From Shoe Maker to Stardom: 5 things I learned from Agya Koo.
The totality of life is summarized in every given day but only a few people observe and learn from it. Every day is a mark in history for somebody, there is no single day that landmarks will not be noticed. The next time you wake up, just consider the world as a school and get all the lessons.
When I had a phone call from an old friend of mine who happens to be in the Ghana movie industry, it dawned on me to write this piece on the nuggets I have acquired from the lifestyle of one of the stars. I know very well that some people don’t like or want for a better word, hate the local movie industry in Ghana. People ascribe their dislike to a host of things ranging from cast to the story line. “Examine what is said, not him who speaks” an Arab proverb states. Getting a view of two sides is very paramount in life. Open-mindedness is the keyword here. Grasp concepts, ideas and lessons from the ugliest of things.
Kofi Adu whose sobriquet is Agya Koo is an award-winning actor and comedian from Ghana. Adu is originally from the Ashanti Region of Ghana but lived in a suburb in Accra Newtown called Asantewaa. He worked as a shoe maker. In July 2008, he was given a National Award by ex-president, John Agyekum Kufuor. There are 5 golden nuggets that I have seized from the life of this man.
LESSON 1: “Do not curse God if you still have life” says the Akan proverb. Many of us get knocked down and continue to stay there. NEVER GIVE UP is the watchword. You never know when your ship will come in. You never know when the light will show at the end of the tunnel. “When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt. Even when he was a shoe maker and lived on less than $3 a day, he never gave up. He didn’t attempt suicide as it’s seen lately with the youth of Ghana. The smallest of challenges cripples a lot of people. You can still make it while you have life.
LESSON 2: The mere fact that they have begun the journey earlier doesn’t mean they will arrive before you. Agya Koo never tasted formal education. I bet he had friends who were in school everyday. Education is very important but that doesn’t make you a super-human than the others. Respect everyone you see. He didn’t lose hope and fought on in life. Celebrate with them when they take the earlier step but don’t be discouraged. However messy the situation is, just don’t be discouraged but when you arrive before them, don’t feel you are super-human because time and chance happen to us all.
LESSON 3: In the early stage of a dream, don’t force people to believe in it, just believe in yourself. When Agya Koo started with “Concert Party” he encountered a lot of opposition. “Dude, you can never be like Santo so quit” was one of the discouraging remarks he heard everyday. He wasn’t in a competition with anyone. He only believed in himself and his dreams. Despise not your smaller beginnings! Keep on nurturing your dreams and one day……just one day….they will become a reality.
LESSON 4: Depending on where you are positioned, you can enjoy a lot of things in life; therefore it is necessary to sometimes change position. Agya Koo was living in Kumasi but had the talent to make people laugh. “As un-centralized as Ghana is, the only place you can really make it to the top is in Accra where the companies, firms etc are located,” Nana Ama McBrown an actress and a close friend of mine once told me. After moving from Kumasi to Accra, he got the chance to exhibit his talent on GTV’S Concert Party. That was the beginning of great things to come for the shoe maker. When your stomach is full, your mind goes on holidays because hunger is a catalyst to planning. Position yourself very well. Move with people who lift you up and not people who push you down.
LESSON 5: It is easy to get to the top but difficult to stay there. You can only stay as the best if you are focused, humble and “malleable.” Agya Koo is a brand now in Ghana. Movies must carry his name before they sell. Agya Koo Carpenter, Agya Koo banker to mention but a few are testament to this but he continues to listen to advice. Two years ago, the Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II called him to the palace and advised him on his movies that were gradually focusing on “atopa.” There was a drastic change in his style of acting as a result of the advice from the King. Humility will take you places. Anytime you assess your conduct to be negative and a friend refuses to signal a caution, he is nothing but a traitor. When you get to the top, help others who are now wallowing in the situation you found yourself in some time ago. Agya Koo’s movie academy, charity programs and scholarship packages are all his contribution to the society. There are billions of people in the world, don’t deceive yourself that you are on top of them all.
Life is all about lessons so don’t close your eyes and minds. Learn even from the awkward of situations, places, events and you will surely pass the test. NEVER GIVE UP!