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…

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.

ug

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.

IMG_20190513_120423_447

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.

FB_IMG_15482727916995172

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.

Prof-Atukwei-Okai

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

Towards ‘Spectacles. Speculations…’, an exhibition curated by Kwasi Ohene-Ayeh

Invite2.JPG

Image credit: Spectacles. speculations…, the exhibition curated by Kwasi Ohene-Ayeh.

I have almost always known that I love words – their tastes, textures and layers, their shades, cracks and creases, their shapes, turns and twirls. Words and the cadence of their silences, the reach of their worlds, and the crust of their characters. Words, and words in particular. In whatever language I know them, whether in bits or chunks or other. Words.

I love words and I like to believe that they too love me, and perhaps, better than I do them.

Ga and English remain the dominant languages, the words of which yield themselves easily to the Writer and Teacher in me. Or so I think. Until one crisp *afternoon in December last year.

Until a discovery happened:

I had to translate two of my own! poems. From English to Ga. And I found struggle.

Now, Ga is my first language, my L1 and mother tongue. In its many dialects or varieties, Ga is mainly spoken by the people of mid-southern and coastal Ghana, from the people of Ga Mashi to Osu, Teshie, Labadi and Nungua and beyond.

English is the language in which I wrote, and you Reader Dear, now reads this post. And the irony of it all is a part of the said discovery.

See, I like to think I know Ga a lot, a lot more than merely being able to speak and read and write it.

First, Ga was one of ten examined subjects at the end of my junior high school years. And maybe I would have continued to study Ga, if not that my senior high school was outside Ga Mashi and Accra, and so I had to choose between Fante and French. Even though Ga and Fante were both Ghanaian, I had to settle for French because it was more familiar – as at then – than Fante, the dominant language of the Central Region of Ghana. At least I had heard and studied a little French much earlier: in primary school. At the time I was to start senior high school though, Ga remained not a option.

Then during my gap year after senior high school, I taught Ga in an private school somewhere in same Accra. I had my tongue and my grade in Ga from my junior high school certificate to prove my proficiency in the language, enough proficiency to teach it. My my C.V. and senior high school certificate proved other things, other thing(s) my then employers could have been looking for.

So to a little more than just a large-extent, I can say I know Ga.

If I may say same about English, it may be because I studied it all my life in school, because I studied literature-s in English at senior high school and for my first university degree. If I can say same about English, it will probably be because I speak it more than, and more often than I do any other language – including Ga – especially when I am not home. If I should say same about English, it is because I teach the language itself, and teach literature-s in it too. What more, I have read and written so much more in English than I ever have in Ga.

And that is how come this afternoon in December last year became the day I discovered I don’t know Ga as well as I had always thought I knew.

I had received an invitation for some of my work to be featured in an **exhibition (opens 8th February, closes 10th March, 2018) curated by  Kwasi Ohene-Ayeh, a friend in my circle of creatives.

Maybe it’s because I originally did the thinking, crafting and the writing of the poems in English. And if what Robert Frost once said about poetry being that which is ‘…lost in translation.’ is anything to go by, then I should not be surprised, I should not feel hurt…

But I was hurt.

It hurt to think that maybe, just maybe, I think in English more than, and more often than I do in Ga.

It hurt me.

Specs and Specs Poster.jpg

Image credit: Spectacles. speculations…, the exhibition curated by Kwasi Ohene-Ayeh.

I struggled to do the translation, word after thought, thought for word, such after similar.

Having fought my way through this translation – with echoes of Grande-mother‘s Ga Bible, an eternal playlist of Wulomei and a saviour Ga-English dictionary edited by Mary E. Kropp Dakubu – I couldn’t imagine beginning to translate some of my other written work. Like Lens, my newest written short story. And Without Leash, a not-as-new poem.

Before I even got thrashed by the differences in the two languages’ syntax and the rigid-ties of trope and context and worldview et al, their diction alone had me confounded like scattered. Like. Think of how you would translate words like lithe, fray, literaturefurrow, lullaby, fame – not as in name, nor reputation – in Ga, or in what you consider your mother tongue.

For one thing, I am yet to find what other different words there are for smile and like in Ga. For it seems Ga does not make distinction between these two words – there may be others – and their synonyms of a thicker hue: laugh and love, respectively. And there may may be some English words which in a similar situation, given Ga…

I finished the translation – the initial draft, at least. I will later do two or little revisions. But that first draft, I liked – no, I loved – it like nothing like it. And more so, because I was able to retain – and even add to – the poetic qualities of said poems.

And for this, I am very grateful and quite proud of myself.

But despite this success and the consolation which Frost’s words should be, the hurt abides.

Because of:

The stark possibility that my linguistic intellect – if there’s such a thing – could be another hijacked one.

The thought that the essence of my language sense is less than whole – whole as in both full and pure.

The possibility that the parts of my mind and being which are touched and kept by both tongues‘ mights and realms and moulds and wonders are nothing but hacked. Hijacked and hacked. Atogether colonised.

Yes, nothing but fragmented and diluted and rid of freedom. This my being, mind and sense, my intellect.

And this hurts and hurts hard.

Or maybe, just maybe, I think too much.

Specs and Specs Promo and Artists.jpg

Image credit: Spectacles. speculations…, the exhibition curated by Kwasi Ohene-Ayeh.

Love,

AishaThinks.

Friday, 1st December, 2017.

North Kaneshie, Accra.

*      *      *

P.S.:

* An earlier version of this thought piece first appeared as a status update on my Facebook account.

** Find more about Kwasi Ohene-Ayeh here and about the exhibition, Spectacles. Speculations…, here. Learn more about the exhibition from the Facebook page, Press ReleaseCuratorial Statement and Profiles of Participating Artists.

 

Heavenly Gifts in Husks.

It had been raining since last night.

