**There were three Sebiticals that didn’t make it into the published book, Sebitically Speaking, because they were written after April 2015 when the final manuscript for editing of the book was concluded. This article, written in July 2015, was one of them. I am working on the 2nd edition of Sebitically Speaking, to include these articles. Enjoy this one.
PS: Someone had asked me to include the chalky episode in a future book and I told him I had written on that in the past. Well, here it is.
I love reflecting on some of the old joys of my growing up years and, recently, I have been curating photos of yesteryears, which I have titled ‘Do You Remember?’ These pictures tell us, somehow, of a past Ghana that was more structured and better organised than what we have now, reminding me that, in many ways, our Sikaman past seems brighter than our future. An entire topic for discussing in a sebitical soon.
Earlier this year, I indulged in watching old movies set in Ghana. No one can miss movies by Kwaw Ansah in such an exercise. So I watched Love Brewed in an African Pot, Heritage Africa and Kukurantumi: Road to Accra.
In Heritage Africa, the main character, who wanted to appear and act more British than the Queen, had changed his name Kwesi Atta Bosomefi to Quincy Arthur Bosomfield and had risen to become the District Commissioner of Accra in His Majesty’s Gold Coast. One aspect of the film stayed with me. His mother, played by the legendary Alexandria Duah, gave him a family heirloom which had been passed on from generation to generation, amongst the male heads of the family. It was believed to carry “the soul and pride” of the Abusua; his late uncle had been the previous custodian and now it was Kwesi Atta’s turn to hold it in safe custody, to be his source of strength and pride, to be held in trust and passed on to the next generation. As soon as his mum left, Kwesi took this family treasure to his office and showed it to his British boss, who expressed his admiration of the artifact. Kwesi asked his boss to keep it as a gift from him.
A few days later, Kwesi visited his mum in the village and the old lady’s first question to him was whether he was keeping the heirloom safe. When Kwesi told her he had given it out to his boss, the mum wailed loudly and exclaimed: “Ebei Kwesi Atta Bosomefi! Sukoo pii yi a ekɔɔ yɛ yi, ɛnsua nyansa kakra enfiri mu a?” meaning “after all your long years of schooling, did you not learn or gather any wisdom?” The film editor translated the question as “What happened to all the classroom education?”.
In my holy village of Wasa Akropong where my Wofa Kapokyikyi runs things, we say that there is a difference between home sense and school sense. Indeed, Kapokyikyi would say that adwen nko, na nyansa nko, which literally means that not all who have brains have wisdom. It also means that knowledge must be applied with wisdom. For instance, a wise man knows when to open his mouth and when to close it, when to talk and when to hold back; wisdom is the right application of knowledge. I read once that knowledge is not power; it is the right application of knowledge that is power. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be so many powerless knowledgeable people in this world. I bring you greetings from Wofa Kapokyikyi.
So wisdom is evident in whatever language it is expressed in. I have heard some foolish stuff expressed eloquently in English and have lapped at sense spoken in Twi. So I don’t get this so-called elitism because someone cannot speak English. Some of the wisest in our history have not been in classrooms and only a visit to a palace or rural gathering would confirm that.
Two incidents over the past week have set me on this excursion in my sebitical mind: the chalk talk in Kukurantumi (ah, it reminded me of Kwaw Ansah’s Kukurantumi: Road to Accra) by the wife of Kontihene and the inclusion of Madam Akua Donkor on Odikro’s visit to the Roman citadel.
The chalk talk and the subsequent apology brought to mind a story Wofa Kapokyikyi told me.
One Sunday morning, Opia was both broke and hungry, but he decided to still go to church in his Sunday best. He donned his white shirt over his favourite trousers and passed by Auntie Esi’s chop bar to fill his stomach before church. He bought fufu with palm nut soup, but couldn’t afford meat. Auntie Esi put two pieces of okro on top of the fufu to decorate it.
