Another Friday, another find.  Since Kofi means “boy born on Friday”, we couldn’t resist yet another item of that name.
Kofi is a 1969 jazz album by jazz musician Donald Byrd from Detroit, USA. This one is for you teenage jazz lovers and musicians!
 

Album cover of Kofi, artist Donald Byrd

via intotherhythm.blogspot.com.


 
Donaldson Toussaint L’Ouverture Byrd II (born 1932) 1s a music scholar and trumpeter who has played with many of the most acclaimed jazz artists, including Lionel Hampton, Art Blakey, John Coltrane, Thelonius Monk and Herbie Hancock
Three of the five tracks on the album Kofi are very evocative of Ghana – perhaps inspired by the artist’s visit?
Another album, Byrd in Flight, has a track called Ghana which happens to be the one we bloggers here like best
You’ll find them on Youtube:
Kofi
Fufu
Elmina
Ghana
We’re not even going to attempt to review them.  Just enjoy.
The players on the album Kofi are listed here.

Fida means Friday, and the finds are whatever gets our attention.  Today it’s the LINX construction game posted by visual artist and product designer Patrick Martinez on Kickstarter
Reminiscent of some of toy inventor Arvind Gupta’s Toys from Trash, LINX are made from two simple, cheap and light elements: drinking straws and connectors.

Connectors for LINX game by Patrick Martinez

Connectors for LINX game by Patrick Martinez, via Kickstarter


Martinez explains that the connectors come in flat packs which easily snap apart and join to the straws.  Connectors can be joined together to form stars for more complex shapes.
LINX construction game by Patrick Martinez

LINX connectors joined to form a star, by Patrick Martinez via Kickstarter


Multiple colors of straws can be cut, bent and joined in an infinite variety of ways.  The write-up says LINX  “inspire creativity and give children an opportunity to develop their motor and spatial skills through hands-on play”.
LINX construction game by Patrick Martinez

via Kickstarter


LINX are designed to be simply and inexpensively produced with little or no waste.
So go on over to Kickstarter, watch Patrick talk about his invention and give to the LINX project.  15 days to go.
 
 
 

Langston Hughes and the children's garden in Harlem

Langston Hughes with neighborhood children in a Harlem garden. Photo by Don Hunstein, 1955


Langston Hughes is a famous African American writer, best known for his poetry, who was born on February 1, 1902 and died in 1976.
The story that goes with the picture of the garden comes from a book about Mr. Hughes’ life. In 1954 he lived in a house in Harlem, New York City.
But most of the patch of earth beside the front steps, about six feet square, was barren from years of trampling by neighbourhood children, who had little time for flowers. Langston decided to rescue it, and teach the children a tender lesson at the same time. He named the plot their garden.
Under his supervision…each child chose a plant, set it, and assumed partial responsibility for weeding and watering the garden. On a picket beside each plant was posted a child’s name. Proud of the garden, which flourished, and prouder still of his children, Langston was photographed at least once beaming in their midst.
We have Michael Levenston of the very informative City Farmer blog to thank for sharing this gem.
Langston Hughes wrote a lot for children too, and the very best place we’ve found for learning about these is the same blog which we shared in the post Chinua Achebe for Young Readers.
Ariel S. Winter, the owner of the blog, has done such a good job with Langston Hughes’ children’s books that we can only say you should go and look at it.
Mr. Winter’s work is especially helpful because many of these books are hard to find, and he is able to describe them in great detail, or even provide page-by-page copies of a few books.
Here are some short cuts:
Popo and Fifina: Children of Haiti
The First Book of Rhythms
The First Book of Jazz
The First Book of the West Indies
Famous American Negroes
 
Some of the books Langston Hughes wrote for children were published after he died. The Sweet and Sour Animal Book is an alphabet book about animals, illustrated by students from the Harlem School of the Arts.
The Sweet and Sour Animal Book, by Langston Hughes
Two Poetry books that are currently available are My People, a poem with photographs by Charles R. Smith Jr, and Poetry for Young People, illustrated by Benny Andrews.
My People by Langston Hughes
Poetry For Young People by Langston Hughes
 
 
 

David leading children through garden in Lewiston, Maine.

