The Creative Struggle

A killer intro; a mandatory aspect of any great literary piece.

That’s what I aim for, but sometimes I can go through loads of intros before I settle on “the one”.
Other times I just give up and move on to other distractions…ever hoping for a bulb to light up amid the chaos.

Deciding on what to write isn’t the problem, but creating that perfect intro cripples my creative spunk. It is the “easiest” to put together but the hardest to craft and master.

I am not a perfectionist…but I do try my best.

It is indeed gut-wrenching to find readers skip past the intro that kept you up many a sleepless night. This is my umpteenth attempt at this intro, but who is counting, right?

I break my squishy brain for the “perfect intro” and no one reads it.

SIGH!

My creative foibles aside, this little predicament raises a concern that haunts creatives the world over: the infamous “Creative Block”.

If you find yourself in the creative sphere – writers, musicians, performers, artists –  then you know how far-reaching this “block” really is.

It is a deep pit of despair from which only the determined can escape…and mind you, the act (of escaping) may last for days, weeks, months or even years.

When you lose your muse, you better put on the best show of your life to win her back, or in the very least, break down every door known to man until she’s nestled safely in your arms once again.

Being creative isn’t the cakewalk some claim. Sure, it might come easy to some but the truth hits hard when you realize even the best of the best plunge headfirst into the “block”.

It comes with the territory and quite normal to wander its labyrinthine maze on occasion.
Heck! It took me quite a while to put this post together, so yeah…it is a global epidemic.

For some though, getting out of the “block” can be as easy as staring at a blank page for 3 straight days…or as daunting as seeking inspiration from someone else’s works.
Inspiration does works: I do it often, although my case requires I stare at random images till the lazy brain hamsters start showing their worth – they are quite the lazy lot.

But where does “getting inspiration” end and “stealing’ begin?

A creative mind is oft lauded and appreciated, even when most don’t know the hardships (and headaches) such a mind endures. We love the creative people who have made an enviable living out of selling the crazy and innovative ideas scurrying around in their heads…and some of us hope to someday walk beside them, or better yet, ahead of them.

But how can we push boundaries and break down restrictive molds if we forgo our ability to think and glaringly steal ideas?

People are fierce at stealing ideas, but for today’s lesson we will focus on Ghana and her many green-eyed citizens. I know you’d all love to see me point just one finger at Kofas (a Ghanaian movie director) and watch him run into hiding again, but that won’t be fair to him.

The sad truth? This sin of intellectual thievery goes beyond Kofas’ blunder; it is a canker in Ghana’s creative sphere that just won’t die (T1000).
Ghana’s creative industry is actually not as competitive as those in western countries, but the breakneck speeds at which content – videos, music and pictures – is pushed to the public opens up a very big avenue to steal intellectual properties with us none-the-wiser.

Local production houses steal entire movies – foreign and local – and then repackage them as new.
In an industry where a single production house can shoot 4 full movies in a week with barely any script, we should not be surprised if new movies recycle plot from old movies.
Heck! Even Hollywood is doing that…so why not Ghana.

That much content in such short a span negates the need for brainwork for some creative individuals in Ghana. A few put up a valiant effort, but like moths to a flame, they embrace the system: recycle and steal…because no one cares.

Kratos in the North and Mortal Kombat in bushes.

Just so you know, Kratos speaking Dagbani is as weird as it sounds…

Image result for kofas

From the Shadows

When Kofas and his merry band of actors announced John & John, a movie that bears an uncanny resemblance to Skeem, I doubt they were ready for the backlash that was to follow.

All things considered though, Kofas’ “remake” of Skeem could have gone unnoticed if both movies had been obscure:
BUT NOPE! They were as high-profile as they come, with Skeem benefiting from the publicity and media coverage that comes from being critically acclaimed.

John & John, a blatant and unrepentant copy of Skeem could have been a remarkable hit in Ghana, if Kofas’ folly had not reared its head.

He has since gone into hiding, but this blight on his record invariably calls into question his prior endeavors…and that is a shadow I fear he might never pull away from.

