Hi everyone, we are back on the shores of Ghana with my friend and creative diva Alba Kunadu Sumprim author of The Imported Ghanaian and APlace of Beautiful Nonsense. I absolutely love her books, they are hilarious.
First of all please tell us a little about yourself.
Yikes! In a nutshell, I was raised in several countries. UK, Ghana, Cuba and Brazil. I love adventure and discovering new things, especially through travel – I was in Afghanistan four years ago and had an amazing time. I love using all forms of transport, the weirdest being a ‘goat taxi’ in Camaguey, Cuba, and I love watching TV, the crappier the better. I wish someone would pay me to watch TV, my dream job. I like giraffes and tortoises too. Oh, and many Ghanaians find me strange.
Wow. You’re life sounds fascinating. Now tell us about your books.
The books are my therapy to keep me as far away from the psychiatric hospital as possible. The Imported Ghanaian is about a complete culture clash, you think something but it’s the complete opposite, it’s like running into a brick wall and walking, well, staggering around dazed and confused. I just wanted to say, ‘It’s not you alone o! The vast majority of us are in the same boat at some point in time.’
A Place of Beautiful Nonsense, is just what it says. There’s a lot of ‘nonsense’ but if you look for the beauty in it, you’ll be okay (She says with hindsight). It’s years down the line since returning home and having to accept that not much is going to change, so if you plan to stay then you have to choose the battles, if not, you’ll go gaga tearing your hair out and babbling incoherently. If that carpenter says the chair will take two weeks, smile, but plan for eight weeks and go about your business. You’ll get your chair in about three months with crappy finish, but then you knew that already. Stress free life.
When I read the Imported Ghanaian I thought you had taken the experiences from right out of my head. How did you come up with the idea to write a book?
In my first few months back home, I used to tell a friend about my cultural clashes and one day, he said, ‘If you write the way you tell it, it would make a great newspaper column. Try it.’ I’m a film-maker by profession, I only wrote a diary, but, ‘hey, why not’ I thought, and started writing down my observations. In the space of three days, I wrote eight stories, I mean, the stuff was just pouring out. He howled with laughter when he read them and immediately, I kid you not, took me to the Daily Dispatch to see Ben Ephson, and the Imported Ghanaian column was birthed. It’s been going for about twelve years now – it’s my space to rant.
A few years after the column started, I received a call from the then Nigerian High Commissioner in Ghana who said I should write a book because he was fed up of the huge pile of newspapers growing by his bed. “Put it in a book,” he said, “then I can read my favourites whenever I feel like it instead of fighting through the newspapers.” That was it, a spark was lit, I decided to add cartoons which I spent months learning how to create and the rest is . . . .maybe, not history, but you know what I mean.
I definitely know what you mean, the rest is two fantastic books. How have Ghanaians received your books?
The vast majority with good humour with many telling me of things I forgot to put in the books. Several say they laughed and saw themselves in a lot of the situations I described but ‘why was I exposing us to foreigners?’ Question asked lightheartedly. Others didn’t agree with some of what I’d written but still enjoyed it. One man didn’t see anything funny about the book, not one thing, which surprised me as I believe the humour – a lot of it with tongue wedged firmly in cheek, I might add – was a strong way of talking about serious issues. He said I was arrogant, rude and a host of other negative attributes. He took sentences out of context using that as the basis of his long rant – not the foaming at the mouth type, he was very eloquent in his writing. I’m sure if I’d been Caucasian, he would have accused me of racism. It felt as if he was angry at me personally . . . I don’t know. Maybe … he wants to be me.
If you could give one piece of advice to newcomers to Ghana what would it be?
I wish they would read my books. I think the most important thing is to take most things with a huge pinch of salt and look for the humour in most situations. Too many of us take ourselves too seriously though Ghanaians are really funny people.
Now I have to ask, if you could give one piece of advice to Ghanaians what would it be?
Ei Ewurade, where do I start? You said one, but I have two pet peeves. One, I wish we’d be a lot more honest and two, diminish the time wasting. People, there are only 24 hours in the day but most Ghanaians behave as if God has given us some special dispensation to stretch it to 36 hours. It’s only 24 and when it’s wasted, it’s gone.
Amen to that! Are you working on writing anything new at the moment?
Yes I am, in fact I’m writing two books at the moment, very slowly. The first is a fictional story of a day in the life of a group of people who meet on a hijacked trotro. It is going really slowly in reality but doing pretty well in my head. The second is a novel, not fiction, about a personal journey I’ve been on for a number of years now, it hasn’t reached its conclusion so it’s still cooking but I think it’s going to be a powerful book when it’s done. Remember this when you see me sitting on the sofa with Oprah.
2013 has dawned upon us and a new year means new resolutions? What was one of the resolutions that you made for this year?
I made very few this year. My resolutions were making more comebacks than Frank Sinatra, so I made just one. To live in the moment.
That sounds like a wonderful resolution. Thank you for taking the time to stop by and chat with me Alba.
Thank you for having me and thank you for enjoying my work. I really appreciate you encouragement and motivation. Good stuff.
Where can people find your books?
From me, my website, Legon Bookstore, EPP Book Services, Sytris
How can people get in contact with you?
When you see Alba doing an Oprah interview remember that I interviewed her first. Go out and buy her books, I promise you will be highly entertained. And for those who are new to Ghana, it’s like school in a book.