The rains beat us and turned the ground under our makeshift coop into a thick paste of earth and dirt. That was because our coop, which was a discarded metal cylinder, was open at both ends. The tiers of wire mesh in our coop suggested that it used to be a firewood fish oven. The mesh sagged and flaked away, and the coop was brown and green with rust and mold. Because part of its bottom end was worn, the coop’s decrepit frame staggered against a shady mango tree, which seemed to be locked in an eternal hug with the wall next to it.

The other fowls slept up on the branches of the tree. More severely than the previous night’s rains, these fellow fowls had beaten us the first day we had tried finding a portion of the mango tree’s branch to sleep on. One handsome cock had fought some of the fowls off and had secured a space on one branch for us. My mother however, had insisted that we leave to find another place to pass the night. I might have been the only one who had realized that it was not only because the space was too small for all five of us chicks that our mother would rather have us all sleep elsewhere. Our hero, it seemed, had ulterior motives for his all-eager-to-please-and-impress gestures and actions towards my beautiful mother. The way he had looked at my mother was the most telling part of it all.

cock n hen n chick

Photo Credit

I knew that look too well – and what it meant too.

I have come to believe it was that same look that made my eyes glitter whenever I looked at that other beauty-full chick who I used to play with during our stay at our previous home. Maybe there is something about beauty that makes, forces, others to look at beauty-full people in positively curious and unusually tender ways.

This same way of looking explains that wet glitter in the eyes – I am not sure. But I am certain that it was that look which that handsome cock had given my mother which had caused our having to make this discarded fish oven our home, since that day

*         *          *

…that day, I was chatting with that beauty-full chick and watching my eight much younger siblings play. Together with many other fowls, we were outside the compounds of the various houses we belonged to.

Then suddenly, the world went mad. All the fowls from the neighbouring houses on the lane began crowing and screeching at dead high pitches. Everyone was running everywhere to anywhere away from the expert hands and deadly bosoms and waiting sacks of those plucking us away. These agile energetic humans were intent on plucking us fowls and accidentally plucking feathers in the process too.

homowo food

Photo Credit: kpoipkpoi – steamed corn meal, eaten with palm soup – is the traditional food during the Ga-s Homowo Festival.  

‘Ayekoo!’ they called it.  Just after the ban on drumming and other ‘noise’ making is lifted, there is this ritual of seizing every stray animal – and by that, fowls, especially – on the streets. Usually, it was young men – many of who happened to have more than enough time to spare because they are jobless – who were all too glad and zealous to enforce this particular custom preceding the Homowo festival of the Ga people.

So it was no wonder that more people hooted at these young men  instead of hailing them for upholding the tradition. It always seemed that these young men were bent on celebrating every Homowo with a chicken flavour, rather than wait for four long months for Christmas for that luxury.

Soon, they were gone, leaving behind giant pillars of dust in the midst of low little clouds of floating fluffy breast feathers. And it was not until much of the brief wild stir had calmed when we realized that we were lost, and four of my siblings were either dead or also lost somewhere else. Forever.

Our lives took another turn after this incident. We had to learn to fight for everything from air and food to shelter and dignity. Survival became a matter of a crude mixture of pure art and sheer luck. This was unnecessarily so, especially because life had been so much better at our first home 

*        *        *

…while at the Lamptey-s’, we were neither pampered nor maltreated. It was Shidaa , their dog, which they deliberately took good care of. We fowls were however fed well enough with rice bran, fish offal and scales, the bad lot among nuts and legumes and grains, crumbs of bread and such other odds. Even though mine is an experienced tongue, there were many other food items which I never got to tell what they were, or what they were made of.

Even with all these not-so-little pleasures life dished us, we fowls never felt like we belonged to – as in we were part of, rather than we were owned by – the Lamptey-s. Maybe it was because none of them bothered to give any one of us fowls a name. And we were never allowed in the porch, especially when there was a visitor.

lazy chair

Photo Credit

However, Shidaa, the dog, could always go beyond the porch and sometimes, even take naps on Mr. Lamptey’s lazy chair.

Unless he needed to lie in it, Shidaa would almost always already be on it.

I have never seen Mr. Lamptey – nor any other member of the family – sack Shidaa off the lazy chair, much less, from the porch.

My mother once told me that the first time she was deliberately given water by one of the Lamptey-s was a few minutes to what would have been her untimely death. It was Christmas. Just before the sharp knife had slid and slit open her throat, Odartey, Mr. Lamptey’s brother from the hinterland, entered the house, cheerfully shouting his greeting and skillfully dragging a noosed stubby goat behind him.

In the end, the goat took my mother’s place in the soup that was cooked and later licked out of existence by the end of that day. My mother was as glad for her life as she was sad that her only brother had already been slaughtered by then, just before Odartey had arrived.

The only times I saw the Lamptey’s smile at my mother was whenever she laid eggs.

‘It hurts not to be able to return a smile. I hurts even more to return a smile with a fake one. I’d rather not smile at all than fake it,’ my mother would say, with a blank look and suddenly teary eyes.

And how could mother smile back at the Lamptey-s when their smiles only meant another untimely end to what would have been a set of fluffy cuddly balls of yellow which would be sweet squeaking chicks, after a some days! Thoughts of things like these made me always tell my five surviving siblings to be very grateful for  having escaped this and many other agents of infant mortality.

*         *          *

The fowls here at our new home are not at all as polite and friendly as those we knew while we were at the Lamptey-s’. These fowls peck and fight everything and everyone. They act proud and petty and are rash and shallow. The rabid dog from the house beyond the other side of the wall no longer allowed any fowl to feast on the fat ticks stuck in her faded brown fur.

‘You fowls have got no sense for anything.  No table manners,’ the dog used to say.

The fowls, I learnt, picked ticks, and the thinning skin of the poor widowed dog as well.  With very little to live for, and after all her litter had been sold or eaten by one human or the other, the dog resigned herself to a speedy death from the ticks.