I would like to think this issue would educate the creative public in Ghana about intellectual thievery…but I fear I might be asking for too much, considering the first presidential speech from President Nana Akufo-Addo lifted passages from the speeches of former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

What can I say? It’s in our blood.

 

NB: Go here for a surprise.

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Starting Over…

Hi! It is a new year again (for a full month now) and after a very unremarkable 2016 – if you don’t count the elections – I’m somewhat suspicious of this year. I had big plans I’d have loved to see grow in 2016 but my feet moved way too slow (ask Ransford).

Like all attempted failures in a person’s life, we have to at least accept a smidgen of that blame; we blame life (and others) too often.
I am guilty of treading along that particular path – avoiding the blame for my life choices and shirking the responsibilities that come along with it.

I cannot say I had an easy childhood…but it wasn’t hard either.
The honest truth? My temperament and outlook on life has pretty much bestowed upon me a laissez-faire approach to how I live life. I have gotten by quite fine but it is time I got more hands-on with my life and the decisions that happen therein.

Trust me, this year would like nothing more than to copy and paste the ole boring tripe of 2016, but I do believe we owe it to ourselves to walk down a different path.

reset

Winding the clock down to zero.

So then, what have I planned for myself this year? The sad reality is, my plans for this year mirrors that of the infamous 2016…but this time around I want more money and a greater life-purpose.

I can’t say I have it all figured out, but at least I know I can’t stay in this rut any longer.

Pray with me and let’s make a great big difference this year.

 

PS: Good News; This year won’t be as boring…only because I’m expecting an Xbox 360 to replace my non-existent love-life.
*sigh*…This is going to be good.

“The Foreigner from a Distant Land.” by Paula Addai

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I am a foreigner, from a distant land.
I speak your language but you don’t understand.
I have hands like yours, that are never praised
I have eyes like yours that can also gaze.

I know you came from the land of my father
But then why can’t we accept each other?
It is sad you think that you are better
But if I am stupid, how did I write this letter?

My strength you use to beat your butter,
But whether I’m hungry or not, it doesn’t matter.
I know one day I am going to belong
That Is why I comfort myself with this bitter song.

It is hard to sleep when I hear the loud bang
From thoughts of my family members being forced to hang
You try to keep me on your little hook
Your ears burn when you hear me read a book.
You can take away my bread , and burn my clothes
But whatever you do, we will never be foes.

Being strong and running fast is something I’ve learnt
I’ve been chased like a dog betrayed by my own scent.
My only way to escape from your trigger
Is to hold my breath and cross that river
Restricted in life and even by who to love
Praying for the freedom you will never have

Soon , you will stop judging me by the colour of my hand

But until then I remain a foreigner from a distant land.

Paula Eno Addai

Who Belongs to The Toll Booth?

Toll+booth

Oh Ghana, how many times must I write of thee?
Apparently, not enough.

59 years free but the seeds planted by our good Dr. Kwame Nkrumah have long died in the soil.
This is no legacy worthy of our great but (very) dead visionary leader.

Outsiders marvel at how “kept together” Ghana is…but the entire picture is lost on them when they are standing on the outside looking in.

Sigh! It’s that time again; when people go crazy, create weird slogans, promise chickens and give us nothing but false hope of a better life.
You guessed right: it’s an Election Year.
Yay Us!

The four-year curse is back again…and it is biting so strong this year.

SIDE NOTE: The weird thing is, I am actually more interested to see if Americans will let Trump rule them as president.

Elections in Ghana have always leaned more toward “personal and group self-interests” than the collective progression of the country.
Companies and individuals who know this, hitch their rides to a prospective party’s wagon…hoping to secure a sizable piece of the pie when the country has been ‘won’. It is a very risky gamble…a gamble some pay dearly for, especially when they go all in and wind up with the losing hand.

Companies fall…enterprises crumble…lives are ruined…but yet, some profit from all of this.

Gosh I hate Politics.