Ghanaian student and alumnus of Mmofra Foundation David Longdon volunteers in Lewiston, Maine, USA. Photo credit: Bates College


When a transformative African childhood results in a benefit to children halfway around the world in Maine, USA, it’s news.
We generally expect volunteering abroad to be directed towards Africa from outside, rather than within and away from the continent.  The work of organizations like Mmofra Foundation may be changing that perception.
How does the Mmofra Foundation experience touch the world through children who have read, played, listened, moved and learned in its simple and unique outdoor environment model?
The Ghana-based NGO “opens the world of ideas to children through books, the arts, experiential learning, sustainable living and cultural grounding”.  Its mission is to help “create capable and creative changemakers for a better world”.
Child by child, these methods appear to be working.  Today’s young adults who came up through Mmofra’s programs beginning in 1997, are answering this question by paying forward the cultural advantages which have helped to shape them.
David Longdon, student at Bates College

David Longdon, '14. Photo credit: Bates College


At Bates College in Maine, USA,  Economics major David Longdon ’14 exemplifies the confidence and grounding of many students who have grown up with good opportunities in African countries – in his case, Ghana.
Amongst those opportunities, David includes his early childhood years as a member of Mmofra Foundation’s language club and his exposure to a unique green oasis in the city of Accra where an open air cultural enrichment program of books, storytelling, music, dance, art and drama made an indelible mark on him.
Especially memorable was the organic urban garden associated with the space which his mother, an innovative and successful horticulturist, started.
Children playing on Mmofra Foundation grounds

Outdoor play at Mmofra Foundation grounds, Accra. The urban garden is in the background, to the right.


Years later and not by coincidence, David is seriously considering sustainable agriculture  and agro-business as a career option for himself.
His 2011 summer volunteer assignment as  a  leadership intern and community-based research fellow with the Nutrition Center of Maine’s Lots To Gardens program has literally given him much food for thought.
Lots to Gardens is a youth-focused organization that uses sustainable urban agriculture to create access to fresh healthy organic food for the community in Lewiston, Maine.
David Longdon, student at Bates College, volunteering at Lots to Gardens

Photo credit: Bates College


An integral part of David’s experience  was to learn how to work outside a classroom setting and to bridge the gap between staff and youth – responsibilities for which he already had an instinctive grasp.  You could say he has had a lifetime of preparation for just such a skill set.
When he is back in Accra, David finds his U.S. experience to be useful as well.  He has a lot more to offer there as a Mmofra volunteer, now that he sees the potential that an urban garden offers for nutrition-based learning through hands-on activity.
David with young volunteers on the Lots to Gardens property.

With young volunteers. Photo Credit: Bates College


The image of a young African volunteer surrounded by American children may soon be nothing to write home about.
Fresh and Healthy is a short video of David’s summer internship at Lots to Gardens in his own words.
Story and images by kind courtesy of Bates College Communications Office.

African book display, Auntie's Bookstore, Spokane Washington. USA

Window display, Auntie's Bookstore, Spokane, USA, January 2012


Which African stories suitable for children and young adults are being noticed and read around the world, even if they are not yet reaching more than a few children in Africa?
How will a school child in India or Slovenia respond when asked for the name of an African book, writer or story?
For the answer to these intriguing and also vexing questions we’re circling the globe in pictures. Perhaps this small project will draw attention to the critical need for books with African content to be accessible to Africans!
Very often the reading public in African countries does not even know of the existence of the works of published African writers.  The books may not be sold in Africa at all, or if they are, may be expensive.
We first came across the “around the world” in books idea on the blog of our literary friends Paper Tigers, back when we contributed a bookcase to their collection.  Why mess with a good idea?
So send your image of any African book or books in any context from wherever you are,  to info@mmofraghana.org.  If it’s a good fit for this project, we’ll post it here.
Please let us know where the picture was taken, identify at least one of the books in the picture, and tell us who we should credit for the image. We won’t be able to share your contributions without this information, however wonderful they are!
Window display of African books at Auntie's Bookstore in Spokane, USA

Auntie's Bookstore, Spokane, USA


From the United States Pacific Northwest in Spokane, Washington:  a window display in the  independent Auntie’s Bookstore, on a cold day in January 2012.
Looking at the display, we wondered what the motivation could have been for the bookstore to post the legend “Continent of Contrasts”?
Still, it was an eye-catching and quite varied selection including the ones which we could identify which are listed below.
The countries associated with the books in the pictures here relate to the authors or the settings:
A Long Way Gone, by Ishmael Beah (Sierra Leone)
Cry the Beloved Country, by Alan Paton (South Africa)
How the Leopard got his Claws, by Chinua Achebe (Nigeria)
Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe (Nigeria)
The Three Little Dassies, by Jan Brett (Namibia)
Half of a Yellow Sun, by Chimamanda Adichie (Nigeria)
Head, Body, Legs: A Story from Liberia, by Won-Ldy Paye, Margaret Lippert and Julie Paschkis (Liberia)
Invictus: Nelson Mandela and the Game that made a Nation, by John Carlin (South Africa)
Running the Rift, by Naomi Benaron (Rwanda)
Strength in What Remains, by Tracy Kidder (Burundi)
This Child Will Be Great:  Memoir of a Remarkable Life by Africa’s First Woman President, by Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf  (Liberia)
 What is the What, by Dave Eggers ( Sudan)

