Without Leash.

when the rain falls thick
go partying in its heart, dance
to the tune of petrichor
with no cares for ready puddles and a-waiting colds

Picture mine: Wine and Soul MuseNorth Kaneshie: Sunday, 31st May, 2020

when the sun smiles large
go savour its gold, drink
to the easy jade-s and edgy joys of wilt-s and
whorls

while the wind heaves past
go prise open its pouch, peer
to learn the places and people-s it’s laden
with

Picture mine: Wine and Wind MuseNorth Kaneshie: Sunday, 31st May, 2020

then

when the darkness descends hard
(you’d have had stores of life and light
to) go prancing and drinking in and prying into all
its quiet-udes and myth-stries, its

what-if-s

A version of this poem was first published in an issue of Illinois State University’s Obsidian, A Journal of Literature and Arts in the African Diaspora.

*   *   *

Love,

AishaWrites.

– first hours of Saturday, 12th February, 2022: Legon, Accra, Ghana.

…Until Jesus Was Born.

It was a day like any other until,
Joseph and Mary arrived in Judea, the City of David,
And Jesus, the Savior, the Son of the Highest, was born.

It was a day like any other until,
Bethlehem was full of people, and had no room left, so
A Mother had to lay her new born child in a lowly manger.

Photo mine. Dusk-break. Beach somewhere between Osu and Labadi,
Accra, Ghana: 2nd December 2018.

It was a day like any other day until,
An angel appeared, with glorious light, and with happy news,
To shepherds watching over their flocks on a cold wintery night.

Photo mine“Glory be to God,” says a canoe. Beach around the James Town
Lighthouse and the Brazil House of the Tabom People, both of Ga Mashi.
Circa September 2017.

It was a day like any other day until
Wise men from afar followed the star of a Great King,
And arrived at a small inn, with gifts, and with worship.

It was a day like any other
Until God put on flesh and came down to dwell with humankind.
Until Eternal Love and Joy Unspeakable became humankind’s heritage.

– Morning of Wednesday, 15th December 2021: Legon, Accra.

Ashirifia.

Sometimes, I
think about you, miss you in
ways I struggle to trust myself with,
ways I am yet to teach myself to be capable of, to accept.

Sometimes, I
think about you, fill in the blanks
with the person you may have (e)merged into,
with the new beauties of the humanity you may have put on.

Sometimes, I
think about you, turn over in my mind
the quiet vividness of that friendship we shared,
the friendship I am yet to find word and name for.

Inside the Ga Mashi. – Accra Central, Accra, Ghana. // Photo mine – Saturday, 14th August 2021.

Sometimes, I
think about you, re-live in prayer-dreams
how we waited and watched out and what-not for each other,
how we talked and walked with each other even on days we just didn’t…

And today too,
when I think about you, when I wonder about you,
a tear or three threatens, my heart skips beats, my head hums,
a vague pain knots in my chest, sits insistent in the bowl of my small belly.

– Legon, Accra: Early hours of Wednesday, 6th October, 2021.

Nibii Bibii*…

ask me of my love for her
and I will tell you about
the smallest of things in the smallest of moments – things of and about her:

*


the neat fold of her lithe limbs and the coil of her frame, when
the tides began to shed
their quiet leaps and bright tenors for one loud void and ashen shrill.

Picture mine – Around Legon, Accra: Monday 8th Feb. 2021.

the blank and wet on her face as she
gazed into nothingness, when I told her it can’t possibly
rain and pour, roar and pain without end – and not without her will to up and on still.

the sharp arching of her left brow,
once when I had asked her what she thought of
hopes and dreams going stale, then sour, with one wait after more waste…

Picture mine – Legon, Accra: Thursday, 24th Feb. 2020.

the knotting of her smile on one tip of her tiny thick lips,
when I told her that Sun showed up and sweet – and generously so –
after what, until now, tasted like forever.

the sudden coming of her pointless mischiefs,
the unpredictable turn of her next funny thing – in the middle of
what should be, what has been anything but play, anything but a joke.

Picture mine – North Kaneshie, Accra: Wednesday, 23rd Dec. 2020.

the easy, lucid recklessness of her waist, as
she danced away to that silly song she knew was silly but
she loved like mad and silly and all – all the same, and with no shame at all.

the sweep and setting of her hips in a gait
which defies name, which transcends walk, which dances
to its own song – when I make way, as I’m wont to, for her to go before me…

Picture mine – Gallery 1957, Accra: Tuesday, 9th Jun. 2020.

the lush and soul of the life and presence in her eyes when
she begins and soon gets happily lost in
a World where Words and Water and Wonder and such and similar live and thrive…

*

ask me about
the smallest of things in the smallest of moments – things of and about her
and I will only begin tracing the form and frame of Love – my Love for and of her.

               

– Morning of Monday, 21st June 2021: Legon, Accra.

* Niibii Bibii‘ is Ga for ‘Little Things’, as in, the not-exactly little things because of which we love, we laugh – we live…

Masquerade Adowa Dancers – by Agnes Gyening-Asiedu. (Part 2)

This is the second in a three-part series of this story. Read the first part. 

*

The master drummer beat the drums with frenzy, and as she danced, she became a wild cat.

“Where did this wild thing come from?” he wondered, as she wriggled her waist in front of him. This stirred up the hunter in him. This was even more exciting than he had thought, and he was more resolved now, more than before, to conquer this one–damn the consequences!

“Oh God!” she thought to herself. “How good it feels to be wanted. Once again”.

In these past three years, she had felt aged, unloved and unattractive. Looking after two young sons–a four year old and a two year old–with no help could sap every energy out of any woman, anyone. Coupled with this was the old mother-in-law who lived with them, who never appreciated anything she did, who never said thank you. God! How difficult it was to please that woman! Over the years she had felt as dry as a branch stick long fallen off its mother tree in harmattan.

