Posts Tagged ‘Kwabena Agyare Yeboah’

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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(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.

Title:  Testament Of The Season

Author:  Mawuli Adzei

Pages:  194

Year Of Publication : 2013

Publisher: Mawuli Adzei

Book Reviewer: Kwabena Agyare Yeboah

Mawuli’s collection challenges the citizenry of the establishment. In 1968 whilst stating his support for Biafra, China Achebe writes, ” It is clear to me that the African creative writer who tries to avoid the big social and political issues of contemporary Africa will end up being completely irrelevant ” It has become a  DNA imprint that the African writer passes herself as an activist. Even today, when the current generation is not ideology freak, words of  nuclear atomic bomb proportions are traded on social media in defense or otherwise of this writer-spokesmanship role. Granted. This should be the case.  Won’t our narratives be anaemic, pregnanted with perceptions, classism, egoism and flawed by what not makes  one’s shoe big?
Enter, Mawuli. The persona in the collection is just a scribe, a mere clock. It is the reader that is the time-teller.  Segmented into fourteen sections,  the  collection combs history, politics, philosophy, geography, nature, ritual and the human condition which the poet writes, ” are the subjects that feed my Muse.”  Each of the sections begins  with either a prose-poem or quote which somewhat provides  a context for the poems included in those sections. It seems the poet is careful with contexts; he does not want to be misinterpreted. I find it an unnecessary burden in many cases. Primarily, a part  deals with a construction of identity. Subtly, the other disrupts and exposes the artificiality of nations’ borders.  In its claim lies the universality of human condition – humanism.

Testament Of The Seasons received the Valco Trust Fund Meritorious Award for Poetry in 1996 (unpublished category but was published with additions in 2013).   The collection begins with the section, Winds Of Change.  It bears  witness to the Arab Spring. It includes Springtime ( which in itself is a pun on “spring” in Arab Spring. Free Fall is a poem with extended metaphor that is seated deeply in how chiefs are enstooled in Akan societies.  It dramatizes the end to otherwise a beautiful climax. It brings to mind Gaddafi.  The poem ends with this imagery –
  ” And they fell like over-ripe fruit
   They fell, they fell —

    What a  freefall!”

The next section is Nature’s  fury.  The prologue of the section advances  an interesting argument. It seems to suggest that natural disasters are responses  to the hubris to science. It might not be far from the truth.  Research documents Shanghai for example as a polluted city because of industrialization and huge traffic jams.
Kamikaze is a memory of the Nagasaki-Hiroshima  atrocity.
Eternity is about death. Matters Of The Heart is a love poem section. The US inspires two sections; Dreams (which is an allusion to Rev. Martin Luther  King) and Statu(te)s of Liberty.
The construction of identity part has eight sections which includes Land of our Birth,Memories,  Meditations and Eternity, with latter poems as encounter with death. In Memoriam ( I, II, III) poems are personal stories.  II is in memory of  the poet’s mother.
   ” Then she collapsed in my arms
    I held red-hot death in my arms
   I cuddled death in my bosom as the choral wailings rose
   It was 4 am, October 1975

    I can’t stop crying”

It looks like the collection could have have been two books.

If history is fair and kind, then, when memories are cast in the grains of time, it should remember this poet and his offering.

If there is anything that is negative about this book, it should be the quality of printing and illustration. Well, it’s a scream of politics of sprawled publishing industry(?).

Troubled shapes on the maps are proof  of The Testament Of Seasons – of how humans have shaped up history; the beautiful and ugly, hope and distress. In its essence, humanism, morality should be a landscape, nirvana.

