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From ancestral wisdom to modern prose: Ishmael Junorgh’s cross-culturally themed novels

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Ishmael Junorgh is a storyteller, who is navigating the intricate web of cultural dynamics through his captivating novels.

One of his novels, Ancestral Prologues, delves into the metaphorical comparison between the pen and the gun. This, he told A1 Radio’s Mark Smith on the Day Break Upper East Show today, April 30, 2024, is a representation of the contrast between modern education and the bravery and indigenous thought of ancestors who lacked formal schooling.

Mr. Junorgh’s narrative explores the intersection of “white man’s education” and the traditional values rooted in bravery and indigenous thought. This juxtaposition lies at the heart of his exploration of cultural dynamics, as he guides readers through the complexities of navigating modernity while preserving ancestral wisdom.

“Ancestral Prologues, basically, I try to compare the pen and the gun. Okay. Of course, looking at the gun to stand for our ancestors or forefathers. These are people who never had access to a four-cornered classroom, and so they didn’t have the pen in their hands. And yet, these are people who had to construct our societies and form our social and cultural values, you know, solve so many problems to keep our societies in order. Then we have come along with a pen. So that is modernization, white man’s education. And so with a pen, we are trying to solve the same problems our ancestors had already solved. So just playing in between the two, to see how we use a pen to consolidate the gains of the past, which basically has to do with bravery and indigenous way of thinking,” he said.

Through his storytelling, he invites us to ponder the profound question of how these seemingly disparate worlds can coexist and enrich one another.

Mr. Junorgh’s novel Ancestral Prologues opens with a depiction of a typical chief’s palace, symbolizing the cultural backdrop against which complex issues are addressed.

Drawing inspiration from specific cultures and traditions, he aims to create a narrative that resonates broadly while retaining specificity where needed. This delicate balance reflects the author’s profound understanding of the nuances that define cultural identities.

“As much as possible, I try to be general, but then sometimes, I have to draw inspiration from specific cultures. I’m not sticking to a particular culture. I look at the entire Northern sector. Our cultures are very similar. I mean, if you take the Reds, Hunters, that’s the Mole Dagbani, Bani people. I mean, it takes more than half of the northern tribes, including the Gurunsi. The odds would be the Gonja and maybe the Builsa and Kassena because they didn’t come from that lineage. So I draw inspirations from all cultures and traditions. And you would see that in one book, you will see that I just don’t stick to a particular area, it sort of cuts across. And that is where my traveling experiences feature strongly into my writing,” he said.

Travel experiences play a crucial role in shaping Junorgh’s creativity and understanding of diverse cultural landscapes. These immersive encounters inform his writing, allowing him to capture the richness and nuances of various cultural contexts.

“When I travel, I don’t have a specific objective. And once I’m in these communities, I actually still do not know what I want. But I interact, you know. Now, one day you sit to write, and then you can find the reasons you were there. All of these experiences, all of a sudden begin to make sense,” he said.

Mr. Junorgh’s writing process is organic and dynamic, with inspiration often derived from immersive experiences and interactions with communities. He emphasizes the blend of fiction and reality, rejecting the notion of pure fiction in storytelling. Each book’s narrative structure evolves naturally, often without predetermined chapter counts, reflecting the fluidity and unpredictability of the creative process.

“If you take Ladimeh into perspective, yeah, I have to involve a lot of research. I remember I went to meet the current chief of Sandema. When I needed information about the encounter they had with Babatu.”

“Well, sometimes there are various styles, depending on which one works for you at what point. It’s not just a one-way stuff. I mean, some people believe in having the structure, so you have the chapters and what you think should go in. If you take Ancestors Prologue, what I did is I used a tree with branches, I mean, scattered, and yet I have to tell my story out of that. That’s how it is. Ladimeh has around 13 chapters. I never planned that, but that’s where the story ended, because I tried to tell the story of a 17th-century enslaved and abandoned African child, and then I start writing his story, and then eventually you have to conclude it, and then realize I had 13 chapters.”

Source: A1Radioonline.com|101.1MHz|Mark Kwasi Ahumah Smith|Bolgatanga


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