Saturday, 14 December 2013

Me, at a typical Ghanaian Function

The program was supposed to start at 09:00 but the time was changed to 11:00 the day before and people had to hurriedly call invited guests to change arrangements. The place wasn't too far from where I lived so I wasn't too bothered. I left my room at 10:00 knowing I should be there in 45 minutes max. The driver started moving in an unfamiliar direction and when I asked about it, he said it was a short cut. The journey that was supposed to be 45 minutes ended up being an hour and 20 minutes. Everyone had decided to take the short cut that day!
It was my sister's induction into the Ghana Medical Association and I was peeved that I was going to be late. These were highly educated people and I knew they would be time conscious. I entered the auditorium at 11:25 and the program hadn't began. I also noticed that more seats were being brought in. Each inductee was supposed to have only two guest but some of them came with entourages. A very typical Ghanaian trait. The security at the gate couldn't drive them away so more chairs had to be brought.

When the program started, one of the executives took the stage and, “I'm sorry for the delay it was...” and the audience went, “...due to circumstances beyond our control”, and started laughing. It was all too familiar. All Ghanaian programs seem to begin with this excuse.

There was a choir there and the MC asked them to sing. The music was really good but it was obvious they were being used as a time wasting strategy after their fifth song. By now the audience was getting impatient. It was 12:10 and what they had come to see hadn't started yet. It turned out they were waiting for the members of the council to arrive and finally they did, at 12:20.

The program started and there was this man in front of me who just refused to sit down. He was carrying his iPad over his head like he was at a political demonstration. I tried so many times to tell him he was blocking my view but he didn't seem to care. I shifted slightly to my left and so did he, to my right and he did same. I couldn't help but feel he was doing it on purpose. He also came with a lady and two kids. All this while the lady was struggling to keep the kids calm. Between the man and his family, I managed to miss most of the event.

He finally sat down after the oath and started playing the video. He couldn't wait to do this at home? The video was making noise and everyone was turning round looking for who could be so uncouth. The irony is, he kept scolding his kids to keep quiet even though the video was making more noise than they were.

To add a traditional Ghanaian feel to the induction, each inductees name was to be played on talking drums as they were mentioned. It was obvious the drummer hadn't practiced for this. The MC prolonged the reading unnecessarily by asking the drummer to beat the drums again when the sound didn't sound like the name. Sometimes he would get it right after the third try and there were 68 names! I was wondering if this was necessary. More often than not, the drummer got it wrong and the MC asked him to play again. Thankfully, we managed to reach the end of the list after a few 1000 years.

Then the MC asked if anyone in audience had a word of advice for the newly inducted Doctors and one parent stood up and went to stage. It was supposed to be a short speech but the man got stuck on stage and kept going on and on and on! I noticed one lady among the newly inducted Doctors hiding her face. I suspected that must be her Dad. The audience started clapping to encourage him to end his speech but he either didn't hear them or thought they were enjoying his speech. Either way he went on till the MC got fed up and came for the mic.

Program over. A lady came to give the votes of thanks. If you have ever been to a Ghanaian program you know the general format.

Parents were hugging their children who were now full doctors, pictures and videos were being taken everywhere, the usual. Then I noticed one man who seems to be jumping into everyone's picture. He would see a video being taken and would silently walk in the path of the camera. I had no idea who he was but anytime he tried to photobomb the pictures I was taking I would pause and wait for him to pass. I wasn't going to allow some creep in my Sister's pictures.

The refreshment was outside the hall and guests were supposed to wait for the inducted to take their share first but no one was obeying the rules. Refreshment was just some pastries and a bottled drink. People would finish theirs and go for more so many times obviously trying to get full on small chops and pastries.

I didn't come with my own car so I had to scurry home. The journey home is and the hustle of the Ghanaian public transport system is a story for another day.

PS: Congratulations lil' Sis, or do I have to call you Dr. lil Sis now?


Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Ghana, One Year after Elections

It's been a little over a year since elections. Remember whoever you voted for? Do you still think you made the right choice? This country has lots of issues and I doubt any of the candidates could fix it but at least, if we had voted for Hassan Ayariga, we would probably be laughing so much our woes would be a bit tolerable.

