Togo has proven to be the most difficult country to find books for so far. I became interested in reading books from Togo when Ann Morgan of https://ayearofreadingtheworld.com/ said An African in Greenland, by Tete-Michel Kpomassie, translated by James Kirkup, was one of the best book she read on her quest to read the world in 2012.
Unfortunately, I was only able to find one story, in a collection of stories from West Africa, from Togo. I will continue my search and update you if I find anything. If you know of anything please, please, please let me know!!
Part of The Cow-Tail Switch and Other West African Stories by Harold Courlander and George Herzog, published by R.R. Donnelley & Sons Company, is the story Guinea Fowl and Rabbit Get Justice.
“That is why people sometimes say, ‘The shortest path often goes nowhere’.”
Told as a fable, Guinea Fowl and Rabbit Get Justice, tells the story of the hardworking guinea fowl, and the lazy, but tricky rabbit who tries to steal guinea fowl’s farm. It is guinea fowl who gets the last laugh, however, when he is strong enough to carry the vegetables rabbit picks, while rabbit is not. There is a moral at the end of the story, just like in many of Aesop’s Fables.
I read this story to my 4 year old one night, who enjoyed the trickster part, but was more interested in talking about who was right in this situation and who was in the wrong. I think I’ve mentioned before that she has started to have strong opinions about right vs. wrong and justice lately, and this was a great story to discuss because in the middle, the chief of the village rules in favor of the trickster, even though the right animal wins out in the end.
I bought this book for this project.
” A brilliant sun, cold as steel, glittered on them and transformed the sea into a fairy-tale world; a vast ice-blue expanse strewn with great chunks of crystal.”
I had been looking forward to reading An African in Greenland, by Tete Michel Kpomassie, translated by James Kirkup, and published by The New York Review of Books, since I started thinking about embarking on this project. I came across the book on Ann Morgan’s blog from when she read the world in 2012. She said it was one of the best books she read that year, so I was intrigued. An African in Greenland lived up to the hype and did not disappoint.
Part 1 of the book is the story of Kpomassie’s childhood in Togo, how he was bitten by a python, and healed by a mysterious snake cult, which he was then forced to join. Before he made it to the snake cult, however, he came across a book about Greenland in a Christian bookstore and was spellbound by what he found between the pages.
Traveling by any means available after secretly running away, Kpomassie made his way from Togo, through Africa and Europe over several years, working in multiple countries and learning the languages of the people where he stayed. Upon arriving in Greenland, Kpomassie continued to make his way north where he fulfilled his dream of living among the Greenlanders and traveling by dog sled. While Kpomassie says he would have been happy spending the rest of his life in Greenland, he decided it would be best for his community for him to return, to share with his people what he had learned about the world.
During his journey, Kpomassie describes and comments with little judgement on the cultures, traditions, and personalities of the people he meets, comparing them to his family and people in Togo. He includes footnotes that support his observations about customs, showing how invested he was in learning about the people he met. He provides deep insight into the human spirit in a way I have not seen in travel writing before, all while writing in beautiful prose. There were sections I reread just because they were so wonderfully written.
This book also includes commentary on how colonization has changed the way the Greenlanders live, and how it has happened around the world over the past few centuries. Colonization is something I have been learning more about recently, so I appreciated that aspect of this book.
I highly recommend reading this travel memoir by a fantastic anthropologist and master of language.
Last night we tried two recipes from Togo, both of which you can find linked on my Pinterest board below. We made the grilled Togo Chicken, and Ablo bread. Both were beyond delicious, and a great way to experience a tiny bit of a faraway culture.
I’d love to hear what books, projects, artists, music, and other fun things you’d recommend from Togo. Email me, message me, or comment/DM on Instagram.