1.They Came To see ‘Blinkards’
Except for a few available seats on the second floor of the 1,500 seater auditorium, the National Theatre was full last Saturday evening and what was showing was not KSM.
A full house for drama? Given that admission was free, one may hesitate to applaud too loudly but indeed this was a great surprise to observers like me who have over the past two decades watched the strangling of mainstream theatre for lack of funding.
Saturday evening was different. It was not the opening night; it was the second and word must have gone round about how good the play was. This was The Blinkards: the play by Kobina Sekyi, a Cape Coast lawyer who died one year before Ghana’s Independence.
The Blinkards is described as a satirical comedy that expresses the negative attitudes of a society towards her own socio-cultural values and rather sees the value of the “colonial master” as superior and preferable.
The plot is woven around Mrs Brofosem whose brief stay in England has produced in her the self-delusion that her traditional culture is backward and must yield to “the fairer values of the European”.
She comes into sharp conflict with Mr Oyimdze who proves to her that local values are as good, if not better, than any.
Perhaps, there could not have been a better cast than what director Derek Sewornu put together for this production.
Who said there were no good actors left in Ghana?
Acting was good all round, except for a couple of actors, such as Lawyer Oyimdze, who needed to work themselves more into their characters. And oh mine, what a slippery stage? Many actors kept slippering and falling, which was strictly no acting matter.
For a period play, the costuming was remarkable as the clothes made it easier for the audience to be “transported” as it were, to the period of the play.
Quick scene changes meant there were no delays but the music during those scene changes were not always of those “bad ’ol days”.
Can anyone imagine Dolly Parton’s “I’ll always love you” being played in the 1950’s?
These little glitches, however, fade into nothingness when placed against the very good acting that I saw on Saturday. The eyesore that I could not overlook was the set.
Someone has observed that the School of Performing Arts at Legon, where most of the cast and crew came from, have, for lack of funds, been made to improvise for so long that they have lost track of the real thing.
I am tempted to agree with that. Otherwise how can we explain the battered – looking flats, their uneven shades of colour, dreadful drapes, inadequate lighting and furniture carrying property marks that were used?
Still, the show was good and the audience contributed to that. Of course quite a number of people came in late which meant that those already seated had to rise to give them way and a few had their mobile phones ringing but didn’t everybody enjoy the play!
Usage of words such as “dispenser” must have baffled a few young people especially one SSS girl who asked me what the word meant. And then when a father asked a doctor “to feel her” – meaning to physically examine his daughter, there was a near – uproar in the auditorium.
There were many more such hilarious responses from the audience which made the play even more enjoyable on Saturday.
How I wish The Blinkards will be made to go round the regions so that other people can also “feel it”!
It was an enjoyable evening, I admit but I would hate to be in the shoes of Martin Owusu, the university professor who has been tasked to produce the official season theatre classics to commemorate Ghana’s independence jubilee.
First, the Ghana@50 planners forced his hand to select plays that fit into a straight jacket of monthly themes which, as I can imagine, must have left him scratching at the head.
In his attempt to produce that list, the professor strayed into including plays that were neither “special, important or of excellent quality” nor “have been popular for a long time”, to pass for classics.
Second, the necessary wherewithal for all the official artistic endeavors for Ghana@50 has always been released late and in inadequate amounts.
2.The Blinkards in Flagstaff House.
Friday night 8pm, I am looking for a taxi to get into Accra. I live on McCarthy Hill and sometimes I don’t not feel like driving into the city. Standing by the side, a trotro curb-stops and a young woman, maybe 28, gets down with a child on her back and another in tow. She makes sure to mention to the “aplanke” that she has luggage in the back. With the child balanced securely, she takes out two bunches of plantain, a sack full of cassava, and a basket of other food items. She then hauls all these and a carry bag to the side with the help of her six-year-old and starts the hassle for another trotro to take her to Lapaz. She carefully counts the agreed fare and I shudder with guilt. Her fare from Kasoa is one cedi eighty pesewas, protected in her white “religious” handkerchief. She can’t afford to lose a pesewa of this money. The taxis are asking for twenty cedis to go to Accra, a fare that used to be ten. I abandon my two-hundred-cedi expenditure program, uncomfortable with the disparity in our spending priorities, and turn back home. This defined the State of my Nation.