I also remember one hot afternoon when a scrawny school boy had carelessly spat a pip from an orange he was eating. These fowls. They all rushed and cursed and fought for it. The pip. What a broth of dirt and dust and hate they made in the process!

In the end, none of the fowls got the ultimate pip of a pearl. It sure must have got lost, buried, under the tantrum party. Everyone got their fair share of pecks, scratches, brutally plucked feathers, grains of sand in the eyes and the like. Not one fowl returned from the war with a smile.

I am sure by now, you might be wondering how we fowls smile, with a solid rigid pair of lips – call it beak, if you choose – which are movable only at the jaws. Well, I have never seen any of the fowls here do that – smile – but I have always seen my mother do it.

smile

Photo Credit

With her eyes. Several times.

And my mother’s smiles have always been crisp, sparkling and so full of raw, true mirth. Her smiles are so different in many beauty-full ways. Truth is, when compared to my mother’s, some humans’ smiles pale and shrink away by their own selves.

Theirs are dry and wry, stripped of every joy and of life itself.

*         *          *

Thanks to last night’s rains!

This morning promised abundant sumptuous worms and many more crawling foods and broken-winged others!

It was drizzling. And it was still cold, but the eagerness to go pick – rather than search – for food in the open warmed our hearts and bodies beyond words. And like the fowls staying up on the mango tree, we could not wait for the showers to cease.

An-other thanks to last night’s rains.

Once again, my mother had to tear down the latest little silt hill which had blocked the entrance to our way into the open, thereby locking us inside our cozy makeshift coop.  When mother began to huff and puff and grow impatient with the tearing down of the wall, we chicks knew that her claws had become numb with the cold and the hard work.

All the sweetness which the morning had promised gradually eased into something tasteless and worse. Gloom.

It was either we all starved to death or we truly turned out the proverbial early birds to catch the same the worm.

It was still showering.

In a rugged rhythm, we could still hear fat drops of water tap the outer surface of our makeshift coop. As usual, some of those drops wove their way through the worn wire mesh above us, and then seeped through our already soaked coats of feathers into the very pores of our poor selves. The gloom grew worse.

And it was only the mother – or as it later turned out, God – who knew what the little ones would have for food…

Suddenly, there were hurried grating sounds all over the outside surface of our coop. A drop or two of rain water hit my eyes when I raised my head to look up. Through the tattered wreck of the tiers of mesh in our coop, I saw two pairs of human feet in swift motion. I heard one of the two humans hush down the panting breaths and the dragged noise which the other was making. The feet briefly hang above our coop, from the wall hugging the mango tree. Then as suddenly as all the noise and distraction had unfurled, the feet disappeared. Behind the wall.

Meanwhile, the one human’s ‘Shu-u-u-u-u-shhh’ menacingly hung in the air, above our coop, and above our wretched lives.

We chicks clang tighter to the scanty bosom of our mother, who inflated her sparse frame and started what sounded more like a shrill helpless cry than the mock baritone warning shouts she thought she was making.

Forced confinement. Fear. Soul-deep cold. Hunger.

All these in the midst of sheer plenty.

All these pained and scared us out of our skins and far past our swamped souls.

But we did not stay in that stirred state for long.

Two or three feint thuds from the two pairs of feet in the mud on the side of the wall, then came blunt creaks of dried leaves made damp by last night’s rain. The humans tiptoed away. They stole into the house. On the other side of the wall.

At this time, it was all too obvious that the humans were after something of more worth than a pitiful set of poultry.

So my mother stopped the shouting. She relaxed and began to tell us about the world behind the wall. She spoke of a backyard garden guarded by that rabid dog.

‘Around this time in this season, most of the lanky plants which grow in that garden have babies tucked on every  side of their lithe bodies. From neck to knee,’ mother excitedly explained.

We have never had any reason to think our mother a liar. And more than just believe what mother said, we chicks were glad to see her lighten up, for the first time this darkly morning.

‘The plants. They have spiky hair, and that’s so unlike their babies’. Each of the babies’ hair is fine, silky, evenly cut and firmly held in a tidy pony-tail. Their hair, unlike their mothers’, shimmer with hues far and in between golden brown and purplish red. Those plants. Oh! You should see how beauty-full and full of grace they are, and they stand! The ends of their long green hands gracefully hang down, as if they are tired of having their hands always stretched open to embrace the whole world in one embrace. Sometimes, especially after it rains, you could see a little crystal gem gingerly dangle and glitter at the plants’ fingertips. It is all the more awesome to see this from some distance, away from the plants, and through the thin veil of the very early morning mist.’

We chicks let our minds drink deep and bloat in the essence of mother’s words. Aloft those words, we let our souls drift inside of us, and listlessly float into other worlds untouched by the woes of this world. In the tenderness of mother’s boundless spirit and the warmth and awe of her words, we could always afford to dream all our cares and tears away.

‘…but of course, that’s only when you’re  grown enough to be able to air lift yourselves in a low flight, in that one frantic attempt – peculiar to us fowls – to fly. You could see the plants by just flying and landing on this low wall. And because you would then be grown enough to take care of yourself, you can always escape in time before the dog…’

Before mother was done with her warning, we heard a hurried mixture of all the previous sounds towards the other side of the wall. The urgency in the humans’ new run rudely plucked us back into the crude realities of this side of the world.

We had no time to guess what was happening. The humans – two boys, we now knew – descended on our coop from the wall. The speed with which they descended and landed on, then run away from our coop, could have instantly ground any one of us chicks into the ground, if any one of us had been unlucky enough to have been in their way.

The boys’ descent was accompanied by a rain of four fresh cobs of maize into our coop. The tattered tiers of mesh held up the cobs, but only briefly. Three of them managed to nudge their way through the age-torn holes in the flaky mesh. The other cob was caught up somewhere in the knotted thicket of the mesh. And as if to get physical with announcing their arrival into our midst, each of the three cobs – albeit gently – first hit us, all balled up in one taut hug.

