Chronicles of Konkobilito

What I cannot understand is why people use air-refresher to deodorise the loo after using the loo to poo. The resultant odour – an unstable, immiscible combination of organic ketones and aldehydes, and inorganic komininis – is non-biodegrable, lingers longer and diffuses faster. I prefer the natural smell, which is more friendly to the nose, and even if not, dissipates faster.


The use of that air-refresher is a new age thing to try to mask the inevitable. It is akin to an attempt to call a slap a ‘friendly massage with slightly more force than usual, administered with instantaneous alacrity over a limited surface area’. That does nothing to the fact that a slap, a good one, like the type delivered by a fufu-pounding, farmer-turned-soldier leaves the recipient reciting multiple Hail-Marys as he literally feels heavenly, what with the stars he sees.


You see, there are some poo scents no air-refresher can cure or eradicate, even if sprayed with one of those fancy fire-fighting helicopters we see on CNN sprinkling foam over forest fires.

The elders say that when one has carried both water and akpeteshie, he knows the difference. In weight. But also in smell. And when someone has chewed the gong, the challenge of chewing the stick used to beat the gong is like a stroll in the Efua Sutherland park. I have sampled smells and know that there are smells and there are smells. Scents move in intensities. Not all scents of poos are the same. I have known the poo scents across a wide spectrum and there is no way you can compare the scents in the Pigfarm and Kotobabi maami, also called Prempeh Down, public toilets to those in Alisa. Scents mu scents. There is the champions league scent and then the local league scent. Different lanes.

The public latrine has a distinctive smell around it. Note that, unlike the poo in Alisa or the one in a typical ‘water closet’ (cistern), the one in a typical Accra public toilet is more than a day old. Even there, there are differences and over time, improvements have happened.


In the days of yore, when Rawlings chains were beauty ornaments and don’t-touch-me ruled both ghettos and high-rise apartments, way before KVIPs, the pan-type latrines were the portion of those of us who lived by the highways and byways around Pigfarm, Kotobabi, Lagos Town, Nkansa-Djan, Alajo, Nima, Maamobi and Kawukudi. Pan latrines both at home and near parks; the former if you were lucky and your compound house was organised enough – first, to collect contributions to pay the latrine man and, secondly, to have a scrubbing timetable that was respected by all the individual tenant families. For the latrine man was not a patient man to owe arrears. If his tolerance threshold, which was shorter than the thumb of a year-old  baby’s, was reached, he would still perform the duty of removing the up-to-the-brim pan but change where he emptied it. A new scent from the centre of the compound house is usually the first warning that he had visited and left a souvenir.

For those who didn’t have such an organised compound, trips to pan-latrine public toilets were like daily pilgrimages. 

And, for these pilgrims, the scent is usually not a main concern when the primary issues are weightier. Imagine a guy who lives near Maxwell Hotel having a urgent collect call from Papa Nature at the godly hour of 2.53 a.m. Imagine further that this call is of the semi-liquid, semi-solid, semi-demi-gaseous nature, that is accompanied by brass band music in the tummy, in F-major, ‘F’ for ‘fush’. Imagine that this combination of immiscible contents of the bowels has the attribute of impatience as well, knocking eagerly at the door of no return.

The call recipient has to get off his mat or straw bed, aka sorekɔ adwuma, and peep outside to be sure no armed robbers are on tour in his area. He then has to find this torchlight which has the habit of vanishing under the sitting room sofas which have been packed against one wall in the room so the other members of his large family can spread their mats on the floor. He then has to tip-toe around so he doesn’t step on the big head of that son, that head which was spread out like an African map, occupying space. All this while, he continues to hear the rumbling in the jungle of this tummy…


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DAkpabli Readathon Outdoors Martin Egblewogbe 

For immediate release  

Accra, October 10, 2017 

                                       

Radio show host and author, Dr. Martin Egblewogbe, of Writers Project fame, has been announced as the latest guest reader for the National Book Reading Campaign. Dubbed the DAkpabli Readathon, the initiative seeks to promote book reading for pleasure across Ghana as well as local authorship. 
“I have been observing the progress of the Readathon train and I am happy to have been offered a place on it” said an excited Martin who holds a PhD in Physics. The author is the sixth guest in the programme and he joins Rodney Nkrumah-Boateng, Elizabeth-Irene Baitie, Ruby Goka, Alba K. Sumprim and Empi Baryeh, who have all left their marks on the Readathon train. 
During his guest-tenure, Martin is expected to feature along the main Readathon stars, Kofi Akpabli and Nana Awere Damoah in their public reading activities for the next three months across the country. 
“We look forward to the dynamics of an all-male reading team again. Martin is solid on Ghana’s literary scene and our fans will be thrilled to have him,” said Damoah who is co-founder of DAkpabli. 
Martin is the author of the collection of short stories “Mr. Happy and The Hammer of God and other Stories”. His writing has appeared in a number of collections, such as the 2014 Caine Prize Anthology, PEN America’s “Passages Africa” (2015), the collection of short stories “All The Good Things Around Us”, and “Litro #162: Literary Highlife”. Several others of his stories have appeared in newspapers, magazines, and online.
Martin also co-edited the anthologies of poetry “Look Where You Have Gone To Sit” and “According To Sources”. He is a co-founder and director of the Writers Project of Ghana. Martin brings onboard the Readathon train deep insights and knowledge about the literary scene and passion for literature, which will be particularly beneficial during the interactive sessions of the Readathon.
Photo credit: Jane Akomea-Agyin