How many times haven’t we read a book and felt we were one of the characters or at least, we knew someone who was like that character? How many times haven’t we thought of this country (Ghana) as we read a book whether it was Ayi Kwei Armah’s post-colonial existentialist view of the then new Ghana in The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born or Nana Awere Damoah’s witty commentary of the present-day Ghana in I Speak Of Ghana? And oh yes, this is not a book review so I will spare you the book titles.
Nevertheless, permit me to narrate a story of my childhood. I, like many other children of my generation, grew up watching Chinese, Indian and American movies. I took a particular interest in the American movies because I liked war scenes. One major theme that was pretty much tackled was the US-Vietnam war. Even though it is a public secret that the US lost the war, the US won in every movie that I watched. Just last year, in my final undergrad year at KNUST, I noticed a different trend in American movies. In Olympus Has Fallen (2013) for example, the undefeatable US that I knew from my childhood days get defeated, but their response is even more profound. The caveat was that those plots were “based on true life story (ies).” As a Ghanaian breathing far away from the US shore, I was constructed to appreciate that:
1. The US was/is undefeatable.
2. Even if they get defeated, they will get back stronger and better.
Hollywood taught me this. By the way, the first Black American President of the US that I saw was in movies. Thankfully, he appeared as African-American.
Let’s talk about the Catalan photojournalist, Joan Fontcuberta. This dude fakes miracle and causes sensation. He hasn’t done it once. He has done it twice. I think he is magical.
This brings me to why I am here. What I am talking about is not neuromarketing or his cousin, brainwashing which the US uses Hollywood for. I have to save myself from being blacklisted (I need to be in the US for my grad studies) so I will not go into it. Seriously, here is my point. I am talking about the power of arts, generally and the concept of arts imitating life in particular.
Our socio-political and cultural histories are dotted across in novels, collections of poems, movies, arts galleries etc. Read Money Galore by Amu Djoleto and/or Ayi Kwei Armah’s The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born and you will realize that the base of the social construct of the Ghanaian has not shifted much. Do you want to get a peep at the average Ghanaian psyche? Read Kwesi Brew’s Ghana’s Psychology Of Survival. And how can I forget how everyday Ghanaian lives come to reality under Prof. Ablade Glover’s brush? Nana Kofi Acquah’s majestic lens brings splendid insights into lives in Ghana and elsewhere. There is no greater critique of our being than what our arts provide. In furtherance, like the Hollywood experience, we can construct a nationalistic pictorial view of our country devoid of partisan acrimonies. Yes, in the last sixty years, our artists have done much about our predicament. In ushering on our life as a country, our artists should begin to imagine, give us their artistic impression of the future. Last year at the Chale Wote Street Festival, an artist brought out his artistic impression of Jamestown’s future. His art was to imagine a fully automated fishing industry at Jamestown. It might look simplistic and not ambitious. But if you know Jamestown, you will appreciate the extent of imagination of the artist. Such positivity is what we need in our arts. We need to construct our world, work towards it and achieve it. This is how much our arts can aid in national development.
On the side, it will be the failure of the politician not to be artistic or literary, to say the least. Towards the end of last year, something happened on social media. It became a trend and finally, it was compiled and edited by Nana Awere Damoah into an eBook. I am talking about My Book Of GHCOATS (which I contributed to, anyway). It was a collection of fictional quotes that were wrongly attributed to persons, either dead or alive. Beyond the obvious humor, there were serious, subtle commentaries on the state of the nation. I reproduce some of them here;
‘’ The number one wealth creation strategy in Ghana is politics. ~ Warren Buffet [Pathways to Wealth,Ghana Version]

To every action by rain and thunder, there is an equal and opposite reaction by ECG. ~ Sir Isaac
Newton, 1544-1601 [Electricity: The Ghana Experience]

Brazil won the World Cup many times while wearing a jersey embossed with a picture of its president;France, Italy and Spain too. Why can’t Ghana do the same? ~ Joseph Sepp Blatter, 1990

Kelewale is a genius that cures jaundice. Starving me of it like boarding Ghana Airways with momoni -the engine will stop. ~ Mahatma Ghandi on why he went on hunger strike, in his book Kelewele; Secrets to Longevity, 1943.’’

On this note, I will go back to the ‘’boys abre’’ slogan. I will argue that it was a political slogan. When it was put into a song by Guru, it gave everyone the artistic license to voice his/her frustration without being afraid. Like the eBook project and in these two cases, artistic license gave us the dignity to be humans, to freely express opinion under the cannon of the arts powered by artistic license. That is how the masses of different classes responded artistically to political environment. It is instructive to note that almost all of us who were involved in the eBook project were also somehow involved in the Occupy Flagstaff Protests which happened on 1st, July,2014, several months after the project. It is also important to mention the spoof/satire site, Yesi Yesi and The cartoonist, The Black Narrator as also another of those media that have allowed, in the confinement of artistic freedom, commentaries on state of the nation. So artistically, we have been evolving on a scale of political environment. It is for nothing that in the traditional setting (especially in Asante), there are periods to freely insult chiefs. It helps leadership to pick signals.
Arts will always evolve and it will always imitate life. In these various, in these artistic spaces, we as a people respond to the pressures of life. We define ourselves and life. It is that artistic freedom, that very act that will help us to construct humanism. Above all, it is this that deservedly, makes us humans – ability to create, think and respond to basic stimuli. Democracy needs that sanity more than anything else.

May God bless us all. Thank you.