Ayesha Harruna Attah — Why I Write

I was born in Ghana in the 1980s, under a military government. The arts in Ghana suffered during those military years, and I saw my parents—my father a graphic designer and my mother a journalist—sometimes struggle to make ends meet.

When I was 12, my father, who had started writing a weekly column, was thrown in prison because of words he’d written. Technically, it was a reproduction of someone else’s words but they were words nonetheless.

Perhaps it was because art wasn’t respected as much, or because I had seen the power of words, my first reaction was to flee the art world. I chose to study science. Never mind that I had always been moved to write. Even as an avid science student I would pen essays and stories on issues that moved me—the environment, the surprising, even the mundane.

Not much has changed since then. I now think of myself primarily as a fiction writer, but I still focus on topics that needle at me. I still take notes of the shocking and of the quotidian. All this in the hope of writing part of the African story, of crafting art and beauty in my sentences, of the very human need to leave something behind, a legacy, if you will. To tell stories that make people stop, that make people reflect, or even, just to smile.

I write because I can, and because I realize the power of words and that true change has been achieved through journalism, through non-fiction, and through fiction.