By Obiri-Yeboah Maxwell
“Going beyond Ghana is the thing. We need to go back and embrace who we are and what defines us as people. In the beginning, that was how we transferred knowledge. That was how our legendary stories were told from afar. Folklore – we have a future with the arts.”
Venturing into the ‘Advanced Creative Writing’ class back then in the University of Ghana, he was finally convinced of taking his gift of oratory to a higher dimension. He told me he had realized at an early stage that if he was going to stay that long in the creative arts industry, then there was the need for him to brand himself.
Meet one of Ghana’s finest poet, a literacy coach and a creative writer, Nana Asaase. I have finally met him after many years of listening to him and following him on social media.
He tells me that what pushed him into poetry was the satisfaction he derived from expressing himself, and he had always dreamed of living life to influence generations unborn.
I finally had the chance to meet him as we agreed on the phone to sit down for a talk. I had taken the decision to interview him as a Journalist after watching him appear as a guest on GHOne TV’s late afternoon show, The Pundits on October 24, 2018.
As I watched him exhume confidence in reciting poems of Ghanaian descent on the television show, I remembered the days when I was growing up in the village; how we often gathered round the fire in the night or when the moon gave its light, we listened to Ghanaian proverbs, Ananse stories and learnt patriotic songs from my grandmother.
While growing up in the Agona District within the Ashanti Region, the section of us who could express ourselves fluently in poetry recitals and academic readings during school competitions, were given a level of respect anywhere we went. As little as I was by then, I struggled to understand when the aged often said they “had a future in us.”
Why the name Nana Asaase? What sparked this name? Has it gotten an ancestry link? So many thoughts rushed through my mind many times before the proposed meeting without getting answers. Today, here I am and I am certain I would leave here having accomplished this arduous task.
As we were talking, I watched him carefully from his bushy but well-kempt hair to his toe to see if I could see anything traditional like cowries in the hair or in his clothing, any tribal marks, or anything which exhibited his kind of customary way to life. But I failed to see one.
He tells me Philip Boakye Dua Oyinka was the name given to him by his parents. But, according to him, the choice of Nana Asaase was born out of his grandmother’s insistence to call him that.
“Nana Asaase simply means, King of the Earth,” he said. “My grandma was fond of throwing appellations at her grandchildren and that was how she called me way back in Primary School.”
He confirmed staying with his grandma gave him a deep insight into the traditions and cultural heritage of the country.
The man, Nana Asaase, who had composed a poem which was shown nationwide on the country’s screens in 2017 to commemorate Ghana’s 60th anniversary, told me about the need to stand out in any venture one found himself.
According to him, the secret of most successful ventures is their names, saying: “It is an emblem that engulfs their routine. It speaks more to their audience.”
I asked him if Ghanaians were currently earning from the industry he found himself and he was swift in his response. “The creative arts industry is so vast but untapped.
“It can become one of Ghana’s biggest ventures in growing the economy if the youths are to tap well into it. Our upbringing is having an effect on this.
“It’s like in Ghana here, almost every adult once performed in the drama and dance groups back in school. But today, some parents do not promote that when the kids are growing up. They sometimes turn to discourage them from pursuing the (performing) arts.”
Looking for measures to address this issue, Nana Asaase urged the media to disseminate information that would throw more light on the creative sectors to encourage the youths to venture into the enterprise.
He was of the firm conviction that when this is done properly and frequently, the country would benefit from the pool of talents that are hidden, as these personalities would come out and use what they have been thought and perfected from childhood by society to the betterment of the nation.
“They should be given the accorded attention in the media,” he says. “Poetry has been with us for ages; way before ‘Akwasi Broni’ came to Ghana.”
He mentions how this culture would educate and revive patriotism in the Ghanaian society if the needed attention was given.
The man I had had the privilege to interview tells me of the number of dignitaries he had performed for, coupled with the warm treatment he was always given.
He says at a point, a section of people he performed for did not understand the Asante Twi he spoke, but they confessed that his costume, actions and the energy he exhumed connoted much meaning to them.
According to him, they always yearned for more of such performances.
He revealed that his colleagues in the creative sectors such as the dance, drama and ‘gyama’ groups are not given the needed attention to enhancing their operations.
He said the development was hindering their abilities to exhibit their talents; something he said could be helpful in expediting the growth and the development of the country when corrected.
Nana Asaase tells me that, “If only the Ghanaian media could revisit the past and stir the spirit of Africanism by packaging what we have for the world, there is hope that our culture as a people would not vanish and our history would be well told and understood.
“Let’s help the young people by giving them the opportunity to be Ghanaian. Let’s give ourselves the Ghanaian content.
If we are able to do this well, it would call for investors to capture us through the bigger lenses and that would go a long way to reduce the burden of unemployment in the country.”
Here is Nana Asaase, the man who is selling our ‘almost abandoned’ Ananse stories and proverbs across the globe and ready to support the upcoming talents with his knowledge. May his calabash never run dry of soothing thoughts of literally palm wine.
The writer, Maxwell Obiri-Yeboah, is a freelance journalist who writes for The Chronicle. Views expressed here are solely his and do not reflect the editorial policy of his organization.