We could only look on in wonder as each cob eased into a proper, final fall and then rolled not too far away from us, glazing itself with the wet and mud of our floor. With widened eyes, we watched each cob’s tassel slowly get soaked with the thick damp of our earth floor.

We chicks then fixed mother questioning stares.

‘Yes, these are the babies of those plants I was telling you about,’ mother returned.

Our gazes intensified with happy desperation.

 ‘And yes, they are food. Our kind of food,’ mother gazed in return again, wearing her biggest smile.

By this time, the boys were long gone. It must have been a narrow escape for them because, much long after we had finished savouring one fresh milky cob, that old dog was still barking after the boys.

By this time too, the showers had ceased. The early morning voices and noises of fowls and humans were at large and abroad.

We were sure that our fowl ‘friends’ did not miss us, and this could not pain us. And we just were not jealous about the gentle sun and the bountiful meaty worms and crunchy insects which our other ‘friends’ were enjoying, outside our coop, in the open.

It was the rainy season: worms and insects and such fowl delicacies cannot be scarce on this earth.

But such heavenly gifts in husks come showering down once or never in a lifetime!

 

***

Glossary:

Ayekoo (with the stress on –ye) is a custom performed as part of the final preparations – after the ban on noise making – towards the inauguration of the Homowo festival proper. As part of tradition, goodwill tokens of stocks in trade are given by the general public to traditional priests or priestesses, who go round collecting the items. Part of the excesses of Ayekoo is opportunistic young men who go round seizing stray animals and other things which ‘make’ noise.

Homowo is the annual traditional festival of the Ga people, from around mid-coastal Ghana. The sub-states of Ga Mashie and the Ga-Adangbe  celebrate the festival in turns around August.

Shidaa in Ga means ‘Thanksgiving’ or roughly, ‘Gratitude.’

***

*A version of this story, with same title, was first published at the Phillis Wheatley Chapter, as the 2015 edition of its annual Chicken Soup publication.

* Find source of picture for this blogpost’s masthead – roast corn with coconut – here.

 

***

Love,

AishaWrites.

– Dansoman, Accra.

 

 

Aisha Nelson: Prayer, Again or Something Like It.

 

For the first time, I bring you, Reader Dear, three of my poems – raw, without any prose pieces and not as complements to anything prosaic. Three poems which explore not only (the physical tokens and contexts of) Prayer and its impact on the human psyche and spirit and perhaps worldview, but also on the place of Prayer in the grande scheme of things, and its role as a bridge, the communion between one side of the world or reality and another…

Happy reading.

Kindly leave a thought or two. Spread the Love.

 

  1. The Enquiry

 I

sweat and rain mingle in the solid downpour

 

II

it pounds on parched scalps

feet break stones                  rocks crack

toes squirt mud                    water gush

wind beats frayed faces

with pins                      with cold

world is white              bleak

shriveled remains trudge on to give flesh to The

Enquiry                        at                               The

 

Oracle. searching souls decay

gnaw away with waiting at The

Oracle. souls gnarled with the labyrinth of dilemmas and dreams

souls negotiating a handshake from a desperate distance

navigating, measuring their lot of thought and depth

while the backs of disinterested spirits look on

spirits scratching serious sores with rocks

spirits cracking kernels with swollen paws

 

III

Tswa. Omanye aba.

let the moon no more swallow the sun at dusk

let not the fingerlings gulp down the crab a-whole

let the shell not shell another shell…

let not the kite suffocate the sky’s nostril

let the paths not turn rock with hoes

let not the footprints stray ahead of the wayfarer

 

Tswa. Tswa. Omanye aba.

let dew be found to show for the morning

let the spirit and soul reconcile

To share their unique, singular home.

 

Tswa. Tswa. Tswa. Omanye aba.

 

Thursday, 23rd April, 2009

 

  1. …at the scent of water.

not water
not dew
at the scent of water

let the frayed stump spew green
let the foul egg vomit a being

let that which was birthed to die
find life
let that which died before birth
know life

at the scent of water
not dew
not water

Friday, 19th June, 2009

 

 

  1. Rain Again

…again,

 

rickety priest leant on lithe walking stick and prophesied:

“I hear the sound of rain

her footsteps thundering behind

her billowy rolling children.

I smell the scent of rain

in the gritty swirl of sweat and

heat and dust and green!”

 

Our lips simply, limply, repeated the refrain:

“Oh let the rains come

Let the rains come quick for us

Lest we perish…”

 

(For we cannot afford the argument of our minds:)

“Let the rains come spoil our dire rituals     for

we have long been actively lazing            for

far too long in quarter-hearted supplications for it

Let the rains come beat us so hard that

we throw the hands lifted in prayer

higher

in despair

of rains and gods and fields and all and we rush

 

home…Oh, that it rains so hard (so) we sleep so tight

and we forget our hunger and we rush

to tend the dying tendrils the ‘morrow

with emptier stomachs for both faith and

 

hope…Let it rain so hard for so long                      so we

forget to come back to give thanks and                we

remember – only too late- we don’t need rain for that long so we

go praying the gods for draught-of-sorts

 

again!”

 

Monday, 30th May, 2011

Love,

AishaWrites.

Wednesday, 27th January, 2016

Dansoman, Accra.

 

 

*                   *                  *

1.

In its September 2014, libation-themed online anthology, University of London’s Prairie Schooner featured The Enquiry, together with other poems by young, contemporary Ghanaian writers and selected same-themed poems from its archives. You may see the publication here.

2.

Together with two other poems, …at the scent of water first appeared in the October-November 2013 (online) editions of Kalahari Review. You may see the publication here.

3.

 After adapting it for theatre, Rain Again featured in Accra Theatre Workshop’s  maiden short drama production, An African Walks into a Psychiatrist’s Office and   Other Short Plays. This was on Friday 1st and Saturday 2nd November, 2013. Learn more here

Ben Okri: Of Incidents, Stories, Stirrings. And a Song.