For former AG Martin Amidu, who has raised a lot of red flags these past two years, and the last one cost him his job, not for incompetence, but for disrespect, he waded into the Woyome case he filed, emphasizing the conflict of interest he clearly sees from the new attorney general appointment. Not that Marietta Brew Oppong is not qualified, she was one of a team that sued Government to recover money for a company that did not exist. Now she has to turn around and prosecute the same client for recovery of monies and probably fraud. How do you do that? This is a sizeable figure and a case that threatens our national moral compass. How would we handle this in our traditional context?
It prompted “Tarzan” Wereko-Brobbey to wade into the fray and advise that Marietta Brew Oppong lose her job. He is on a bit of a crusade these days. On air and in the paper every week, taking it to the energy technocrats and Institutional heads, making a case for rationalising the energy supply. He knows enough about the sector to be credible and we only hope that he continues with the pressure on Government.
VRA, ECG and GWSC are struggling because of the under-investment over the years and Government’s inability to pay what it owes the trio. No need to go back and do a blame game, but what about looking ahead and sorting out the cash mess? If VRA is paid, it will have enough to buy crude in the interim and supply some energy. Follow the money trail. Government owes the institutions and that is why we are in this so called emergency load shedding, suddenly in our face, immediately after the elections.
Somebody pulled the blinds down at Flagstaff house, triggering an eclipse on finance and good governance. In his state of the nation, President Mahama neither acknowledged nor mentioned the fact that his presidency is under a legal cloud, threatened by an NPP petition hailstorm. We have had so little rain these few months and a bare harmattan. It is hot in Accra and very humid. I can’t afford to use air conditioning, not because I can’t afford it, but there is so much uncertainty surrounding everything and the pleasure of cooling the room is enveloped by a gloomy demeanor in the house. We go to bed every night wondering if this petition will tip the country over the edge or propel us to a new democracy high. It was very disingenuous of the President in his State of the Nation address to think that we of Ghana are not aware that there is a legal possibility that his term could be very short-lived. We are on tenterhooks because of this case and Paa Kwesi Amissah Arthur was at least open enough to answer the question in Freetown.
I am not really concerned about what the President said or not with his State of the Nation address. I am disturbed by the fact that he either thinks we cannot fathom the Nation’s state, and we will only dwell on how he sees it from behind his office blinds or we should be more concerned about the format of the address. In Freetown, Sierra Leone, Vice Prez Paa Kwesi, made categorical statements about the petition challenge. He even went as far as revel in the fact that it is a defining moment in our democracy and he was proud to tout the process as one of sanity and excellent conflict resolution.
But not John Mahama, he refuses to acknowledge this state, rather turning restlessly in bed, worrying about dumso and water problems, in a speech that could have been written for him by Johnson Asiedu Nketia. Praising the Electoral Commissioner indeed.
We have made water, power, sanitation, education and jobs, colossal problems. Played political games with tariffs and subsidies over the years and now the elephant is rampaging largest in our courtrooms.
Where is the determination to re-evaluate our electoral representation and our rights to free speech and information? How much longer should Parliament be distorted because the Volta Region represents the NDC and the Ashanti Region the NPP? I see a blemish in representation and a foremost concern requiring change.
The state of my nation is hinged on the petition challenge, graduate unemployment, revenue enhancement, my freedom of speech and transparent access to information. I am certainly concerned with all the issues raised as well, but those are not what keep me awake at night. Why? Because Government can sort the energy and water crises out by paying these institutions what it owes and providing financial support to invest in key infrastructure to enable better and guaranteed access to these services. The dum-so would be over in the time it takes to get sufficient crude to VRA and don’t forget TOR.