So this new feeling of being wanted was good. It felt very very good…but wait…she must not give in too easily. Besides, she would not be crazy to do anything to hurt her marriage–but a little flirting was not going to harm anyone. Was it?

So she pretended she was no longer interested in the dance, and she began to slacken her dance steps.

The male dancer was surprised. It looked like the woman had lost interest in the dance. He spun towards her until he was within hearing distance. Then he shouted out to her,

“Don’t you like me?”

She had no response.

“Do you want me to stop dancing with you?” he asked, disappointment seeping into his voice.

His voice was so deliciously familiar, like the sound of the wind. This was a voice she has heard before, a voice she has loved before. It was a voice from many years back. Where had she first heard it?

“I don’t force women,” he said, and with that, he began to dance away from her, towards the exit of the dance arena.

“Oh no!” she thought. “I can’t lose him now!”

She took a quick step forward with her right foot and danced towards the exit, until she by passed him and was soon dancing in front of him. She began to twirl around him in a wondrous pattern–a wondrous adowa pattern.

He stopped dancing and smiled. She stopped in front of him and squatted before him. The spectators were euphoric, as they shouted:

Dance!

Dance! Dance!

Dance! Dance! Dance! 

The drummers got the cue–they began to beat a faster and sweeter rhythm. And the two dancers resumed their battle, the battle to see who was the better dancer.

“Whew!” he thought. “That was close!”

Now that he has won her over–or so he thought–he began to feel overconfident. He began to dance as if the whole world belonged to him.

adowa-dance-at-the-AAI-25th-Annual-Awards-Gala

Image not mine. Image may be protected by copyright.

You know that thing that men do when they have wooed a woman, and won her, and married her? Then they think that there is no need to fight for her again, and the excitement of hunting leaves them, so they go out seeking after more exciting things like wealth or power or fame, and even for new love adventures? She did not like that. Was that not what she now has at home? Was that not what she had come here to escape from, albeit temporarily?

His new dance steps put her off, so when she saw some other male adowa dancers around the edge of the dancing ring, she danced fluidly towards them. She took her competition to them, teasing them, taunting them, urging them. The male dancers tried to match her with the best of their dance steps, but they were no match for her. For she twisted and twirled and bent and hopped, and they looked like puppets before her.

Eventually, she got tired of them and rejected them, one after the other. And they all left the ring, until it was left with the male masquerade dancer, the one she has been dancing with.

“Did she not see red? How dare her do that to him? Just when he thought that she had fallen for his charms? How could she have dared go to dance with other male dancers?” he fumed, even though to himself, inwardly.

He was a jealous man. Everyone knew that. And even though the spark had gone out of his marriage, although he wanted some adventure, although he was out here dancing with this nymph, his wife would never leave him to go dancing with any other man, or even dare take a second look at another man. Why would she do that? What guts would she have to do that?

Seeing this woman dare to do this to him not only annoyed him, but also excited him exceedingly, made the blood pump right into his brain. He was not the kind of man to let go of his woman so easily, so he focused on his dance with new energy, and his steps became more complex. He was going to dance out his anger. He would dance off his jealousy. He would win back this wild woman with the best of his adowa steps.

Then suddenly, he did a surprising whirl to the delight and cheering uproar of the crowd.

He danced towards the female masquerade dancer and spun around her, seductively. He stood in front of her, lifted both hands, clenched his fists, crossed his arms at the elbows, then in that same pose, he hit his chest powerfully, as if to say “I own the whole world,” but she was not impressed.

She stood her ground and then she spun and wove like the great Ananse the Spider, swaying her head proudly to the right and to the left and back and again and again…

The master drummer drummed:

Obaa yi

Obaa yi

Obaa yi bε ku wo, wai!

Obaa yi bε ku wo, wai!

This woman

This woman

This woman will kill you, you will see!

This woman will kill you, you will see!

The male dancer nodded at the drummer, softened his stance, bent at his knees and squatted before the woman in surrender.

The crowd went berserk.

“Good!” she whispered to herself. “Now he is behaving properly. She would have showed him where power truly lies.” she thought.

She was going to give him some more delicate steps to show him who truly held the power, but he danced closer, close enough to hear him whisper, “Are you married?”

The question made her hot, suddenly.

“Was that thing she was in even a marriage?” she wondered.

She could not remember the last time she really saw Kwabena. As a woman. It was as if he was always away at work, and they spent the few times he was home quarrelling, quarrelling over everything, over the kids, over chop money, over household chores, over his mother–especially over his mother. His mother did not appreciate her and it hurt so much. Take for instance, today. His mother had complained to him.

The woman had said to her son, “That your Ajua has not fed me today. She has kept me hungry for several days now.” She was surprised to hear that because she had fed the woman, and with her own hand, taken half spoonfull-s of εtɔ from the plate to the woman’s mouth, about twelve half spoonfull-s, until the woman had refused to eat again, she herself had said she was full.

But at ninety-two, the woman was senile, so she did not understand why Kwabena had been so angry at her. She had not understood why he had taken his mother’s side. She did not understand why he had so brazenly called her a liar, when she had tried to explain that his mother had forgotten that she had already eaten. Was it because she had no mother of her own? Had she not taken his mother as her own?

In her anger, she had rushed into the bedroom, pulled her two rings–the engagement ring with the big diamond stone in the middle, and the round wedding ring–from her finger and threw them on the bed she shared with Kwabena. Then with tears in her eyes, she had gone into the children’s room, dressed them up and taken them to her sister’s. Then she had gone to her best friend Sena’s to have a good cry.

Sena had said to her, “Ajua Akyeampomaa Akyeampon, put all your troubles aside and let us go to the festival. Let us lose ourselves in some fun today. Later, we can decide what to do about all this.”

So here she was, having the best time of her life and it felt wonderful…so-o-o-o wonderful.

Now what response was she going to give to this man who has asked if she was married? If she said she was married, the fun stopped here, but she was not unmarried.

