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Tuesday, 24 April, 2001, 14:14 GMT 15:14 UK
Nurturing Ghana's writing talent
Poet Famia Nkansa, 17,
Poet Famia Nkansa, 17, is learning to write "in her own voice"
By Penny Dale in Accra

Ghana's budding young authors could soon be vying for their version of the annual Commonwealth Writers Prize, whose overall winner is announced on 28 April in the capital Accra.


Trust that little voice inside yourself and use your words to show, rather than tell, the story

Author Anita Rau Badami
A previous Ghanaian winner of the prestigious Commonwealth Prize, Lawrence Darmani, wants to launch a competition for young Ghanaians

Darmani was speaking at a British Council young writers workshop that is part of a week of literary events in the run-up to the final awards ceremony of the Commonwealth Prize, to be held in the seat of government, The Castle.

"I hope that the seed planted today will grow into full-blown stories. I would request that the British Council start a competition for the group and offer a prize in the form of books, cash or a visit somewhere," he said.

Encouragement

Darmani, editor of literary magazine Step, also suggested publishing an anthology of the best stories to encourage Ghana's talent.

"It would be a milestone for the Commonwealth Writers Prize if a book came out of this workshop.

Lawrence Darmani
Lawrence Darmani wants to encourage young talent
"Sometimes it is very disheartening for young people when their work is not published and it would mean that our time here today is not wasted," he added.

Darmani won a Commonwealth award for his first book Grief Child in 1992, the same year fellow Ghanaian Ama Ata Aidoo scooped the Africa prize for her work Changes.

Some 30 Accra schoolchildren, university and journalism students worked with this year's Best Book winner of the Caribbean & Canada region Anita Rau Badami to fine-tune blooming creative writing skills.

Trust yourself

Badami encouraged the young writers to develop their own voice, drawing on the rhythms of Ghanaian English to add texture and richness to their language.

Antwi-Boampong Sadik
Novelist Antwi-Boampong Sadik, 14, enjoyed meeting prize winning writers
"Trust that little voice inside yourself and use your words to show, rather than tell, the story," she said.

Fourteen-year-old Antwi-Boampong Sadik, who has already written one adventure novel, was "so excited" by having an award-winning writer share her writing experiences with him.

Aspiring poet, 17-year-old Famia Nkansa, says working alongside successful writers has given her the confidence to find the time to write more, and in her own voice.

It is hoped that the event will be replicated and will encourage young Ghanaian writers to follow in the footsteps of some of the country's literary greats - Ata Aidoo, the poet Kofi Awonoor and Ayi Kwei Armah.

New writers?

Ghana's tradition of producing such internationally renowned writers has slumped in recent years.

Writer and chairman of the organising committee of the Commonwealth Writers Prize, Kofi Amyidoho, says his generation's talent was sustained by a nationwide programme for creative writing.

This included between 1963 and 1976 the 'Talent for Tomorrow' national writing competition.

A selection of the work was collected into an anthology, available in libraries all over the country, now starved of books.

He hopes to persuade the new government to revive the annual writing contest. His daughter, Akofa, is also keen to become a writer.

Africa's hopefuls for the overall Commonwealth prize are Zakes Mda for The Heart of Redness and Thirteen Cents by K. Sello Duiker, both from South Africa.

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