Book Review: Adventures of the Mad Duck

Book: Adventures of the Mad Duck (My Journey through 73 countries) Part 1 & 2

Author: Princess Umul Hatiyya Ibrahim Mahama

Reviewer: Nana Awere Damoah

In July this year, I was looking for air or road travel options to Monrovia from Accra and so I asked the best search engine in the world: my Facebook friends! I put up a post on Facebook. The response from one of my friends on the route by road was both spectacular and unique. Allow me to share the response in full:

Nana, there is no direct bus to Monrovia.

However here is how you can get to Monrovia by public transport:


1. Take an STC bus from Accra to Abidjan.
2. From Abidjan take a direct bus to Man in the north (500kms).
3. From Man you take a bus to Danane (70km), then a motor bike to Gbeunta the Ivorian border (37kms).
4. Once you cross into Liberia at Logatuo, you can get a direct bush taxi to Monrovia or take a motor bike to Ganta, then continue from there.
The road from Logatuo (the Liberian border) to Ganta is terrible.


Even though its not a long distance – 300kms, the journey from the border to Monrovia is about 10 hours.


In March, I went from Accra to Guinea Bissau by road.

My friend Efua commented: “Princess Umul Hatiyya….’Stap’ it! Hèèr….I laughed uncontrollably! I think by now Nana Awere would have advised himself to take a flight!”

I said to myself “I might as well swim!” Well, perhaps like a duck!

Well, not surprising, since the response was from a mad duck, Princess Umul Hatiyya Ibrahim Mahama, who has embarked on not one, not two but numerous such mad adventures to 73 countries, and whose experiences – the highs, the hilarious, the lows, the logoligacious, the uglies and the glitzes – are captured in two amazing books for adults (with a corresponding set of three books for children), which we are launching today.

Interestingly, I started reading and writing my review during a journey by air on the route she travelled by road.

“At the beginning of every year, I decide which continent I want to spend some time in. And this year, the focus is on my continent, Africa. My plan is to have seen a total of thirty African countries by the end of 2017. In March, I came up with the wild idea of travelling from Accra to Guinea Bissau by road, going through Ivory Coast, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Guinea Bissau. I also wanted to see these five countries with GHS 3,000 (US$700). This amount included my transport, food, accommodation and everything in between”

A mad adventure you might say?

Princess Umul Hatiyya is a self-described “ordinary African woman with an appetite for anything wild and wacky”. Princess Umul is also a girl on a mission: to visit every country in the world! She has been on this journey for exactly 10 years now and she is not slowing down!

I have been on a journey of my own, though not on road or by air. In 2014, I got acquainted with a fellow book lover Prof H Kwasi Prempeh and was honoured to spend two hours alone with him in his well-stocked library. I left that room with a determination to collect as many books on Ghanaian and African history as I can.

On this quest, I have been struck by how “ordinary” the writers of what we call history books of the early 1800s and 1900s were: ordinary being used cautiously here to mean people without any special training in anthropology, history, journalism or travel writing. These were ordinary people chronicling their observations, reflections and opinions as they perambulated the continent. We discover with them as they found new people, new cultures and new frontiers. Years later, their writings are the facts as we know them.

I see a new chronicler of such history in Princess Umul Hatiyya. Through these books, we observe our lives and times. She is drawing on the canvas of time, contributing immensely to the portrait of history.

In these books, you discover the world you might never visit physically but can, now, through her very descriptive and colourful writing. You feel you are with her on her many adventures. Isn’t that what a book should deliver to a reader? With a book, a reader lives many lives.

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.” – George R.R. Martin said. That is why reading, almost a dying habit in our country, needs serious resuscitation.

The local narratives of each country, its history, the natural reserves, the politics – as narrated – and the questions and reflections that they elicit and precipitate…all these are direct bonuses of reading the books. For instance, as you waddle with the wild duck on the roads of West Africa, you discover that the immigration officers are not in tune with the grammar that is spewed from the corridors of the ECOWAS secretariat in Abuja. Free movement? Wekin free movement? Money na hand, passage na granted.

