Coolest Kid in Africa – Student Writing (Part 2)

This is the first composition piece in the Student Writing Series. See the Introduction to the series. 

* * *

My worst nightmare as a journalist was waiting for Nasty C at the airport, waiting to interview him. Celebrities are difficult to get interviews with and getting to interview one of the biggest singers in Africa was my best and scariest experience yet.

His scheduled arrival time was nine thirty-seven pm and I got there at nine. I had to wait for thirty-seven long minutes. In those thirty and seven long minutes, I experienced more things than my introverted self could contain in years.

I carried all sorts of snacks – Doritos, Lays, Sour Patches, Haribos, Tree Top, Hot Cheetos, Onion Rings and Sprite – in my bag. Because I know myself. When I have to meet someone for the first time, I eat a lot, I need to eat a lot – a whole lot.

I opened a bag of Cheetos and Sour Patches and munched loudly, so loud that about five people too waiting for whoever they came to fetch glared at me with the deadliest of looks. I couldn’t blame them. I chew loudly – and not at all pretty loudly at at that.

I put the Cheetos and Sour Patches away and started a conversation with a girl of about seven standing next to me. I asked her the normal questions, in the beginning – like her name and why she was alone at a crowded place like this.

Conversation was going well and smooth.

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Image may be protected by copyright. A painting-picture of Nasty C, a popular South African rapper, song writer and music producer.

Then I switched to asking questions I didn’t mean to ask – like does she know how her parents made her and if her parents have sexual intercourse in her presence. The little girl just walked away from me and I got eyed by the incredibly tall woman behind me. She seemed to have heard my questions. She did not look happy.

After my encounter with the little girl, I decided not to talk anymore to anyone, and to just look around. And that was how I saw couples kissing, as they had been away from each other for so long. Then there were the people on their phones, busily texting away, not paying attention to their young ones.

The second best thing I saw that night was a boy who looked between seventeen and twenty running towards a girl of about the same age range. This boy. He carried the girl and lip locked the girl. My eyes got watery. And oh no, I was not, I am not a bad person – only misunderstood. Very misunderstood.

I got tired of looking around and opened a bag of Lays Original. I munched less aggressively – or loudly, perhaps – this time, and no one gave me any death stares.

From the corner of my left eye, I saw someone come stand next to me and I glanced at the person. This person looked friendly, so I started a conversation with him. I started off nice with him, nice things like the news. I was determined not to let my recent experience with the little girl get repeated.

But.

Soon, the spirit of wild talk stirred within me, again, and I asked him if he had ever eaten a huge fly garnished with crushed worms and termites. He gave me the Sorry-but-are-you-okay-in-the-head-? look and did something I never expected: he yelled –

“Sorry, I have a girlfriend so I can’t date you!”

E.v.e.r.y.o.n.e. looked at me, some with disgust, others with sympathy and the rest with the oh-she’s-a-whore look. I was so embarrassed I looked down at my shoes, my cheeks, my whole face flushed of life.

Even my shoes. They looked like they were judging me.

 

feet and heart shape twig

Picture mineA heart-tied stick I chanced on, while on a trip to selected locations in the Eastern Region of Ghana. The specific location here is a footpath to one newly discovered waterfall – Akaa Falls – which is still being developed as a tourist site. –– Thursday, 14th June, 2018.

When the megaphone announced the arrival of the nine-thirty-seven plane, I couldn’t stand still, I got all fidgety. I played with my hair and my many bracelets. I twitched my lips and let my tongue dance around my teeth. I pretended I didn’t want to make eye contact with anyone, because I was so scared of the looks they would give me. While I was playing and sorts, my head hung down.

Then I heard whispers, muffled noises around me.

I raised my head, only to see Nasty C coming out…

I blurred everyone out as the best feeling ever rushed through me. The presence of Nasty C blessed my nightmare of an evening. I forgot all about what had happened while I was waiting for him. I remembered I should have pulled out the little placard with his name on, so that he could notice me and when I raised the card, he started walking towards me.

