The winners of the SABAA Art Award 2021, were selected based on the categories of painting, illustration, photography and writing, on the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic in Sub-Saharan African countries.
Yaba Armah, a Ghanaian writer, was adjudged winner of the writing category (English Literature) for her short story, Viewing At Dombo Lodge.
Viewing At Dombo Lodge is a dark comedy is centred around an elite funeral and seeks to shine a light on a sector of wealth which society often fail to fully appreciate: access to information.
The story follows life in Accra under lockdown during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, where the death of a young man from a prominent family means the rules are bent for Accra’s elite and a funeral is permitted.
Through a series of characters, readers see how status allows the country’s upper class to focus on their everyday dramas in the midst of a deadly pandemic.
“It was inspired by my reality. Living in Ghana, as a fairly well-off person, through the pandemic: The things my privilege allowed me to ignore or take for granted, that many others could not,” Yaba Armah told Kuulpeeps about what the award-winning short story meant to her.
Yaba started telling stories “intentionally” in 2016. She started with The Crooked Lens, an anthology series that allowed her to explore the different platforms of storytelling until she found the one she was most comfortable with.
“That year I wrote stories, told stories, filmed stories, animated stories and had people act out my stories on stage. By the time I was done, I felt like ‘writing stories’ was what I was most interested in, with audio narration coming in at a close second.”
Yaba, however, enjoys reading, and that’s what got her to start writing her own stories.
“If I have a good book I’ll forget everything and everyone just to see it through. After a while it got to a point where you’re looking for your next read, you’ve got preferences, and you’ve got some ideas… Since then, I’ve been learning the craft of writing a good story,” she said.
As a writer, Yaba tends to lead more towards dark humour, as she tries to use her stories to address real issues.
“I use my characters to laugh at myself, giving others permission to also look inward and laugh at themselves… Because I think being able to laugh at yourself breaks down your insecure fortress and when done right, can allow for self-introspection and growth. However, it’s a fine line between laughing at yourself and laughing at others, or being preachy. I’m still learning to balance,” she said.
However, she also writes poems, screenplays, stageplays, and comics.
Some of Yaba’s works include The Last Dance, The Seamstress of St Francis, Until Someone Wakes Up, My Very First Time, No Limits, Work, Paul’s Dress, and How to Change Your Mind.
As most of her stories are aimed at allowing people to increase the flexibility of their mindset, Yaba Armah wants to focus more on writing and getting better at the craft of storytelling.
“I’m not sure what impact I hope to make as a writer… but the impact will reveal itself when it reveals itself,” she said.
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