​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.

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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.

​Sebiticals Chapter 42: An Ecclesiastical Paulogue to the Manasonians

In the first year of the reign of Odekuro Odieasem Nana Tutubrofo Dankwawura, there were rumours and reports of malfeasance in the corridors of the temple. When asked for the meaning of the word ‘malfeasance’, the scribes of the land explained that it was the situation where the incense from the burnt offerings had malodor. One of the major scribes, a man from the Manasonians, took upon himself to open the windows into the temple so both Jews and Gentiles alike would sniff the nunu scent and testify.

Meanwhile, many years before Odieasem ascended the throne, there was born a man known as Saul. This Saul later attended the institute of high learning in Rome and was introduced to Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Marx and Socrates. He also learnt the ways of Sulla, Julius Caesar and Marcus Aurelius. Right from the high tower, he took a garment of pure Scottish fabric and, with letters from the bearded philosophers of the land, set off to uphold the virtues of the Universe.
One day, on his way to Okponglomascus, suddenly a voice sounded around him and a light flashed.
The voice called out: “Go ye towards the road to Fanoafa and ye shall be told what to do.”
In Fanoafa lived a disciple of the Brand, a Sammenitan called Hatta. The word came to him: “Go out on the Fanoafa road and ye shall find a young man in Scottish garb, who ye shall take onto thy fold; for he is my chosen instrument to build and sustain the Brand.”
Picking up his rod, the Hatta the Sammeritan went forth by the Way of Avenor and took the long road towards Okponglomascus where he met Saul. Then Hatta, the man of Sammenria, held the hands of Saul and blessed him, saying, “Brother Saul, ye have been found worthy of the Brand and selected by the Voice; the Voice that spoke to you on the Okponglomascus road has directed me to you, so you might be imbued with dumornic fervour to serve the Brand and build it and sustain it, as a standard to all who shall come after thee.” 

