I was a 17-year-old poet and Form Three student at the Accra High School in 1958 when I held in my hands an oven-fresh copy of Voices of Ghana – the first anthology of Ghanaian writing.
By now, the Ghanaian and African people, and indeed the world at large, have been acquainted with such works as The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born by Ayi Kwei Armah; This Earth My Brother by Kofi Awoonor, Anowa by Ama Ata Aidoo; The Gab Boys by Cameron Duodu; Edufa by Efua Sutherland; Songs from the Wilderness by Frank Parkes; Bitter Chocolate by Lesley Lokko; The Shadows of Laughter by Kwesi Brew; The Drummer in Our Time by Albert Kayper-Mensah; Beyond the Horizon by Amma Darko; Elegy For The Revolution by Kofi Anyidoho … and many more. Others are Kivuli by Asiedu Yirenkyi; The Strange Man by Amu Djoleto and The Crows by Bill Marshall.
But where have all these works come from? The answer lies in the bosom of the volume, Voices of Ghana, which appeared in 1958 and has just re-appeared in this second edition, edited by Victoria Ellen Smith.
This new edition is as incredibly precious as a 60-year-old time capsule unearthed from underneath the courtyard of the custodian of the mountain at the Shai Hills. And the contents of this literary time capsule indeed reveal the origins of the many volumes of poetry, novels, plays and short stories, etc., that have since ensued from the pens and midnight desks of Ghanaian creators such as Mohammed Ben Abdallah, Yaa Gyasi, Yaba Badoe, Kojo Laing, Abena Busia, Martin Egblewogbe, and Benjamin Kwakye. Others are Efo Kojo Mawugbe, Taiye Selasi, Mohammed Naseehu Ali, G.A. Agambila, Camynta Baezie, Kobena Eyi Acquah and Ayesha Harruna Attah. This is a great ‘archaeological’ find. Our gratitude to the Editor (and the mind behind the publication) is immense.
In much the same way that the artefacts recovered from the bowels of the ancient Egyptian pyramids reveal insights into the societal norms of the ancient civilisations, and therefore the origins of the life in modern Egyptian society, so too do the works featured in Voices of Ghana give a clear picture of the dilemmas of the Gold Coast society, as well as the concerns and responses to these dilemmas of our literary creators, at the time spanning our transition into an independent state.