I pictured myself running away with a speed greater than light’s because of all the worries I had. What if he is rude? What if he doesn’t like me? Is my hair fine?

Before I could finish thinking through all my worries, I was tapped by someone, and suddenly wrapped in same person’s arms. I looked up. I saw Coolest Kid in Africa written all over the person who had tapped and trapped me, the person who had me all wrapped up. Nasty C.

*

 

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Picture hers. A picture of Akosua. 

Bio:

Akosua Kumbol is also Ri.

She is the role model of your typical crazy girl.

She knows the rules to break them.

She is her own girl and person and boss.

She loves to read, and she hates to write but when she does, magic happens.

 

*

Love,

AishaTeaches.

AishaWrites. Too.

— Dansoman, Accra, Ghana; Saturday, 23rd March 2019. 

Exam Woes, Throes and Worse.

Even the temperature in the make-shift exam hall seems to have soared several degrees higher since you last heard the stubby, bulky man, the invigilator, announce that there are twenty-five minutes left to the end of the exam.

Suddenly, you are a mere block of something hard on the harder seat of some rickety chair. You barely cover the decrepit desk with the sparse frame of your upper torso. Your shoulders sag lower, by the seconds, as you bury your long face, dig your BIC pen deeper, into the paperwork before you.

Exam Red Pen

Photo mine: A red pen, thoroughly used, to grade student papers. Circa: March 2017.

Soon, “Ten minutes more!’’ thunders the invigilator.

By now,  you have attempted most of the Multiple Choice Questions. You are still struggling with the first question of the second of a three-section exam.

You begin it:

Thinking. You think and think your mind away.

But even the scanty clues you eke from all the drudgery of thinking play elusive games with you. So that by the time you have carved one definite idea out of the already scanty, tricky clues, the clues slip out of your mind’s grasp like a morsel of banku in the throat would, when greased with thick slimy okro stew.

Exam Okro

Photo mine: Beef and fresh tilapia in light soup, with generous okro, for the sake of banku – not shown here.
Circa: December 2016.

All this while, time does not wait.  It gallops. And you find that you have to quickly try something else:

Recalling – since Thinking has failed you, and you do not wish to fail this one critical exam in your life. But much sooner than you expected, you are to be failed again.

Recalling too fails you.

Perhaps, this is either because you are remembering things you should not be remembering in the middle of an exam of this nature or you are  remembering things you have never learnt in the first place.

“Oh, my God!” was all that you can muster to mutter.

Still, time does not wait.

You are not sure if you will hear all the words in what will be the invigilator’s next announcement.

But you are certain you did hear a word that sounded like ‘F-i-i-i-v-v-e’. Fine beads of sweat sparkle in your right palm. The other palm, it is as cold as a three-day-old kenkey – a coldness which cannot be cured even by the hottest pepper sauce, the freshest of ground pepper and its embellishment of  crescent strips of onion, and of course, the sexiest of fried fish.

It must be the thought of food, again, that makes your mind turn a stream muddied and choked by stones pelted in by a bunch of naughty children. Besides stones, the children hurl shouts, and together with shouts and stones and worse, the children let themselves wallow wild and wide. In your muddied and choked – messed and tossed – mind.

Your mind sours and hurts. Your head quakes with aches unknown and uncountable.

Exam Stone

Photo mine. A close shot of one of many ingeniously crafted art pieces in and around the Department of Painting and Sculpture at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Kumasi, Ghana.  Also, this is the Feature Image of this blog post. Circa: July 2017

And time makes more haste.

Suddenly, steadily, the familiar deep voice begins to loom large and louder in the room. It rumbles and tumbles in turns. The voice.

But you are not listening. You are fastening your answer booklets together. You have long given up on this exam, and school, yourself and…and…and maybe God.