But let me borrow the opening paragraph from an article sent to me from the Danquah Institute regarding the petition. You can read the full piece from here, DI Petition Summary.
“The international community, generally, endorsed Ghana’s 2012 general elections as “free and fair.” Ghana, the star of democracy in Africa, had done it once again for Africa. John Mahama, the declared winner, was duly sworn in, without any violent protests, on January 7, 2013. But, the biggest opposition party in Ghana filed a petition in Ghana’s supreme court, (the first of its kind in the country’s history), challenging the presidential results. It is noteworthy that since the first election of Ghana’s Fourth Republic in 1992, 2012 was the only other time that a majority of the political parties (5 out of 7), which participated in the contest had come out to raise major concerns about the conduct of the polls. Indeed, the second runner-up and leader of the Progressive People’s Party, Dr Papa Kwesi Nduom, is on record as saying, “I have been involved in elections since 1992 and this is the worst in terms of credibility.” See link: http://www.theafricareport.com/News-Analysis/ghana-election-results-another-party-backs-npp-fraud-claims.html. But, what really is the substance of the case of the opposition New Patriotic Party, which is contesting the results in court? Is it, as observed by a cynical senior figure in the UNDP, “another opposition party in Africa crying foul”, or another defining moment in Ghana’s history; a necessary non-violent, constitutional move, worthy of commendation, to correct and secure the integrity of elections, hence, the future of democracy, peace, stability and development in Africa?”
There is no one in this country, including donor partners and the World Bank community not aware of this challenge in the courts. I say JDM lost an opportunity to rise above the fray and stake his statesmanship. This “ostrich head in the sand” type politics is cheap and detracts from nobility. Every Ghanaian can see the conflict but not the Blinkards in Flagstaff House.
Paa Kwesi Amissah Arthur does not see that there are major constrictions in everyday living of the people of Ghana. All that is important is that we get more Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and the macro-economic indicators. In a meeting with a EU delegation, he described what we have going in Ghana today as “minor challenges in the economy”. Our trade deficit, shortfall in oil production, 91-day TB rates at 22.9%, excessive borrowing, burgeoning budget deficits, low revenue collection, major infrastructure gaps, housing deficits, non-existent commuter rail, electricity and water interruption and accumulating contractor debt both caused by Government’s inability to pay its debts, petrol shortages in key regional capitals, poor sanitation for over 19% of the population in the capital city Accra who defecate in the open, high cost of food in the markets, our over-dependency on imports, a total collapse of our manufacturing sector and declining agriculture production and a national health scheme unable to meet payments on time, are not concerns.
Ghana cannot feed its people. We rely on donor aid to supplement most of our staples. Am I in a different country?
Well, Black Stars midfield player John Paintsil allegedly cut his wife over the eyebrow with a knife over the weekend. He is on bail. Not a nice note to end on, so Uncle Ebo Whyte has a new play starting at the National Theater and Ruff and Smooth just released their new video. Take a break, this has been a tough week, yet ……..
Ghana, Aha a ye de papa. Alius valde week advenio. Another great week to come!
Sydney Casely-Hayford, firstname.lastname@example.org
3.Trust Towers suicide man was the son of Kobina Sekyi – the author of the “Blinkards”.
The man who jumped from the ninth floor of the Trust Towers and died instantly has been identified as Ghana’s former ambassador to France, AU and Algeria, H.E Hugh van Sekyi, Citi News can confirm.
Citi News’ investigations have it that Ambassador Sekyi was the son of Kobina Sekyi – the author of the Blinkards. He is believed to be in his 70s.
The police have confirmed his identity with family members corroborating it. His body was found on a lawn at the Trust Towers in Accra in a blue and white striped shirt and jeans and was wearing a pair of socks. A pair of black shoes was found on the ninth floor where he is believed to have jumped from.The police later came to convey his remains to the morgue. He did not leave behind any suicide note.
H.E Sekyi worked with various local and international institutions and has been described as a “perfect gentleman” by close associates.He was also a lecturer at the Legon Centre for International Affairs (LECIA) and Diplomacy.