YesiYesi: Ghana’s First Satire/ Spoof Website
YesiYesi, which means “they say, they say” is Ghana’s first satirical blog. Started in November 2013, the blog has grown to become a voice on politics and life in Ghana. The ‘faceless’ website is run by a couple which chooses to remain anonymous. Ayiba’s Edem Torkornoo spoke to YesiYesi about the role of satire in the development of a country and how to get young people to pay attention to politics.
What motivated you to start YesiYesi?
The idea was born after the Victoria Hammah scandal. My partner called me and talked about how satirical Ghanaians had been the subject. Ghanaians are actually satirical without knowing it but there’s no hub for everyone to go and read satire. I’ll say thanks to Victoria Hammer, here we are.
What was the response?
A lot of people were not used to having satire directly in their faces so the first response wasn’t great. But we did a story on Yvonne Nelson that was actually what took us up.
What was the Yvonne Nelson story about?
The rumour is that she bleaches and so we did a story on it. I think it was an absurd story but it came in the newspaper and a lot of radio and TV stations took it up and put it on their websites as real stories. They eventually took it down after realising that it wasn’t real. That’s what sent us out there and made people notice us, so thanks again to her. We do get insults along the way from fellow Ghanaians on Twitter. Some of the comments can be a bit insulting.
Do people think YesiYesi is being rude?
No, they still do not get the idea that it’s satire. Yes, some people think it is a bunch of people who have put a false story up. Obviously that’s what we are doing. We are putting false stories but they think it’s a real story. Satire is not easy to understand. You’ve got to be a little witty to get sarcasm. If it’s new to you, of course, it will take a while.
Do you think your biggest story so far has been the Yvonne Nelson one or do you have another one?
No, we’ve got quite a number. We did one on Lupita where we said Afro hair was now going to be exported instead of Brazilian hair. It caught on because we are in an era where a lot of Africans, or a lot of Ghanaians even, are doing the Afro thing.
We also had a story where we wrote, “The book according to John [Mahama].” I think we’ve done two episodes on that one and that actually did very well. We had the Nzulezu story based on the floods from last year and unfortunately the story still holds this year.
In the story, Nzulezu was suing the Accra Metropolitan Assembly for copying their on-water buildings. That’s what happens in Accra every year when it rains. It’s quite unfortunate but as satirical as that story was, it still holds this year. So we brought it back again this year, did a recap, and it caught on again. Of course people were saying that we were making jokes when things are serious but what we were trying to draw people’s attention to was the fact that this story still holds a year after, which is worrying. We put out a small message to say sorry to people who had lost people in the flood. That’s the reality. As hard as it is, it is our fault, and our government is doing absolutely nothing about it.
Where do you draw your inspiration?
From [my partner’s] head, I guess. Unfortunately, there is a lot of news in Ghana that can be satirised. In our politics, our social issues, etc., and we pick on those and create an angle to it. Initially our idea wasn’t necessarily to create something substantial. It was just someone’s passion and he loved to write and he wrote.
But along the way we decided to put a little more value to it. Quite a lot of young people are not interested in politics anymore. They shut off the radio when people are talking about politics. But if we don’t know what is going on, how can we lead our own country? So we thought this would be a good way to draw people’s attention to the things that are wrong in the society.
If you do read our stories, you will see that there is a lesson in there and if you went back to the real stories, you could research and learn more. So we actually use satire to draw attention to important stuff and bring out people’s thoughts. Some of the stories are just what some people think or what they’ve wanted to say but they haven’t had the chance to say.
How do you think satire can contribute to the development of a society?
I think that it can be used to teach people certain things or draw their attention to certain things in a funny way. Everybody likes to laugh, well not everyone can take a good joke, but most people love a good joke, so if in laughing you’re getting people to look and read what you want them to read then it’s a good thing.
We are just trying to sensitize people about what is going on in our country. We look at some of the loopholes in society as well. Sometimes we look at comments and people say, “oh I didn’t know that this was happening and when I saw the story I went back to read the actual story.” So it gets people interested in the politics. But if, unfortunately, we get a generation of people who are not looking into politics and reading about politics and knowing where it’s going and where it’s coming from, there’s a problem. We think this is a very fun and interactive way to get people interested in our society.
In what way do you want people to pay attention to politics and be involved in it?
If you leave the country alone by all means someone will lead it and if it’s not the smart people or the people who have the country’s interest at heart then there’s a problem. No matter what you do, if you sit back and say, “oh, let the others do it,” the others will do it and the others are usually not people who are the right people for the county.
Also, why not? Why can’t a new generation start sensitising itself when it comes to politics? So yeah, I think the younger generation should get into politics. People keep saying that the young generation is the future but I think the future is now. They have to start now, they have to be sensitised now. If you do not know about the politics, if you do not know how our politics started, where it is now, where it is going, where you think it should go, then how could you be a good leader in the country?
You recently won the best new blog at the Blogging Ghana Awards. What does that mean for you?
It encourages us. To think that we’ve been read so much that we’ve been recognised and it’s really thanks to a lot of the fans. We’re really grateful because it was almost unexpected. We thought we were “too new” to win something like that, and to know that people actually read YesiYesi and look forward to it every day encourages us.