Avis Annan, Jamaican beacon in Ghana
Published: Monday | June 8, 2009
Avis Annan - photos by Colin Hamilton/Freelance Photographer
She has come a long way since her days as a nursing sister in England. Today she lives in Ghana with her husband, Edward Annan, a businessman and politician. But her focus now is on the world of soap opera and films. Recently in Jamaica to visit her mother, Mrs Avis Annan spoke exclusively with Flair about several matters of mutual interest to Jamaicans and Ghanians.
Viewers to CVM Television would have seen the weekly soap titled All that Glitters. It began as her autobiography but when she gave friends some chapters to read, they said the characters were so lifelike it should be serialised for television. The advice was not surprising considering Annan always had a vivid imagination.
A limited run
The soap, which airs in Ghana and Nigeria, had a limited run in London and began airing in Jamaica almost 20 weeks ago. "There are 40 episodes and it's set in Ghana; I am now in the process of writing a mini series and some of the main characters in my current soap will also star in it, she revealed. It is titled The Return of the Dove and the premise considers what God would find if he came back to earth now. It puts Him in a running battle with Satan on a number of issues.
Annan is executive producer and writer and holds supervisory control over her projects. She said she even did a course in scriptwriting four years ago to become more equipped for her new role. "I have been commissioned to do a movie and I feel it will have an impact and it will be done soon," she said. She said she just had to get All that Glitters on Jamaican television. "It's a pride thing."
Africa is her source of inspiration and she writes mainly from her country residence in Abiri, a place that reminds her of Mandeville in Manchester, Jamaica. The house is also featured in the television series.
But her love for Africa began with a fascination for the place from her youth. "I had a rude awakening when I began to meet African students in college in London. I found out that what I learned in Jamaica about the continent was in stark contrast to what was the reality," Mrs Annan said. But more importantly, she got far better treatment from African students than from "my own West Indian people".
These negatives ran the gamut from ridicule over cultural differences to jeering over word usage instead of explaining the ropes to her. But from her African brothers and sisters, Mrs Annan learnt that there were many similarities between us. Like the way men travel to and from their fields on foot, load on heads and machete swinging by their sides. Differences include the fact that ackees, breadfruit and guineps are not eaten in Ghana.
"Ackee trees are used to decorate some avenues and gungo trees are grown for hedging. So Mrs Annan has introduced her new women friends to soursop juice, and rice and peas made with both dried and green gungo. Trouble is, the husbands insist that she makes it all the time.
Avis Annan uses the back of her hand to make a point about colour issues in Europe when she first arrived there several years ago.
LIFE IN GHANA
The country relies on coal and gold, the current president is a good one and things are stable but the economy is affected by the current global recession. Help from first-world countries is not flowing in as before, and people are returning to farming. Ghana, like other countries, has enough wealth to feed itself but Mrs Annan feels man's greed has changed it so the poor people suffer.
When she's not in Ghana, Mrs Annan loves to wear traditional African garments out of respect for the people and culture. The fashion trends there are current and there are no restrictions on what is worn.
Funerals and mourning:
It's like a party when someone dies, but only the relatives are sad. Persons choose dark shades (red and black) but the elderly wear black or white and the deceased is laid in state for mourners to pass and view. The richer you are, the richer the funeral arrangements. There is so much excess, sometimes the village chief has to step in and say curb it. It is common practice for a corpse to wait up to three months for burial or until say, a relative away at university can complete an exam and come home. Another reason to delay a funeral is when an important chief has to be replaced.
All denominations and religions are represented in Ghana but Mrs Annan describes herself as a 'freelancer' because she worships anywhere.
Equality of the sexes:
Formerly, girls were not as privileged as boys but now women are holding political and organisational offices as well as entering careers in law, engineering and medicine. But there is a very African trait that still persists. No matter how educated, many women just want to marry and have children first.
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"No one owes me anything, I have a 'yes I can achieve' attitude and I have extended that to asking God to show me what I can do to help others. To that end, I have adopted a village and I visit them regularly and do what I can to make their lives better," Mrs Annan said.
Mrs Annan has one daughter and one grandchild. She has been an ardent Manchester United fan since she was 22 and until recently still played with a women's football club. However, a knee injury put an end to that.
She has an infectious laugh and during our interview there were many mirthful moments like this one.