By George Sidney Abugri

The anthology Larbanga: Short Stories From the Savannah is a diverse, rich and very interesting collection of 22 short stories from Northern Ghana. As with most anthologies, the style and subject matter of the writers are diverse.

It can be a very enriching experience to read an anthology of short stories from such a fairly large number of budding and already established Ghanaian writers with a variety of writing styles, viewpoints and socio-cultural experiences, as compared to reading a collection from a single author. Most of the writers are able to get the right balance the balance between literary technique, story plot, and structure of narrative.

The dominant themes of the stories in this anthology are the authors’ expression of the social and personal conflicts in their lives. Some of the most recurrent themes are the challenges in navigating the mysteries of love, forced marriages and child marriages, superstition, discrimination against women, dysfunctional family relationships, the challenges faced  by young graduates posted to places far from home for compulsory national service, crime and travel.

With such a rich collection, the editor of this anthology, Nana Achampong must have faced a challenging task in selecting and arranging the stories in this anthology but in the end, he has come up with a collection that adds to the depth and breadth of knowledge of northern Ghanaian culture, customs and way of everyday life.

The stories in this collection will shock, delight make you laugh, cry, curse in anger reflect or reminisce and curse (not).

One of my favourite stories in the anthology is No Room For Love by Naah Yemeh: Young Dabuo has just arrived at Adiembra in southern Ghana from Dorimon, a town near Wa in the Upper West Region hoping to make a small fortune and return home for the next farming season. At the house of the chief of the Dagaaba community in Adiembra, Dabuo comes face-to-face with the most beautiful person he has ever set eyes upon. In compliance with Dagaaba custom, Dabuo, Amina and Amina’s father travel home to Wa together for an intended marriage ceremony. The day for the planned escape comes. Dabuo arrives at Amina’s house and finds it empty and eerily quiet. Most of the people have either gone to their farms or the market place. Seeing that Amina’s room is open Dabuo makes straight for it. A little girl appears in the doorway and looks innocently at him.

“Is Amina in the room?” Dabuo asks.

“About midnight, I heard her crying but nobody went out to see what was happening to her. This morning my mother said the rich man with many wives at Zanko has married her.”

Feeling dizzy, Dabuo asks the little girl for a stool to sit on. The girl brings a grass mat instead. Without any further questions Dabuo lies on the mat to fight off the dizziness

Chrysalis by Moses Apiah is the story of Apubira who lives at Kalbeo, a farming community in north-eastern Bolgatanga. Her dream as a child has always been to grow up to become the best woman farmer in the village of Kalbeo, befriend the man of her dreams and marry once she turned sixteen. In her community it is taboo for a child and especially a female, to question her parents’ decision on any on any matter and Apubira is instead forced into marriage at the incredibly tender age of seven to a complete stranger aged 48.

She recalls how knowledge of the coming forced marriage all but crippled her with fear: “My doomsday came like the announcement of an execution. My father marched me to a stranger’s cluster of three huts in a fenced compound that felt like a prison, and he introduced the slayer to me as my husband. He was already forty-eight; I was only seven. He was already married with children who were older than me”, she recalls.

After a short while Apubira runs away from her husband but is caught and brought back to him, whereupon the man rapes her: “The stranger was mad; he tied me to a wooden pillar in his dark, smelly room until it was night. Despite my struggle and my tears, he had his way with me violently. I was ripped apart really bad and there was blood everywhere.    For two weeks, I was forced to endure at his whim this torture, locked inside his dank prison. I had to relearn how to walk.”

Ursula Abanga’s Sunday is a chatty and lively account of a bustling family life in a rural setting in northern Ghana. Sundays are for Yelim-Ahik, the protagonist of the story a special day for a variety of reasons:

Sundays are the only days of the week the family eats a meal of yam fufu and groundnut soup instead of the usual tuo zaafi or banku.  From gathering of firewood and peeling of the yam through cooking to pounding of the yam and cooking of the soup, preparation of the Sunday family fufu meal is a communal activity which gets everyone in the family of nine very busy. It is the only day of the week no one goes to the market or farm, and Yelim-Ahik is able to enjoy the company of his parents and siblings.

These are great stories to keep you company in the sitting room, at the bus stop, on a plane or in a bus, in a banking hall, while lying in the comfort of your bed or on your way to work. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself reading this book over and over again!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here