Fida means “Friday” in Ghana’s Akan language.  Fida Finds will mainly be for older children and young adults.  Look out for them on Fridays once or twice a month, or maybe more often if we come across really exciting things that we can’t wait to tell you about!
A Fida Find could be anything from a fantastic blog to a historic picture.  Since the name Kofi is given to a boy born on a Friday, we’ve decided to inaugurate the category with a find about Kofi Vordzorgbe, a Ghanaian teenager who is making a name as a pianist and composer.

Ghanaian teenager Kofi Vordzorgbe play the piano

Young Pianist and Composer Kofi Vordzorgbe


When I started to write music I wasn’t very good” says Kofi, who began to play the piano at the age of 8 and to compose when he was almost 10.  “Sometimes, I can’t really explain it – I just, like, start writing”.
His father, a church organist, was his first tutor.  Kofi, aged 13 in 2007, made such an impression when he played at Ghana’s 50th independence anniversary celebrations that he was offered a chance to study in the United States.
Our Mmofra bloggers heard him play in 2009 with the National Symphony Orchestra of
Ghana in Accra and we were quite blown away to hear that the composition was his own! Listen for yourself – Kofi plays a bit of the first movement of his fourth sonata in C minor.

The excellent africlassical blog carries a story from 2009 about Kofi.  While you’re browsing there look up one of Ghana’s finest classical pianists,  Dr. William Chapman-Nyaho, who we’re saving up for a dedicated blog post one of these days!
We’ve learned that Kofi, who graduated from high school in 2011, also distinguished himself in sports.
 

My Kite Flies High, from Playtime in Africa

Image by permission of Estate of Willis. E. Bell


 
I thought my kite would never fly.
It flapped and wriggled
and fought the breeze.
 
But now at last it pulls away.
 
Fly up, right up to the high sky.
Up, up, fly high and higher.
Up, up until you touch the clouds.
 
My Kite Flies High, from Playtime in Africa by Efua Sutherland and Willis Bell, reproduced by kind permission of the Estate of Efua T. Sutherland,  All Rights Reserved.

boy at Mmofra Foundation end of year party

At Mmofra Foundation end-of-year gathering 2011. Photo Credit: Jessica E. Longdon


In 2011 we launched a website, started a facebook page and began to tweet!
Our social media buttons are (we think!) African originals which incorporate the adinkra symbols Sankofa (twitter) and Ananse Ntontan (facebook) – find their meanings here.
We followed the lead of others in incorporating Akan words on our home page.
Our small blogging team committed itself to posting all sorts of content which we hoped would be of interest to children in Ghana and the people who care about them everywhere.
We have a flickr group called Playtime in Ghana to which the public is invited to share photos, and a growing list of recommended children’s literature on our tumblr booklist.
Many people deserve a heartfelt Aseda (Thanks) for the big and small roles they played in helping us along our journey to a successful online presence.  You’ve all been personally acknowledged, but we must give special recognition to Rachel Phillips,  who has given more of her time and talent than we can ever hope to repay, and Mark Root-Weber for his unstinting technical support.
On Twitter, those who have been more than simply followers or the followed include children’s author Eloise Greenfield and green museum specialist Sarah Brophy who have been graciously responsive and encouraging. We discovered Summer Edward’s excellent Anansesem e-zine for children through Twitter as well.
A chance encounter on Twitter led to a blog post about our Playtime in Africa Initiative. picked up here and here, and voted one of the best Urban Design posts of 2011 on This Big City.
Twitter communities on Children’s Literature, Play, Design, Natural Environments and the Arts in Africa  have all been enormously inspiring.
For responsiveness on Facebook, we want to recognize Robin Riskin, who, with her Ghanaian partners, has been involved in some great cultural placemaking this year.
Thanks for the follow, TEDx Dzorwulu!  It was very exciting to discover that there was a TEDx event in our own neighborhood on December 10th.  Look out for us at the next TEDx!

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