Friday, March 09, 2007

The Devil that danced on the water - Aminatta Forna

A daughter's memoir of her father, her family, her country and a continent. Aminatta Forna's personal history is a passionate and vivid account of an African childhood - of an idyll which became a nightmare. As a child she witnessed the upheavals of post-colonial Africa, the bitterness of exile in Britain and the terrible consequences of her dissident father's stand against tyranny. Mohamed Forna, a man of unimpeachable integrity and great charisma, was a star in the political firmament in Sierra Leone as the country faced its future as a fledgling democracy. Always a political firebrand, he was one of the first black students to come to Britain after the war. In Aberdeen he stole the heart of Aminatta's mother, to the dismay of her Presbyterian parents, and returned with her to Sierra Leone. But the new ways of Western parliamentary democracy were tearing old Africa apart, giving rise only to dictatorships and corruption of hitherto undreamed-off magnitude. It was not long before Aminatta's father languished in jail as a prisoner of conscience, and there was worse to come. Aminatta's search for the truth that shaped both her childhood and the nation's destiny begins among the country's elite and takes her into the heart of rebel territory. Determined to break the silence surrounding her father's fate, she ultimately uncovered a conspiracy that penetrated the highest reaches of government and forced the nation's politicians and judiciary to confront their guilt.

Formerly a television reporter, Aminatta has presented and produced numerous television programmes for the BBC including the arts and culture magazine programme, The Late Show, and the BBC political flagship, On the Record. In 1998 she presented the E-Files, covering the European political agenda. She has won several awards for her television work, and in 1996 directed and presented a documentary on Africa’s art: 'Through African Eyes', a PBS/BBC co-production, which today is shown to students of African art and culture in universities across the US. In 1996 Aminatta was awarded a Harkness Fellowship to the University of California at Berkeley.

Aminatta has hosted radio series including An Essential Guide to the 21st Century (World Service), The Travellers Souk and In Living Colour (BBC Radio 4). She is a contributor to several newspapers including The Independent, The Observer, the Sunday Times and the Evening Standard. She has acted as a judge for the MacMillan African Writer’s Prize in 2003, the Samuel Johnson Prize in 2004 and the Caine Prize for Africa in 2005 and 2006, is on the Board for the latter prize, and is also a Director of Index of Censorship.