Monday, June 29, 2009

LifestylzGh Interview: Malaka Abena Gyekye & Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah

Inspirational, informative and ingenious are just a few of the words that we have heard used to describe ADVENTURES FROM THE BEDROOMS OF AFRICAN WOMEN. Blogging on African women’s sexualities in a sassy, quirky and often funny way, Adventures has gained 44 Public followers and 63 Subscribers (and still counting) since its conception at the start of this year! As part of its interview series, LSG caught up with the blog’s straight-talking creators/primary contributors Malaka Abena Gyekye (MA)-top, and Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah (ND)-immediately above, for a chat.

Disclaimer: LSG does not necessarily subscribe to the views expressed below.

Can you point out one particular experience that sparked off the creation of Adventures?

MA: For me, it was a weird mingling in the mind of the movie “Bed Knobs and Broomsticks” and shared conversational revelations of prowess in my bedroom and those of my friends. There is a serious lack of discussion about African women’s sexuality, which is as diverse and freaky as any other woman’s of a different race. I think a lot of people think of sex with African women as boring or even non-existent (we’re not as sexualized as Latino women for example), but with our population numbers holding steady, that’s obviously a fallacy!

ND: I have always wanted to work on a joint literary project with Abena Gyekye. She’s a fantastic writer and would occasionally write what is literally “a chapter of a book” to update me on her life. When I thought of creating a blog on the sexual experiences of African women she was the one person that I wanted to do this with. The other triggers were going on a beach trip with 4 girlfriends and having the most frank conversations about sex that I have ever had. I thought “Wow, we need to be able to chat like this more often”, so Adventures is designed to be a safe space where African women can talk openly and honestly about sex. My third trigger was that at the time I created the blog I was having really good sex and feeling more confident about expressing my sexuality. At the same time I wanted to learn more about sex. I thought to myself “Okay, you can read Shere Hite from cover to cover but surely there is a more interesting way to do this”. Adventures is also designed to help me explore my own sexuality by providing me with a platform to share my thoughts on sex and to hear what others also think and experience.

Do your friends and family read your blog? What were their first reactions to it?

MA: Yes. There has been silence/no reaction from my friends and family (except my sister). I think it’s because there are some things you don’t want to imagine your loved one(s) doing. For example, I don’t want to imagine Barack Obama on the loo, because he’s perfect, and always wakes up in a 3-piece suit, and always smells good. Anyone who says anything else is a liar!

ND: My friends read the blog and love it. I tend to update my Facebook status to let my Facebook friends know when my blog is updated. As you know not all your Facebook friends are your real friends; some are people you attended school with many years ago so they are more acquaintances than friends. What has been really interesting to me is having messages from some of these friends on Facebook telling me how much they love the blog.

I told my Mum about my blog very early on. I wanted her to know I was blogging about sex in case there was ever a headline on Graphic saying “Ghanaian woman urges women to have orgasms”. So one day I logged onto my blog and said “Okay, read it”. At the time I had written a post asking if my blog was “Sex Education or Pornography”. Most of the people who commented thought it was the former. My Mum (jokingly I hope) said its Pornography and that “Interpol will catch me”. I do think she is secretly supportive though…I give her updates on the blog from time to time but in reality I would hate for her to read it. You really do not need to know about your daughter’s sexual thoughts…or maybe you do when she is underage. As for my Dad I avoided telling him. I disclosed it accidentally…he was referring to the blog I manage for work and I thought he was referring to Adventures so the whole spiel came out…in his opinion I should keep my sexuality private.

Are all those experiences on Adventures personal ones?

MA: The point of the blog is to share Adventures from as many aspects of an African woman’s sexual vantage point as possible. For example, neither Nana nor I is a lesbian, but there are a ton of African lesbians out there; and quite a few “average” women with lesbian tendencies or curiosities. Of course we want to talk about that (too)!

ND: All the experiences are personal to the contributors. Adventures is not just about Abena and me though…we do our best to encourage Guest Contributors who also write about their own personal experiences.

Which of your posts so far have received the most feedback and what do you think was the reason behind the high amount of feedback?