People thrive on politics; they eat, live, breathe and bleed politics, and it is these individuals who will do anything to serve us up so they can enjoy the pickings of a good political position.
Ghana, for a very long time now, has not belonged to its citizens but to these political nutjobs.

It’s not known how they are sharing Ghana but I know one thing every government wants to exploit; Vehicular Tolls (aka the Toll booths).

I have no ill-thoughts towards the collection of tolls in the country. It is actually a necessity…especially when we think about how much it helps the country’s infrastructure.

Under a normal and functioning government, the toll or fee, which is a form of tax, helps recoup some of the cost of road construction and maintenance.

It is a great resource and immeasurable in its potential.
So, what is happening with Ghana’s toll money?

As always, I have a couple of theories but before we dig into that, let’s do some boring (and probably wrong) arithmetic:
With these non-scientific calculations, we aim to find out the average yearly revenue from the toll booths in Accra. For this test, we will only focus on the Tema and Kasoa toll booths. (I’m a hermit, remember?)

Ok, for the sake of keeping things fairly simple we shall assume that on a daily average, a total of 55,000 cars go through the Tema and Kasoa toll booths (combined).
In keeping with simple, let us also assume every car pays Ghc 1 as toll.

Thus, let the rudimentary calculations begin;
Daily Toll                              –                            Ghc 55,000
Weekly Toll                         –                             Ghc 385,000 (Ghc 55,000 x 7 days)
Monthly Toll                       –                             Ghc 1,540,000 (Ghc 385,000 x 4 weeks)
Yearly Toll                           –                             Ghc 18,480,000 (Ghc 1,540,000 x 12 months)

I’ll let that sink in.

-_-        -_-

                  -_-        -_-

                                    -_-        -_-

                                                      -_-        -_-

So, across only Tema and Kasoa toll booths, Accra churns out a respectable Ghc 18,480,000 ($4,643,000).
No matter how you slice it, that is a lot of money…from only two toll booths.

Online resources for public information in Ghana are sorely lacking…because no one cares to put public information online.
What you do find, if you find anything at all, is severely outdated information;
If Ghana had a little over 10 toll booths in 2010, then I guess we can safely assume our not-so-scientific figure above will shoot up dramatically when we calculate the revenue from all toll booths currently in operation.

SIDE NOTE: If anyone knows the exact number of toll booths in Ghana, please let me know. Not that it’s going to make much of a difference…but #TheMoreYouKnow.

So, Ghc 18,480,000! Let’s work with that piece of unproven information, shall we?

Now, the question plaguing a lot of minds is: What is the government doing with all that money?

Well they are not desilting the gutters, preventing floods or restructuring DVLA if you were wondering.

My Hypothesis:
The government sits on all that money for a while…lets it accumulate and when the time is right, they burst open the piggybank and use all that money for election campaigns.

Road Money” becomes “Election Money”.

I believe it has now become an unwritten law amongst ruling parties.
If not, how can we make Ghc 18,480,000 a year and not see great improvements on our roads?

“But hey! The government is currently constructing interchanges and expanding on roads…so maybe that’s where the money ends up.”

Wrong! Ghana almost never funds these projects herself. It’s always an outside force pulling the strings.
Thus, all that money is at the mercy of the government and since they never really give us specifics on money usage/spoilage, it’s basically a guessing game…and I have guessed mine.

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But for all intents and purposes, this post isn’t about where the Ghc 18,480,000 ends up but the people who collect the money; the toll collectors.

During my normal commute to work, which sends me through the Kasoa toll booth, I have realized that some of the toll collectors are either not happy with working conditions or they just hate being there.

That is a normal occurrence in the realm of working…especially when the individual has monotonous work. It affects a lot of people.

Yeah even pornstars. Shocking right??

…but I have a question; who best fits the role as a toll collector?
One would assume it is a job for anybody…but far from it.

If, in some cases, the nature of a job determines the prospective worker, then is it not safe to say that a disabled person is the perfect fit as a toll collector?

But that isn’t so.

