Prof. Yitah’s first presentation was focused on play songs, dilemma tales and a child’s creativity in Ghanaian children’s literature. Prof. Yitah has spent many hours collecting local and traditional songs that children frequently sing while they play. She is still busy transcribing some of the collection but through her research, Prof. Yitah has noticed an exceptionable ability on the part of the child to adapt these songs to suit their situation.
Folktales are also a key area in Prof. Yitah’s studies, and these link to children as it is to children whom these stories are told. They also contain a pattern of creative adaption to suit the situation. She says, “[Story-tellers] modify the folktale to reflect the present. Sometimes they do that to foreground gender, sometimes they do that to infuse a sense of mobility. Aeroplanes, cars, these things don’t exist in a traditional folktale, but why are they bringing these things in now? I think by doing this they are saying we don’t need to continue talking about things that are not immediately applicable to our world, why not talk about things we can identify at the moment? People were talking about mats that could instantaneously transport people from one place to the other. Now the aeroplane shows that it’s actually happening, you don’t have to imagine it.”
Prof. Yitah also believes that these play songs and folktales could have a huge impact on a child and nation’s literacy, saying, “I think our children are not really interested in reading because of the kind of books we give to them. “They can’t even connect with what the book is asking them to so there’s no motivation to read. In order for us to change that we also have to look at the way we do children’s literature. If we use material that the children are already studying or they can be interested in, that is already a move to getting them interested in reading.” Prof. Yitah added that, “Going back to our culture is one way of getting our children interested in literature but also to get them to learn about their own society, as many people may be literate but they are ignorant about their main culture, their own society. That’s not a good thing, they need to know who they are.” She hopes this will change their mentality so that children realise that another language is not necessarily better than their own.
Prof. Yitah’s seminar focused on female subjectivity in colonial Ghanaian fiction. Prof. Yitah spoke about a Ghanaian woman by the name of Mable Dove Danquah who was a major political activist among men, a top journalist, a writer in many genres including drama, poetry and short stories as well as being the first woman in what is now the country’s parliament. Prof. Yitah commented on the absence of women in African literature. “The reason I’m always attracted to the females is that I’m looking to see: ‘Is this a reflection of the society as I know it?’ and if it’s not, ‘Why this selective kind of portrayal?’”. Prof. Yitah is currently editing Danquah’s autobiography.
With regards to studying in Ghana, Prof. Yitah explained that many of the courses are slightly different to UP’s as there is an African bias to them. African literature and mother-tongue literature is especially important to Prof. Yitah as “it really tells us where we come from. It carries our heritage. It carries history, our spirit,” and this is necessary for a country to take pride in itself.