Posts Tagged ‘Kumasi’

(Culled from RESISTANCE, a collaborative project presented at BloggingGhana’s Blogcamp15)
Photography: Doris Kafui Anson-Yevu, Rasheeda Yehuza, Kobby Blay, Ato and Walter Zeiss.
Text: Kwabena Agyare Yeboah.

Life sprawls, assembling itself in tro-tros, buses, shops and on streets. As funeral songs gracefully bellow and stale the air, drivers toot horns as they drive by, as if they want to distract mourners. ‘’Living God’’ is an inscription on the windscreen of one of the tro-tros. At Labour roundabout, we face east, taking Asafo SSNIT as north. To the south is Asafo Interchange, an aorta of Kumasi. The sun is already up and both human and vehicular traffic are negotiating space for survival. The industry of Asafo is alive. No pain, no gain. That is what life means here. Work. Work. Hard work.
It might have been before or in1698. Osei Tutu had received a message from Kwaaman, the then Kumasi that his uncle Obiri Yeboah had died. He was technically, fugitive of Denkyira (Some sources say he impregnated Mansa, a sister of the then Denkyirahene whilst he was a prisoner at the Denkyirahene’s court and escaped to Akwamu. Their son is said to be Ntim Gyakari.) He did not want to return home but his friend Okomfo Anokye impressed on him to go because Anokye prophesied that he, Osei Tutu had a bright future as the head of a new nation. There at Akwamu, Osei Tutu was a great friend of the king, Ansa Sasraku. He learnt from the famed governorship of the Akwamus, living in Akwamufie as a guest of the empire. When Osei Tutu finally decided to go home, Ansa gave him a strong escort of warriors. This was to wade off the Denkyiras. At Kwaaman, those warriors settled at Asafo, Adum and Bantama. Under Osei Tutu’s leadership and Okomfo Anokye’s guidance, together with the military intellect that was imported, the Ashanti Empire was born, bred and blossomed into greatness. [1] [2]
Waving at us is the one-storey Department of Labour office that that roundabout is named after. We negotiate our way upwards, following the tarred road to Prempeh Assembly Hall. Tro-tros pull up at the Bus Stop just in front of the Labour Office. Some of them groan. We face the Asafo Coffin Market head on.
At the heart of Asafo’s existence is the simple act of resistance. Something it has carried in its DNA as it evolves. What do you do with what life throws at you?

Coffinmaker1

A man makes coffin. He is at the last stage of the process. His job is to spray the exterior of wooden boxes that the carpenters have nailed into being.

Coffinmaker2

He works on the interior, still at the spraying section which is meters away from where the carpenters gather and fashion these creatures.
We get close to the end of the road that we follow. At the Prempeh Assembly Hall, we take the left road that leads to the SIC building. We chance on two funerals, side by side. In the air, a cathedral flags us.

Streets2

The street is blocked. Few meters from the funeral ground, kids run around, playing and screaming. They jump and chase football. They slip in between the trucks that are parked on the edges of the street. This is momentarily a commentary – partly a celebration of life and partly living it.
When we descend this street, we will come to the Highway that leads to Kumasi Central Market. We will turn right and pursue the Asafo Interchange which will lead us to the Asafo Market. kids1

On the same street, these girls pose for our cameras.

streets1

We get closer to the Asafo Interchange. On the walls of Queen Elizabeth II School, school bags are displayed for sale.

market1

Some of our team members buy water at Asafo Market, the meat section.
As the smell of meat and fish filter through the air, we assemble our presence through alley. We snake to the old Kumasi Train Station in minutes.

By 1898, the colonial Gold Coast Administration had started building the railway system in the country. In 1903, the Kumasi Train Station was completed. Here was once upon the time, the second largest train station in Ghana. There were two lines that trafficked between Kumasi and Accra; one was Kumasi-Accra line and the other was Accra-Kumasi line. There was the Takoradi line too. These lines had stop-overs in many towns along the countryside.
We come in confrontation with remnants of yester-year days.
No-one is here to board train. It is rather a home to many who have come to live here. Some of the rail lines are buried deep in the ground. At certain portions, some lines have been removed or buried completely. There is a firewood industry that gathers at a region. Weeds grow, kind of forming fields. Rusty poles sprout, hoisting notifications that have completely outlived their relevance.

Train station1

Food is on fire!

trainstation3

Notification of load limit.

Trainstation4

‘’What do you want for mother’s day?’’
‘’Mosquito net.’’

Trainstation2

Under this Neem tree, people sit to have conversation, drink alcohol and smoke weed.

Most likely, the first attempt at statehood in Ashanti’s history began with Obiri Yeboah. He organized clan-houses so they could resist Denkyira’s military power. They were people who came together because of war (3sa nti fo)), which got corrupted to Asante and Ashanti.) It was about resistance. It was taking the future on and believing it. It was about ordinary people believing in leadership. Like every nation that develops, the notion was that a country is built with strangers. It happened right here in Asafo. In Adum. In Bantama.
And we bear witness to this city’s triumph and sorrows. Of its internal struggles and memory. Of its character as persona and heart-breaks. Within this curious collusion, a part of a city helps the whole by questioning it. As an observer of urban spaces, I know what it means. It is poetic.

