and gardening throughout the normal week; I wasn’t about to add gutter scrubbing to my schedule just because I’d decided to be a nice, helpful classmate.

I heard Felicia’s footsteps as she did a brief walk-through, passing in front of all the rooms in the building. If she didn’t see lights or hear voices, she just moved past each door after a few seconds. I listened keenly, made sure she was way out of sight and hearing before I pulled another string and the lights switched back on.

“Ahahn, so which question were we on?” I asked Princess, suppressing a yawn. But Princess’ mind was far from Newton’s laws of motion at that moment.

“How did you do that, with the light?” she asked with a mixture of curiosity and fear.

“Magic, anaa?” I replied, bored, irritable, and tired.

“Kuukua, be serious.”

“I thought everyone knew I’m a witch by now. See eh, let’s continue with the distin. It’s due tomorrow morning, and frankly, m’abrɛ.

“So you won’t explain?”

“Ei, Princess. Do you want to finish this homework or not?”

Her facial expression reflected the struggle she was going through, trying to rationalize what had just happened, but then she gave up, clearly also weary and looking forward to sleeping. “Fine. Let’s continue.”

“Great. So, we know that force is equal to mass times acceleration….”

I could have explained – at least about the spider-silk thread – but that would have led to even more questions. How did I know how to build this switch-flipping system? Why was the thread invisible? Where did one acquire spider-silk thread? Why did I have my very own pet spider?

I wasn’t ashamed of the strangeness that came with being the future Ananse, but truthful explanations were long. Claiming the rumor my cousin had started – that I was a witch – was much easier. So was evasion.

I turned the lights off again when Princess went back to her room. I hoped she wouldn’t get caught breaking curfew.

I thought NK was already asleep, so I was surprised when I heard her say, “Wo dwen sɛ wo yɛ Kwaku Ananse.”

When I heard that, I sat up briskly, my heart hammering loudly in my chest.

“What did you just say?”

“You think you’re Kwaku Ananse. It’s something my mother says a lot to me and my siblings whenever we try to get away with messing with someone. Because, you know, Kwaku Ananse was a trickster.”

“Interesting.” I let the silence breathe and tried to process.

“You remind me of him, though. Kwaku Ananse. Except you’re cleverer. From the stories Mummy told me, the way Kwaku is always getting outsmarted, he doesn’t seem particularly intelligent to me.”

“That’s what Ntikuma wants you to think,” I muttered, repeating my father’s words after the last time he’d told me an Ananse story.

“Pardon?”

“Erm. Nothing.”

NK didn’t know about me being the future Ananse – but she knew almost as much about my quirks as my grandpa, my father and my boyfriend. I’d only known her for about three months, but it was a consequence of living together. My room was the only place I could do some of the weirder assignments my father set for me.

The previous week, for example, I’d spent hours on end at my desk trying to master the process of extracting only the sticky kind of silk from my orb weaver spider, Charlotte, and turning it into spider glue. My grandfather, who used to be a chemist, would videocall me sometimes to teach me how to make varying kinds of spider glue, from mildly sticky to stuff stronger than wood glue. After she’d witnessed everything I’d messed around with at my desk, keeping the Ananse definition and its relation to my family from my roommate felt incredibly stupid.

 

NK had helped me construct the web. It would have been a struggle otherwise, because I didn’t have access to ladders, and the only movable furniture in the room were our desk chairs, and they simply weren’t tall enough. But I’d had to get on the ceiling somehow. As I’d struggled to think of how to manage it, NK had looked at me and said, “Kuukua, don’t you ever think of the body as a tool?”

“The body as a tool?” I’d repeated.

“Yeah. Same as a ladder or a hammer or something.”

“I use my hands and fingers a lot.”

“You use them to manipulate things you consider tools. But you’re always looking for things. Machines. Sometimes, the thing you need the most is a functional human body.”

“Sista, why are you speaking in parables?”

She’d laughed, then extracted her chair from under her desk. She’d knelt down in front of it, and at first, I was on edge because I thought she was bowing down to me or something, but then she instructed, “Get on my shoulders.”

I did. Then she got on the chair and stood upright, and when I raised my hands, I could reach the ceiling with ease.

Installation had taken more time than it would have if I’d had a ladder, because Nana Konamah needed to take breaks from holding me up. It was altogether a precarious situation, but I was used to precariousness. Yaw would have said, “A week that passes where Kuukua doesn’t put herself in danger of breaking her neck at least once, is that one too a week?”