So to be fair to herself and to be fair to Kwabena, she replied “Separated. I am separated from my husband.”

And as she spoke, he thought her sultry voice very familiar, but it was a voice from long ago. He tried all he could to remember but he could not. Meanwhile, she twirled, turned her wrists sensuously in front of her waist and he thought he would die, for was she not the most beautiful woman he has ever seen? Just look at that waist, as she swung it from side to side. And those hips. What could he say? And those legs. Why were they so shapely? What a woman?

Oh! She could kill him!

Richard-Dwomoh-and-Gloria-Nyame-2-1-375x500

Image not mine. Image may be protected by copyright.

She did remind him of someone from long ago, but he could not place where he knew this someone from. If he did not stop dancing now, he knew that he would never let her go, could never let her go.

As if she could read his mind, she took the most remarkable dance step he has ever seen. She spun until she was facing him, directly. She stood so close to him that the cloth with which she had tied her breast grazed half his bare chest and half his kente cloth. Then her eyes met his, wet and eager.

She looked into his eyes. Something about about her look, something about her eyes, something he could not find words to describe, threw him a little off balance. He lost focus on the dance, on his thoughts–even his life. How she managed to do that through the holes in her mask, he would never know, but it was the kind of look that could break a person’s defences, a man’s defences–any man’s defences.

Before he could recover, she shook herself like a tree and heaved her breasts up and down. And even though her breasts were tightly tied with a cloth, they were so full and so round that he could see the firm roundness of their base as they moved up and down, for the weight of her breasts almost defied the tightly tied cloth. And now that she had him hooked, she caught his gaze, again, and gave him a look of pure seduction, before turning her back to him while still holding his eyes with hers.

Then she began to dance away. He followed her, mesmerized, hypnotized, like a lost and dazed sheep. She began to wriggle her waist gently, gracefully. This was her trump card, it seemed. And poor male masquerade dancer–he was a willing captive.

The crowd went wilder than before, and they danced with their voices. Did you ever hear of such a thing as dancing with one’s voice?

The master drummer went at it again:

Dance!

Dance! Dance!

Dance! Dance! Dance!

Dance, female masquerade dancer!

Wriggle your waist downward when you dance!

For Odomankoma has given you a shapely waist!

Shake and heave your breast when you dance!

For Odomankoma has given you beautiful breasts!

Twist and spin when you dance!

Dance! Dance! Dance!

Dance! Dance!

Dance! 

(To be continued)

*

IMG_20200608_014635_489

Agnes Gyening-Asiedu, the writer of Masquerade Adowa Dancers.

Agnes Gyening-Asiedu loves to write.

Her story for children, Aku and Her Ice Cream, was published by African Storybook and facilitated by the British Council in Abuja, Nigeria.

Her first storybook for young adults, My Nightmare, won the 2017 CODE’s Burt Award for Ghanaian Young Adult Literature.

Agnes also loves traveling, cooking, sewing and reading.

She currently runs her own business, and lives in Accra, Ghana with her husband.

 

 

*

Love,

AishaIs.

– North Kaneshie; Early hours of Saturday, 8th June 2020.

*

Disclaimer:

Featured Image and all other images in this blog post are not mine; images may be protected by copyright.

Masquerade Adowa Dancers – by Agnes Gyening-Asiedu. (Part 1)

The two atumpan drums were hungry for the competition to start. They had to start drumming or else their tight skins would burst from all the excitement.

The master drummer called for the dawuru, “Dawuru Kofi, ma wo ho mbre so”. The man holding the two bells began the adowa beat:

Ke nke ke nke

Ke nke ke nke

The talking drums began in earnest:

Kudum Kudum

Kudum Kudum

Ku dan dan kudu

Ku dan dan kudu

Kudu

Kudu

Ku dan dan kudum

Ku dan dan kudum

The apetemma, the petia, the brenko and the donno, all of which formed part of the adowa instrument ensemble joined in the thrill. As soon as the full ensemble began to play, and the singers began to clap and sing, two masked adowa dancers stepped into the arena. One of them, male; the other, a female.

The female masquerade dancer moved her right foot forward, her left foot following on the next beat, each step corresponding with the rhythm from the dawuru. Wriggling her waist downwards, gently, like a true daughter of the Asante Kingdom (for which true female Adowa dancer did not wriggle their waist downwards when they danced?) and with her legs slightly bent, she shuffled elegantly, moved her hips gracefully, first to the right, then to the left, then up and then down.

With a flick of her forefinger, she beckoned seductively to the male masquerade dancer  to come and compete with her if he dared, after which she moved her shoulder smoothly, turned her hands beautifully in front of her body, twisted her neck like a doe and swung around. Then she did the most complex of dance moves – indescribable moves – with her legs, her hands and her head, and finally ended the first lap of the dance on her right foot.

114996ae89e2a0ba8d6b1bd6d9e855f5

Image not mine. Image may be protected by copyright.

As the male dancer swayed gently to the rhythm of the drums, he could not help but admire this charming adowa dancer who was as supple as a branch of neem tree. What exotic steps! How well she carried herself! She looked as vulnerable as a kitten and yet as arrogant as a peacock. And that appealed to him. A lot! Her wrists, which were adorned with gold ornaments were fleshy but not plump. Her skin colour was as golden as ripe pawpaw, exactly like his wife’s.

He looked at her ring finger and he was relieved to see that she did not wear one. He thanked his destiny that he had removed his own ring before setting off from home. He was going to win this one! After all, that thing he was in at the moment could no longer be called a marriage.

He had not intended to enter the competition but when he got to the dance grounds, his friends, who knew that he was an excellent dancer, had encouraged him to enter the contest. The moves of the female adowa dancer excited him, tickled his senses. He had to talk with her.

He shuffled smoothly towards her, then strutted like a cock, pulled out some brilliant adowa steps – solid, intricate and powerful legwork. Then he strode to the middle of the dance arena, swaggered briskly towards the crowd, turned his head, twisting his wrists one above the other, in the same direction as his head.

