Prof. Atta G. Britwum delivering the keynote address

Department of English Honours Ayi Kwei Armah

The Department of English has marked the Golden Jubilee celebration of Ayi Kwei Armah’s “The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born” with a one-day conference.                            

The conference which is the first of its kind to be organised by the Department of English aimed at recognising the master craftworks of Ghanaian writers and also showcase and demonstrate the significance of such writings and how they speak to modern day issues of the Ghanaian and African.

In his welcome address, the Head, Department of English, Dr. Kwabena Sarfo Sarfo-Kantanka, explained that one of the notable writer’s the conference would be celebrating was Ayi Kwei Armah whose writings according to him epitomises the socio-politico-economic crisis of the present time.

Dr. Sarfo indicated that the novel touched on several aspects of the life of the people of Ghana in particular and Africa in general during the pre-colonial, colonial and post-independence periods. “But in all these wonderful works of Armah, ‘The Beautyful Ones are Not Yet Born (1968)’, Armah’s first novel, embodies the present state of the socio-political and moral decay, such as corruption of the Ghanaian (and the African) society, which has brought the progress and development of the African independence into question,” he noted.

Dr. Sarfo-Kantanka said it was, therefore, prudent the Department chose to celebrate the 50 years of the existence of the “Beautyful Ones are Not Yet Born”.

“The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born” is a Reflection of the Realities of Today

The keynote speaker, Prof. Atta G. Britwum, in his presentation said the novel described the failure of a socialist government, which repeated the mistakes of the colonial regime it replaced. He made mention of the inherent corrupt practices which the novel revealed about the society and the increasing levels of intimidation, bribery and fraud that characterised economic relationship.

According to Prof. Britwum, Ayi Kwei Armah, in his book portrayed the ills of the African society with realities that were still prevalent in society today. He urged the current generation to consider themselves as the “Beautyful Ones” to solve the challenges in society. He indicated that Armah did not have the copyright to his book until recently.

Draw Lessons from Ayi Kwei Armah’s Novel

The former Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang, asked the audience to draw lessons from what the keynote speaker had said about the novel and the author.  Reiterating the point that Ayi Kwei Armah did not have the copyright to the book, Prof. Opoku-Agyemang said it raised a lot of issues about collaborative research and ownership of the research or material.  

The former Vice-Chancellor indicated that it would take only Ghanaians to solve the current problems confronting the nation. “The beautiful ones would not be brought from outside, only us can redeem ourselves, the beautiful ones are each one of us,” she emphasised.                                                                                                                       

Profile of Ayi Kwei Armah

Ayi Kwei Armah was born to Fante Speaking parents in 1939 in Takoradi. He was educated in a number of local mission schools and at Achimota College before going to Groton School in the United States for his secondary education and subsequently to Harvard University for his bachelor’s degree. After working as a scriptwriter, translator and English teacher in a number of countries including Ghana, France and Senegal, Armah wrote his first novel, “The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born (1968)”. Ayi Kwei Armah is among the most prominent and admired writers of African Anglophone fiction. As a Ghanaian author, he has been committed to telling the history, transitions and prophetic future of his motherland and continent. In doing this, he invites his readers to ponder over the discourses of colonial, neocolonial and postcolonial civilisations in order to appreciate their interrelationships and effects in creating a unique African identity.

Overview of “The Beautyful Ones Are Yet to Be Born” 

The novel, “The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born” which details “the story of an upright man resisting the temptations of easy bribes and easy satisfaction and winning for his honesty nothing but scorn” is a canonical text in African literature.

Since its emergence on the African literary scene in 1968, “The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born has remained an influential text in critical discussions on the aesthetic and thematic distinctiveness of the African and postcolonial novel. Fifty years after its publication, Armah’s first novel continues to frame critical issues-the realities of his vision of the new nation, the seductiveness of totalitarian mentality, the gleam for material power and its variant manifestations, and the defilement of the African “WE” spirit.