Apart from the direct message of travel experiences, I got a bonus benefit from reading the Adventures of the Mad Duck. I found inspiration from a lady who is pursuing her passion with purpose. Who is following her heart, powered by her mind. Someone who is relentless in the pursuit of her dreams. And that encouraged me greatly on my own life’s journey.

Early this year, I got connected, via Facebook, with an awesome Ghanaian lady living and working in the US, who had seen my book Nsempiisms and wanted to do an audiobook out of it. She is called Zoe Baraka. In a short nine months, Zoe has influenced me so much with her positive nature and deep insights about life and living it. To demonstrate how she would do the recording, she sent me two audio samples and one was a poem titled Poverty. I am still searching for the author of the poem, but it is reproduced in the book ‘Being the Best’ by Denis Waitley.

Allow me to end by sharing portions with you:

Poverty is untested potential, resulting from self imposed limitations.

Poverty is working a lifetime doing something you hate, so you can retire and do something you like after 65.

Poverty is having many acquaintances and not knowing any of them well.

Poverty is having so many clothes,you “haven’t a thing to wear”

Poverty is eating so well you have to think about going on a diet.

Poverty is having every pill imaginable to cure your body’s’ ills, because you “cant afford to be sick”

Poverty is being loaded down with toys at birthdays and Christmas, and then being bored silly because there’s nothing to do.

Poverty is having three degrees and feeling unfulfilled in your job.

Poverty is having two cars, three TV’s, and a dishwasher, and then “roughing it” by going camping to “get away from it all.”

Poverty is going, day-to-day,from one building to the next and never stopping to see the beauty in the world outside.

Poverty is spending money on make-up, deodorants, colognes and designer clothes,and still being worried about the image you are projecting.

Poverty is never being curious about the world around you and never wanting to explore it or the people in it.

Poverty is as much of the soul, as it is the body.

Princess Umul Hatiyya Ibrahim Mahama: thank you for reinforcing that “Poverty is untested potential, resulting from self imposed limitations.”

Thank you so much for showing and teaching me how to be rich, by living my life to the fullest, like a mad duck.

Nana Awere Damoah

6 October 2017

The reviewer is an author of seven books, a publisher/co-founder of DAkpabli & Associate and a lecturer with the Creative Writing Academy, Accra.


​Nsempiisms: Bringing Up Mono-Linguals?

Last week, on 19 September 2017, I was honoured to be part of the launch of the 11th edition of The Spelling Bee, and had fun doing a reading of my piece “You Know You Are In Ghana When…”. Thanks for the opportunity, Eugenia Techie-Menson (aka Mawn Van Boven) and well done for the amazing experience: audience, ambience, content, speeches, performances, theme…

Yes, the theme. THE RELEVANCE OF THE MOTHER TONGUE IN LITERACY.

The thoughts shared, the documentary screened of young people who can’t speak in their mother tongue or in any other local language, the looming danger of our grandchildren not speaking any of our native languages because their parents — our children — cannot teach them because they cannot speak the languages themselves…I haven’t stopped thinking about it all.

My little girl is being taught Twi as a subject in school and, this week, she brought in homework, to list five local or indigenous games in which songs are sang. We had fun trying to remember some and took the fun a notch higher by calling my mum on phone, who excitedly gave us three types of games. As we tried to get one last one, Mama called back and said “Adonko koraa, nea ɔmo to wɔ TV so no, ɛno nsoso yɛ agorɔ ni bi!”

I could literally feel the joy oozing from her as she contributed to her grand-daughter and namesake’s homework.

At home, my wife and I communicate primarily in Twi, she speaks Fanti as well but my Fanti is terrible (apologies to my grandma Abokoma and the etsew I ate in Cape Coast for seven years on Menya Mewu Hills) and Ga, when we don’t want the children to understand what we are saying. Their nanny is Ewe but speaks Ga mostly so, in addition to what they have learnt in the Ga classes at school, Auntie Mary has taught them some Ga so these days they are able to follow our Ga convos. Perhaps it is time to learn Ewe? But I digress.

We have been lazy as parents in speaking directly to them in Twi or Fanti. Well, let’s say I have. Wife mine has done much better. My more positive action, perhaps, is taking them to Wasa at least once a year for the past eight or so years, so they can get immersed in the language and the customs of their people much more.

On our last visit, in August this year, one of my sons was annoyed when a relative, when he responded in English whilst she spoke Twi to him, retorted “Ka Twi!” I explained that he understood but, perhaps, is also afraid of his accent.

Yes, so though they understand the language fairly, they speak it not like I do. So there is surely a gap, and I was rudely nudged into revitalised action during the launch of The Bee.