Or we could have voted for the CPP, at least we would have gotten a chicken each. I was really curious how this was going to work but I guess I will never find out.

Productivity in the first six months was reduced drastically thanks to unreliable power supply and what was in my opinion a very needless election petition. Most people do not agree with me that the petition was needless. The prevailing argument being, the petition strengthen our democracy. No it did not. I never for even a second thought that the court would over turn the election results. Not because I thought the election was fair (I'm not saying it wasn't) but because it was just impractical. In Africa, after every major election, the losing party quickly refutes the results they nag and nag and results are maintained. This petition was a grand waste of time and money.

While this exercise in faultily was going on, the rest of the country was literally burning. Market fires everywhere. Not a week went by I which we didn't hear of one market or the other burning. As usual, someone these fires we politicized. The theory was that, political enemies of the ruling government were the pyromaniacs behind these fires. The president even went to get some 'Special Investigators' from America to come help investigate these fires. Till this date, we've not heard the findings of these investigations.

Anyone with an iota of sense would have realized that these fire were cause by a combination of the sporadic power outages and the power electrical wiring in the said market. Seven months of load shedding and market fires and just when the load shedding was over, the fires ended. Of cause, they would have us believe it was a coincidence.

After seven months of not getting the electricity we were so dearly paying for, long suffering Ghanaians were rewarded with a 78% increase in tariff, 2.5% increase in VAT, numerous increases in fuel prices and a general increase in prices of commodities. Then came the strikes, Doctors, Teachers, Nurses, Lawyers, Pharmacist and even at one time, taxi drivers.

It went up even further, now, fan yoghurt is GhC1.00 😭😭😭😭

Granted, the president couldn't be blamed for all these problems but at a point in time, it didn't look like he was in control of the country. The ministers were on various platform making one ridiculous statement after another. Ministers were contradicting each other and it just felt like the country was a kindergarten class without the teacher.

Then a few weeks ago the president announced that he and his member of parliament were taking a 10% pay cut. This was seen as a good sign by some and others felt it was to score political points the rest of us were just indifferent. Then a few days ago, one minister grandly said workers should follow their example and everyone should take a pay cut. Pause...

It hasn't been all gloom but the rays of sunshine have been far between. What do you remember about the year under review?


Thursday, 3 October 2013

It's Tradition, the Ghanaian Way

An Anlo man fell in love with and married a Fanti woman. Since they both hailed from coastal towns, they liked to eat fish, especially fried fish. The lady was a really good cook and her husband was always more than satisfied with her food. However, the man had one complaint. Before frying, his wife would cut the fish into small portions and he preferred his fish fried whole.

After being quiet about this oddity in her fish frying method for a while, he finally decided to ask about it. According to his wife, cutting fish into smaller portions was the right way to fry fish. It made the fish taste better and besides, it was Fanti tradition. He wasn't too convinced about this explanation. In his opinion, the cut fried fish didn't taste any better than fried whole but when he pointed that out, his wife became unhappy. Not too keen to offend her he decided to let it be.

His mother-in-law came to visit one weekend and asked her about the fish cutting. His mother-in-law gave him an almost similar answer to his wife. Still he wasn't satisfied with explanation but decided to let it go for a while.

Somewhere around Christmas, the family decided to visit the wife's grandmother and he took the opportunity to ask his usual questions. According to Grandma, when she got married, the frying pan her husband bought was quite small and most times, the fish was too big to fit into it. She therefore decided to be cutting the fish before frying just so the fish could fit into the frying pan. Her daughter who learnt to cook from her picked it up and in turn taught his wife.

Granda said no one ever asked her why she always cut fish before frying and she hadn't really given much thought to telling anyone why she did so. It wasn't tradition, it was just done for convenience.

I grew up in a family where asking questions was encouraged. Even when we didn't have questions to ask Dad would ask why we thought something was the way it was. The answer didn't have to be right but you had to give your honest opinion no matter how outlandish it was. If we were wrong, Dad would tell us the right answer or give us a book to read.

Unfortunately, this isn't a very acceptable thing in the Ghanaian community. Most adults found it disrespectful when I asked questions. I got in trouble quite often for asking questions that were perfectly acceptable at home. It's not socially accepted for a child to know more than an adult or question adults in anyway.
Most things have perfectly logical explanations but the Ghanaian way it to credit it to some supernatural force or simply say it's tradition. Questioning the status quo often leads being branded a heretic or disrespectful.  Sadly, most people can't be bothered to find out for themselves the reason things are the way they are. "It's tradition" is a perfectly acceptable answer.