He spread his arms wide apart, proudly, and made as if he was pulling the entire kingdom to himself. Then he opened up his kente cloth to show off his broad hairy chest. He threw a corner of the kente on his left shoulder, leaving the other muscular, lean shoulder deliciously bare. He rushed towards the spectators, who broke into a sudden frenzied cheer. The male adowa dancer turned in his stride, sharply, and squatted in front of his dance partner. The the crowd went wild:

Dance! Dance! Dance!

The female dancer was awed at the show of strength by the male dancer. He was as agile as a deer and as regal as a monarch. She has never seen a man who carried himself this gracefully. Where was he six years ago when she was at her prime? She admired him silently from behind her mask, wishing that what she had at home was a man like this.

He danced towards her as soon as the drummers lowered the tempo of the drums, and he whispered in her ears, “You are beautiful. Are you from around here?”

What was she to say? She was in a mask anyway, and who would know that she was the one? It has been so long since she had such fun. She has forgotten what it felt like to be wooed, to be wanted. She was exhilarated.

She began to spin around him dreamily, sweetly, and did she spin so delightfully. She hopped rhythmically around him, first to the left and then to the right and then rocked her waist, softly. She spun around him again, closed her eyes and began her beautiful but complicated adowa pattern.

At first, she was as gentle as a baby breeze. Then she began to dance feverishly, as the drums heated up, daring the male dancer to compete with her.

adowa-2013

Image not mine. Image may be protected by copyright.

And then just when he began to spin back, to match her step for step, to jump into the air, she stopped dancing, looked straight at his mask as soon as his feet touched the ground again, and taking advantage of the lowered drum beats, she whispered:

“Dompease. I come from Dompease.”

“Nobody told me there was such a lovely dancer here in Dompease,” he whispered back.

The master drummer had noticed the chemistry between the two dancers, and so he began to communicate love messages through the drums:

Onua bεεma, wo pε obaa no anaa?

Brother, do you like the woman?

Kudum Kudum

The male dancer lifted his hand towards the drummer and hit his fist in his palms, to show that he was enjoying the drumming. The dancers began a more powerful pattern and the crowd went hysteric, for they have never seen such dance steps before, and they thought the dancers were spectacular, so they shouted:

Sa! Sa! Sa!

Dance! Dance! Dance!

Then the drummers beat their drums gently, once more, and she asked him where he was from. Was he from anywhere around? He wondered whether he should say yes but he knew he must be careful.

“No,” he replied, huskily. “I am from Kuntunase.”

“Oh, that far? You mean you have come all the way from Kuntunase just to partake in this dance?”

“I was invited by my friends. To watch the festival.”

Kudum Kudum

Kudum Kudum

Ku dan dan kudu

Ku dan dan kudu

Kudu

Kudu

Ku dan dan kudum

Ku dan dan kudum

(To be continued)

*

IMG_20200608_014635_489

Agnes Gyening-Asiedu, the writer of Masquerade Adowa Dancers.

Agnes Gyening-Asiedu loves to write.

Her story for children, Aku and Her Ice Cream, was published by African Storybook and facilitated by the British Council in Abuja, Nigeria.

Her first storybook for young adults, My Nightmare, won the 2017 CODE’s Burt Award for Ghanaian Young Adult Literature.

Agnes also loves traveling, cooking, sewing and reading.

She currently runs her own business, and lives in Accra, Ghana with her husband.

 

 

*

Love,

AishaIs.

– North Kaneshie; Early hours of Saturday, 8th June 2020.

*

Disclaimer:

Featured Image and all other images in this blog post are not mine; images may be protected by copyright.

Lessons from Essay Lessons.

When the bell ends school’s
petty prisons – rules, reasons –
Love and Life runs out to play…

– Aisha Nelson

The sun finds it fun to generously pour its radiance, through the window, onto a page of my exercise book. Perching at the top corners of the page are the constant Date and Exercise Number. Apart from these, this new page is blank. And I know better than to expect that only these constant-s, without writing the exercise proper, will fetch me a decent grade, any grade. I take much time and care to write the topic of the new exercise. Topic too, I know, still counts for nothing, no grade.

Riza, my friend, has long finished and submitted her work, one of those essays.

I’m forever far from finishing mine. I can’t even bring myself to begin writing. The thought of it:

How I spent my Christmas Holidays”!

IMG_20200129_170823_260

Picture mine: Eclipse, a painting by Kobina Bucknor, at the Ghana Museum of Science and Technology; December 9, 2019

How I wish the sun fills my near-blank page rather – the whole of my exercise book, actually – with Words. With beautiful Words. Beautiful but truthful Words. Words more truthful than they are beautiful. Many such words. Only such words. For I always tell myself not to lie. All my essays, including this one, which I am yet to even write, really need to be short.

This is because all there is to think and write about my recent Christmas holidays can be done in as much as a single lean paragraph. Any addition will be unnecessary, superfluous – a smudge, even, on my integrity. Anything short of or more than the plain truth will be a grave lie. To lie is something I am not to do, to not lie especially because of something as trivial as a grade, a better grade. So I believe.

Meanwhile, the street outside the classroom is bursting with so many stories outshouting each other for attention, shouting to be told, to be written, by anyone who cares to.

Ms *Enam Doe will not be able to mark all the stories if I and every other pupil are to care enough to write a lot less than half of those stories. Yet, she complains my essays are too short. On the previous page of my exercise book is one such exercise. Her red ink’s frozen scream under that last essay eternally reads,

 “This essay is too short, Enam. This must be the last of this kind!”

The last is long past. My turning over a new leaf is not only to write a new essay, but more importantly, to write one of appreciable length – at least, as deemed by my Grade Six Teacher.

“No offending Ms Enam Doe this time”, I mutter to myself.

So I set my **Bic on the first line of the page.

