Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Lifestylz GH Interview : Ekow Bentum; MacMillan New Children's Writer Award Winner

Making his debut into the "published writer world," Ekow K. Bentum recently won the New Children's Writer Award under the 2007/2008 MacMillan Writer's Prize for Africa Competition. A graduate of Mfantsipim Boys Secondary School (Botwe) and the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), the author of Kwansa and the Bandit Crabs offers LSG an exclusive interview with insight into the man and the book. [To purchase Kwansa and the Bandit Crabs online, go to Amazon.]

LSG: Tell us a bit about yourself. Who's Ekow Bentum?

EB: I am the elder child of the family and I was born in February of 1984. When I turned four, My father’s pursuit of higher education led him to Trondheim, Norway and I joined him with my mother a year later.

I was enrolled into Birralee, an English speaking school in the heart of Trondheim. The school placed an emphasis on engendering a love for reading amongst its pupils and it wasn’t long before I became addicted to story books and in particular the works of Roald Dahl. That is how I soon ended up developing a highly creative and imaginative mind.

I was ten when I returned to Ghana with my mother and my brother who was born whiles we were in Norway. I attended Achimota Preparatory school in Accra for a couple of years before we finally settled in Elmina. I had my Junior Secondary education at Flowers Gay school in Cape Coast, and my Senior Secondary education at Mfantsipim and graduated from The Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in 2007.

LSG: Who are your main influences or role models?

EB: Unquestionably, my parents are the greatest influences on my life. They’ve sacrificed a lot to make me the person I am today and I am truly grateful to them. If I’m disciplined enough to sit still a while and write or draw for hours on end, it’s thanks to them.

LSG: How and when did you get into writing? Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?

EB: As a child, writing was simply one of the natural outlets for the creative thoughts in my mind. I never had it in mind to become a writer. It was just something I enjoyed. I wrote several creative essays and short stories but it wasn’t until Senior Secondary School that I took writing a bit more seriously. To a large extent I still consider writing as one of my Hobbies. My favourite hobby however happens to be drawing and I’m a pretty decent sketch artist.

LSG: Tell us about the MacMillan Writer's Prize for Africa Competition. How did you hear about it?

EB: The Macmillan Writer’s Prize for Africa is a biennial competition devoted to previously unpublished works of fiction with strong African content by African writers which aims to promote and celebrate story writing from all over the continent. It was in my second year in the University that I came across a poster advertising the 2005/2006 competitionand made the decision to enter the 2007/2008 competition.

LSG: What inspired your winning story Kwansa and the Bandit Crabs? Does it have anything to do with your own life?

EB: It was during the following vacation, whiles in a taxi travelling from Cape Coast to Elmina (a ten minute drive) that the idea forKwansa and the Bandit Crabs hit me. There’s a stretch of road that runs along the beach with several coconut trees growing on one side and a cute linear settlement on the other. There was a sudden explosion of ideas in my head as I realised with the right characters, I had the perfect setting for a great story. I once had a nasty

experience with a crab when I was in Norway so it wasn’t difficult to pin the villains on them. And so, with a touch of African Magic, the story of Kwansa and the Bandit crabs was born.

LSG: Throughout this experience, what would you say is the greatest lesson you've learned?

EB: Out of this experience the most important lesson that I’ve learned is that if you love doing something, pursue it with a flaming passion and don’t let anyone dampen your fire no matter what. I’ve had people tell me straight up in one form or another that I should invest my time pursuing more profitable ventures but I think this experience has proven that I profit most by pursuing the things I love.

LSG: Do you think there is a bright future for young Ghanaian/ African writers like yourself? What are the prospects and/or challenges?

EB: In a nation where the literate are in the minority, and the children are being captivated by forms of entertaining media other than story books, and with competition from foreign books, the obvious conclusion to be drawn here is that there is no future for young Ghanaian writers. But I believe the future is only as bright as your mind wills you to see. If you look past the gloom there will always be light at the end of the tunnel. There is hope for young African writers such as myself. The most important thing is that we find our niche and exploit it. Africa has millions ofwonderful tales to tell from her highest peaks to her lowest vales, and it is up to us to make sure her stories are heard far and wide and across the globe. Our ancestors were fabulous storytellers. We have their rich heritage to inspire us.

LSG: What's your opinion on Obama's recent visit to Ghana and what it represents?

EB: In my highly biased opinion, President Obama couldn’t have chosen any finer destination than Ghana for his debut on African soil since his election into the presidency. In the grand scheme of his visit however, his choice was just a minor detail for when he gave his address from Accra, it wasn’t to Ghanaians alone but to the whole of Africa, and I believe he told Africans exactly what we needed to be told. It was nothing new. It was just something we’d always known but coming from him dusted the cobwebs that we had allowed to settle on this truth: Africans are ultimately responsible for Africa’s growth and development,irrespective of our sometimes tragic history.

I doubt his words will make much of a difference amongst our current generation of politicians and leaders which is why I’m sure President Obama made sure to address the youth in particular to hold our leaders accountable. We constitute the next generation of politicians and leaders and it is with us that Obama’s speech holds the most promise. It will not be easy, it will take time, there will be set backs but the fact remains that Obama has already showed by example that Yes, we can do it!


This interview was conducted by Jemila Abdulai, LSG Chief Editor.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

LOVE IT!!! gO BENTUM!!!!!!!!!!!!!