(Loosely based on a popular children's story)


Saturday, 14 September 2013

Boat Race 2: A Political Parable

The champions of the regional boat race championship were invited to the annual International Boat race. China representing Asia, Ghana representing Africa, Iran representing the Middle East, Russia representing Europe, USA representing North and South America.

Each country set out on the task of designing a boat for the prestigious race. News began to filter in on various international papers and on social media that four Chinese Scientist had designed a boat called 'The Dragon' which traveled at twice the speed of sound. The USA promptly convinced three of the four said Scientist to defect and steal the blueprints for the boat. Minor modifications were made on the blueprints and at a well attended press conference, the US officials announced they had invented a boat called 'The Dragonfly' which moved at twice the speed of sound. They also took the opportunity to accuse Russia of trying to steal their blueprints. An accusation the Russian officials vehemently denied.

The Chinese government who understandably were incensed by this development immediately put in place a national media blackout. All social media sites were blocked and all Internet traffic was scrutinized. They then set out on developing a new boat which was shrouded in lots of secrecy.

Iran pulled out of the race after the US lodged a complaint to the organizers about the boat the Iranians used in their regional championship which was nuclear powered. An angered Iranian cleric was on Al Jazeera saying Iran didn't want anything to do with 'The Great Satan'.

Meanwhile, back in Ghana, officials were at a three-day conference at an plush hotel discussing their plans and strategy for the upcoming boat race. After a two hour delay, a popular musician performed at the opening day and the conference finally was underway. At the end of the three days, the officials decided to take a loan from the USA and use the money to buy a boat from China which would be captained by a Lebanese. The officials, of course, took home hefty per diem.

The Russians decided that they didn't need to design a new boat. The boat used for the regional championship was good enough for the international championship. The old boat was simply called 'The Boat'.

Finally, the much awaited day of the race arrived. The Chinese unveiled a new remote-controlled boat which they called 'Red Moon'. The Red Moon traveled three times the speed of sound and also doubled as a submarine. The USA brought out The Dragonfly which was painted in stripes of Red with scattered white stars. The Dragonfly had a four man crew. A captain, a co-captain and two cabin crews. The Ghanaian team unveiled a Luxury Yacht, called The Black Shark, bought from China with a loan from the USA. The team was made up of seven people one being the Lebanese who was the Captain, Engineer and Navigator. The other six, who were Ghanaians (who did absolutely nothing) came with their family members and two assistants each.

The 100 kilometers race finally began and in a matter of seconds, the Red Moon, the Chinese boat was at the finish line, the Americans in the Dragonfly arrived a few minutes later and the Russians in the Boat arrived about 30 minutes later. One hour after the Russians arrived, the Ghanaians were still nowhere to be found.

The US team, meanwhile was piling pressure on the judges and officials to disqualify the Chinese. According to the team's dapper lawyer, the Red Moon was technically not a boat but a UFO as it was not man-manned. Various experts were brought in to testify on their behalf. The poor judges, overwhelmed by all the technical details, finally decided to disqualify the Chinese much to the fans' disgust.

Two hours after the protests were over, the Ghanaian Yacht, could be heard but not seen approaching the finish line. There was a party on board the Black Shark and the music was so loud it drowned the announcer's speaker even though the boat was still 5 kilometers in the water. Finally, the Ghanaian luxury yacht arrived on the finish line, still in party mood. The leader of the team quickly organized a press conference at which he stated that they were proud of their achievement and of completing the race. According to him, their performance this year was something to be proud of. It broke the national (Ghanaian) record and marked a massive improvement in their performance in last year's race. They were looking forward to next year's.

The medals podium: first USA, second Russia, third Ghana and China, disqualified.  

The Black Shark

Disclaimer: This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters and incidents are either a product of the author's imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.   

This post is a sequel to another post on this blog, Boat Race.


Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Signs of the End Times (Funny Church Signs from Africa)

It's either the modern African Christian scares the devil or causes him to laugh hysterically. I'm not sure which it is but here are some pictures to help you decide.