Slowly, I start. I finished my first sentence. But not without the expected drag. Little by teeny little, I write. And write on. One thoughtful word after the other, I filled the page with crisp, warm and fond pictures, moments and memories of my recent Christmas holidays. I was thankful to finally finish.

I shut my eyes for a few seconds. I let myself dream of seeing my new page – my whole book, and even my desk – spilling with the many words I very recently poured…

My essay is set. It sits still, clean and lean on the page. It sits still and still several lines shy and short of half the new page.

And even before Ms Enam Doe’s red ink will add its voice, the blank larger half of the page screams the wretchedness of my mere scratch and funny toil of an essay. The scream rumbles and doubles. The scream fires and crackles sparks and thunders on my poor page. Methinks I even feel my desk quake with all the turmoil.

I watch on, helplessly, as the rumblings scatter my poor essay. The tongues of fires, they hungrily lick my already-lean and now-scattered essay away. Then the rumblings, now full and fat from eating my essay, sport a sly smile, give a guttural belch, wail one long yawn. Stretching its tiny limbs and making to take a nap on my page, the bloated ball of rumblings burst…

The mess from the burst splashes on my sad long face, spills over and into the rest of my book, hangs thick above my desk.  My face falls. My head remains bowed in shame, a shame I can’t readily account for.

Save my face I must. I sit. Upright. Still.

But I don’t write. I can’t bring myself to write. Not anymore. Not yet. Not again. Not for this essay.

I look outside from my desk by the classroom window. That side of the world is bubbling with vast numbers and weights of life-s and promises. The stories on the street are now leaping off everyone and everything. The stories are wandering frantic, peeping here and there, wearing fragile half smiles, prancing down and up everywhere. The stories are tugging along and bumping into everyone and everything and themselves, begging and hoping, insisting and waiting. To be written. Or to be told.

To just put on the temporal…

*

Eager traffic lights and drowsy street lights
blink dawn off their metal-gilded brows.

Towering bill boards and
patches of dew-studded grass glance
beneath and beyond them. With glee.

Low drones of engines from all ends
embrace distant hums of some church organ.

keen conductors
tucked in windows of moving vehicles. 
keener hawkers. 
Outshout, outrun each other.

Breeze heaves past, weaving
through throbbing background and noise.

Wind whistles through
kites tattered and tangled and caught up
tall on soulless poles.

Colour-filled smells of breakfasts linger and vanish
in between the thick and trickle of people and other…

Warm human
bodies and bottles of
chilled water and drinks and such
sweat with heat and cold and both.

LoveCokctail 6

Picture mine: Angles and Gazes and Heights. – A picture of me, somewhere in Accra, Ghana; September 30, 2018.

Time ticks. Time fidgets under blankets of
humid air. Humid air hangs at every end of the street.

A quick push there. A shove.
A crisp pull here.
A crash. And then, a thud.

Skyscrapers stand scattered,
grinning their morning greetings to high clear skies.

Spells of rain showers
soothe and refresh and smooth
aches and wilts and frays.

Groceries
sprout on tables under sheds.

A
shuffle hardens into a walk. A
jog eases into a walk. A
jog grinds into a saunter. A
stop springs into a saunter. A
stop revs into a run. A
shuffle breaks into a run…

Souvenirs
shine anew on shelves in shops.

Honks and horns
screech each
other to hoarse stops.

Sun peeps from behind
billowy clouds sporting white toothless smile.

The street is a pool of people, street is dotted
with soft whirls. The street is awash with
happy hues, street sways to its own music.

Last glimmers of neon lights
fade past early shimmers of glass doors.

*

Good old Life glides past. Everywhere I look, stories abound.

And here I still am, sitting and thinking, labouring and wasting myself away, behind an essay which refuses to be written. I think harder by the seconds.  I search and turn my memory times and over, trying to find if there still is one tiny detail about my Christmas holidays which I may have forgotten.

Then, I can blow up this my new detail with words from that Word Class we learnt in the last Grammar Class: Adjectives, they call it.

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Featured Image: Picture mine: Fishermen at work; a canoe called ‘Good Name‘. somewhere at the seaside between James Town and Ussher For, both Ga Mashi, Accra, Ghana; July 26, 2019.

But then, there is my face to save and my teacher to make happy – and my-self too to make happy, since my teacher and I share a Name. Enam.

And this is how I also will outdo one of my Grande-Mother’s many sayings: I will ‘‘kill three – not just two birds with one stone.’’

Two years later, I’m in a new class in a new school, with a new teacher, having the same lesson – Essay Writing. It is a debate, this time.

I begin with an introduction, as Ms Boakye has taught me, and as I best know how. I begin with an introduction which excellently expressed my side of the motion and fully justified it. I combine truth and length well enough – or so I insisted on believing. That introduction should please any teacher, who should in turn, reward this my rare – if not unique – feat, ever since I began writing essays in school.

But I was to be surprised: I’ve outdone myself and the normal.

My introductory paragraph alone is two lines short of one page. I scan it. I read it. I skim it. I re-read it. I revise it. I proofread it. I review it. And I end up with the same essay and introduction, with same words and word count. For I find every word in there worth choosing, very much worth the inclusion.

And by so doing, I displease another teacher for the opposite of a previous offence: too short essays.

*         

It’s been many years since. If only I had understood those Essays as Compositions, I would not have thought of too many words as Lie-s.

And Oh! How I wish I had realized much earlier that too many words could as well be truth, beautiful truth.

Whether about the use of Adjectives or some other writer-ly style, one thing emerged from this whole experience: Modesty – not of the raw and rigid kind. I prefer to call it, Giftedness, or simply, Gift.

This Giftedness, It has never needed to save its owner’s face. Rather, It feeds her imagination and fills the pouring of her creations, It sharpens her outlook and adds life-colour to the fountain of her imagination.

This Giftedness effortlessly is. It intimately knows.