The voice rumbles on. But just before the man finishes speaking, a generous chunk of your memory returns, to you. It is as sudden as it is surprising. This return.

And with it comes all the answers to all the questions you are yet to even attempt. These jump out of nothing, it seems. The answers.

And each answer leaps about you, out-shouting the others for your attention.

You refuse to mind them all. All these run-away-suddenly-come answers. You use your mind for something else:

Deciding. Between:

a) Sitting on the cold cracked concrete floor to weep at the import of the announcement.

b)  Jumping up and down, rolling and roaring with laughter at this sweet second chance…

Exam Fruit and Milk

Photo mine: Apple and ripe papaya in milk – a taste of sweet second chance. Circa March 2017.

All that one Mr. Kwakuvi Mawutor, the invigilator had said was:

“I am sorry, ladies and gentlemen. I have just been informed, by a representative of the West African Examinations Council, that this year’s Literature in English Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination has been  cancelled.”

*

Love,

Aisha Writes

North Kaneshie, Accra; Friday, 3rd November, 2017.

The Mountain at *Mkomenfa.

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It was a harmattan afternoon when the thunder struck. It slashed the ancient baobab tree at the center of the village into two. Soon, there was a heavy downpour, a violent storm. Alata, the great seer and mouthpiece of the gods, was dead. When the gong-gong beater announced it the next day, the people of Mkomenfa knew what was in store for them. They had exhausted the patience of the gods. Before the twenty full moons given by the gods are expired, they would have been punished. How? they did not know. Not even Alata.

*                        *                        *

Everyone knows Ayikuma in the village, not only because his wife recently turned her back. Also, his youngest son, Adama, is an idiot. Afroso’s was in between the births of Adama and the eldest, Akoto. Each of Ayikuma’s sons is gifted. Akoto already is a great orator. Singing comes naturally to Afroso, and nobody is as strong as Adama. Like every poor man in Mkomenfa, Ayikuma’s situation is worsened each day because of the greed of the folks in the village.

Kwaadu is Ayikuma’s nearest neighbour. Although Kwaadu has many farms and livestock, he always fights with Ayikuma over rats. Ayikuma traps rats at his own backyard. Whenever Ayikuma gets a rat trapped, Kwaadu will come, insisting that the rat Ayikuma has looks just like one of those he – Kwaadu – is rearing!  He will add, ‘Let me know when you also start rearing rats. And then, I will have the fence that separates our households repaired’.

The story is also told of the man who beats his wife every dusk because she repeatedly tastes for either pepper or salt whilst cooking. According to the man, it is so unfair that the wife is always, already half full before the family shares the evening meal.

Sooner than anyone could expect, Ayikuma left his children orphaned. Akoto was already a young man by then. And it became difficult to tell how much older he was than Afroso. (Already, the time in between their birthdays was in months, not years.) Despite this, strangers always mistook Adama as the eldest – he was the bulkiest of the brothers.

Every market day, Afroso went to the market square to sing. Out of pity or sheer love for his rather rare talent, people gave Afroso money and gifts. The latter usually consisted of all that went in the name of foodstuffs, and once in a very long while, something as frivolous as dried palm frond. None of the givers was from Mkomenfa, though.

By some arrangement, Adama did the cooking of the gift-cum-food items, while Akoto used his deft tongue to sell the other gift items they would not need. Once, Afroso got one of those frivolous gift items while singing at the market. Akoto did not fail to sell it out. When the buyer, a woman, asked Akoto why she should buy a doll with lips and brow twitched at one side of the face, Akoto explained that, it was doll with mixed emotions. He reasoned, with the woman, with one odd smile lurking at the tip ends of his lips:

“It is special. Besides, no other child will want to steal a doll like this. And that should save you a lot of money. See, you will not be buying your child another doll in a long time, until which she will even be so grown up that she will not be playing with a doll anymore.”

