Posted by: Lisa Hill | November 14, 2011

Water Wahala (2011), by Isaac Neequaye (Ghanaian Literature Week)

It took me ages to find something to read for Kinna’s 2nd Annual Ghanaian Literature Week which starts on November 14th i.e. tomorrow.  On the strength of Kinna’s recommendations I have a dozen-or-so books from Africa on the TBR but nothing from Ghana, so the hunt was on and because I’d left it to the last minute, I could only source it from the Kindle Store.

There are heaps of enticing paperbacks, but the choice for a Kindle and an Australian Kindle at that, is much more limited. I wanted to find a novel because novels are what I like best, so I downloaded a sample of  True Murder by Yaba Badoe but although it was well-written the sample was all set in a UK boarding school and it seemed to be YA (not my thing) and I wanted to read something set in Ghana.  But no luck, even though I stumbled on four pages of Kindle books tagged Ghana, most of them were children’s books and more than a few were ‘not available for my country’ *sigh*.

Well, I should have saved myself some trouble and taken Kinna’s advice and simply bought African Roar 2011 to start with.  It’s an anthology of African writing, it is available on Kindle, and it has a very good story by a new Ghanaian author called Isaac Neequaye. You can read a feature about him at Story Time.

Anyway, after all that, yes I did enjoy Water Wahala, a chastening reminder of how much we take for granted the water that flows so easily from taps in our western cities.

Kweku Kyere and his wife Agyapomaa are middle-class yuppies who live in Accra,  in a nice new housing estate called Adentan.  However there is one problem…the water supply has failed and the local politicians who promise much prefer to chase interesting photo opportunities than do something about it.

When Kweku and Agyapomaa first moved in, the taps worked once a week, but that declined to once a fortnight, then to six-week intervals and now to nothing at all.  Everyone is in the same boat and must rely on supply from water carriers – who are in no doubt as to their self-importance and have a habit of being rather unreliable.

So Kweku is not happy when he gets home after Friday night drinks with the boys to find Agyapomaa warning him that they are almost out of water.    It’s been a long week at work and there’s the prospect of weekend work as well, to top up the family income.   He’s hardly ever home, he thinks, and everyone else uses much more water than he does, so why is it his responsibility to make the phone call, and why wait till it’s a crisis before reminding him?  Their son is supposed to monitor the supply, and although she works too, Agyapomaa could easily do make the phone call.  But she doesn’t – and Kweku knows from many years of marriage that it isn’t worth the hassle not to comply.

The situation isn’t pleasant.  It’s not just that they have to choose between bathing and doing the weekend cooking; they have to ration what they have (including in the loo).  It’s not just that Kweku is embarrassed about personal odour in the African heat.  It’s that the carrier they deal with, Danso, doesn’t come when he said he would, and the family tension keeps rising as Agyapomaa keeps nagging him about it.

Two phone calls and a personal visit to the carrier’s yard later, it turns out that Danso has elected to deliver Kweku’s water elsewhere, and so Kweku must wait till the next day.  And he feels none too confident about getting it even then – because Danso is still making the same kinds of indeterminate noises as before…

A wry tale, well-written.  Neequaye looks like a writer of promise.

Thanks, Kinna, for inspiring me to read more widely!

Author: Isaac Neequaye
Title: Water Wahala, published in African Roar 2011
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services


  1. […] Water Wahala by Isaac Neequaye (ANZ Litlovers LitBlog) […]


  2. I’m glad that you bought African Roar 2011. I’m looking forward to working my way through all 14 stories. I’m laughing as I read your review but this is no laughing matter. Water problems in Adentan are quite well-known. Theirs is emblematic of our uneven and poor water supply system in Accra. For instance, the water supply in my neighborhood is wonderful. The problem is not resources but infrastructure. I wonder if the author lives in Adentan and has turned his frustration into a story. It will certainly bring out the creative something in a person.

    Thanks for the review and for participating.


    • Hi Kinna, the thanks are due to you for introducing me to this very interesting writer. I think he’s been very clever in bringing attention to the water problem through a witty story that also critiques the human element i.e. the marital problem (neither of them wanting to take responsibility for it); the political problem (the politicians focussing on re-election instead of getting things fixed) and the corruption problem (the water carrier delivering the contracted water to someone else who pays more, and getting away with it because the buyer is desperate for the water and has little choice.
      I still want to read a Ghanaian novel, though, so I’ll be keeping an eye on your site’s reviews to choose one for next year’s GLW – and I’ll be better organised for it than this year!


  3. I’ve been through similar struggles to get what I feel is the “right” book for a challenge/event…funny how we get these ideas in our heads when there are so many books from which to choose, but I’m the same way. Glad to hear that, at the end of it, you’ve got a great collection, and the wit in this story makes it sound like a particularly good place to start, after all.


    • It was definitely a good place to start!


  4. Oh I bought this collection too on Kinna’s recommendation :) I’m glad to hear that this story was such a win for you! Must be frustrating in Australia with less selection – I get frustrated in Canada with that message and suspect I have much better selection.


    • Hi Amy, did you read that snippet on Kinna’s blog about one of the writers bypassing publishers altogether in favour of self-publishing? That does make it difficult for international readers to get hold of a book!
      You know, I think it’s because quite a few writers don’t really know how much chat there is about books online, and how that can benefit them. And publishers too: there’s a major publisher in Australia that never adds their books to GoodReads which means readers have to wait till a librarian uploads it before they can log their reading there. How last century is that??


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