POET’S PROFILE: MICHAEL FRANCIS DEI-ANNANG
Michael Francis Dei-Annang was born in Mampong-Akwapim and had his schooling at one of Ghana’s foremost colleges, Achimota College. He proceeded to the University of London thereafter. Dei-Annang was a writer, poet, writer of plays and novellas. He worked closely with Ghana’s first president, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah and penned a number of books in poetry and prose, recollecting, (through verbal communication), how Nkrumah was touched, reading and watching post-World War II movies, the carnage from Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He worked with various ministeries after the overthrow of Nkrumah.
His work reflects his interest in myths and traditions of Ghana, which he incorporated. Akan culture is a special focus of his work. He was jailed with Nkrumah and after he was released from prison in 1966 he moved to the United States where he taught at the College at Brockport.
His works include Wayward Lines from Africa (1946), Cocoa Comes to Mampong: Letter Dramatic Sketches Based on the story of Cocoa in the Gold Coast Theatre (1949), Africa Speaks (1959), Okomfo Anokye’s Golden Stool, drama, (1960), Semitones Ghana, (1962), Glory Ghana: Ghana and Ghanaian Poems on Life, a collection of poems, (1965)
Awake, thou sleeping heart!
Awake, and kiss
The love-lorn brow
Of this ebon lass,
Whose virgin charms
Ensnare the love-lit hearts
Of venturing youth
From other lands.
Awake, sweet Africa
Demands thy love.
Thou sleeping heart!
When the all-summer sun
Paints the leafy boughs
With golden rays,
Know then, thou sleeping heart,
Dear Africa stands
Knocking at thy door.
For a man who walked and toile with Nkrumah, this poem is reflective of his days. Dei-Annang was born in the eye of the African resistance struggle. And what better person to stand alongside than the architect of it all!
This poem is the typical African romantic. Dei-Annang is talking to a ‘sleeping heart’ (line 1) who may yet need some prompting to fall in love with Africa. In his day, it was easy to fall in love with the continent that he so repeatedly calls ‘Dear’. If it were not so, men would not have shed sweat, tears and blood for her liberation. At this point, Africa is so close to his heart that he calls her an ‘ebon lass’ (line 4). This meaning is clear: ‘ebon’ is the poetic rendition of ebony, a dark colour representing the continent; ‘lass’ is the poetic adoration of the continent, made easier by calling her a woman.
Notice in line 3 that he calls Africa’s brow ‘love-lorn’ which means ‘love-forsaken’. This may suggest that a certain disdain may have been growing for the continent. I know not how and I know not why. But it will be difficult to say if the disdain is by the sons of the land itself, who live on the land. It might be, for Dei-Annang says that Dear Africa has (lines 6-9) ‘virgin charms’ that ‘Ensnare the love-lit hearts/ Of venturing youth/From other lands’. Are these youth sons of the land who live in other places and who are enticed to come back home for the love of the Motherland, like Nkrumah was? Or are they colonialist youth who are enticed by the wealthy glamour of a land still rich in unexploited resource? By his feisty demeanour, I will presume he was talking about the first.
And now it is intense, for Dei-Annang tells his listener that Africa ‘demands’ his love (line 11). A force! If it ever be that his listener should see the sun fall on the boughs, that is a reminder that Africa knocks on his door, seeking an entrance of love. And over here, let us safely say that his listener is one of Dei-Annang’s ‘youth from other lands’ because he tells him to remember the ‘all-summer sun’ (line 13). Summer is essentially not an African season. The poem is clear now!! Dei-Annang is making an invitation to a young African heart residing in a foreign land to come back home and ‘kiss’ Africa’s ‘ebon brow’. To fall in love with the land he calls ‘Dear’.
One last thing: the fact that the poet repeatedly tells his listener to ‘awake’ is proof that the listener has been blinded to something obvious. Africa is to be loved and anyone who loves her not is probably in a stupor.