Over this past weekend, I went through one pile of books which I keeping adding to but never seem to find the time to read. I had to go through the pile because I needed to squeeze up stuff somewhere in my room(s) and I picked up Ben Okri’s Incidents at the Shrine and Bessie Head’s Tales of Tenderness and Power, both of which are collections of shorts stories. I picked these two only because I found that they are the only ones in this pile which I had not yet signature-labeled, like I do for all books which are in my possession and are mine.

There is a mound of books – mostly fiction, among a crowd of other genres as well as drafts and pamphlets and other documents. All these and more are permanently sitting, large and airily, in one armchair in my living room. And the situation on the chair is but one spillover of what had long happened to my bed and any other space which happened to be idle and unlucky enough in any other part of the room. It just has to be too bad for such a space if it happens to be in or on a piece of furniture. It will not be spared.

This is how Head and Okri’s ended up on the waiting-to-be-read mound on that armchair. And this is my first time (having) to read both writers writers – or is it to have pieces of their works? Truth is, I never planned to read any of the two. Not this soon, not yet, at least. Now, I’m on the fourth of the eight short stories in Incidents at the Shrine. Disparities is the title. And no, I’m not reading the stories in the order in which they appear in the collection.

For all the three or four I’ve read so far, I hear the voice of Chuma Nwokolo. Voice in the literal, not literary sense. Voice as in the sound, and maybe the personality – but not necessarily of persona – of it. Nwokolo’s. I am still figuring out why this is so for me, but I’m very certain it has nothing at all to do with both Okri and Nwokolo being Nigerians. Otherwise, it could have as well been the voice of Rotimi or Wole Talabi or Soyinka or Ifeoma Okoye or Achebe or Ene Heneshaw or Adichie or Adewale Maja Pearce or others. Or?

The epynomous story in Mohammed Naseehu Ali’s collection, The Prophet of Zongo, echoes the ending or how the main character ended in Okri’s Converging Cities. A major character, Monica, in Laughter Beneath the Brigde vivdly reminds me of Anowa in Ama Ata Aidoo’s Anowa a play; the setting and much of the themes resemble those of Beast of No Nations, the movie; part(s) of Achebe’s Things Fall Apart makes me appreciate how the Egungun part of Laughter Beneath the Brigde later turned out.

I am well into Disparities, a little over half-way through it. Even though the setting and strain of the themes may be distant from those of Ayi Kwei Armah’s Fragments (a novel), there is a lot I see of in both characterization and voice. And this time, voice as in both persona and personality. Still in this story, I find that there remains more truth, sadness and loneliness than one may be willing to tolerate, especially if one has imbibed too much of the sleek lies, divine vanities and well…the exalted follies of (what) this side of eternity (has turned and is growing into).

This also means that, I see a lot of Armah’s Baako (main character in Fragments) in Okri’s I-don’t-know-his/her-name-yet in Disparities – so far in my reading, this other character in Disparities has still not been named by Okri. Maybe this character in Disparities will also go (deliberately) not-named, like The Man, a similar character in another Armah novel, The Beautyful Ones are not Yet Born.

Again, I’m on my fourth story and I can say Okri’s writing tastes like parables.

They touch on the human and the mundane but not without giving that needed, albeit eccentric glimpse – and sometimes, or a little more – of the (sur)real world(s) and or forces that inform and or define this popular side of the known and absolutes. They are as innocent and wild as they come, but with neither apology nor any claim to perfection. They are as easy as they come, but only apparently. The stories exude truths that one may think are simple and familiar, and sometimes even funny, until one finds that they are also sly and slippery and sticky, so that given even the smallest shred of thought, these stories weigh on the mind and refuse to let go…

There is Okri’s story endings, which I find natural but not exactly predictable; conclusive and yet, may as well be cyclical; and then, full and no more. No spillover of any kind, and yet lead somewhere and everywhere and nowhere, all at the same time. The endings.

I can say similar things about Okri writing in the first person voice. It drips with something so far away, beyond mere craftsmanship and empathy for its own sake.

There also is his mastery for language: it is poetic and lyrical, it is lean but generous with layers and dimensions of meaning, it is precision and prudence. Images are apt. The images jump… It is almost as if language finds Okri, rather than he arriving at it. The grit and tune do not wear. The wit and humour are so fluid, so subtle, so married that they startle and saturate at once.

One more thing I find striking…I’m wondering – thinking and learning – what it is with Okri and his use of lizards in the stories. The lizards. They appear and disappear like all lizards do in real time. However, the lizards in the stories are special in that, they hold or are tied to the structure and (some of) the themes in (some of the) stories.

At one time, the lizard motif is innocent but dramatic, and at other times, curiously funny and armed with every power to tear a character’s sanity and or dignity beyond some kind of rest or redemption. They drip with the un-nameable, the un-normal, or maybe the para-normal, bordering of the spiritual. Yes, lizards. Like in Crooked Prayer and Laughter Beneath the Bridge and Converging City. In Disparities, one may see the lizard motif (morph) in(to) something queerer. Dogshit.

Even besides the lizard-y thing-y, the spiritual and the mysterious are rife in Okri’s stories. And where love and madness – or anything in between, and in any degree or status – they never ask for one’s permission (to happen) nor for forgiveness (after happening). And they never need nor even wish for one’s pity or praise. Most of the time. Most of them. Whether as events or as characters. The love or madness or whatever is raw and real and righteous in its own right, and without any restraint whatsoever.

I can’t say I’ve discovered my love for Okri’s writing because it has been there long before I actually read him, for I’ve long been famished with his The Famished Road. This has always been more because of an inexplicable pull, a bottomless yearning for The Famished Road than because it won the Man Booker Prize in 1991. I nearly got to read The Famished Road: a friend would have lent it to me, if not that the friend, at that time, was sweetly, slowly savouring the novel and among other things, was learning something about how Okri crafted dialogue. Even though I never got to read it by borrowing and have not found a copy of The amished Road to buy for myself, I couldn’t and still won’t begrudge my friend the delight and treasures…

When it comes to reading, I am unforgivably erratic – but not reckless – and willful, yet unpredictable. Or so I think. Once, I read Nii Ayikwei Parkes‘  Tail of the Blue Bird in one day; Armah’s Fragments in more than five weeks; Mawuli Adzei’s Taboo in about two days; and I’ve read bits and chunks of several others in such and several other duration-s. So even though I know it is good to set reading  goals, I end up doing with reading goals what I usually do with ‘rules’. Because I find ‘rules’ painfully incompatible, and even antagonistic, to the way I like to think my brain works, I abhor ‘rules’ and relish in ‘breaking them’ for the simple fact that they exist or that someone decided to breathe them into being.

So?

So maybe I will know better as I grow. But right now, I know better than to go setting reading ‘rules’ for the self that is me. So I will try waa diɜŋtsɜ, but I cannot promise myself to finish reading all eight short stories in Incidents at the Shrine, despite all my longing and taste of Okri’s writing.

And I cannot promise myself I will read Tales of Tenderness and Power after Incidents at the Shrine. Yes, even though I expect to come to adore Bessie Head for just about any of her writing like I do Mariama Bâ for her So Long a Letter. Somewhere in the mound on that chair and elsewhere, there are borrowed books and personal and academic and every other reading thing for me to start or finish or start and finish.

Then there and the set texts for the IGCSE and AS and A Level Literature classes that I teach. Somewhere in the set texts are a CIE-selected collection of tonnes of poetry form different places and times and peoples; a hefty collection of hefty short stories including Thomas Hardy‘s A Son’s Veto, (Hector Hugh Munro); Saki‘s Sredni Vashtar; Sylvia Townsend Warner‘s The Phoenix and Rohinton Mistry‘s Of White Hairs and Crickets. Novels include Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake and Adichie’s Americanah. For drama, besides Shakespeare and others’, there are Ama Ata Aidoo’s plays, The Dilemma of a Ghost and Anowa. Thankfully, I’ve already read Adichie’s, some of the Shakespeares, Aidoo’s two, a decent number of the collected poems and a good number of the short stories and others.

At the moment though, and somewhere soft and cozy inside of my being, I feel like I can and will write (more) short stories again. Soon. This has long been coming but I think having read Okri has heaved it all into a sensible motion and dare I say, direction. I feel a re-baptism and a confirmation of that song-full, soul-ish day last year when I knew and said (a) Story is calling out to me, starting and stirring and warming and whirling up…

So I sing of the song of the river and of that some-one’s-only daughter.

So I sing in the tongue that speaks and speaks true, in folds and in stretches, whenever I speak or sing or hear It or Its essence in utterance or in song. Ga.

Mawie Ga. Mala Ga.

Faa lɜ kɜ lɜ miiya e-e-e-i

Faa lɜ kɜ lɜ  miiya

Faa lɜ kɜ lɜ miiya e-e-e-i

Faa lɜ kɜ lɜ  miiya

 

Mɔko biyoo kome too

Faa lɜ kɜ lɜ miiya

Mɔko biyoo kome too

Faa lɜ kɜ lɜ miiya

*     *    *   *

The river is taking her away e-e-e-i

The river is taking her away

The river is taking her away e-e-e-i

The river is taking her away

 

Someone’s only one daughter

The river is taking her away

Someone’s only one daughter

The river is taking her away

 

Love,

AishaWrites

 

Sunday, January 10, 2015.

Grand-E Mother: She Wouldn’t Wait.

phenomnal woman

She
wouldn’t wait for me to return from work and to worry her:

pull her legs, sit on her laps,
sing with her; dance for her,
tell her how sexy, she is – person, clothes and all
re-arrange already combed hair; re-prop pillows and postures – quite unnecessarily
re-tell her stories she already knew; stories she (probably) told me in the first place
ask her silly questions; fake sadness or surprise at her ever razor-sharp, short answers

repeat all these and more, once and over again
anything to just get her worried: talking and laughing
and finally, pray…

She
wouldn’t wait for that day when I will write
about her. Properly…

I’m on my way home,
wishing
I had heard wrong yet,
knowing

She
wouldn’t be waiting with her
everyday ‘Miwula, ayekoo’
for my merely having returned from work.

She wouldn’t be waiting for
the one ‘Minaa, ayekoo. Mbo!’
for having led a life well, fully and more…

Dusk: Tuesday, 27th January, 2015

* * *

Imaa

I’ve always called her Imaa (can loosely be translated as ‘my mother’) and she has always called me Asha – she always seemed to be too much in a hurry to say A*I*SHA). (Maybe, just maybe, that is why I have never liked the idea that Nokia once named a brand of its mobile devices – a phone, to be specific – Asha.) Later, I still called her Imaa and she called me ‘Imaa Aisha’, meaning, ‘my mother Aisha’ and much later, ‘Miwula’, ‘my lady’…

Only last month, I wrote somewhere to properly write about her. Some day. One day.
But she wouldn’t wait.

Much earlier, she has been part of many a piece I have written. Much more than just for my writing, Imaa has been a pillar and a great influence to all that I have grown to be, today and certainly, to become.

…my mother was to later do much of the school fees paying but if not for Imaa, I in particular, would never have even started school – and the school has always been across the street from where we used to stay, in Accra proper.

The kindergarten. It was an extension of a primary school which ran morning and afternoon shifts: Bishop Boys’ Primary School and St. Mary’s Anglican Mixed Primary School. The latter was where I was to later have the rest of my primary (school) education.

The kindergarten. Together with the primary school, was very attached – in more ways than just locale – to the church. The kindergarten. That was where it all began for me.

