April 20, 2017 - Professor Kofi Anyidoho, Ghanaian poet and academic, visited the African Film and Literature Class to share his perspectives on poetry and its impact on local communities.
Speaking to the class, the Professor of Literature at the University of Ghana, who hails from a long line of Ewe-speaking poets and artists took the students on a journey through his growth as a poet, and his transformation into making poetry in Ewe, his local dialect.
“Almost every experience in life can be captured in song; happy, confusing, terrifying, exciting and above all experiences of love: both bitter and sweet,” he said. “Every time life gives us a reason to celebrate, even as it gives us reason to mourn, we should pause and reflect. Poetry gives us an opportunity to keep a record for our own emotional profile and thoughts and our relationships with one another.”
For the award-winning poet, his work and style, he maintains, were influenced by a long line of poets and artists in his family from Ghana’s Ewe-lands.
“We need to weave the new ropes onto the older ones,” he explained. Take lessons from the past and use them to strengthen our present. As Africans, we’ve been shortchanging ourselves for a long time. Most of the things we’ve been trying to do, we tried them as though our ancestors left no examples for us to follow. We gave birth to philosophers, and had great mathematicians. How come we have left all those things and today we can’t see into the future. If today I write poetry that receives some recognition, I am very clear in my mind that it is partly because I have tried to build my poetry on the foundations laid by my ancestors.”
After a largely successful poetry career, picking up numerous awards along the way and reading his poetry to several audiences across the world, Professor Anyidoho, eventually chose to also produce his poetry in Ewe to be able to reach out to his local community.
“We need to be responsive to our community,” he said. “You don’t create poetry for your personal benefit: so whatever you can do to share it with others, you do it, including using technology to push further the boundaries.