Thus, the three orphans eked a living out of the greedy village that Mkomenfa was, and was rightly called.

*                        *                        *

Some years later, Mkomenfa was besieged by Gbonka, their longtime enemy.

Preparations towards the battle were slow and scanty. As expected of the good old people of Mkomenfa, those who had sons refused to give them out for the battle. Their reason was simple: those without sons would also benefit from the security or victory that would be earned by their sons. Since they had no parents to restrain them, the three brothers decided to fight the battle. Their own way.

One night, Akoto, Afroso and Adama went to the enemy’s camp under the guise of stranded wayfarers. By promising to show him a secret passageway to Mkomenfa, Akoto convinced the chief warrior of Gbonka to shelter them. Afroso offered to delight the camp with songs. His brothers watched him sweetly hypnotized the warriors with mirth, mere and mild.

The warriors of Gbonka were caught in deranged dancing motions around the camp fire. The warriors. They shrieked and shrunk in turns; they clapped their clubs in the air, beat their chests with their hands and drummed the earth with the urgent throbbing movements of their feet. The smell of dust and sweat, mingled with that of smoke, and solemnly snaked up into the stark dark moonless sky. This. It must be because of something about Afroso’s songs and his singing them.

After all their strength was wasted, and before the effect of the song died down, Afroso lulled the warriors. And in no time, the camp was dead asleep on the laps of mother earth.

Only Adama kept wake…

Before the first cock crowed the next day, Adama had killed all the Gbonka warriors. He had stuffed gunpowder into the noses of those warriors who were heavily asleep, and he had fought off the others with his iron strength.

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On their way back to the village, the three brothers individually met one fragile old man. He claimed to be god-sent and promised to grant them any wish they make in the future. One just had to say some senseless stretch of syllables, three times, and someone appears, to grant whatever it was one wished. The old man would not tell each of them what his name was. The same vaguely reminded each of the three brothers of someone, someone who – as if by some strange design – just defied to be remembered. And even though the old man had not bade them so, each of the three brothers, by that same strange design, kept his encounter with the old man a secret.

Mkomenfa was not fully awake when the three reached its outskirts. On their way into the village proper, they first met some old men, the elders and king makers of Mkomenfa. The old men were about parting ways from what looked like an emergency meeting. The brothers greeted. The old men responded, and asked the young men where they are coming from that early in the morning. Akoto narrated their exploits. The old men listened.

Soon, Akoto finished telling his tale. And only then did the old men tell the three brothers about how the king had mysteriously died that dawn, just before the sound of the first cock crow. A brief solemn silence ensued. Then suddenly, with bright hideous eyes, Ataa Kwei asked, almost carelessly,

‘Why can’t one of these young
men become the next king instead of e-e-e-r-r-m…?’

Ataa Nuumo quickly finished it off,
‘Yes. We can forget about Anum’s son. These young men have killed an elephant for a whole people.’

Casting sly glances and nods of agreement at each other, the rest of the old men smiled, knowingly.

It therefore happened that before the late king was buried, Akoto was installed king of Mkomenfa, because he was the eldest and most eloquent of the three brothers. All the people of Mkomenfa thought the enthronement ceremony was done rather too early – if not rash – after the death of the previous chief.

Some others deemed the decision to install Akoto was unfair in itself. After all, everyone knew it was Anum’s son, Kwatey, who was next in line to be king.  Akoto’s family was nowhere near the royal family line.

Others believed it was right for Akoto to be installed King because he, together with his two brothers, had delivered the village from what most people believed would have been the doom of a punishment prophesied some time ago by Alata. Alata. Alata.

The discerning ones knew that the elders were jealous of Anum. They made Akoto king because it would have been too obvious if any of their sons had been installed king instead. It was therefore, just another case of the proverbial we-both-lose-it-then-since-none-of-us-would-let-the-other-have-it.