Think about it;
we are quick to assume disabled people are not smart enough or not well educated…but the truth is, a lot of them are all those things we think them not. We tend to overlook them and hastily think them “alms receivers”.
Handicapped people, particularly those who can use both hands, are more than able to replace able-bodied people at toll booths…as the use of their hands is the most important job requirement.

We scream “equal opportunity for all” only to realize we live in a very broken system.
For so long we have treated the homeless and the disabled like infected limbs that need amputation…but they are people too. They need to be heard and understood but most importantly, they need job opportunities they qualify for.

Let us give them that…and a “purpose” in this country.

At least I will smile wider knowing they helped the government save Ghc 18,480,000…and some coins.

GOD BLESS!

Review: Ebo Whyte’s “One Million Pounds”.

Pounds shterling

Not a lot of people like stage plays and that’s not surprising. In this world where so many of us have been desensitized by movies and TV shows, a stage play is one of the last true forms of pure expressionism…but almost forgotten.

Theatre might be fading away but until then, it has and will always captivate audiences with thrilling stories and deep real-time characterizations; something the other dramatic art forms can’t replicate or deliver.

The venerable Uncle Ebo Whyte is hailed in Ghana (and abroad) as the singular and greatest playwright this generation has seen. With all the plays and accolades to show, Uncle Ebo Whyte is a powerhouse indeed…but prior to my viewing of his latest play, One Million Pounds, I had not seen any of his previous plays.
My colleagues consider that unforgivable.
So guess what I did when I got a free ticket?
Yup! I got my butt off my office chair and into a comfy seat in National Theatre.

I’ve heard nothing but great things about Uncle Ebo Whyte’s plays…especially from my “workplays” and since I was new to the world of Uncle Ebo Whyte, I went in there expecting a lot but open enough as not to be too critical.
It was my first time after all and with no actual frame of reference, aside the emphatic praise from my colleagues, I indeed had to keep a very open mind.

I think I’ve nailed the intro, so let’s get to it:
Pièce de résistance.

 

The Review –

“One Million Pounds is an inspiring stage-play that tells a story of what happened when four talented Ghanaians embark on a journey of a lifetime to partake in the maiden edition of a contest that may be the key to their success.”
It is a story of determination, sticking it to the “man” who wants to put you down and never giving up…even in the face of severe adversities.

This story, whiles simple, highlights a lot of issues plaguing the African society.
I won’t spoil much in the way of the story but what I will say is, it blends a lot of themes and issues that have unfortunately become the best descriptors for Africa; Bribery, Corruption and Sabotage.

Money has led many astray and it always has a way of crippling the hearts of the most well-intentioned individuals. Businesses fall and relationships die…and in One Million Pounds, the four talented Ghanaians (Jama) experience firsthand what money can do to a man when their manager sells them out.

This all feels like something you might have read in the newspapers, and that is so because, it is commonplace in Ghana and Africa. So when one goes to watch something with such a troubling but true theme, one would expect to come away from the play with a renewed sense of patriotism and ‘un-corruptness’.
Nope! I got none of that.
It did nothing to engender me to do something about it and I left the same way I came; apathetic.

On the other hand, there were a lot of encouraging statements from the casts, but at this point it is something viewers have come to expect…so there are no real surprises there.

“Don’t give up on your dreams…and such.” – Normal Stuff.

The story is by no mean an intelligent one but I’ve got to cut Uncle Ebo Whyte some slack since he aims to write plays the general public can easily relate to.
No need to write an intellectual story that might fly over the heads of audiences.
That’s not to say Ghanaians are dumb but that’s the picture local movies and TV shows paint all the time;
All fluff and no substance.

There’s the straight-shooting hero, his love interest, the unreliable friend, the obnoxious villain and the issues that will miraculously get resolved in the end. Watching this play elicits a strong sense of Déjà vu; typical plot points and typical conflicts.

“This is where it gets ugly!”

The simplicity inherent in the story carries through to every part of the play.
If one is hailed as the best playwright this side of the continent and with competition virtually nonexistent, then it’s no surprise for such an individual to rest on his laurels and get complacent.

