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JAMAICA/ Linton Kwesi Johnson Shares 2020 Literature Prize with Amanuel Asrat

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Veteran Jamaican-British poet Linton Kwesi Johnson has been awarded this year’s PEN Pinter Prize with the judges having described him as a writer “whose impact on the cultural landscape over the last half century has been colossal and multi-generational”. Johnson subsequently announced that he was sharing the prize with Eritrean writer and journalist Amanuel Asrat and awarding him with the “International Writer of Courage” honour. Johnson says this is an act of solidarity for Asrat who is still believed to be in a maximum prison following his arrest in 2001 although his exact whereabouts over the past 19 years remain unknown.

Speaking about his decision to honour Asrat with “The Writer of Courage”, Johnson says the following:

“Keeping a citizen incarcerated, incommunicado, without charge or trial for nearly 20 years is the kind of egregious brutality that we associate with totalitarian states and dictatorships. As a gesture of solidarity from a poet of the African diaspora, I have chosen the Eritrean poet, songwriter, critic and journalist Amanuel Asrat.”

Asrat, who was the was the editor-in-chief of Zemen, was arrested after the Eritrean government issued a ban on private press on September 18th, 2001. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Asrat’s “whereabouts, health, and status remain unknown as the Eritrean government repeatedly has failed to provide credible answers to questions about imprisoned journalists, or to allow visits from family or lawyers.” His family has also since pleaded with the international community to intervene on Asrat’s behalf following his recent win and acknowledgment.

The PEN Pinter Prize is reportedly awarded on an annual basis to a writer from Britain, the Republic of Ireland or the Commonwealth who casts an “unflinching, unswerving’ gaze upon the world, and shows a ‘fierce intellectual determination … to define the real truth of our lives and our societies”. The literature prize was established back in 2009 and is awarded in honour of the Nobel-Laureate playwright, Harold Pinter.

Source: Okay Africa

Arts & Culture

Ghanaian Visual Artist, Awarded The 2020 Principal Prince Claus Laureate

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Ghanaian visual artist, Ibrahim Mahama has been awarded the 2020 Principal Prince Claus Laureate. Ibrahim is actively involved in improving social conditions and his powerful artworks use provocative materials and sites to examine and expose histories, uphold the role of labour, challenge authorities and criticise mismanagement of resources.

Directly addressing lack of opportunities and facilities in his home region, the Northern Region of Ghana, he has set up an open access cultural centre and other social projects providing employment, education, studio space and creative activities.

An event was held at the residence of the Netherlands Ambassador to Ghana on Wednesday 2nd December 2020 to celebrate him just after the official announcement of the seven 2020 Prince Claus Laureates in a special online ceremony due to the coronavirus pandemic.  

During the programme, His Royal Highness Prince Constantijn of the Netherlands, Honorary Chair of the Prince Claus Fund, and the Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Sigrid Kaag spoke about the power of culture.

Selected from around the world, the 2020 Prince Claus Laureates are Açık Radyo (Independent radio, Turkey), Diamantina Arcoiris (Fashion designer, Colombia), Fendika Cultural Centre (Music and cultural centre, Ethiopia), Tunakaimanu Fielakepa (Textile arts and cultural heritage expert, Tonga) and m7red (Architecture and activist network, Argentina). The Next Generation Laureate went to Hira Nabi (Filmmaker, Pakistan).

Since 1997, the Prince Claus Fund for Culture and Development has presented Prince Claus Awards to individuals, groups and organisations whose cultural actions have a positive impact on their societies, primarily in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean and Eastern Europe. In keeping with the Prince Claus Fund’s guiding principles, the awards highlight significant contributions in regions where resources or opportunities for cultural expression are limited.

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CNN Celebrates Ghanaian Highlife & Afrobeat Legend, Ebo Taylor; Features Him On Africa Avant-Garde Series

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Cable News Network; an American news-based pay television channel has featured Ghanaian Highlife and Afrobeat Legend, Ebo Taylor on Africa Avant-Garde – a new series showcasing innovators and creators working across art, design, music, film and fashion, for playing a pivotal and practical role in elevating the West African sound and making his signature Ghanaian highlife that influenced the father of afrobeat, Fela Kuti.

According to CNN, as at when Highlife and Afrobeats grew to become a global household genre on the music market, the ‘Ayesama’ hitmaker’s outputs were inherited as a source of inspiration to many notable international creatives and has witnessed series of sampling by international R&B artiste Usher on his 2010 track “She Don’t Know,” featuring rapper Ludacris, and by Canadian hip-hop duo Ghetto Concept on their 1992 track “Certified.”

Speaking to CNN, “Uncle Ebo,” as he’s known by locals in Saltpond, the small Ghanaian fishing town he’s called home since birth, revealed how he cultivated a close and harmonious relationship with colleague Afrobeat legend Kuti.