Through words, this Giftedness unfurls and flares out worlds beyond the mere now, worlds populated with personality, worlds loosened from locale, worlds forever far from the mundane. It is at once an exclusive sanctuary for all things too wondrous for the eloquence of words. It is a universe of possibilities upon infinities.

This Giftedness has a unique gift for everyone who encounters It.

This Giftedness does not kill one, two, three or more birds with one stone. Rather, like birds, It is free to soar the endless realms of the worlds of Words, soar and explore without the fear of room or restraint, without any fear of any kind.

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Flying despite the fear, into the face of the fear, past the fear: A picture of me taken by my nephew, Kofi – at the Ghana Museum of Science and Technology; December 20, 2019.

So I now soar and explore, I write my life-world away.

And while at it, I am all too glad to watch the sun generously pour itself into my bliss…

 

*   *   *

Love,

AishaWrites.

– Wednesday, January 29, 2020: Dansoman, Accra, Ghana.

***

Glossary:

*Enam is an Ewe name that means ‘Gift’ or specifically, ‘God/He gave It to me’.

** Bic is the trademark of a very popular brand of pen in Ghana.

An earlier version of this story was the second  of my and Phillis Wheatley‘s annual Chicken Soup publication.  

 

For Naa Amanua Ankrah, Mother Mine.

There is only one person who can tell me “I love you” and “Leave there” in one breath, in one word.

Saah 1

I know only one person who can call me “Sheilla” and it does not feel foreign…

There is only one person who can remind me that my waist beads need changing, and at that same instant, this person has more than enough new strings of beads and thread and all, ready, to do the new beading.

For me.

I know only one person who can play and laugh, cry and worry, pray and work, all with full and earnest zeal, all at the same time.

There is only one person (alive) who can call me “Ishe”, easy and free, with nothing seeming forced or stolen, without any shadow of anything seeming out of place,  with nothing at all feeling like a fraud or camouflage.

Just like that.

I know only one person who sees a bra or some fancy dress – anything to the tune of an article of clothing – and immediately imagines and knows beyond any telling and instinct that I am the only person who the designer and maker of that piece of clothing had in mind…

There is only one person who, once upon an instance, chased me for almost forever and finally when she got hold of me, she remembered too late, she remembered all over again that she just cannot spank me, that she just cannot bring herself to spank me.

That she cannot even bring herself to pretend to spank me.

Saah5

I know one person who will remember that the ripe plantain portion of the cooking is for Aisha, and in the midst of every dish exotic and embellished, she will know beyond knowledge itself that Aisha will (always) choose the corn and fish end of it all.

There is only one person who will do or undo my hair, who will see and help me get fitted in a dress or similar, and she will not be afraid to forget that I am no child – no small child, I mean.

No doll, in fact.

I know only one person who would visit me too frequently (while I’m away from home) that I would need to beg and give her reasons upon promises why she needed not come visiting me that often, that she really needed not come checking on me far too often.

There is only one person who can get herself worked up in worries about me, worries because anything as nothing as as ants and dust are ‘worrying’ me.

Worked up with worry that is just not her own.

Saah 3

I know one person that (my sisters and) I bypassed all her names and invented a name unique to her and peculiar to all others, a name for her and only her, a name she did not, does not, does not look like she ever will mind.

There is only one person who will call me “Aisha” and I never need to turn and look to be sure who called and why – with never any need to be sure of anything at all.

Only one living person.

I know only one person who would mindlessly sacrifice her youth and sweat, who would pour all of her stubborn love and unflinching presence for me, even if it means setting aside (her) other loves, even if it means breaking and looting into her stores for the future, even if it is to her own hurt and lack and shame and worse.

There is only one person who I will never be able to return – to even, ever, begin to pay back – the milk and pillar, the honey and rock, such kindnesses and all over again, more of these and all others like them that she has been, and continues to be.

To me.

I know only one person who can call me on phone and by (her) asking only “Aisha, what have you eaten today?”, she would have asked her “How-are-you-s?” and a thirty and thousand and more other questions.

There is only one person who when I sit to count my lot of blessings, I have to pause, ponder and count and count again and one more time and another.

One more time and again and never too many.

Saah 2

There is only one Naa Amanua Ankrah.

And she is not only *The Eyes (That See) For The Nation/ People, she is not only **The One Who Fights To Redeem The Nation/People.

This Naa Amanua Ankrah, she also is the Queen and Mother, the immense and great Good, the ever-giving and never-ending Love that God gave and did and showed me.

That Queen and Mother, that Good and Love that is called Naa Amanua Ankrah, today is the day she first happened – on this side of life and eternity, at least.

And I choose to bless her ***today (too) with the boundless Person of Father God Himself.

 

Love,

AishaLovesToo.

– Monday, 3rd September 2018; Dansoman, Accra.

 

*

*The name Amanua is derived from the Akan (Akwamu) expression ‘ɔman (no) aniwa‘, which can be translated as the ‘the seer of / the eyes of the nation‘.

**For the Otublohum clan of the Ga people in Ga Mashi, where my Mother hails from, the appellation (known as ‘sabla‘ in Ga, and ‘mmrane‘ in Akan) for the name Amanua is ɔko(m)afo ajeman‘, which loosely means ‘the one who fights for/to redeem the nation’. Ajeman may also be spelled Agyeman(g).

***An earlier version of this post first appeared as a Facebook post on my wall, on Saturday 1st September 2018, my Mother’s birthday.

 

 

 

 

The Speech That Didn’t Happen. The Win!

Reader Dear,

I thought you might have learnt somewhere, but might still want me too to tell you about the 2018 Professor Kofi Awoonor Literary Prize and how it was won by a certain Sheilla Nelson. Or an Aisha Nelson.

I am the same, the said Nelson – whether Sheilla or Aisha, whether Aishetu or Aisha. (One day I will talk about my name(s) properly, fully.)

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Picture mine: A copy of the unpublished anthology I submitted for the prize.

