Upon her arrival at Durban International Airport on a particularly hot and humid Sunday morning, Dzagbe Cudjoe was instantly recognised by my party, while I frantically searched for the flight which had apparently not yet landed - according to the board that is. Here she was, the most beautiful and elegant lady, sitting quite regally and nonplussed at not having been met upon arrival as was actually the intention. (My fault - my notes were wrong - do I blame the pen or the hand?)
Her first visit to South Africa, Dzagbe took in every individual, every aspect of the drive around Durban, on the freeway into the Midlands which was to be her home away from home for a part of her South African Journey.
In between book signings, reading stories at schools, interviews with the KZN University and just generally being in demand, I managed to pull her aside and ask her a few questions that I know are on the tips of everyone's tongues…
Briefly here is our interview - to be uploaded in video format in more detail soon:
Q: First and foremost, how are you enjoying our country?
A: Yes, I am enjoying my stay very much indeed but I am finding that the outside world in fact is not very well informed about South Africa and its present problems, some of which are cultural, political and others due to the global recession.
Q: You have your roots in Ghana. Can you draw any parallels between the Ghanaian people and South Africans, individually or culturally?
A: I am just not qualified to answer that. That my knowledge and experience in South Africa is not sufficient for me to draw parallels. It's true. I mean I couldn't possibly comment. It would be most unfair.
Q: On to the book. Why Tales?(TTMGGTM) What was the inspiration?
A: I had become increasingly dispirited by the lack of awareness of the youth, both in Africa and people of African descent overseas in the values of traditional African cultures. Worldwide young people are beguiled by the consumer society
and the materialistic attitude to life which it breeds. Traditional stories encapsulated the morals and way of life of a much less technologically advanced society, but the values of these societies have much to teach the present day world.
Q: What did you aim to achieve by writing the stories and presenting them throughout the world and AFrica?
A: It was with the foregoing in mind that suddenly one day the stories simply came to me without any conscious thought on my part. Although my stories are written in the traditional style they are in fact my own original creations.
Q: What you think has been achieved, if anything, by presenting the stories of the Ghanaian culture to groups in South Africa? How have they been received?
A: They have been received with warmth and interest and I think that certainly Black South Africans can identify with the stories and have many parallels in their own cultures. White South Africans have also been extremely intererested in the stories as a way of increasing their knowledge of other African cultures.
Q: What have you learnt of South African people, if anything, by your visit thus far to South Africa and your interaction with the various groups of people that you have met?
A: I have found people open and friendly towards me but it is very obvious that the various groups which comprise the population of South Africa, although in the main willing, are finding it difficult forging links to one another.
Q: You have another manuscript which is as yet not in print.
Q: Tell us about it. Can you give us a sneak preview and when we can expect it to be released?
A: Well not to give away too much, it's a story with an historical and ecological background. It is set in coastal Ghana and involves a young boy and a young girl and a talking dolphin who is the custodian of ancient secrets.
Q: Wow, that certainly sounds like a story well worth getting hold of. I imagine children will be most delighted at the talking dolphin and I look forward to receiving details of the book once published. I hope we don't have a long wait, if Tales is anything to go by.
A: Thank you very much for that.
Q: Okay, our time is up for now. Thank you for your time. Before letting you go, one last question. Would you visit South Africa on another occasion perhaps to promote another book or on a tour specifically aimed at your work with children with special needs?
A: If I was given the opportunity I would be absolutely delighted to pay another visit, either to promote my book or books, or advise on Dance Therpay with Children With Special Needs.
Q: Thank you so much for sharing with us.
A: It's been my pleasure. For more information on Dzagbe Cudjoe's Tales My Ghanaian Grandmother Told Me, visit Strategic Book Publishing.
Credit: Donnette E. Davis
About the Author
Born in Chesham, England, the author has an MA in Ethnology from the University of Munich, Germany. She has worked at the Ghana National Museum & University of Ibadan, Nigeria. Research Field West African Traditional Religion. She is a member of the World Federation of Healing and works with children with severe physical and / or learning disabilities, using dance and movement therapy to help with rehabilitation.