From the vice president of Ghana, a series of sensitive, honest autobiographical essays on the “lost decades” in his homeland.
Mahama employs the moving devices of fiction to convey these coming-of-age remembrances of how Ghana moved from dictatorship to thriving democracy during the last few decades. The author was 7 years old, attending an elite boarding school in Accra, when the 1966 coup d’etat of Ghana’s first president after liberation from British colonialism, Kwame Nkrumah, occurred, and no one came to pick Mahama up from school. He had been living with his father since he was three, separated from his mother, who stayed in northern Ghana; his various siblings, 19 in all, by multiple marriages, were scattered throughout the country. The coup altered their lives irreversibly. In “Sankofa," meaning to “go back and get it,” Mahama writes of the desire among the African diaspora to return to their homelands and reclaim their African names (once changed to Christian names), languages and heritages. A gifted student, Mahama stayed in school in Accra, his small world representing in microcosm what occurred on the larger African continent. The newly arrived “bush” boy at the school extorted snacks from the boys until young Mahama bravely resolved to defy him, while the others crumbled in fear. “Why hadn’t I seen before that our strength, our key to victory, was in our numbers, our unity?” he writes. In other essays, the author examines his study of history, love of socialist ideology, endurance of another coup in 1981 and exile to Nigeria, and his travel to the Soviet Union.
A wonderfully intimate look at the convulsive changes, and deep scarring, in post-colonial Africa.