Immediately, Saul started speaking in slangs and praising the Voice, rejoicing that he had been counted worthy of the working for the Brand. When the power of the Voice had descended on him, the Sammeritan blessed him and said, “Henceforth, you shall be called Paul Grace, for upon this foundation I will build the Brand.”
The Voice was with Paul and worked mighty and great deeds through him. And the Brand grew and many were added to their numbers. Among the deeds wrought through Paul and the servants of the Brand included a one-on-one with Junior Jesus, after his second coming and when he had visited the temple to cast lots. This feat was unprecedented and the fame of the Brand soared and soared. The philosophers of the land saw all that Paul had done and were pleased and honoured with a coat of many colours.
In the church at Fanoafa were many teachers and prophets: Rekced who was also called Sonny, Romud from the house of Oheb, Neerod who was one of the mighty women who had served right from the beginning of the church and Paul. As the Brand grew and grew, one day, as the servants of the Brand were meditating on the Way, the Voice spoke and said, “Set apart for me Paul Grace and Hatta the Sammenitan, for they have more work to do in unearthing and nurturing more disciplines to serve in more churches modeled after Fanoafa.”
So it came to pass that after the disciples had fasted and prayed, they sent them forth as apostles of the Voice. The two of them, sent on their way by the Voice, went down via the Appian Way and turned towards the place called The Blood Is A Crowd and over the Bridge towards the Road of Liberation, proclaiming the Way of The Voice wherever they went, doing good and making disciples of all men. 
The first church they planted was at the centre of The City, where Paul found and converted a young man known as Elva, who was full of grace and power. Elva was beloved of Paul.
Sometime later, Paul said to Hatta, “Let’s go back and visit the brethren between Fanoafa and here and see how they are faring.” Paul wanted to take Elva with him, but the older apostle from Sammenria wanted to keep Elva at The City. The two apostles had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Elva remained at The City but didn’t lose his relationship with Paul. Paul loved Elva with all his heart. Paul set forth and went through Ganaria and Sankaria, eventually pitching his ministry at Labonicia, from where he continued to speak to the churches, including the church at Manasonia.
And it was at Labonica that Wofa Kapokyikyi met Paul Grace and fell in love with his sermons from the Mount every evening. Wofa wasn’t along: people from far and near would come and drink deep as the Apostle Paul taught and instructed and also brought philosophers to espouse on Plutonian and Aristocratic ideas as well as those for the down-trodden.
With the passage of time, the Brand continued to grow and expand and more where added to their numbers, including a man called Azur, from Manasonia who came wailing and sniffing and looking under the eyes of corpses. In the meantime, there arose in the land a leader of the scribes called Yennom son of Frail. He was learned, both in letters worked for and those acquired. 
In the eighth month of the first year of Odekuro Odieasem Nana Tutubrofo Dankwawura, Azur went looking into coffins in the house of Paul of Jos. Some of the coffins had been closed and sealed and locked in the vault. Not only did Azur open these caskets, but he did them in the open, just outside the temple gates. The harmattan winds carried the nunu scent into the corridors of the temple and permeated everywhere. 
The ‘shenanigans’ of Azur, with the support of the Brand, didn’t go down well with the retired priests and servants of the temple. And some of the scribes, who began releasing epistles upon epistles cautioning against exorcism. Azur retorted that exorcism wasn’t banned under the Torah.  
Things came to a head when the major Scribe, Yennom bar-Frail, released his epistle, directed towards no-one but targeted towards the discerning. 
There was uproar in the land, from both Jews and Gentiles and from the Sadducees and Pharisees. Counter epistles were written and posted on the city gates and on the walls of the land. One epistle was jointly written by the Watchmen. One of the signatories was a Nyarkonite, who was a retired opener of caskets.
That is when Paul gave his seminal ecclesiastical paulogue to Azur, reminding him of the tenets of the Brand and admonishing him not to dilute the Way of the Voice, keeping it holy and sacrosanct. The Sermon covered over forty scrolls, according to the scribes whose duty it is to record the annals of the land. The Sermon chronicled the history of the church of the Brand and the canons of the Way. Paul spoke with spiritual vehemence, saying “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” 
And being in anguish, he spoke more earnestly and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.
After the Sermon, there was uproar in the land, with the Watchmen saying perhaps the apostle had been affected by his association with the house of Jos. And when the Nyarkonite, who was used as an example of how not to behave in the Way, came to affirm the methods of Azur the Manasonian, the people of the land looked up to the heavens, for a word from the Voice.

In the meantime, the people reached out for their favourite book in such moments: the book of Nahum. Even Wofa Kapokyikyi, who is not usually bereft of words, is reading Nahum.

Hmmm

As for Yennom bar-Frail, he won’t be forgetting his epistle in a hurry, as we await the casting of lots soon. Will it be the one epistle that determines how he gets to manage the letters after his name, either procured or awarded?
Till I come your way another day with another sebitical, I remain:
Sebitically yours,

Kapokyikyiwofaase

​Waakyenometric Observations

with inputs from Naa Oyo Kumodzi and Elsie Dickson

You know it’s a Fanti woman behind the waakye when she has no meat but rather chicken
You know it’s a Fanti woman behind the waakye when she has no boiled egg but rather spanish omelette
You know it’s a Fanti woman behind the waakye when she has no wele but rather sausage
You know it’s a Wasa woman behind the waakye when the stew is splashed onto the waakye, like thick palmnut soup, instead of being spread
You know it’s a Ga woman behind the waakye when the gari is as exotic as kpokpoi
You know it’s a Fanti woman behind the waakye when baked beans is added to the ‘salad’
You know it’s a Ga woman behind the waakye when the waakye is sticky and can be eaten like Ga Kenkey
You know it’s a Bono woman behind the waakye when she has bush meat as part of the “accessories”
You know it’s a Fanti woman behind the waakye when the fish is broasted
You know it’s an Anlo woman behind the waakye when the waakye is served with a side of akpavi kalami
You know it’s an Asanti woman behind the awaakye when she has smoked poku fish instead of fried fish, and she breaks off what you buy from the main one
You know it’s an Ewe woman behind the waakye when the gari is mixed with one-man-thousand
You know it’s an Kwahu woman behind the waakye when she sells the stew and shito separately from the waakye. You pay more you want stew or shito, or go home to use your own shito and/or stew
You know it’s a Fanti woman behind the waakye when sardine is added to the ‘salad’
You know it’s a Fanti woman behind the waakye when you can buy sardine instead of fried fish
You know it’s a Ga woman behind the waakye when stew has more pepper than the shito
You know it is overrated and overpriced when the waakye queue is too long 
Yet you know you will queue nevertheless if you are in the spirito-waakye-realm
Because you know that only the partaking in this food of foods would peace reign in your culinary soul 
Let me know when you find your rib of waakye
Happy waakye morning!
© Nana Awere Damoah, 040817
Pic credit: Abena Asantewaa Krobea