*                        *                        *

Akoto was enjoying his reign as Mkomenfa’s king when something about Afroso angered him. Many came from far and near, just to hear Afroso sing. Because of that, Afroso was not only as rich as Akoto. Also, Afroso was so much more famous and endeared to the hearts of many – even beyond Mkomenfa. Similarly, Afroso envied the honor and pomp with which his homeland treated Akoto. But Adama would not, could not be bothered by anyone, and by anything. He continued to stay in his late father’s now-ramshackle hut. And he enjoyed the attention of being an idiot.

The night before the twentieth full moon came, each of the three brothers said that senseless stretch of syllables. Three times. Then, in their various closets, each made his wish. But unlike what each of them had been told by that old man on that fateful day, no one appeared. And it did not appear as though each of the three’s wish is, or will be. Fulfilled.
*                        *                        *

Mkomenfa woke up the next morning to an emergency attack.

Six hundred and sixty-six sweaty warriors with calico wrapped around their groins were quickly dispatched. Each of them wore a raffia skirt and a head band made of leaves. Hanging from their right shoulder to their left side were strings of cowries. A fresh green leaf was clamped in between each pair of lips.

Everything seemed to be set for the battle. Akoto only had to give the final word. Everyone was to be surprised at Akoto’s speech to the parade. He sang, actually. And Afroso’s words – no, lyrics, rather – were just like him, both convincing and convicting, deeply philosophical and steeped in the timeless wisdom of the fathers of old. But the charm in the lyrics was very unlike Akoto, and so much like that of his brother, Afroso.

All the Mkomenfa warriors were caught up in what was supposed to be the final address before the battle began – some overwhelmingly awe-full song which can only call for a rhythmically taut, entrancing dance. There was thunderous droning on the war grounds, as the Mkomenfa warriors beat their swords in the tinkling air, pounded their chests with their fists and dug the red-brown earth with the heavy delicate steps their expert feet.

The battle grounds got lost in the giant heaving rising clouds of dust. It choked on the stinging smell of young gurgling blood under hot sweat. The battle grounds was blinded by many a dreary clash of iron with iron. And for more clash, four gusts of wind blew from the four corners of Mkomenfa. They clashed at the centre of the village. Then they roared and rolled, again and some more, all on the battle grounds. That whole world was in frenzy, dangerously spinning on a needle point.

Amidst that frenzy, each Mkomenfa warrior, worn beyond death with the dancing, lifelessly fell, on Akoto, one after the other. The pile grew from heap to mound and then into a huge mountain between Mkomenfa and the now-advancing army of Gbonka…

*                        *                        *

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To this day, someone sits on this mountain and tells this story of Mkomenfa to passers-by and wayfarers. As ridiculous as the story sounds, people believe it – yes, because Afroso is well able to make them believe it. And most of his listeners do notice that the beauty in how Afroso strings his words better suits a song than a story, a persuasion. Beside Afroso sits a bulky man who sulks and weeps about another brother who is buried under the mountain.

In the end, Akoto did get the charm and awe in Afroso’s voice. Afroso got to be able to convince even a mother to flay and eat the child she just birthed. Adama had a troop entranced by the charm in his brother’s voice defeated, without expending any strength of his own.

Thus, the wishes of the three brothers were fulfilled.

The gods were appeased. Greediness now has no place in Mkomenfa.

This humped mountain stands as a memorial to this story.

*Mkomenfa:
In Ga, Mkomenfa means selfishness. It is an idiom, actually, and when ‘broken down’ into “Mi kome mifa”, can be loosely translated as “As far as ONLY I am concerned, it is enough”. If a person suddenly opts out of a pursuit for a common good/goal after the person’s end of the need is met, it can be said that the person’s is an Mkomenfa character.

Earlier versions of this story were published under the title,‘The Mkomenfa Riddle’ in The Mirror (pg. 7) on 30th October, 2004; and in The Weekend Globe (pg. 8) on 25th October, 2012 and 2nd November, 2012