MA:The one on kissing was a hot one, and the HIV/AIDS post got a ton of feedback. I think it was because people fear AIDS and many Ghanaian men can’t kiss.

ND: Who knew kissing was such a deal breaker!

Sex education is such an important aspect of HIV/AIDS prevention. Why do you suppose so many Ghanaians find it difficult to speak about sex as freely as you do?

MA: We’re taught from an early age (as girls anyway) that sex is bad. Only bad girls have sex…unless their married. There’s a stigma that goes along with having extra-marital sex, including gay sex (the ULTIMATE Ghanaian taboo). Talking about sex openly is still considered very risqué or “Western” in our culture. It’s one of those things that you know everyone does, but need not discuss in public… Like wiping your ass or brushing your teeth.

ND: I think it’s because our society is generally conservative so although we are all having sex, as a rule we do not talk about sex. I think amongst the younger generation (at least people in their 30s) that is changing and we are becoming more open about sex. I think we are also very conservative in our sex education. It is limited to mainly “Abstinence”. No one talks about masturbation for example…we could easily say abstain from sex with others when you are not in a monogamous relationship and spend time pleasuring yourself. Can you imagine the scandal if an advert like that aired on GTV?!

What do you do when you’re not blogging? What work are you currently involved in?

MA:I was recently made a victim of today’s “ecomini” and was laid off from my corporate job last November. However, that has freed me up to engage in my entrepreneurial and philanthropist pursuits. I am a mother of 3, which is a job in itself, and the chairwoman for Korle Bu Family Fund (www.kbff.org) which pays for the medical bills of children who have been detained by the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital because their carers have been unable to pay their bills. I have also started a virtual services company called Grant United Virtual Assistants, which offers a myriad of admin and web services. I have a passion (or more like an illness) for shoes, and I work part time at a shoe store to support my sick habit.

ND: I do so much when I am not blogging. I am a feminist and work for the African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF) as a Programme Officer for Fundraising & Communications.

I am also a farmer, I have a small Palm Oil Plantation and plan to start processing quality palm oil shortly, I am also supporting the start up of a women’s co-operative in Kwadarko which is the area in which I have my farm.

I am also a life/leadership coach so I work with individuals and groups on personal and professional development; I write a regular life coaching column for Today’s Parent, which is a Ghanaian parenting magazine.

I am a Rotarian and a member of the Rotary Club of Accra Ring Road Central so participate in a lot of community projects. I am also a board member of the Korle Bu Family Fund.

What are your future plans for Adventures?

MA: We hope it will evolve into a book, and possibly a movie deal! I’d love to see Sophie Okonedo play a lead in the movie. Can’t pay her, but I’d love to see it!

ND: I would like more and more African women on the continent and in the Diaspora to contribute their own experiences to Adventures. I want Adventures to get to a stage where the majority of the posts do not come from Abena or me; where you have posts from Egypt, Liberia, Nigeria, Sudan…you get the picture? I want the site to remain liberal, thought-provoking and scandalous! When the time is right we plan to write a book on “Adventures”. The sky is the limit. We could be the alternative “Sex and the City” or the “L Word”!

Log on to http://adventuresfrom.blogspot.com/ to see the latest post and follow Abena and Nana’s Adventures!

THIS INTERVIEW WAS CONDUCTED AND EDITED BY ABENA ANOFF, ASSISTANT CHIEF EDITOR OF LIFESTYLZGH.

3 comments:

Edward said...

As much as I side with MA and ND on the need to discuss sex more with others, I think sex is also a fragile topic in other parts of the world outside Africa. Adults do discuss it without any feeling of guilt, they however do so only when the time and place are appropriate.

JP said...

That is defintely true... Cos most of the time... a parent does not want to envision their daughter or son having sex! Just a dreaded image by parents!!!! :-) However, most of the time... I feel the children get the 'run around' baseline story from their parents and lack the actual details... which ends up becoming misleading.... Hence, informal education from peers which may not be entirely true!!! But, great point Edward!!! :-) Holla...

Oluniyi David Ajao said...

I look forward to their book and movie release. :) Keep up the good work.