Nsempiisms: Building the House of State

I have been following the debate about the modes of tithing and giving in a screenshot being circulated online. Let the debate continue.
It made me take an excursion in my mind and to reflect, again, on how some of the home-grown churches have managed to raise funds to support their various activities and even venture into initiatives such as micro-finance organisations and educational facilities. Churches and para-church organisations that are not supported by any foreign donors.
It tells me that if we get our acts together, we can generate sufficient funds to run our own country and development. Already, figures show that remittances from abroad by Africans outstrip foreign donors fund inflows into the continent. I am certain the same trend applies to Ghana.
Aid hasn’t been used to develop many of these churches. Perhaps, I should say ‘foreign aid’. This doesn’t apply only to urban areas; it is replicated in the rural areas where even with minimal funds, citizens are able to raise money to build edifices for churches.
How I wish we apply that same “can do” mindset to our national development. 
Unfortunately, outside the church, we mostly lose this sense of responsibility to build, and take on a cloak of entitlement. Kwaku Sakyi-Addo wrote about visiting a village with some non-Ghanaians and having a meeting in a magnificent church building, where the elders of the church asked these foreigners to help them build a place of convenience. Taflatse, a place to squat so they stopped doing it in the bush. When Sakyi-Addo asked how they built the church, one of the elders proudly explained how they raised the edifice by their own funds.
Development will be a partnership between state and citizens. We must not lose our “communal labour” principles and look up only to the central government. Our forebears raised LA schools – schools built by local assemblies. Let’s not contribute and build only when implored from the pulpit.
We can do it. 
On our own generated fuel.
Nsempiisms. My mouth has fallen.

Nsempiisms: Indiscipline or Deficiency

Yesterday at the Media Meet with the President, there was a display of an attribute that disturbs me.

The moderator, the Information Minister, set the ground rules for the Q&A time: one question per person, make it snappy.

Not a few of those who had the opportunity to ask questions decided to ignore the instructions totally, asking two and sometimes three questions, even after a couple of warnings.

It is a character that irks me. We all think we can outsmart the system. It is either indiscipline or an inability to follow simple instructions.  

It is that same trait that makes people climb the curb to avoid traffic and then create more traffic in the process.

It is that same trait that makes people want to jump queues in the bank.

It is that same attribute that makes people want to bribe to cut corners.

We want to grab as much as possible when we have the stage. We want to eat as much as we can when it is our turn, not caring about those behind us.

The above are the examples of indiscipline. 

But there is more. 

Perhaps we just don’t know how, or care, to follow instructions. 
You put up a post and say people text a particular number and not call. They will call.
You say people should send details into your inbox. They put the details in the comments’ section.
You ask people to get in touch via a particular email (not your own) and they send the mail to your inbox.
Someone is to give a speech and you ask him to use 15 minutes, he ends up speaking for 45 minutes.
A student presenting his project is asked to wrap up in 2 minutes and he proceeds as if he has one more hour.
Yesterday’s session was revealing in these respects as well, aside the questions.
Indiscipline on display. Or plain deficiency.  
Nsempiisms. My mouth has fallen.