There’s nothing breathtaking about the play, and after watching it, the only thing that hurriedly comes to mind was the very obnoxious “Cliff” (or the person playing that character).
Cliff, an eccentric Caucasian Brit, shrieked through his lines…barely making anything he said understandable.
It was utterly unintelligible and grating to the ear and apparently, audiences didn’t like it either.
So it makes me wonder if the actors rehearse with microphones or not…because if they do, they should have heard  his banshee-like screeches but if they realized and still went ahead with his deafening squeals, then it is safe to say they wanted us deaf.

The play left little to the imagination and it was delivered bare-boned with nothing mind-stimulating about it.
Ladies and Gentlemen, let the brain-hamsters rest a while because there’s no need for them here.
Those looking for something a little more on the clever-side should lower their expectations.

The story, although nice, offered nothing new to the primary issues it tackles. This isn’t a masterfully crafted tale but a story I believe will be a weak entry from Uncle Ebo Whyte.
Some scenes were too drawn out…and I ended up playing with my phone (doing nothing) far often than I liked.

The venerable Uncle Ebo Whyte looking very dapper.

The venerable Uncle Ebo Whyte looking very dapper.

I did love the acting though.
As far as acting, theatre is the way to go…and the cast in One Million Pounds did a stellar job…save for Cliff (or the guy playing the character). It did get hammy in some scenes but that is something that can be overlooked bearing in mind these are actors and actresses new to the Roverman roster.
It is always refreshing to see such talent in Ghana…considering the terrible actors we have on the big screen.

It was the singing that partially marred the otherwise perfect acting experience for me. Some were OK but others were abysmal…especially when trying to hit the higher notes.
The voices strained a lot and I cringed about as often…and sometimes I couldn’t hear what was being sung.

During the singing sessions, lyrics to the songs would be projected on the walls for the audience.
It is a novel idea that should have fixed the issue of not hearing what was being sung…but even that had some inconsistencies.
During the musical numbers, either the projected lyrics will trail behind the singer or run ahead like Oscar Pistorius escaping from prison…forcing me to think this is something Roverman hasn’t quite mastered. But after seven years of being in business (theatre), some mistakes are just awful to behold…even if they don’t ruin the experience for some.

Uncle Ebo Whyte has “perfected” his craft and to say he is just a great writer would be a great disservice to him but sometimes throwing nice words around to flatter comes at a cost of pure honesty…so I will suck it up and put it out there.
The humor in One Million Pounds is the kind I’ve come to expect; safe jokes.
“Nothing naughty here.”
Safe jokes, according to my definition, are the kind that appeal to the masses.
Jokes everyone will laugh to…and the bad thing about safe jokes is, they are rarely clever.
You don’t have to think hard (or at all) to get it…and that is the kind prominently featured in the play.
Not once did an esoteric joke ‘break out”.

I sat through the entire play without laughing.
Not even a little.

That’s not to say the jokes are bad. No…people laughed their heads off and I even smiled occasionally but I found nothing remotely clever about the jokes.

Uncle Ebo Whyte, I’m not saying you have to litter your plays with esoteric jokes…but do throw one in there once in a while, so the people who appreciate such jokes would know you are thinking about them too.
I know I would.

On the topic of humor, not all the jokes were funny though, and I particularly found one joke to be in very poor taste…especially coming from Uncle Ebo Whyte.
The character Cliff wears a shoulder-level wig and is quite eccentric…as previously stated.
In one scene he makes a risqué statement to a female cast member and as expected, she gets riled up and slaps the fool…but something happens; his nose falls off.

Obviously, Uncle Ebo Whyte is taking jabs at the late Michael Jackson, who was alleged to have had a fake nose. It was in bad taste…and as such, few people laughed (although I believe they didn’t get the joke.)

Trending issues in the country are also touched on in the play. Like the president’s new name and Obinim’s animal transformations…but even though it was fun to hear these things in the play, once again, they were not used as cleverly as one would expect.
The inclusion of these jokes felt forced…and added only to make the play seem current and ‘hip’.