Sitting by him on the bench was Nimo, whose fufu was surrounded by a guard of chunks of bush meat, with an assortment of dead goat legs – his delicacy.
Opia couldn’t help but steal occasional glances at the meat pond in front of Nimo.
As Nimo tried to cut through the tough goat leg, one stubborn tendon stretched like a catapult and released a stream of palm soup which landed on the front of Opia’s white shirt.
“I am so so sorry,” Nimo immediately said.
“Sorry sɛn? Me de ɛyi nam!” Opia retorted, reaching out to Nimo’s asanka. Meaning, “…you can’t just say sorry. I will take some of your meat as apology!”
Can we get the Kukurantumi apology in chalk, please?
In analysing the event, I found, first of all, that Kontihene’s wife was telemo-ing a matter which wasn’t hers to carry. The headmistress indicated that if you wanted to speak to God, you spoke to the wind. I have never heard the wind respond on God’s behalf. Secondly, Kontihene’s wife is not from the Sikaman Education Service which has rightly taken up the case, but haven’t provided any chalk yet. Finally, clearly, whatever message was intended to be transmitted in response to the chalk request was lost in translation. Wisdom and knowledge didn’t converge.
Wofa Kapokyikyi tells me that this chalk talk is causing some headaches in the surrounding villages. As the election year approaches, the chiefs are expecting the politicians to remember the road to their respective villages. They are in a dilemma about what to say or not. Traditionally, they would ask for more support for their roads, hospitals and agriculture. Especially when the politicians from the ruling party visit. How would the responses be this time around? Would they be asked to reach out instead to the citizens of their villages home and away to support them instead? Would they be told that whatever the government is doing for them is only undeserved favour, even though it is done with their own taxes, from their sweat? Would they be told “We won’t give you roads today or tomorrow?” Wofa tells me that the headaches are not responding yet to the akombam.
As an aside, it must be tough being a social media political apparatchik. An issue breaks and you defend your party’s interest like Kapokyikyiwofaase defending waakye. Then the person you are defending admits she erred and then you have to quickly find another tune to sing.
Spare a thought for such friends. The hussle is real.
When the new Oga Kpatakpata in Amalaman was being enstooled, Odikro, who played a pivotal role in engaging all sides of the political divide in the run-up to the elections, attended. At the same event, one of the leading opposition leaders in Sikaman, Madam Akua Donkor, was also seen at the ceremony. At the time, there was no official confirmation from Okyeame that Madam Donkor went on Odikro’s tiasiɛnam. This week, Odikro was in Rome and when pictures emerged of those at the various functions, Madam Donkor was seen, with her trademark smile.
Ah, you know that Sikamanians can talk. Immediately, there were choruses of ‘What is she doing there?’, ‘Can she even speak English?’, ‘Why is she always on government trips?’
On the other hand, as usual, were those who drink palmwine with the Ahenfie guards and workers who retorted that the complaints were coming from people who walk with their noses in the air and think that because one doesn’t speak English, that person couldn’t think.
So, for the records and with the permission of Wofa Kapokyikyi, let Kapokyikyiwofaase insist that wisdom is clear in whichever language one speaks. So that shouldn’t be an issue. A person who spews nonsense in English will sound the same when the message is translated into Hausa.
Beyond that, however, the questions must still be asked. Why is Madam Donkor on these official trips? Is it because she is an opposition leader? Is it because she is a farmer? What role was she playing on the Italy trip? Was it to gain insights at firsthand how agriculture can be linked directly to industry? Where is her farm?
How does she represent the nominal farmer in Ghana?
In Sikaman, I find that we have difficulties in delineating policy questions from political questions and because we tend to make the messenger and the message joint from both the transmission and reception ends, most messages are lost and make redundant.
As someone posted on my Facebook timeline, even chalk leaves a political mark. Let’s learn to distill all the wisdom we can from whoever we hear, and not raise any dust on our road to Kukurantumi.
Till I come your way again with another sebitical, I remain: