Posts Tagged ‘African literary blog’

The stream crosses the pathsstory

The path crosses the stream

Which comes first?

Pure, pure Tano, the magnificent river that floods in harmattan

It felt like it was his eulogy whenever the griot stood to sing. It has been four years already. Four years.  And sitting under the Tree of God has become a familiar funeral ground. There was no familiarity on the skins of his relatives. It seemed surreal. They held hope like a grain of corn. Sometimes, it slipped through their fingers. They reluctantly said that death was taking too long a time to come for him.

The sun rose and touched the tip of the hills that surrounded Tanoso. It poured through the everyday lives of the people and it was just a reminder that life had begun. Mornings were call to prayer. Adults were seen on farm trails; their children followed them. Those of school-going age scuttled, like red ants on their way to school. At the center of the town where the community center stood, four men were playing draught. Others stood by them, arguing about the news they heard on radio the previous night. Their voices clung to the air around them. The palm wine seller was opening up her drinking bar. Tanoso was waking up to the hustle and bustle that it knew. On the horizon, smoke erupted from households in a similar fashion as cigarette smoke rises in between fingers, forming a carpet that almost mimicked the clouds. That blue-white skyline.

The town was a beauty.  It enchanted like the firm breasts of a virgin.  Rightly so, it had been fought over by men, warriors. Tanoso was originally occupied by the Guans until the Akans came. The Akans won the numerous wars that were fought and so, ruled the town.

When the branches of the Tree of God filtered the sun rays, the remnant rays lighted a body that was a far cry from what it was four years ago. Its muscles had atrophied. Bones erupted from the body like mounds on farmlands. From afar, you could literally count the  rib bones from the sides. His sharp cheekbone stood in isolation. Occasionally, he moved a finger and then, returned to his coma-like state.   His wife would mourn him like he was dead.  The griots would sing.  People would walk in and pay their respects. Okomfo Agyebi has been lying under the Tree of God ever since he went into the spirit.

Tigare the oracle reached Akanland in the 1900s from Guans of the south. Nana Oparebea, supreme priest of the Great Guan god of Larteh, Akonnedi Abena had widely traveled to Northern Ghana in the late 1880s. When she got to Yipala, she heard about Tigare of hunters who assisted in locating and catching game. He was said to be wonderful and popular. He was fun, sang beautiful songs and danced.  He revealed himself through wood.  He came from an Islamized region and so, he carried prayer beads and wore traditional smock. Nana Oparebea brought him with her to Larteh.  Once in the south, native Guans of Tanoso brought him to the Tano river god.  There, at Tanoso, Tigare found home among the class of deities.

Tanoso derived her popularity from the Tano deity. He was very popular in southern Ghana. He was said to be the second son of the Supreme Being. He was kind. To avoid clashes between Guans and Akans, he decreed that oracles from both gates should be accommodated in his shrine. That was how Tanoso knew peace for so many years.

Every year, people from all over Ghana, Togo, Benin and Ivory Coast flooded Tanoso with requests. Predominately among them were barren women.  Tano had a special eye for planting seeds into the wombs of women who died for his help. Through out these countries, people named their children Tano in appreciation of his help.

Agyebi grew up in Tano’s court. His father was the chief priest. At a tender age, he grew fond of his father. He was his consort, of sorts, for he was a lonely man. The man lost his wife when she was conceiving Agyebi and had refused to re-marry. He laid his life, all of it on Tano. Like a door mat in front of a room. He had faith. Some people said it was his faith that killed him. But before he went to the village to be with the ancestors, he made Agyebi promise him that he would graduate from the university before he assumed the role of priesthood of Tano. So, Agyebi did attend university where he first met his wife, Ernestina who would become a lawyer.

After years of studies, whilst his mates were going for their national service duties, he returned to his holy hometown of Tanoso. All God’s children, after all, come home to Him. He came with him an innovative mind of getting Tano onto the internet. He did consultation over the internet. He opened Facebook Fan page for Tano. He had website for Tano. He consulted with other Akan and Guan priests in the diaspora via Skype.  He did webinars. That was before his fall. Or something like that.

For four years, Fofie, the annual festival for Tano has not been held. His priest lay tattered, rickety under the Tree of God where life springs from. Owl the harbinger of death was hovering around The Tree of God in the afternoon, there in the broad day light. The griots knew what it meant. They chorused –

Man is a wanderer

Dear Owl, do not take his soul

Remember Tano feeds you

Do not bite that hand

They went on and on until a black cat ran across them and settled behind Tano’s shrine. The owl circled three times, dissolved in the dark clouds and after awhile, it cleared up. Agyebi’s soul was safely at home.

Agyebi had a favourite priest trainee. Yaw. He came from Nzemaland. His forefathers had been keepers of the Kankam  Nyame cult. He stood with a pleasantly soft, rounded body and had a nose that you would think was falling off. He always wore a smile, the kind that reminded Agyebi of his younger self. Agyebi called him son. He was his son. He loved him like his own.

Everywhere that Agyebi went, Yaw lurked around. They were cattle and the cattle eaglet. Agyebi taught him everything he knew about Tano. They both loved Tigare in equal measure. In the night, when everyone was asleep, their voices rang in the stale air and pierced exhausted ears. They had a good time until the day the Yaw disappeared from Tano’s court with one of Tigare’s wood.  He had abandoned his priesthood training without warning anyone.

Now on his own, Yaw used Tigare and Kankam Nyame to help sakawa boys. Modernity had made internet scam such a high skilled practice. It did not only require a sweet tongue but also, a hand from those higher than lesser mortals. Yaw would tell them to carry coffins wrapped with white cotton cloth in the night. They would walk through market places and leave the coffins wherever they liked. The first person to see them in the morning died. Armed with the soul of the deceased, Yaw would make oracles and give them to the practitioners of sakawa. With their new confidence, they, too, would send thousands of emails in search of prospective clients. They would cyber-sex Indian men whose tummies burdened them. They would comfort American widows. On dating sites, they used their friends, girlfriends and sisters’ pictures as their profile pictures to bait desperate lovers. The more tech geeks relied on Yaw to locate hard disks that they could recover credit card numbers and contract details that they could use for blackmailing. In that worldview, it was not called stealing. It was restitution.  It was restitution for Atlantic slave trade. It was restitution for colonization. It was restitution for everything wrong with African history. It was about survival. With their oracles hanging on walls like family portraits and staring at their computer screens, dollars and pounds descended into a seemingly bottomless pit of bank accounts that ended in Kumasi.

Agyebi developed a fluid ear for Tano as he snaked through Tanoso. There was something particularly surreal about the whistles that he heard.  He loved the stars. By Tano, he sat and watched them every night. Every night, he saw gloomy stars. He saw spirits of the dead. They inhabited trees and hills of Tanoso. They cried. They could not cross the sea to the other life.

Yaw had taken their lives prematurely. They had not prepared for death. They did not have money to pay the boatman who will ferry them to the other world. They needed somebody to bring them money.

Those spirits tormented Agyebi. He could not sleep. He saw them when he went to fetch water. He saw them in his soup. Besides, he was living years with regret and questioning himself for letting Yaw in on many family secrets relating to Tano. Agyebi on a day that was too dull to encourage proper thinking decided that he would enter the spirit. He called his griots and told them. He said his voyage would take forty days. He gathered bow and arrow, gun powder, gun, bodua and one of Tigare’s masks.  He took his wife in his arms and playfully bit her left ear before lying on the mat under the Tree of God. Her face collapsed into a rotten smile and spoke a language that was heavier than silence. She wrapped her arms around her upper body and buried herself in a sea of tears. They sang and played drums. He felt himself resting lightly on his physical body. He was in space; in that field that nothing can be restricted. He was there with no organ but fully, he was a being. He kept defying gravity until he came to the level of the branches of the Tree of God. At this point, he entered the other world. The pot that had been gathering rain water for centuries in the fingers of the Tree of God fell and broke into pieces. Gradually, the choruses of the griots were fading, hiding in the darkness of nights as they came and went.

 

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Title: The Place We Call Home and Other Poems
Author: Kofi Anyidoho
Year: 2011
Reviewer: Kwabena Agyare Yeboah

kofi

Credit: Nana Fredua-Agyeman’s Goodreads page

The Place We Call Home and Other Poems is the sixth poetry collection of Kofi Anyidoho, one of Ghana’s foremost poets. It is his second collection after close to a ten year hiatus. This break would have a profound effect on the poet. During that period, he went back to researching into traditional poetry of his people – the Anlo-Ewe. Yet, his return with PraiseSong for TheLand (2002) is unlike Elergy for the Revolution (1978) and A Harvest of Our Dreams (1984) which imitate the dirge, halo and other traditional song forms on page. Anyidoho is a traditional poet and of change.
The collection is divided into three movements. Movement One opens with a prelude. It invokes Husago and Misego. Husago also appears in PraiseSong for TheLand (2002). Husago is ‘’an introductory dance to all Yeve (diety) ceremonial dance-drumming . . . to alert all members of the society to the commencement of the rituals.’’ It is a forward-backward-forward dance. Misego is a variant of Husago.

Credit: Flickr

Credit: Flickr

In some of Anyidoho’s previous books, he recycles ‘’birth-cord.’’ In the more traditional past, his people buried the after-birth of twins and planted trees on them. Towns and villages were founded on them. This was how they were connected to home or the idea of it. In a literary sense, it means generations of artists. Newer folks should be connected with older folks like fetus and mother. It is bridging the gap between the past and present.
Here, birth-cord is replaced with Husago. It is re-thinking how the past connects with us, the present. Like Sankofa, the Akan aphorism, Husago teaches us that we should go back to the past to gather the selves we left behind. The categorization is actually a mimicry of the steps of Husago. Forward-backward-forward. Or, backward-forward-backward. The collection of poems is a performance of Husago and we, the readers are part of a society, a select few of those who believe in the power of words, who are called to witness the commencement of a ritual – of home-going and home-coming. It is an extended metaphor.
Anyidoho always re-members a group in his collections. It started with Vida Ofori, Adjei Barimah and others students who died in student protests in the late 1970s to mid-1980s in Elergy for the Revolution (1978).
Movement One. Backward step. The first two poems are chants that precede the performance (like call to worship). This section of the recollection recalls history of the African continent. It reads like a poem from Ancestral Logic and Caribbean Blues (1992).
Movement Two. Forward step. This section deals with geopolitics of war. It carries forward a voice that expands the definition of ‘’my people.’’ It defiantly places Africa on the discussion table to talk about what a superpower is doing wrongly in the world. It re-imagines powerscape.
Movement Three. Forward and Back steps. This section tells varying reflections of the poet-persona. It is a mature voice that has grown to appreciate and accept certain realities in life. It does not fight nature. It accepts time.
I wanted so much to hand over
blueprints for endless future plans (Post-Retirement Blues, p. 83)

But
in my haste
to embrace Eternity on Life’s High Ways
I forgot I overlooked Old Time
still lurking among the AlleyWays (Post-Retirement, p. 86)
At the heart of the collection is the question of home. Where is home?
I will come again to these Shores
I must come again to these Lands (The Place We Call Home, p. 31)
These lines contest the idea of home. It makes it global and it disrupts it. Home is where you are and it is a fantasy.

In Wellington once I watched the Maori
dance and sing the loss of Ancestral Lands Gods
From Medellin of the Distant Dream
to Baranquija on Colombia’s Carib Shores
In Santiago de Cuba of a Troubled Hopeful Time and
in Haitian nightmares of Santo Domingo
I saw I heard I felt I smelt I even tasted
a trail of Blood across our History’s Final Sigh. (The Place We Call Home, p.31)

Home is memory.
There is something about The Place You Call Home:

Something about familiar contours of The Land
about the very Tate of Air
that essential Smell of Earth
something about the very Feel of Things
the Geography of Lost Landmarks
the Chemistry of Fond Memories
even about the Nothingness of Time
Home is nostalgia.
the termite eaten face
where often you stood
on One Leg
trembling holding
your breath for a Lover
now lost to Childhood Dreams.
This poet is mythmaker. He does it with words. He creates his own words by randomly capitalizing common nouns and/ or joining any two of such words. Those happen anywhere in the sentences. This is the rebel-poet we know. He is innovative with space; they replace commas. He gives the reader the chance to make the work her own, reading at her own pace with no guidance whatsoever. When you read them, you give them a voice that is your own. Perhaps, we should rethink what we think is the meaning of ‘’my people’’ that he often uses. It should be politics of global inclusion rather than exclusion.

………..THE END OF A NEW BEGINNING……..
That’s how he ends it all.
But Ah! The Glory!
The FearSome Glory of This Life….! (But Ah! The Glory!, p. 88)

History does not only rest on the tongues of the elderly or sit somewhere on the dusty shelves in a community library but also takes a seat in literary arts. It then becomes a memory and landmark on social map. An essential capture of humanity in literary arts is a testimony to the evolution of both ills and beauty in our shared space as social beings. Poetry is no exception to these universal truths. The astonishing beauty of poetry is when few say much – when just one word, phrase or clause is the foundation on which a recorded event in history stands. It is measurably fascinating to discover the seminal thoughts of poets as they jot events as a future pointer. Most often, it is connecting these dots to real life events that suggest the poem’s preferred meaning or purpose.
How a group survives to tell its story should by always be a prominent feature in advancing such narrative as a viable option. No one captures this better than Kwesi Brew’s Ghana’s Philosophy of Survival. The opening line is striking, a powerful and dense metaphor. Brew goes straight to the point without trading words.
‘’ We are the punch bag of fate’’
This poem is not one that entertains complaints. The plurality of the voice of the persona might deceitfully suggest so. It says it as it. It makes no direct reference to political events but the subtlety of it can not be ignored.
‘’ their viciousness on our patience
until they become caresses of admiration’’
Whoever is the object of address is cunning.
‘’ and time that heals all wounds
comes with a balm and without tears,
soothes the bruises on our spirits’’
As a typical Ghanaian, she knows time, silence and fama Nyame (‘’give to the God’’) heal. The persona goes on to suggest that as a mean of survival- ‘’ mettle of invisibility / This is how we outlast and outlive / the powerful and unwise.’’
In all these, she has hope.
‘’ love of family kith and kin and brother-keeping
has cast us in the mould :
that while we take the blow
and seem unhurt,
speechless, we also watch and wait’
Notice the pun – ‘’kith’’ and ‘’kin.’’ The persona is counting on comradeship to sail them through the sea of times.

 

 

Note :

Please, read the poem, Ghana’s Philosophy of Survival by Kwesi Brew  here

Hey. Let’s Talk About Love.

A wise man once said that to know the nakedness of a writer is to know her words. Quote me. I just said that.

I hate fairytales. Even in solitude, I prefer to live in reality. There are exceptions, yes of course. You are one.

Dear DAY,

You sneaked in just as when life was happening to me. Remember that evening? In your hostel? I met the girl I chose to call “Helios.”  Yes, you are sun. The fairytale was that I liked you from that moment. When I saved your name as “Helios” on my phone and I  prompted you to take a look at it, I meant to say “I like you.” But who cared about symbolism when life was not poetry? I did  when I called you regularly. I did when we pillow-fought. I did when I spent long hours with you. I did when I almost told you that I liked you. And yes, you did not get that joke.

There were times that it felt so close. There were times I thought you were another me. I got to know you that well. I could identify you in the dark.  I literally could sense you. It was a perfect love story, right?

That goddamn night somewhere in July, 2012, you breathed and made a being out of my fears. Yes, I knew you were dating. But hearing it from you made it worse. Did I mean it when I said that I was happy for you? Maybe. I still do not know.

So this summer, you might take a vow that will you bind to a holy institution. I will not be there. When you walk down that path, they  will see the world’s most beautiful bride ever. Okay. I lied. Yet still, you will be beautiful on that day. I will be somewhere on earth,  praying for you. I will be staring at the window like I will be waiting for you. Yeah, that should happen in our next lives! Let’s re-do the last scene of Rosalinda.

I do not know if you even exist. I do not even know if I have met you before or we will ever meet. Silences in the midst of self-absorption are products of nonsense like this. It should be imagination….more correctly, creativity. They say that fiction is truth without names. Maybe, that is true.

. . .

I  should have mentioned it to you that you brought me back to writing. There was a night that thoughts nearly strangled me. I woke  up and under that study lamp, I penned down a few words. When I wrote On Self-critiquing And Artistry, it was because I was  celebrating  the fact that you were no longer my muse.  It was both beautiful and sad. It was  that that words failed  to describe. But it taught me a bigger lesson. To be a man of conscience. I learnt to use my head. I learnt to use my heart. More importantly, I learned  to choose time carefully. I thought that Dude was an ass to let you go.You were perfect together.

That night, I wrote

The Last Summer

”If I can  ask God for the breeze

Then I will build a giant winter

So that I can hold you when you freeze

Then I will  travel across the Atlantic to find a reason to leave

Maybe the season will  make me stay

Or I will  reach for the stars

Probably, I will  be a star myself

So that I can  watch over you endlessly

But I do not want to be far from you

Oh! I will be your mirror revealing each day the beauty in you

But what will I  do if something goes wrong ?

I will  rather be by you

Staring at the corner of your eyes like it is an unmined treasure

Cherishing the little things no one sees like your anger

Holding on to the little moments

And pray time stays  still

If that doesn’t work , I will  capture you in eternity on my incorruptible memory

There it will dangle like   the legs of lovers

The Last summer they will  ever see each other

Actually , it is

Perhaps , I miss the biggest heartbeat the Lord ever made

Y. O. U ”

So you left. . .

Hey. Thank you for the memories. They are beautiful. Like no other.