If we are in the 'End Times', then these are literally the signs


Friday, 16 August 2013

A Letter to a Wannabe Terrorist

This was my first satirical piece. I wrote it in 2010 after the failed suicide bombing attack by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab nicknamed rather underwhelmingly, "The Underwear Bomber".

Somewhere in Ghana,

Dear Mr. Terrorist Wannabe,
I’ve been wondering for some time what prompted you to take up your new profession that ended before it even started. After thinking about it for a while I decided to write to you.

I really don’t blame you for your misguided actions. I blame your rich parents for not giving a good African beating that you deserve and which is long overdue. I’m talking about the kind my Old Man gave me in class 2 when I couldn’t say my 7 times table. After that switching of my behind I was reciting it in minutes. Instead they rewarded you with a trip to the UK to study Engineering; you’d think there weren’t enough Universities in Africa. What sort of parents are those? When they heard you were frolicking in Yemen, one wonders why they didn’t order you back home for another severe African beating? Instead they reported you to the American Embassy.

I don’t blame the American for not taking them serious, they know Africans can’t do anything right, and you proved them right. Why should they commit resources to an African amateur terrorist when there are serious minded terrorist trotting around the globe? You just affirmed that the African can’t get anything right. There wasn’t even a small pop, how pathetic.

Where on Earth did you purchase those explosives, the black on market? Don’t you know that goods bought on the African Black Market are of questionable quality and sold by shady characters? Nobody here was surprised they didn’t work. In fact, if you had been smart enough to ask someone they would have shown you where to get original explosives at Christmas discount prices.

If I may ask, why on Earth did you hide the explosives in your underwear? Did you not read the terrorist handbook ‘Terrorism for Dummies’? In the last chapter it states that “all terrorist after a successful completion of the deed shall be guaranteed 70 virgins”. What were you planning to Service them with when your Organ would have been destroyed beyond recognition and repair.

Finally I’d like to conclude by saying you an absolute disgrace to all terrorist, an even bigger embarrassment to Africans everywhere and most of all a big shame to all my many Nigerian friends. May you rot in Guantanamo Bay with 70 strong men ready to attack you from behind day and night without any lubrication.

A fellow African,

Mutallab ; n: A rich kid who attempts to throw his life away for silly reasons. 

Usage Examples: 'Are you a Mutallab?' 'Stop this Mutallabness.' 'get out of the road you Muta-Muta.' 

Local Dialect Use>' Wo ma Mutallab ori e', 'Commot your Mutallab body for my shop! 

Accepted abbreviation> Mu-Mu


Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Oral History from Ghana (the Ewes and others)

It is really hard to find any post-European history about Ghana and Ghanaian tribes. Most of what we know is oral history and it’s hard to separate myth from fact. Stories that are obviously myth have become accepted as fact making it difficult for some of us to believe anything. In primary school we learned about the migration of the Ewes and other tribes but that wasn’t enough for me. I pestered my Dad and any adult I could find to tell me more about our history.

Over the years I’ve tried to gather as much oral history about my tribe, the Ewes, as possible. I’m going to share a few of the less know ones in this post.

In Ghana, the Ewes are sometimes referred to as ‘Ayigbe-fuɔ’, by the Akans and ’Ayigbe-tsɛmɛin’ by the Ga people. Some people find this name offensive others don’t.
It is believed that the Ewes and the Gas migrated to their present locations around the same decade. The Ewes first settled at Nortsie in present day Togo and began farming. The Gas later joined them but after a few years, their population increased considerable and they decided to move to a new land they didn’t have to share. Some of Ewes moved to modern day Ghana in the Volta Region and some of the Gas moved to Accra. The gas who decided to stay (in present day Togo) were led by the Crown Prince called ‘Ayi’ and those who left were led by the King. The migrating Gas left behind some of their royal paraphernalia, gods and priests in the care of Ayi.  
A few years later the King died and a delegation was sent to Ayi to come back home with the gods and priests and take his right full place as King. By that time the Gas and Ewes had intermarried and Ayi had been made a King.
Ayi decided he didn’t want to leave his new home and sent the delegates back to the elders with the messages, “yaa kɛɛ amɛ akɛ, ‘Ayi Gbɛ’”. 

yaa kɛɛ amɛ akɛ”, means, “Go tell them…” in Ga
And “Ayi Gbɛ”, means, “Ayi refuses or says no” in Ewe. 