Bits and bigger about the biennial prize are known: from the earlier official announcement in 2018, from related social media posts  by various people including my Facebook post days after the awards ceremony, and from a blog post by James Murua.

In a later Facebook post related to a stage adaptation of Osiris Rising, I will mention how the novel’s writer, Onukpa Ayi Kwei Armah, inspired – and more – the titular short story of  my unpublished anthology, Lens and Other Stories

This is the work I submitted for the prize – a soft-bound book. A manuscript.

Perhaps, the only new thing about the 2018 (Fiction) edition of the Prize was that its awards ceremony was grafted into the Academic Directorate of the University of Ghana’s second day of what has come to be called “Vice Chancellor’s Ceremony in Honour of Academic Award Winners” – for the 2017/2018 Academic Year. This awards ceremony is done on two consecutive days, usually a Thursday and Friday, for the Sciences and Humanities respectively. I received the prize on the second day, it being administered by the Department of English, which is a part of the Faculty of Humanities.

All of this arrangement, it was unlike the maiden/2016 (Poetry) edition of the prize, which was held as a separate and full event at the Kempinski Hotel in Accra. This edition was won by one Sarpong Kumankoma (Agyei Sarpong Amos).

The rest of the details of the edition for which I was adjudged winner? Nothing so new. Everything quite personal:

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Picture mine: The brochure for day 1 (Sciences) and day 2 (Humanities) of the awards ceremony.

1.   Like how I had been at The Balme Library and other places on the University of Ghana campus quite more than a few times to put finishing touches on and to print the manuscript – per the submission requirements – and finally, to submit the package at said Department of English.

And how months later, the next year, I got a WhatsApp message one afternoon (when I was still not fully peeled from the hold of a nap) to come pick up a letter and sign my acceptance of the prize and of attending the awards ceremony at the Great Hall of same university.

Dates include July 4 and 17, 2018; and February 22 and March 1, 2019.

2.   How I was joined by my long time and academic friend Agnes Quansah, my friend and writer friend Agnes Gyening, and my past-student-turned-friend Vanessa Aduama, for the awards night.

3.   The surprise but understandable story about how Sheilla Nelson came to be the name on the award certificate, even though I had submitted for the prize as Aisha Nelson.

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Picture mine: The prize certificate given me.

(I have already said to tell the story about my name(s) later, remember?)

4.   How earlier versions of more than half of the 10 short stories in Lens and Other Stories have been variously and previously published and sometimes, re-published here at Nu kɛ Hulu (Water and Sun) .

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Picture mine: The outfit I nearly wore for the awards night.

5.   The funny little story about how I came to decide what to wear for the awards night and the later funnier story about how I put away that beautiful red dress (something decidedly unconventional, stylishly formal, and girlishly diva) and settled on what I ended up wearing (something shyly conventional and formal, something accidentally mature and chic).

How in the end, it all turned out to be a hearty, event-full and love-filled evening which could neither be undone nor even touched by the rains that poured, and by the fact that my three friends were meeting each other for the first time, me being the mutual one…

6.   The speech I had written a day before the awards night, in ready, in case I am asked to give any. Because that should be expected. The poem, I had added to the speech, in case I am asked to do a reading of (some or any of) my writing. Also.

Choosing a poem and not anything prose – prose, which would have been in perfect keeping with the genre of that year’s edition of the prize. Choosing, again, a poem because of its typical brevity, its more organic, self-contained qualities. And choosing the particular poem I chose because I had it written, already, years earlier, in honour of the man in whose honour the prize is.

7.   Both speech and poem.

Because I had no way of knowing the awards ceremony was not going to be what I had it imagined to be, a gathering of people involved in, with interest in the prize – writers and academics and people in the circles of these, the prize runners-up and other participants, the friends and perhaps families and others of all these. Until I arrived. Because I wanted to not have to be under the gaze of lights and eyes twice. And for long. Because I did not want to be taken unawares, unprepared for a speech and such during the fun and buzz and such of the ceremony. A ceremony I had no idea changes had been made to…

8.   Now, said speech:

*    *    *

Speech for Awards Ceremony of the 2018 Professor Kofi Awoonor Literary Prize (Fiction) – by Aisha Nelson.

I am highly honoured, quietly but very excited to have won this second and fiction edition of the Professor Kofi Awoonor Literary Prize.

Somewhere and sometime in the past, I have told the story of how I never remember setting out as a writer. But here I am now. Again. Much of that story was not about me.  Much of that story is not about me.

And from today, much of that story will not be about only me. I have mentioned with great gratitude and fondness, the late Ms. Wobson, my senior high school English teacher who first saw and said I am a writer one time in class; Madam Star Nyaniba Hammond, who also went too early and sadly.

I have written more than a story and a song about and for the gift of fathers and teachers and friends and believers including Dr. Mawuli Adjei, Professor Kofi Anyidoho, Dr. Martin Egblewogbe, Kwabena Agyare Yeboah, Jonathan Bill Doe, Agnes Quansah, Agnes Gyening. And Kojo – because he insisted I mention his name too.

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Picture by Vanessa Aduama: My (other) friends and meAgnes Quansah and her son on the left, and Agnes Gyening on the right.

I can talk forever about the Giver of all good and beauty-full Gifts, Ataa Naa Nyɔŋmɔ.

I can talk long about my late Grandmother, Mary Ansaba Botchway; Mother, Naa Amanuah Ankrah; my late Father, Ali Nelson. And my nephew, Kofi Poku Odum – who nearly joined me here.

 And right now, I want to share a poem, a poem I was to contribute – a few years ago – to an anthology in honour of the man in whose name and legacy we are gathered here, Professor Kofi Awoonor. Onukpa Kofi (Nyidevu) Awoonor.

 

No Praise – for Onukpa Kofi Nyidevu Awoonor.

I

Grand-e-mother said someone’s one can be more
than another’s ten. One Child.
So here, take corn, salt, take
Pepper. Take that which sates and has character.