I have started speaking more of Twi now with the children, directly.

I don’t want them, or their children — my grandchildren — to be what the Country Director of Young Educators Foundation (who run The Spelling Bee), Eugenia Techie-Menson calls ‘mono-linguals’. They will not be so, not under my watch.

Will your grandchildren speak your language?

Nsempiisms. My mouth has fallen.

​Nsempiisms: The Smell of Your Voice

After church, and being out with the family, I returned home and had a good nap.

I woke up to a message from a very good friend of mine via WhatsApp who showed me a screenshot and indicated that he initially thought it was me in the line of fire, but then realised that it couldn’t be me. In his words, “I remembered that you don’t go down that lane.”
I later got onto Facebook and saw the storm being brewed in the political pot.
One of the most popular questions in secondary school Biology was to identify an animal by its feet. In hunting, hunters are able to track animals by their footprints.
Without seeing your name, can you be identified by your digital footprints?
What is the smell of your voice?
Nsempiisms. My mouth has fallen.
Picture credit: Peter Spence, Canada

​Curiosity Ate the Cat and Other Sentences

© Nana Awere Damoah, 160917
(With contributions from Marricke Kofi Gane, Ace Anan Ankomah, Abena Afriyie, Prosper Afuti, Johnnie Beresford Hughes and Abdul Rasheed Zakari Mcim)
Curiosity ate the cat

But Satisfaction restored it to Life

Life, it was, who said

That he who laughs last is humor-thargic
Don’t count your chicks before you buy the mother hen

And do not put all your eggs in one frying pan

That would be an Eggstravaganza

Says my friend Prosper Zagbadza

Or in one fridge

Else you go cringe
Fortune favours the banku

And ignores the akple

Give a man a fish and he will expect kenkey

Give out what you can afford to lose

Else, give credit only where credit is collected by Unique Trust
A journey of a thousand miles better begin with a bowl of waakye

For an army marches on its kanto
A bird in hand will make great pepper soup

The early bird gets drenched with dew

Half a loaf requires less Blue Band margarine

Let sleeping dogs nowhere near Kwasi Chung
A little learning becomes evident on Facebook posts

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool that to smile and reveal your yellow teeth
Empty barrels are easier to roll

He who pays the piper cannot be the piper

Don’t judge a book by its colour

Especially in Ghanaian politics

Absolute power corrupts until the next elections

Especially during election years

Beware of Greeks speaking Ga

Answering, to every difficult question

“Oh, we will cross the bridge in the dry season”

Better the devil you don’t know at all

Birds of the same feathers chop together

“Cheaters never win” and whoever said that hasn’t visited Ghana

Well, don’t say I didn’t warn you o

After all

Fools rush in where politicians point them to
The pen is mightier than the politician’s promise

Better you listen now rather than later

‘Cos a stitch in time uses less thread

And prevents the armpit of the dress from tearing further

Don’t bite the hand you use to feed

Or bite it and use a spoon
You may choose to ignore the message

By shooting the messenger

But never shoot the messenger without an alibi

Don’t get mad, alone
After a storm comes the Mayor and the AMA, asking for building permits

And sermonizing, with plenty lyrics

That,

God ‘elps those who can’t say “help” themselves

All be shakara, political gimmicks
He who lives in a glass house 

Must not dress in the day

Or only when DumCG is on duty

Appearances can be deceptive but smell is not
A trouble shared is wahala

Why?

Because a problem shared is a problem that can trend

Barking dogs seldom keep secrets
All that glitters woos the Chinese man

And two wrongs made Rashida black beauty infamous
Since Charity is at home

And Brevity is,

Do as I say and say no more

For me, I turn to my bed to sleep

For early to sleep, early to snore

Nsempiisms: Education Cures Poverty

Manasseh Azure Awuni once said that “you cannot explain the concept of poverty to some one who hasn’t gone hungry before.”
I am for any initiative that reduces the burden on parents in educating their children. Education, for some of us, was the only social mobility vehicle we could get on. Education, for some of us, was our only chance out of poverty. Education, for me, is the ultimate leveller.
But for scholarships, I might not have gone through school. In my final year in the University, when user fees were introduced, it was not easy for me. Thank God it was only for a year, in my case.
For sure, the standard of our education is not like it was. And for sure, education has become more expensive. But we have to start the climb back from somewhere. 
Can we sustain the funding? The answer to that question lies in the sittings of the Public Account Committee.
“The promises and pretenses of politicians in Ghana seldom impress me. But I regret that a matter as important as education is now also trounced by partisanship!” Kofi Akpabli, in the anthology Mother.
That is the bigger tragedy in Sikaman today.

Nsempiisms. My mouth has fallen.