 

And for the rest of the story, download via the link at the top of the post. Happy reading!

-Akotowaa

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Both Cheeks On Board

Note: I wrote this in like February 2015, when I had only just invented the term “lexivism“, and way before Dead By 27. Interesting fact: this is at the back of the same notebook as the first draft of Anti-Indoctrination is in the front of! I’m now posting it because I had a recent conversation with a friend that reminded me of it.

Fortunately or unfortunately, I am not referring to the cheeks on my face.

My aim is to eventually become a full-time writer. (Yes, I write about writing a lot. You were in for that the minute you stepped into a lexivist’s space.) Like, that is my primary goal, and what I’m working towards. Not a Something Else and then Writer on the side; but a person whose primary profession is writing – and the other income-generating dilly-dallying on the side. LOL, isn’t that ridiculous? Nope.

Here’s the thing: because a lot of Ghanaians see writing as some side-thing, some hobby that you can get published for, a lot of the stuff we produce isn’t up to professional standards. It’s only up to amateur, hobbyist standard, you see. I’ve at least seen a number of locally published books – and honestly, sometimes I just bore. Spelling mistakes abundant, as well as other errors and sometimes, it looks like the work went through zero editors; if they didn’t, then these editors are doing nothing and should be replaced. The binding sometimes is poor or uncomfortable, and the books themselves are not marketed well. How then, should we be able to view writing as an income-generating profession, when it is so unprofessionally handled that it generates so little income? There we go!

“Ghana, where my parents live, has no credible local publisher.” – Taiye Selasi.

Even aside from the industry’s slacking, the writers themselves, since they are so satisfied with the whole writing thing being a side job, are really unconcerned with really mastering their technique in the whole writing game. After all, it’s only “on the side”.

This, in my opinion, is the reason for the multitude of half-assed (do you get the title of the post now?), poorly edited books and novels and whatnot, which I cannot ever believe a serious writer would have been satisfied with before they distributed. The reason Ghanaian authors don’t make a living out of their authorship is because they are not serious enough to WANT to. Yes, of course, there are factors on their own, such as the illiteracy percentage of the population (which may soon be its own blog post/piece), but I feel like illiteracy of other people should not make you compromise on your own quality. We are so satisfied where we are, and so many times, our authors don’t go international.

Here is my issue: if I submit to all the pressure coming at me from many sides that it’s basically a circle; if I listen to the people who insist I take up another career and do my “writing things” as a side job…then I could end up where the other authors are: confined to a local audience whose taste for quality is low enough to be satisfied with mediocrity; just another one of those books for tourists; another writer with half-baked novels. I’d have half-assed my work.

A couple of my favourite Urban Dictionary definitions for half-ass:

1.

“The act of doing something without motivation or care as to the quality of the object at hand. To not give a sh*t.”

2.

“Something done poorly, a bad job, a rushed task the person could have done better at.”

 

I want to dedicate myself full-time to the profession I’m into, to produce maximum quality work, and put literature from at least one Ghanaian (not Ghanaian literature, mind you; I said literature from a Ghanaian) on the map! Quality and dedication: the two things too many of us are missing. And yet people see in me a desire for both, and that scares them. Lord knows why.

In summary: I am working towards making my writing my full-time profession (with any other interesting income-generating activity on the side) as soon as I can possibly manage it, because I am vying for actual quality and dedication, and be one step close to breaking the ideology that a Ghanaian cannot and should not be a full time writer. I don’t want to half-ass it. I want both my cheeks on board!

-Akotowaa

What’s all this Anti-Indo something-something?

What is Anti-Indoctrination?

An excuse for all of you who want to say “Eii, this girl likes big brɔfo papa!”

Well, what it is, is a lexivist poem. As you know by now my life basically revolves around this thing – lexivism.

Why did I give it such a long name?

Well I’m supposed to be dispelling your previous indoctrination about how powerful words are, aren’t I? I’m not about to dumb it down for anyone’s convenience. When I wrote it in a burst of anger in a dark room in school sometime in January 2015, this is the first title that came to mind, and it’s what I stuck with. It does absolute justice to what I want the entire poem to mean.

Who’s Anti-Indoctrination for?

It’s “For the ones who accidentally started to believe that their words were not adequate means to achieve their dreams.” And what am I trying to say to them about their dreams? “I’ve got one piece of advice, and with two words, I’ll end: Chase them.”