​Sebiticals Chapter 35: Ghana Vu – The Road Just Travelled

In the days of yore when we were we and we roamed the highlands and lowfields of the university of spiritual training, which later was given a coating of the name from Nkroful, there lived an obroni-trained herbalist in the big herbal centre near the road that ran from the abode of Odekuro right into the bosom of Otumfuo. 

Teacher Croffectus told us many market days ago on the hills of Menya Mewu, which existed side-by-side with the valley of the swinging monkeys, that everyone needed to be aware of two aspects of self for life’s journeys and to also made decisions on careers: aptitude and attitude; what one’s gumption quotient was and what his behaviours and idiosyncrasies inclined him towards.
What Teacher Croffectus failed to add was one’s debiatitude: how one looks like.
This herbalist in the herbal centre near the road looks like a fitter mechanic. Our view in the land of spiritual training was that an obroni-herbalist is supposed to look dadabee kakra, and not to have features that made you look up at the ceiling instead of admiring the handiwork of Odumakoma Nana Nyankonpon. One of the reasons why perhaps Kapokyikyiwofaase didn’t even consider the suggestion of Premang Ntow’s son, that Premang Ntow’s grandson became a herbalist. The debiatitide.
The legend was that during the period when even Nii Saddam reduced the length of his drumming sessions and gave time to the lesser business of reading his books, when men and women alike chewed the midnight kola and burnt the evening osɔnɔ, when Sir RED roamed the rooms muttering “minfitɛ gbɛmen average” (I am destroying the cumulative average of students) and admonishing students to draw any line even if they couldn’t make head or duna of the isometric drawing questions….during that period of exams, many are those who thronged the herbal centre for some relief from pain and stress, from the toils of preparation for exams and from the stress of not making enough time for one inte or the other, and the repercussions thereof. 
The story continues that this fitter-herbalist used to prescribe herbs just as you stated your ailments and many who exited his consulting room found out, when they compared tales from not different tails, that they were given the same herbs, even for different complaints. They soon concluded that the herbalist listened only with his hands.
So, one day, Nii Saddam, also called Kule, decided to get to the root of the matter. When he was ushered into the consulting room, he just sat and didn’t utter a word. But Fitter-Herbie had started scribbling away and prescribing herbs!
“But you don’t even know what is wrong with me!” Kule indicated.
“Ah, but don’t you all have the same illnesses and symptoms during this time?” Fitter-Herbie retorted.
I bring you warm greetings from my Wofa Kapokyikyi who told me that whilst it is true what our elders say, that even though heads may look alike, the thoughts in them differ, sometimes when you see how one particularly-shape head is modeled upon a neck, one can sense that the thoughts in that head have been experienced before in the past, and soon enough, the pouring out of those thoughts confirms the suspicion.
Like the stance of the Fitter-Herbie, many times when one considers the happenings in Sikaman, one gets the feeling of Ghana vu. Many times, the trajectory that issues take, like the path of a quadratic graph that rises and falls, that ‘pours water’, a line that accelerates to a crescendo and falls, like the crest and trough of a wave, seems too familiar. In Sikaman, many times when the matters hit, one just gets the sense that we have been here just the day, the week, the month or the year before, and one could almost predict the path ahead of the issue. 
The steadfast problems of our land never ceases, their recycling never come to an end. They are renewed every morning, great is our faithfulness in traversing roads just travelled. 
How are our new politicians different from the old? How different do we address our issues? Are our national scripts rehashed just for new actors?
Zimbabwean writer NoViolet Bulawayo wrote a novel entitled ‘We Need New Names’. Yes, in Sikaman, we need new scripts. We need new ways of doing things. We need new stories. We need new politics. We need to change the narrative. We need new mentalities of citizens. We need different heads and fresh thoughts from these heads, mixing in a national cauldron where each thought acts as an ingredient to produce a national meal of positive progress that delivers tangible development.
We can’t continue to be that predictable. We can’t continue to peregrinate as if we have no destination as a nation. We must get off the road just travelled and find new paths.
We need new names. No more Ghana vu.
Till I come your way next time with another sebitical, I remain:
Sebitically yours,

Kapokyikyiwofaase