Much later, I was to realise that parts of both Imaa’s official name and that of the school have MARY in common. (ANSABA and BOTCHWAY are Imaa’s other names. Imaa is well known as ‘Aku nyɛ’, Aku’s mother.)

Just like every first time, mine (at school) has always been fresh and raw. I woke up one morning to find that it had rained the night before. One moment, on that morning, I was playing. I had had neither breakfast nor bath. Not yet, at least. The next moment, I was sitting in a classroom, sporting spanking new camisole, pant, sewn-to-fit (Imaa has never believed in sewn-and-bought outfits) blue and white checked uniform, socks and shoes.

And I already had more than the set of stationery I could need.

It was too obvious Imaa had long planned and made every necessary preparation for the day: the admission had already been gained, the school fees had long been paid…the bathing water et al and quick breakfast were waiting, and a ball of note (money, which I was to later find that it was meant for snack break) had already been pushed into one of the two blue patch pockets in front of my uniform.

An oh! My uniform, it was beautiful beyond words.

My Grand-E Mother. She just dropped me in the class, briefly spoke to the woman who was supposed to be my teacher and then pakopako, she was gone…

Just like she’s gone now.

My Grand-E Mother. Hers was tough, all-out, I-can’t-wait love.

Just like she wouldn’t wait…

Dawn: Wednesday, 28th January, 2015

* * *

Imaa, yaawɔ jogbaŋŋ, yɛ hejɔlɛ krɔŋŋ mli.
Nuŋtsɔ lɛ diɛŋtsɛ kɛ bo ato Efijiaŋ’shi, kɛyashi benɔ ni wɔ ‘aakpe ekoŋŋ…IMG_20150313_084048

Of Karma and Charcoal: The B*tch of One and the Burning of the Other

ch

I should have written or I have written this – in my ‘head’ – somewhere around the first Friday of September 2014, but I have been busy living out my life passions: teaching, writing, dreaming (including daydreaming) and thinking – sometimes as in worrying, but mostly as in the reflecting or introspecting or musing or something-of-these-sorts or something-between-these-sorts sense of it. This thing they called Thinking.

And oh, I have also been busy being grateful for these life and other good gifts…

The goodness of a good number of these gifts is not necessarily explicit, ready and overt. If not for anything at all, this is because nature, just as it is said to abhor a vacuum, has no place whatsoever for waste – again, inherently, and in the grand scheme of things. Just look around.

23useKARMAdefined

Again, if what they say about no (wo)man being an island is true, it goes without saying that fellow humans are the agents of another good number of these (inherently goodly) gifts: The experiences. The sweet. The indifferences. The unsavoury. The differences. The sour. The words. The silences. The deeds. The stale. The inactions. The tasteless. All the passions. The plain. And yes, the pains.

I like to tell myself that I cannot be surprised by anything that any human becomes and or does (to me). For I have seen and experienced things, which despite the gravity of their immediate and long-term impact on me, they would have been more tolerable if they had not come from some of the people who should have been the last people or should have never even been the very people through whom such soul-botching things should have come, should have happened. To me.

For one thing, there must be a good reason why the proverbial bird called afi in Ga is said to have said that the matter of the one who dealt it the death blow does not pain it as much as the case of the one who plucked its feather does. Why? The hunter could have as well killed afi from afar. With a gun. And the hunter is no family and never will be (expected to be family) to afi: the one who plucked afi’s feather is, could have been and or once upon a time, was family. Or something like it. Family.

Again, it must be about the same reason why another bird called ɔkɔkɔsɛkyi in Akan is said to have told itself not grow too familiar and sooner, get swooned by the deliciousness and potent character of the home-cooked soup.31KARMAcafe For alas, the barrel of a gun – the hunter’s – will forever remain narrow and dark – narrow and dark in more ways than one. So before, and while ɔkɔkɔsɛkyi goes pecking at the sweet soup in the twice harmless bowl in man’s homestead, it will set its eyes and ears more than just opened ajar. For the danger lies not so much in the soup as it is lies in the proximity of the hunter, and the possibility of his having a gun…

Both afi and ɔkɔkɔsɛkyi teach us to be wary of not the one who has explicitly made it known in both deed and word that there also exists such a person who is or can be called Foe or Enemy. Both afi and ɔkɔkɔsɛkyi teach us to be wary of the one who has explicitly made it known in both deed and word that there is such a person who is can be called Friend. And Family. And sometimes, even Lover. Both afi and ɔkɔkɔsɛkyi teach us to be wary because the sheer closeness and familiarity of the latter (set) is both an advantage for the day they do us and or do us in. And oh it is because of this same relationship we have with the latter set that makes the pain of the doing their doing graver, deeper…

This is not paranoia: this is the wisdom that life teaches all those who take care upon caution to learn, and to live by. This may not look like courage, but it definitely cannot be called cowardice, too. If you like, ask another kind of bird, the dɔkɔdɔkɔ, the duck, who says, ‘It is not that I cannot keep up in the race, but it is because I know of the gaping holes that the smooth surface of the waters belie.’

Through all these, I have grown better, not bitter; I have become wiser (including worldly-wise), not withered and I have waxed stronger and more matured and more in ways I can only be grateful to God for.

Through all these, I have come to learn the hard way that blame is not only cheap and pathetic, but also, is lame and grossly irresponsible. I have come to find that no-thing, and no-one can wield any influence – whether productive, effective or otherwise – without my allowing, giving and or even contributing to that ‘power’, in the first place.

karma, how people treat..
Closely related to these life lessons is the firsthand insight – practical and profound, at once – into what it means to say that to forgive others is almost – if not entirely – a selfish act on the part of the forgiver.

All this is not at all to say that I am necessarily, always the recipient of the gift: I make no claim of having wronged no one. Not now. Not ever. Never. I have had to forgive and I will have to forgive as much as I can expect to have forgiven and to be forgiven.