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So  this list is the first part of  a project that I have been involved in for the past year or so. I  sought to interrogate the future of Ghanaian poetry. In many ways, my interest has been on new voices like myself. I have  been blown away by some, totally humbled and some have made question myself as an artist. So in this list, I assume I am just an observer who is loud-mouthed.  I deprive myself of any entitlement to artistry in this context so as to be fair and not be clouded by my prejudices. Here we go in no particular order:

1. William Saint George ( Jesse Jojo Johnson) : There are a few  poet-species left on earth who are devotees of verse. William’s  attention to detail of the verse is something that has held me spellbound for months. It’s clear that the Victorian poets did not die and if they did, they left a lasting impression on a boy in Ghana who based his arts in their artistry and has honed a voice that is increasingly becoming his. In my view, William is Ghana’s most valuable literary currency of the younger generation. I copied this from his blog :

I Walked One Morning On A Street

ImageI walked one morning, on a street,
one early, golden morning,
the only crowds were silent trees
and all their leaves were falling,
 
I took my time to scan the view,
and drink the living air,
to spy the alternating hues
of nature’s pompous fare.
 
I listened to the sighing wind
and followed all her notes,
while whistling along her flute
a duet learned by rote
 
I crossed a little wooden bridge
that spanned a giggling brook
and as I stood atop its back
three laden branches shook
 
I looked up through the dangling boughs;
I swore t’was someone there,
when something sweet disturbed my ear,
a bird song in the air.
 
Oh heaven, how have I been blessed!
I thought a bit aloud,
a songbird in a yellow coat
hid in the leafy shroud
 
Oh come down bird, oh come down bird,
I called to it at last,
come let us sing a little song
I wrote a season past!
 
The bird, with nonchalance, sang on
ignoring all my pleas
the leaves, consenting, stood in place
and hid the bird from me
 
So mad at being thus ignored
I found a little rock,
and threw my missile at the bird
to leave it quite in shock.
 
At last, it heard, and so came down
and calmly said to me,
dear one who cannot sing or fly,
I pray now, leave me be!
 
And quickly as it came, it went
and hid itself again,
and undisturbed at once resumed
its innocent refrain
 
What did I do then, you must ask,
with pride of self undone,
I took my paper and my pen,
and this same poem begun.
 My only criticism of William will be his reach of potential readership despite his potential.
2. Daniel Kojo Appiah :  As the winner of the maiden Ghana Poetry Prize, my faint words will be an attempt at fatal injury.  Over these few months, I have him seen on a quest that defines him in short poetry and spontaneous inspiration. Seemingly, he questions the  status quo in many of  his poems. His inclination is a continuation of the humanistic approach in poetry. Even in his vagueness, he constructs reality with tact.
dani

Staring at a Blue Wall

I sit on a chair
with wheels beneath.
Frozen I am in wonderous stare

I sit and stare
and can’t believe
Sorcery that mimics a fairy tale sky.

I sit unstirred,
this sky be strange;
clouds varied with symbols here

I sit and stare
I’m quite bereaved
This death has come, for now I see.

A death discussed
By computing knights.
This death I face this very time.

I asked it this,
and fearfully this:
“You, what kind of death are you?”

It never blinked,
closed its eyes, and said:
“You’ve only heard of who I am.”

I asked again,
it answered back:
“I am that blue screen of death.”

As part of my research for this piece, I Google-d his name. Apart from the announcement of the prize, he is virtually invisible on Google. That I think is an indictment on  such a fine talent.

3.  Amma Konadu :   I stumbled on her poetry a few months ago. I had this exciting feeling about hers.  She has a prose-like voice in poetry that engages in unique strength.

am

This Season

Seeing the half-naked
Kids
Dance-walking
Down the street
To the kiosk
 In that corner
To buy try-your-luck
Balloons
With their faces
White from
Their morning baths
Is what this season is about
Catching the boys
Toss knock-outs
Under Grandpa’s
Old rickety car
At dusk
With their mismatched
Slippers and
Oversized shirts balled up in the back
While they run for cover
Not knowing
Grandpa has seen them all
Is what this season is about
Turning on the TV
And hearing
A local choir
Sing Hallelujah Chorus
In discord
Dressed in old robes
Yet smiling through
Their almost
Sorry performance
And so you care not
That they
Sing it wrong
Because their aged faces
Are so jolly
Is what this season is about
The ringing out
Of Afehyia Pa
And the cheerful
Hope-filled
Afe-nkɔ-mmɛto-yɛn-biom
We hear all around us
Though the year
Had not been
One long sweet dream
Is what this season is about
So it is when we march up to
Where one road ends
And another
Unknown path
Begins
That we,
As one people
Stand and wait
Eager for the new
Saying in our hearts
May it be good
It is what this season’s about
4.  Fiifi Abaidoo: Here is somebody I connect with on a personal basis. I see in his voice a discovery (or rediscovery) of African poetry. He adorns himself in rich metaphor and diction which paints quite beautifully. He is one who reminds me of the early anthologies of African poetry I read.

I Speak To A Land

I summon all…

Come and listen to your message.
I am only a messenger from faraway…

Your land is cursed.
Fire consumes water!

You land is cursed.
The antelope hunts the hunter!

The leper does not shake hands with death
and goes a healed man…

People of Dakokrom,
bitter saliva scrapes
your king’s tongue, his belly is full with frogs from
Kyekyeku river, and his intestines are as stiff as a wawa tree
and heavy like Nkwatanan rocks.
He shall die and rot on his throne
to appease the gods your forefathers; he sold them to foreigners!

People of Dakokrom,
the priest of Mbem shrine committed incest
with his first child. He heeded to the call of her fleshy breasts,
and tore her beads at Sun-sleep.
He planted an abominable seed in her innocent land.
He gave her a potion to drink: a potion to wash away the forming fruit
of his labor. She died in three days amid the silent cries of the night.
He sowed her remains in the fertile soils of the land
and harvested a curse upon the land:

Your dying sons and daughters, livestock and crops…

People of Dakokrom,
I shall go to the river of ancestral spirits
to fetch the antidote for your cursed land

Let’s meet here in four market days…

             I pray you enjoy reading them as I do. I will continue building my list in the coming weeks. God bless you and I hope to see you again. 🙂