In 2017, writer Sylvia Arthur packed up her belongings, including what remained of her personal library, and left London for Accra, the capital of Ghana, her parent’s home country. Driven out of the U.K. by the high cost of living and hostile political environment, she sought peace in West Africa.
Part of feeling at home in Ghana was down to the fact that her complete book collection, over 1,300 works collected over two decades predominantly by writers of African descent, had long been in her mother’s house in Kumasi. Overcome by guilt that the books weren’t being read, and seeing the need for contemporary, culturally-relevant literature, she decided to open her library, Libreria Ghana, to the public to give people access to books that weren’t easily obtainable and amplify the voices of Black writers on the continent.
Arthur says, “I believe in literacy for all, regardless of socioeconomic status, and develop programmes and events that meet the people where they are. We regularly serve over 1000 children by giving them access to great books through two Little Libreria, school libraries in underserved communities. We run reading and creative play sessions for the children of market women (Market Akenkan) and a barbershop/hair salon programme that rewards children with free hairstyles in exchange for reading (Read Well, Look Smart!). Our events with top authors from around the world, including American-Liberian writer, Wayetu Moore and Detroit poet, Jessica Care Moore, have attracted hundreds of readers, not to mention the impact of our brand on the perception of books and reading in Ghana.”
In 2018, Arthur and her friend, James Ankobia, co-founded #BookDropGhana, a campaign aimed at Ghanaians in the Diaspora going ‘home’ for Christmas. It mobilised returnees to bring a book with them to donate, and created a movement, generating over 400 donations in under four weeks.