This week we begin a series on places within Ghana’s capital which we have largely ignored or underrated. We are referring to cultural sites and facilities that, apart from the substantive activities, hold stories and relics of heritage and touristic values.
One of the complaints I receive from our readers is ‘I don’t really have time to leave Accra, meanwhile I do not know where to go or what to see within the city’. Well, it’s not an uncommon concern, especially in the scheme of tourism.
The fact that the person is eager to take a break and sight-see in itself is a good starting point. Believe me; there are some who do not even have the urge.
But it is basically a matter of interest. I have met tourists who are just interested in railway lines, including even old disused ones. Others are fascinated by old mosques or local markets.
From experience tourists can overturn a whole itinerary because on the road they came across something they found fascinating. Example include, a family of ducks crossing a street; or a simple sighting of anthills. The basis for these interests requires a dissertation treatment.
My point is that there is no telling what can become a source of attraction. What’s important is that that phenomenon can be sustained for that interest to be satisfied or even diversified. Now, enough of the lecture-room chatter.
Our first location is a site in Accra called PAWA House. Did I hear you say ‘PAWA what’? Remember what I said earlier? We are dealing with places that are largely, unknown, ignored or underrated.
Tucked in the quiet, leafy Roman Ridge neighbourhood, PAWA House is not the place your taxi driver would know. Roman Ridge borders Airport Residential Area, Maamobi, Pig Farm, Dzorwulu and Abelenkpe. To be specific, the walls of PAWA House front the traffic light that is between the traffic light of Accra Girls and that of Pig Farm Junction.
It is just two blocks from Class and Accra FMs. Actually, the road which passes in front of PAWA House and the two FM stations branches right to TANG Hotel and left to M Plaza Hotel before continuing down to Jack and Jill School.
For those who believe street names work in Ghana, the one here is called Roman Road (I have seen South Roman Ridge Road elsewhere).
But what goes on at PAWA House? To begin with, the acronym stands for Pan African Writers Association. The place also serves as the National Secretariat of the Ghana Association of Writers (GAW). I grew up not too far from this neighbourhood.
Gleaning from the Association’s website, one learns that many years ago and well before the independence of African countries, writers and other intellectuals of our continent made several undertakings in vain to organise themselves into a Pan African Writers’ Union.
Since then this subject has been raised and deliberated on in different fora at various places such as Rome, Algiers, Dakar, Lagos, Luanda, Tashkent, Cologne, Alma Atta and Pyongyang.
In 1986, an Extraordinary Assembly of 61 African Writers representing 46 African Writers’ Unions and Associations met and decided that Africa needed a long-overdue Continental Literary Organisation and therefore set up an International Preparatory Committee (IPC) and mandated it with the dual mission of organising the symposium “International Literary Symposium Against Apartheid” in 1987 and to realise the old dream of the Writers’ Union as a dynamic association of Writers of Africa.
In working towards the formation of PAWA, the IPC sensitised African Writers’ Unions and Associations as well as African and non-African governments, called on the then Chairman of the OAU, the OAU Secretary-General and attended the Ougadougou Conference of African Ministers of Culture in April, 1988, at which the OAU pledged support for the creation of PAWA.
Other African leaders included the Presidents of Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Sierra Leone and the Congo. An IPC delegation met Dr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali, then Egyptian Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, while others went to Algeria, Libya, Ethiopia, Guinea, Gambia, Senegal, Guinea Bissau, Zimbabwe, Nigeria and Tunisia.
With OAU and UNESCO’s support, the Constituent Congress of PAWA was held at the Kwame Nkrumah Conference Centre, Accra from November 7- 11, 1989 under the theme: “African Unity; A Liberation of the Mind.”
Representatives from over 36 countries formally signed the Declaration and Constitution that led to the establishment of PAWA.
The Constitution of PAWA, the heart of the activities of PAWA is located in its Secretariat which is headed by the Secretary- General of PAWA, in the person of our own poet laureate, Professsor Atukwei Okai.
In 1991, the Government of Ghana granted full Diplomatic Status to the Secretariat of PAWA thus enabling it to relate with African governments, the AU and various institutions across the world in ways that would facilitate the ideas in its founding declaration and vision.
The PAWA compound itself is spacious with landscaped greenery lined by concrete footpaths. The courtyard is named after Wole Soyinka. A summer hut (Trust writers; they call it the Rotunda) serves as the centre for outdoor events.
The Rotunda honours Michael Dei-Anang. A block of offices also contains a conference Room named after Agostinho Neto, the famous Angolan leader.
Using PAWA House as its home, GAW holds various cultural events there. An example is the recent evening of reading to honour visiting Columbia poet Maria Gomez Lara. PAWA house is also going to host this year’s annual GAW Book Festival on September 21.
One regular event that visitors will always enjoy is GAW Sunday. It is held every first Sunday of the month. GAW Sunday is a forum for authors, writers, poets and other artistes to share and delight the audience with pieces of their creativity. The motto at the event is: Just do it!
Will I catch you there one of these Sundays?