By James Kofi Annan
Today Simpa Panyin is going to be a little different from what it has been known for in the past few weeks, so don’t expect any laugher or tears from me, except that you should expect me to blow my little bag of horns.
I am only a very casual infant writer, yet I have had hundreds of requests from many young readers, who wish to write like me, asking me to help them to write satire. I have wondered what I have written to deserve this attention. It appears there is already a need for me to help people along my infant writing path. It is for these people that I’m writing this piece.
Before I proceed, let me also quickly state that I have had feedback from a few of my other readers who feel my pieces are too sophisticated to follow, although a great majority of readers tell me they get wet by my satirical antics.
The truth is that it is not easy for readers to understand this genre of communication if those readers are not people who are abreast with current affairs. I will explore more on this later.
And I must add quickly that I am a writer by birth, not by training. I write what I believe in, I write what I think and feel, and I try as much as possible to use simple words to design my feelings, and to convey my thoughts, wishing to stay away from verbosity.
Especially for those who are young and are students in tertiary institutions, you should know that written communication is perfected with practice. You cannot claim to want to succeed in the formal sector if you are already complaining that my articles of less than 1,500 words are too long for you to read.
I manage at least five different businesses, and I’m involved in several national and international activities, yet I make time to read at least 3,000 words of something a day, and I still make the time to write each day, a habit I cultivated, and it is a habit I have loved to keep, to keep reading, and to keep writing.
I did state a few weeks ago that my literary spirit has heavily been influenced by Professor Kwesi Yankah, the current Vice Chancellor of the Central University. Growing up as a teenager I did not want to miss any edition of the Saturday Mirror.
Kwesi Yankah’s writing style was very sophisticated. Ordinary minds will not find it easy understanding what he tried to communicate. He took his readers from the ground up, whirled them high up there, somewhere in the skies, making them saturated with good feelings, sometimes tempting them to dance with romance, then he trashed them to the ground, inspiring them with tears.
I recall two episodes of his Woes of Kwetriot, one on the famous page 28 contempt case. This was similar to Montie 3 which related to a criminal contempt case brought against the then Free Press, The Republic versus Mensa-Bonsu, which eventually sent Mensa-Bonsu to jail.
In that article Kwesi Yankah exposed his own vulnerability to commit crime. He put laughter on the table, and added pepper, and expected us to read while eating. It was a killer piece, the suspense, the humor, and the facts; he made the world so beautiful.
The second piece of writing that I remember was his experience being a guest to a woman in Norway when his cooking prowess was put to test. Kwesi Yankah was a professor who did not know how to cook, but had boasted to his Norwegian host that he knew cooking rough.
Here was a professor on a Sabbatical leave who did not want to spend money renting a room, and so decided to perch with this elderly woman, and all the relief that had come to this woman was that once she was playing host to an African, she did not have to bother with daily cooking. Madam should have known that African men don’t cook, we eat.
And Kwesi Yankah, as usual of Africans, not able to say no, and fearing he could be thrown out if he said he did not know how to cook, plunged himself into the kitchen, spilling tomatoes in his own eyes while mis-cooking fish, totally manhandling the woman’s kitchen.
I recommend Kwesi Yankah’s Kwetriot books to every tertiary student, especially the one titled “Beloved let us laugh”. These books might not sound as humorous as they were when they were written, because the socio-political contexts are not the same, but they are still a good read, and still maintains the artistic texture.
This was the man who influenced my literary interest, and I became an avid reader in order to qualify to be able to reach just a portion of his quality.
As a young boy, I read virtually everything I came across. I enrolled as a member of the Winneba Library, and I became a regular visitor, reading right about anything I laid hands on. I read newspapers page by page, including obituaries, and I read books about anything, including socialism, the Bourgeois and the working class.
While in the university I wrote a lot, on virtually anything, numerous articles and pasted them on notice boards for fellow students to read. I have always been sarcastic and deeply emotional in my writings. My writing tone is similar in many ways to my public speaking style.
My first ever published editorial article was in the Daily Graphic of 2004 when I was a Banker with Barclays Bank of Ghana. Thereafter I have continued to write intermittently, sometimes as a ghost writer.
In the last few months I have resumed regular writing. I started off by producing inspirational pieces, and I had such a good following, with most of my articles rated as the most read, most discussed and most emailed on various networks.
Then I decided that we are in a political year, and most writing works are too inflexible and too intemperate, so I was switching to Satire, until the elections are over, then I will decide whether to head back to inspirational writing, or stay with Satire.
So now you know the reason why Simpa Panyin decided to change the tone of his articles, moving it away from the pure tensed hard material writings, to producing socio-political Satires in the last few weeks.
Satire is good, it is emotional, it could be humorous, it creates allusions, it is intellectual and it is nearly spiritual. True Satire, if applied properly, helps people to distress, it is therapeutic and healing. It brings joy and inspires love and hope. It creates passion, and gives to the world vital hard core hidden or plain truths in very friendly non violent ways.
Writers of Satire are usually very creative, descriptive and intellectual people, and they have a lot of literary liberties. That is why you sometimes find me interspersing my lines with local parlance and getting away with it. Those parlances are to create effects, and to bring the readers into the situation.
Writers of Satire must not necessarily be the most educated. So for instance my education background started from Accounting, then Psychology, and Communications which had nothing to do with writing. Satire writers are those who are able to think in abstract, and be able to convert ordinary issues into abstract constructs. That is why satire is not easily understood by readers with small minds, the genre requires high level comprehensive capacity to fulfill the aspirations of the writer.
Writers of Satire must understand humor. You must have a ruthless understanding of the human reeling anatomy to enable you stimulate it into laughter.
You must feel the same way as your readers will feel. If you don’t feel anything when you are writing, then just know that your readers will also not feel anything when they are reading, and if you don’t naturally feel anything about what you have written, please don’t force yourself to feel anything, because that will amount to an emotional hypocrisy.
If you are not a person who likes reading, you will describe this beautiful style of writings as rubbish, because, as I said, Satires are written with a context for strong minds, and with a huge amount of suspense, suspense that requires a good intellectual capacity to balance. Growing up, I had a good number of my friends who never liked Kwesi Yankah’s Woes of Kwetriot. They saw it as nonsensical and cowardly. Some of them thought he never completed his points, or was never straightforward, probably running away from his own shadows.
But that is the whole point of Satires, wetting the appetite of your readers, and leaving them hanging in there as new points begin. Readers are constantly made the victims of the essay, just privileged to be allowed to live in the palace of arts.