Emmanuel Kwamena Davis Cape Coast, Ghana.
“… Some conservative talk on cultural and traditional lifestyles that are evaporating under the heat of modernization…”
If this thought—or at least, this idea—slid past your mind, in the usual attempt to guess the theme of this read, then you’re flat-out mistaken. Inasmuch as I am a proud admirer of our un-westernized cultural heritage, it’s not my aim to prop up our weathering indigenous establishment today. Rather, I wish to give some insight into the everyday life of the Ghanaian as I have observed. I acknowledge that as a young man from an academic middle-class family, my observations may be blurred due to my reality. Yet, I have also noticed that there is this one unifying story a good majority of the Ghanaian people can share and laugh about, and that is the story I’ll like to tell today.
“It’s a delicate porridge that smoothly trickles down the throat and gives off this fiery, peppery sensation right at the back of the tongue. Thankfully, you do not have to save stacks of cash, dreaming of the day you could finally have a taste. After all, that smiley vendor might give you ntoso, if you are a customer. Even without that, it’s crazy cheap. Their canopied tabletop shops can be spotted along our streets and taxi ranks. And what a great way to fire up for the morning!” By now, any born and bred Ghanaian should have already started tasting the Hausa Koko. This millet porridge in a plastic rubber suspended from the mouth happens to be a shared breakfast. Moreover, there’s nothing to dislike about it—not the faintest tinge of error—maybe, except for the long queues.
Still hovering around the fiery and the peppery, Waakye is a top choice and I honestly do not know whether to describe it as a breakfast or lunch meal. Interestingly, considering how Ghanaians love to start their mornings on a heavy meal, many dine on this black-eye pea and brownish rice combo. Speaking of heavy breakfasts, I was jaw-droppingly surprised when I first saw what a cup of tea was to the English and how what we gulp down as our cup of tea is actually one huge gallon of tea. Not to mention the thick box-like double sliced bread. Anyway, one thing about most Ghanaian delicacies such as fufu, banku, aprapransa and the soups is this: they seem to linger on even after eating, especially, around the fingers and in the mouth. Obviously, it is because they’re highly spiced, leaving that fiery, peppery aftertaste.
Now, to the ones who make our rich foods possible. The mothers. Ghanaian mothers are undoubtedly the best, and this, I came to appreciate not so long ago. As a child, it is only natural to burn with rage at that strong and somewhat high-pitched shriek tossing insults and reprimands at you. The nosiness, which I should admit stems from genuine care, can make you feel over-controlled sometimes. The domestic chores you are likely to skip out on, qualifying you for a round of snarky rebukes. The sharp lashes and the knocks on the head, which are quick and trusted remedies for all shapes, forms and sizes of child foolishness. Ghanaian mothers pride themselves on good discipline; I’ve even overheard some boasting about their disciplinary tactics fashioned with funny well-constructed strings of insults, some strokes and some knocks. What makes such aspects of childhood fun isn’t necessarily the disciplinary approaches, but what we did as children to hide from its reality.
In Ghana, everyone is a politician. Many a time, ordinary people argue passionately about policies, political achievements and pass scathing criticisms about opponents just like how frenzied football fans would debate about a match or players—not in Ghana, but somewhere in Europe, with these players unaware of their existence. From petty discussions on the physical outlook of politicians so much as the President to humorous conspiracies and the perhaps, more reasonable debates on policies, our politics is laden with stories upon stories. Apart from the formal and serious side, which we’d reserve for the political pundits, we generally bask in the amusing bickering of some elected officials, their ridiculous campaign chants, or the dramatic claims they level against each other. I don’t know if many a country experiences this, but it seems the Ghana we’re promised in an election year, slips right through our fingers in the subsequent years. Yet, you’d never know who’s to blame; the finger is always pointed at someone else who then points at another creating a domino-like trend.
I’m not only impressed but also amazed at how Ghanaians have made the English language ours. Particularly, our pronunciation. Naturally, our spoken English is accented by our various local dialects, which plays out evidently in our ‘r’ and ‘l’ mix-ups and a great many others. Blada, Bloun, Bled have their British English equivalents as, Brother, Brown and Bread respectively. The linguists have named these malapropisms, but with their abundance, adopting them as part of Ghanaian English wouldn’t be that bad an idea. I think.
Quite normally, names of leading brands of products end up becoming the names of every other similar product even if the latter have their names in emboldened fonts. Pepsodent, instead of toothpaste, Milo for every kind of beverage, or Nsu, rather than sachet water, and many others are examples. Some may call all these erroneous, however, I reckon it’s our creative ability to redefine and own language.
I wind down at this point, almost hearing the jubilant shouts of my people–not only during our victorious international football games, but also when the lights are back after hours of drowning darkness; not forgetting the harmonious yet disappointed exclamations that flung themselves across when the lights first went out. Unity! Solidarity! Harmony! Well, I think neither these words nor the preceding illustrations completely sculpt the beauty and grace of the Ghanaian spirit. This leaves me pretty cringed about this write-up because I know that the truly Ghanaian everyday experience is more precise when lived than told.