All this is not at all to say that I am necessarily perfect myself. I can explain the necessarily bit.

“No one is perfect,” we have all heard it said once and too many a time and again. This is one gospel I question.

I question its sibling gospel, the gospel making the rounds about the superiority and super-ness of the human mind over matter and happenstance. This other gospel about the invincibility of the determined human spirit would rather have (wo)man glory in the boundless, brightness of his/her potential, than for him/her to take a hard look at his/her weakness and, to work hard on and at them.

Per this gospel, the weaknesses and the mistakes are not touched by the invincibility and super-ness. The mistakes and the imperfections are merely obstacles to be shoved out of the way, on the way to unending glories. The imperfections are no diamonds-in-the-rough waiting to be polished and probably, to add to the said blindingly bright glories. The imperfections. They are not even rocks or stone or pebbles or grit of any value. No. The imperfections are merely nameless, useless clumps of pure dirt.

And the invincibility neither implies any amount of control over the content and weight of these ‘rather valueless’ obstacles of imperfections, nor does it promise to give any form of attention to them. Hence, even though this imperfection thing is essentially non-existent and of no consequence, as far as (wo)man’s super-ness is concerned, (wo)man is reduced to a poor victim of the same imperfection , and (wo)man is all too glad and quick to call on this already-made, ever-ready “No one is perfect” of an excuse…

Another way of looking at this is by asking if “No one is perfect” necessarily means or translates into its opposite, “Everyone is imperfect”.

Again, what difference is there in the number and arrangement of letters in the word ‘Imperfect’ and the clause, “I’m perfect”?

leaking

Even better, what is the essence of life on this side of eternity, if it is not to build character; if it is not for each one of us to outgrow our own baser selves; if it is not to become nobler versions of our selves, with the breaking of every dawn? Whoever said change is the only constant there is (in this life) must have either forgotten or have never known what growth is and means. Change consists of growth – or at least, change implies and or promises it. Good old Growth, that is. Change is not that constant, after all.

So yes, just as one would be careful in calling oneself perfect, one should not be too quick to call oneself imperfect. Yes, not being perfect (yet) should never be an excuse for not willing to, and actually journeying towards that perfection. That this journey called life is fraught with many a fall and rise et al is as expected as it is true. In fact, that is why it is (called) a journey in the first place.

Giving up on the journey is therefore, not merely in the convenience of playing the blame game nor of being quick to quit. The giving up is in the unwillingness or indifference to taste of what growth – personal, rooted growth – means, in all the glories of its big-picture and of course, in its sometimes gory details and messy beginnings.

Giving up very much means cheating one’s own self out a life that is overly generous with the potential – the same unending glories, remember? – to be one’s best self.

Giving up on the journey means shortchanging one’s own self of the possibility of becoming and or being one’s fullest. (Now those are two different things. Obviously.)

Enough said of gifts and forgiveness, wariness and wisdom, and of (im)perfection and invincibility…

It should never be a fault to trust and truly care and be loyal to another – all these for a reason that is close to nothing. No reason, actually. True, real love need not be begotten from another; it is its own cause and source. It is not its own reward and condition. It is a decision, a commitment, a real hands-on hard work, sometimes to its own hurt. Love. It is its own self-sufficient reason. washroom

Nor should it be a fault for one to retreat, to recoil when it is obvious that one’s company – may be friendship or relationship of any kind, which is blessed with goodwill – is neither wanted nor expected. Or neither wanted and expected.

Sometimes, just sometimes, people need air, space to be, a little more room to operate and to live, a small time to get that needed retreat, that needed refreshing. After all.

This need not be a fault, but if someone really, badly needs to take offence at this, well…

I long learnt somewhere that for every bad deed anyone does to one, whether with or without cause, it is either one of two things:

a) One is only reaping from seeds one had previously sown. The person who does one the wrong deed is therefore, only an agent through whom one’s reaping should come. This person MAY never have to reap the wrong deed done, since s/he is just a medium…

32KARMAcoffee

b) If one can rest assured that the bad deed experienced is not as a result of any seed (s/he has) sown some time in the past, the wrong doer can only expect to reap this new seed of a bad deed, some other time, in the future.

So when the Bible says that one only reaps what one has first sown, it is not to be taken as a watered-down curse nor as the unleash of doom – which need not have a cause.

It should be taken as a matter of fact.

It should be taken as a truism, a statement of the one law which is at once, supreme and boil-down of every contention or pact between every force and anti-force in, of and transcending the universe…

To merely think of doing evil to another is not good. To calculate and scheme and plan how this evil is meted out is worse than not-good.

To think of roping others in in this busy-ness ought to be bad enough. To deliberately gang up with others to plot and execute wickedness against another is more than a shade up worse.

To do this wickedness against someone, who has been good in any way and in any capacity to one, is just evil – dire and dirty.

To carry out this evil to the very end, knowing full well the desperate, irrevocable consequences on the ‘victim’ is evil – gross and grave.

And to keep up one grande pretence of smiles and chit-chats and doubly feigned ignorance of even the mere existence of such backstabbing wickedness is evil – hideous and horrendous.

In as much as it all could have been worse, it still remains that it all need not have started. Not at all.

22useSOOThandsThe Ga-s have it that the one who has not gone burning wood for charcoal cannot have soot-blackened hands.

Yes, soot and sh*t do happen in life, but not necessarily, always, out of nothing…

So again, it is not called curse. The Buddhists. They call it karma. I have severally heard it get described as a b*tch. This karma thing – or law?

A few times too, I have heard it said that one does not have to worry about getting the b*tch treatment from karma, if and only if one has not gone a-b*tch-ing, to begin with.

Karma. Its b*tch-y part. Just like the words of afi, ɔkɔkɔsɛkyi, and dɔkɔdɔkɔ, there must be a good reason for…the name – description-cum-label and all.

Life. And Love.
To one and all…

Joy. And Peace.
More such…

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