Where I come from, they say one can be the killer
of cow for feeding the whole town. (Wo)Man.
Oh smile. laugh. even in death (read SLEEP).
Shine. live and sing. now and on. and again.

Where I come from, they say he does
not age (together) with his claws. The Old Leopard.
So here, take dew, wine, take
Water. Take that which fills and extends…

 

II

fate got it
Wrong. And it’s not fate’s first time. It bit. It
chewed. And it will forever be left
With the swallowing, the eating proper.

fate forgot
One time too many that even in death (read SLEEP), some
Leopards, with one stone of a leap, kill that two-bird of
a death, of a cow, with one leap of
A life, of a life that shames both age and grave.

 

III

praise is
ugly in mouths still munching the pay to praise. praise is
sickly when the one it is poured on needs to look askance,
to look behind to see if it is not for another the praise is…

Praise
will not be forced, will not be poured, not be willed.
Praise is comely on Its own self. So here, take no praise.

Be. Take. You.—-Praise. Are. You…

 

Thank you.

*     *    *

Love,

AishaWrites, 
AishaWinsToo.

Tuesday, 11th June 2019;
Dansoman, Accra, Ghana.

 

A Poem and Some: To Onukpa Atukwei Okai, In Memoriam. (Part 2)

 

This is the second and concluding Part of this writing. Read the first part.

Prof-Atukwei-Okai 3

Picture of Prof. Atukwei Okai – Image may be protected by copyright.

The next and last time I encountered Onukpa Atukwei Okai, it was not at PAWA House.

That next and last time, it was a phone conversation, a conversation which occurred days before my getting into what has always been the very closed undergrad (third year) Introduction to Creative Writing class at the Department of English, University of Ghana, Legon.

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Foregrounds of the The Balme Library, of the University of Ghana, Legon – Image may be protected by copyright.

Prof. Kofi Anyidoho was to be the lecturer, and he would later be a teacher, and a father, to us his students – and when I am not too shy, he would be a friend too, to me, like any of the rest.

And this was throughout the two years that the full Creative Writing courses ran – that is, throughout the two years the course progressed from Introduction to Creative Writing (year three, first semester) and congealed into simply Creative Writing (year three, second semester) before caking with a frightening but freeing intent into Advanced Creative Writing (final year, year-long).

And this was throughout same two years during which the class size was whittled down from 21 to 15 and then straight to 5 students.

From Twenty-One

With the One sitting odd and decidedly detached from the neatly even Twenty, the One sitting aloof yet playing like It belonged to the defined, recognisable form of the Twenty…

I was that One

And for reasons and circumstances I am – again, even up to this day – not able to fully understand and believe, I was one of that final Five.

I was One. Anyway. Despite. In the end.

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Picture Mine: Personal copies of portfolio submitted for grading at the end of each semester of the entire Creative Writing courses: ENGL 363 – Third Year, First Semester; ENGL 364 – Third Year, Second Semester; ENGL 450 – Year long, Final Year. ENGL 450 portfolio is submitted at the end of both semesters, the final one being the ‘fuller’, final student work.

Somewhere during those two years, Dr. Mawuli Adjei would take the classes for some four or two weeks, while Prof. Anyidoho needed to be away. And this was not necessarily the beginning, but definitely was a reference point for his becoming my former lecturer and an ongoing teacher, a kind father and great friend. (And oh, for a reason I’m yet to know, and perhaps, too shy, as usual, to ask, he calls me Sheilla, not Aisha! But not like I mind. So…) Dr. Mawuli Adjei.

Again, forgive me if I (seem to) have digressed again: I only want to tell this story and tell all of it (in one piece, at one place) and never have to tell (another bit of) it elsewhere, again.

So that phone conversation with Onukpa Atukwei Okai. The point of it all was as urgent and grave as the great good which his bringing of Madam Star Nyaniba Hammond and I together brought to my writer-life.

So somewhere in that very brief phone conversation, there was something Onukpa Atukwei Okai said, something after which our conversation had to die a natural, sudden end.

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Credit: BBC Pidgin// ‘Proverb’ Translation: No matter full a bus gets, nobody sits on the driver’s seat.

Something which sank with indelible impact in me because Onukpa Atukwei had taken the time and care to say it in Ga, the mother-tongue he and I shared.

Something which I would later ponder and wonder long about for days and hours, weeks and close to months and a year.

Something which, in the end, would seep and pour and pool into a poem I would write and include in the portfolio I would submit for grading at the end of the first semester of the entire Creative Writing course.

A poem which, in its own weight and ways, would add to the grades which would keep me in the class throughout those two years, the two years at the end of which only 5 out of the initial jagged-edged number of a 21 – rather than the crisply neat 20 – students remained. Solely by merit, I must mention.

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Picture of Prof. Atukwei Okai – Image may be protected by copyright.

And even though I am certain Onukpa Atukwei Okai did not know, and might/would never know about this poem, I do not want to forget to let it be known that long before he passed on, he had lived and will continue to live in a poem he inspired.

A poem he could have as well written and written far better.

A poem he would have all but written if not that it would have been – or at least, have seemed – too novice of him.

A poem he inspired, singularly, all the same.

A poem, I say.

*

The Car 

I have a destination
I have a ticket
the car is full
some said

I have to get there
I have what it takes
the car is full
all chanted

I shall be there
I ought to
the car is full
conductor comes

here I am
out-standing them all
the car came full
and I was the driver

*

Love,

AishaWrites,
AishaRemembersToo.

Monday 20th August, 2018;
Kalpohine Estates, Tamale, Ghana.

*

PS.:

 The Car was one of the poems I read on the weekly radio programme, Writers Project on Citi, on Citi 97.3 FM, on Sunday, 6th May 2012. Before then, I had performed this poem at an open-air theatre event by the Academy of Young Writers – Ghana, at Mensah Sarbah Hall, University of Ghana, Legon