What is Akotowaa telling them to do?

Speak, speak, speak (which you can do in the form of writing) and never stop! “They shut you down. Call you rude. Say you have a sharp tongue. But that just means you make cutting remarks and it tears the fabrics of their egos apart at the seams. So (Sew). Keep cutting, as I thread my message together.”

Let the fire burn on, guys, girls, lexivists.

Anti-Indoctrination promo

HUGE SHOUT-OUTS TO: Souza (videography), Hanif (videography) and Reynolds The GentleMan (music production)! You guys rock my world! ❤

Link to Anti-Indoctrination Video

-Akotowaa

Reverse (Aspirational) Oppression: Woes of the Conventional

Note: If my phrasing and diction make you think I’m self-righteous, I apologize ahead of time.

It almost feels like right now, my whole life is centred around lexivism, and around fighting for myself and others’ rights to pursue lifestyles within the arts and entertainment industries. It’s in my blog posts, my tweets, my stories, my Facebook updates…And it only just hit me today (I’m writing this on 19th Feb 2016) that the people who have aspirations that merit the approval of those I am fighting against, could feel oppressed.

It was a strange idea to me when I began to think about it. Like, how can you be feeling oppressed when I’m the oppressed one? Everyone loves your decision! Why are you oppressed? Until I came to the conclusion that it’s me. They feel oppressed by people like me, of course! Who else fights so vehemently against the idea of becoming what they want to be?

Let me describe the incidents that incited this writing properly:

A few days ago, I posed a question on my social media, asking why all the new entrepreneurial ventures and shops in town seemed to be run by foreigners. Answering my own question, I said it was because the Ghanaians were too busy being doctors, lawyers and engineers. Of course, I was being exaggerative and satirical and classically Akotowaa. But I was still vaguely upset when a Facebook friend (who was African, but incidentally not Ghanaian) passionately expressed his concurrence, mentioning a classmate whose aspiration is to be a lawyer, and describing her as “what was wrong with Africa” or something like that. My response to his comment was that he should leave her to follow her dreams; that we need lawyers too, of course.

Now today, during school, my class had interactive sessions with a few alumni, and one of my classmates (who seems to be unable to hold himself back whenever there’s a microphone and an opportunity to speak into one. LOL, if you’re reading this, you know who you are.) asked the panel of alumni how to deal with the discouragement from others when one wants to pursue the creative arts. (Sounds like a legit question, but I’m really tired of it. I think its askers usually have their own answer that works for them and don’t need anyone else’s response. My answer is to start a project like Dead By 27, and embrace the hate by turning that too into sarcastic art.)

Nearly directly after his question, the classmate that had been referred to in my comment posed a question to the alumni which would have probably sounded like a legitimate inquiry to me – if it didn’t sound so much like a deliberate retaliation/ counter-attack in my head. She asked how to deal with the pressure of people reacting to people like her “conventional” aspirations like they were too mainstream and telling her things like how she was only in it to please/ be like parents, or get money or whatever. I found myself wanting to yell, “We are the minority! The people who aren’t applauding and fawning over you for your sensible and practical dream are the MINORITY! What pressure are you talking about? Try having 90% of the people around you shooting you down every day, including your own parents!”

But I didn’t say all this stuff at the end. At least I held myself back after I angrily whisper-shouted the very first question, and acted like it never happened. (Except that I wrote it all down. Right now. In the previous paragraph.) And I didn’t not say it just because I do in fact respect her dream – and any doctor’s dream or engineer’s dream. I also didn’t say it because I conceded that it was possible to feel oppressed, pressurized and threatened by a minority. Why? Because sometimes our loudness can make us look way more present and threatening and numerous than we actually are.

The thing about us is that we are louder and more aggressive because we have been harbouring years of frustration and pent-up anger. So much comes out of us because it feels like people aren’t listening. So we have to be louder. Also, it’s difficult to quit complaining when the system ain’t changing. Ask Black people in America.

So I see why with loud and angry people like me around, the apparent “conventional” would feel oppressed, even if they are the approved spawn of the original oppressors. And it works this way with lots of prejudicial systems in the world, as far as I can tell.

What Facebook Commenter Dude said on my status was uncalled for, I believe. That is where we must draw the line. We can’t start to undermine other simply because they are lifted up by the people who undermine us. At the same time, we simply cannot give up the fight to rewire the society to make them finally SEE US.

-Akotowaa