“Fela used to come to my apartment in Willesden quite often and we’d spend hours playing records,” Taylor said. “When he came to Ghana in ’67, he drove to Cape Coast to see me and we spent the afternoon talking about African Unity.”

Taylor credits Kuti with pushing him, and others, to compose distinctly African music. “​He (Fela) never understood why as Africans we like playing jazz; he wanted us to be ourselves, be original and tell our stories,” Taylor said.

His influence can also be seen in afrobeat’s clubbier offshoot, afrobeats (with an “s”), which has hit international charts through West African acts like Wizkid, who has collaborated with artists including Drake and Major Lazer. Taylor is quick to highlight the fact that the popularity of afrobeats has coincided with its embrace of authentically African arrangements and a departure from heavy hip-hop and R&B sounds which he believes could seem forced.

“​The music we made was real music, it made you stop and think,” he said. “It’s not surprising that people are connecting with afrobeats more now that it is embracing elements from the music we made​.”

And Taylor, however, is still recording new material at age 84. He has spent most of this year in his home studio observing Covid-19 protocols and recording new material for his third studio album in 10 years.

Since the release of his 2010 album “Love and Death,” as well as his collaboration with the Berlin-based Afrobeat Academy in 2011, Taylor’s international profile has been raised. In 2017, the release of Ghana funk anthem “Come Along,” made DJ playlists globally, according to Taylor. But Taylor’s newfound global fame is the culmination of his own influence on West African music since the early 1960s.

Photo Credit: CNN

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Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Wins Women’s Prize Award For Her Haunting Novel – Half Of A Yellow Sun

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Half of a Yellow Sun author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, has won the Women’s Prize for her haunting novel after being voted for by the public who deemed Adichie the “Winner of Winners”. According to BBC, more than 8,500 people voted, and were invited to share their thoughts with the prize’s digital book club, accessing newly created online reading guides and author interviews.

This one-off award marks the culmination of their year-long 25th anniversary celebrations, including our #ReadingWomen campaign championing a quarter of a century of unforgettable winners.

Her book ultimately prevailed over a stellar-line up including Zadie Smith, the late Andrea Levy, Lionel Shriver, Ali Smith, Rose Tremain and Maggie O’Farrell, amongst others (the full list is available here). Half of a Yellow Sun originally won the Women’s Prize for Fiction (then the Orange Prize) in 2007. Set in Nigeria during the Biafran War, the novel is about the end of colonialism, ethnic allegiances, class, race and female empowerment – and how love can complicate all of these things.

Chimamanda, who is currently in Lagos, Nigeria, said: ‘I’m especially moved to be voted ‘Winner of Winners’ because this is the Prize that first brought a wide readership to my work – and has also introduced me to the work of many talented writers.’

She will be presented with a silver edition of the Prize’s annual statuette, known as the ‘Bessie’, which was originally created and donated by the artist Grizel Niven as part of the gift of an anonymous donor. An exclusive hardback special edition of Half of a Yellow Sun is also available from Waterstones.

Tickets have just gone on sale for our LIVE event with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, in which she will talk further about her writing and being chosen for the ‘Winner of Winners’ award, hosted by Women’s Prize Founder Director Kate Mosse. Join us on Sunday 6 December at 7pm GMT.

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Video Director Prince Dovlo, Babs Direction, Nana Asihene, Yaw Skyface, Others Attend ‘The Creative Space’ Program

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One of the essential and demanded meetings for young and renowned creatives in Ghana ‘The Creative Space’ program has been held successfully in Accra.

BaseCamp Initiative – a green hub tailored for work and leisure who’s sole purpose is to provide a platform for creative expression, collaboration and leisure together with Connect 101 Agency on Sunday, November 8 held a session dubbed ‘The Creative Space’ for creatives in Ghana.

Representative of Connect 101 Agency who doubles as a film producer and director, J Willz, video director Nana Asihene, colorist Tytanium, popular music video director Yaw Skyface, Prince Dovlo, Omar El Imade, Director Abass, Director RQA, Babs Direction, Andy Madjitey and film producer Scilla Owusu were some of the speakers who adorned the program.

The well disposed gathering saw a lot of industry players particularly in the music video production sector attending – including film directors, editors, colorists, photographers, singers, filmmakers, DOPs, costume designers, music distributors, script writers, among others.

According to the organizers, the program was designed to bring out creatives in Ghana together with the sole aim of connecting and sharing ideas.

BaseCamp Initiative started in 2018 with the aim of unearthing African talent through a communal, creative hub that provides the perfect environment for collaboration, networking and leisure under the leadership of Ms. Sunita Norley Kragbe (founder).

BaseCamp Initiative is situated in a serene environment and provides members with unlimited access to the space as well as Wi-Fi, which helps members to focus on their work and be as productive as possible.

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