The delegates took the message back but pronounced “Ayi Gbɛ” as “Ayigbe”. The elders were no sure of what to make of the message as they didn’t understand Ewe. A new Ga King was later installed but to this day, when the Gas celebrate their annual festival, Homowo, parts of the traditional rites have to be done in Togo.

I was in class four when I heard the story of Okomfo Anokye and Otumfour Osei Tutu and all I could think was, “Wow, this sound just like Merlin and King Arthur”. Both feature a mysterious and powerful wizard, Okomfo Anokye and Merlin. Both stories talk about a King from humble beginnings, Arthur and Osei Tutu, both feature glorified furniture, the Golden Stool and the Round Table and both have an unremovable sword.
The origin of Okomfo Anokye is a bit sketchy. Some say he just walked out of the forest one day and some say he was born to Ano and Yaa Anubea, both from Awukugua-Akuapim.
Some Ewes believe that Okomfo Anokye was the twin brother of Togbe Tsali a power wizard who lived among the Ewes while they were in Nortsie. Anokye and Tsali decided the two powerful wizards could not occupy the same land and since Anokye was the younger twin he had to leave and find his own path. Anokye traveled west till he reached the land of the Ashantis where he was known as “Ɔkɔmfoa ɔfri Nɔtsie” (The priest/wizard from Nortsie). Somewhere along the line, Ɔkɔmfoa ɔfri Nɔtsie” became Okomfo Anokye.

Okomfo Anokye's Sword

It is believed that Okomfo Anokye's sword can never be removed and so long as it remain planted in the ground, the Ashanti Kingdom will never end.
(me fooling around with Ghanaian Mythology and European Mythology)

Kente is a very colourful cloth worn by many tribes in Ghana. Kente is loom woven mainly in Bonwire in the Ashanti Region and Agotime Kpetoe in the Volta Region
The Akans believe that Kente was invented by a farmer (or Hunter) in Bonwire who observed a Spider weaving its web and later went home and tried his hand at it. The Ewes from Agotime Kpetoe believe the Akans learnt the art of weaving Kente from them. This post is mainly about Ewes so I will tell their side of the story. Someone else can tell the Akan version.
The people of Kpetoe believe that Kente has been with them for so long that the origin is unknown. It is believed that Ashanti’s learned to weave Kente by visiting some Ewe weavers. The Ewes explained the weaving process to the Ashantis by say, “Kɛ” with means open and “tɛ” which means press. The “Kɛ-Tɛ” is the method of weaving Kente. The Ashantis who learned from the Ewe took this knowledge back home and introduced it to others. They named the cloth “Kente” and attempt to explain “Kɛ-Tɛ” to other weavers.

The Akans and Ewe have a long history of mistrust. No one is really sure of the root of this but there are many stories that seek to explain it. This is the one I know.
The Ashantis were warriors who liked nothing better than conquering other tribes and expanding their kingdom. When the Ewes settled in the Volta Region, it is believed that some of them ventured inland as far as into the Ashanti Kingdom to trade. The Ashantis decided to gather information from these traders in an attempt to go east and conquer the Ewes. The only thing stopping them from reaching Eweland was the Volta River and the Ashantis didn’t know how to cross the river. They hired a few Ewe traders to help them cross when they got there. The plan was to cross the Volta in canoes in small batches till everyone was at the other side. However anytime the boat got into the middle of the river, the Ewe boat men would turn over the canoe and drown the Ashanti warriors who were unable to swim then go back for another batch of warriors. This went on for a while before the Ashantis found out something was not right. When they found out, they killed as many of the boat men they could find and vowed never to trust an Ewe ever again.

Note that none of these stories can not be in anyway confirmed as truth. Every tribe has different versions of these stories. Feel free to share any story about any Ghanaian tribe in the comment section.

ɛ ➡ the 'E' sound found in 'bed' ie bɛd
ɔ ➡ the 'O' sound found in 'box' ie bɔx

The Story of the Ancient Ewe Language 
(in Ewe with Subtitles in English and other languages)