The cover says of Ekow Eshun that he is one of the most important voices in modern Britain. In that modern Britain is for evermore bound up in Africa, in that modern Britain’s writing on Africa is beset by cant and half-truths and Ekow Eshun’s is not, in that he is currently the artistic director of the influential Institute of Contemporary Arts and a former editor of Arena and writes with a blithe inventiveness, the cover makes a tenable claim. It takes a black writer to show the griff and the grief of being black in a white-made world. What we whiteys heard half a century ago from Chinua Achebe in West Africa and James Baldwin in America, today we get from, let’s say, Chimamanda Adichie and Maya Angelou in the same continents; here in England, we can hear it from Ben Okri and Ekow Eshun. Who we are, they ask, and where and how do we belong? It is a matter of soul. And the fraught soul makes for art.
Ekow Eshun was born in Britain of Ghanaian parents thirty-seven or so years ago. Except for three years of early childhood in Ghana, he grew up in Britain, then returned to Ghana as a young man to delve his roots; thence back to London to wrestle