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In Conclusion

Creativity can get stifled sometimes when you either keep doing the same thing or get stuck in a rut…or expecting a breakthrough when there’s nothing actively pushing that next level of creativity.
Uncle Ebo Whyte may not be hogtied to either one but if this is what I’m to expect from all plays written and executed by him, then I have to further reduce my expectations if I am to truly enjoy his work.

In the end, “One Million Pounds” is just another play easily forgotten not for lack of great actors and actresses…but because it tells an unremarkable story.
The acting was topnotch, the musical numbers hit or miss and the moral values uninspiring.

Diehard fans will appreciate it no matter what…but for new recruits like myself, One Million Pounds isn’t worth the price of admission.
★★☆☆☆ (2/5)

The ‘ICE DROP’ Challenge.

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Ghana is known for many things…but a country with thoughtful companies?
Better look elsewhere.
We don’t have those. OH NO!!! Not at all.
Some might say otherwise but as they say, “it only takes one bad nut to ruin the nut-sack”…or something like that.

PSST: at the end of this post, I’ll throw a challenge your way and hopefully you will take it on.

I would so love to shoot pebbles at all the incompetent companies and organizations in Ghana but today I want to focus on just one: Baron Water House Limited, the makers of the ICE DROP sachet water.

Few people might know this particular brand but a lot of Ghanaians (…and foreigners) are drinking it, without a care in the world.
To a large extent it’s not our fault; we’ve become desensitized with the over-abundance of sachet water currently on sale…to the point where we don’t check the labeling or if it has even been approved and stamped by the FDA.

We just drink away…because in the end, they are all the same to us.

Now to the few out there actually paying attention; I am sure you’ve noticed something extremely wrong with “ICE DROP” …and if after this ghastly discovery/realization you’re still drinking it, then…ummm…Godspeed.

ICE DROP is indeed unique but for the wrong reason.
Pickup an ICE DROP sachet water and you’ll notice the logo; a drop of water caught in a hangman’s noose.

At first glance, it looks rather interesting and if you switch your brain off, drinking the water would be the next step…but think about it a little more and the questions will start popping up;
why?
Why??
WHY???

Want a taste of moi?

Want a taste of moi?

Why a noose and a drop of water?
Why that imagery??
Why would any sane company even consider this as a logo for a consumable product???
Do they not know the symbolism attached to these elements?

Some elements shouldn’t even be seen in the same frame and I shudder to think of what possible reason they could have for placing water, the symbol of life, inside a noose, a symbol that carries with it decades of terror and intimidation…a tool for murder…an instrument of death…a symbol of pure unbridled racism.

Why oh why would a company do this?
Simple;
1. They have no focus groups.
2. The hamsters upstairs are obese from the lack of exercise and probably watching G-FORCE on infinite repeat.
3. Too stingy to actually contract a thinking artist/designer.
HEAR YE! HEAR YE! Just because something looks good doesn’t mean it’s acceptable…and besides, fusing some elements is a big “No No” in the design landscape.

But how can a company brazenly advertise and sell such a product without any known complaints?
Because the people drinking it aren’t aware or are just apathetic.
They drink it anyway because, “Hey pure water is pure water”.
Ghana is a very superstitious country but boy have we lost ourselves.

This post wants to create awareness so please let it.
If you know anyone even remotely associated with ICE DROP, ask them the meaning behind their logo: that’s my challenge to you.

If you get any info please let me know.
I’d like to know their dumb reasoning…and then blast them some more.

We need to send a message to all the companies out there;
“Think before you do anything!”

It’s time we make them accountable.
We have the rights, the choice and the money they so desperately need…let’s make them earn it.

 

PS: I’ve actually thought up meanings behind the ICE DROP logo and the best one I got was:
“Life from Death!”

Dumb right?
God please have mercy on Ghana.

 

PPS: Sorry for the terrible pictures. I took a shot at an electronic billboard…in a moving vehicle.
Will do better next time. 🙂