>Nkrumah’s Daughter

>On Sunday evening, I had the privilege of meeting Honorable Samia Nkrumah, Ghana’s first president Kwame Nkrumah‘s daughter – and herself currently an MP for CPP – at an event. Here’s the photographic evidence.

And while I’m shamelessly bragging, the man sandwiched between us is also an MP, Honorable George Blankson more specifically from Mfantsepim Constituency where my Ghanaian family has its roots!

Interestingly the event was hosted by another Ghanaian leader’s daughter, Professor Abena Busia who is the daughter of Prime minister Dr. Abrefa Busia. As Dr. Busia was the leader of the opposition against Kwame Nkrumah and his party CPP whose reign ended with a coup d’etat, I thought it was very appropriate – even touching – of Prof. Busia when she publicly acknowledged Samia Nkrumah in the audience and with a few words put history behind us.

I have earlier written about Kwame Nkrumah here and here.

>Ghana’s Wonderful Fantasy Coffins

> This is how I with to leave this world. Carefully put to my last rest in hot, red chili fruit. Remembered like a fiery person.

The only country in this world where funderals are “celebrated” (more on that here) and where my wish could be executed (pun not intended) is my hot and fiery home country, Ghana. But, maybe it doesn’t have to be a chili, I can also choose a Coke Bottle, a Sardin Jar or a larger-than-life (I can’t help myself!) mobile phone.

More on Ghana’s exquisite sculpture coffins, sometime called fantasy coffins, here, here , here and here (the last from the National Museum of Funeral History, the second last from DeathOnline.net!) I can also really recommend this coffee table book on the topic.

>Tourist in Ghana

>

The canoe safari was a success. Flocks of birds flew amongst the lush vegetation lining the shore, and a group of seven hippos floated and bellowed in the river.

We should have stopped there.

The quote above is from this excellent short guide to Ghana by Marlene Smith I found in the latest issue of International Travel News. I enjoyed the truthful description of the friendly and sometimes un-cooperative Ghana.

To me, the most useful part was the description of the wildlife viewing opportunites up north, including Mole national Park (elephants, baboons and birds) and Black Volta (hippos) since I intend to go there myself later this year. However, there were also good reviews of hotels and lodges and advice on interesting cultural sites to visit.


Pic: Elephant in Mole National park borrowed from projects-abroad.dk

>Kojo Antwi and Accomodation in Ghana

> Yesterday, we meet up with our landlord for a discussion along the lines I laid out the other day in this post. The discussion gets a bit heated and we differ on if the current dollar-rate has changed the price structure in Ghana – we know for sure our wages have not climbed with the dollar!

Our landlord however defends his dollar rent (which of course is his perogative, only who can pay what he asks?) and keep referring to that we can call “Mr Antwi” who will back his claims.

I can for my life not understand why we should call the famous Ghanaian popmusician Kojo Antwi for opinions on accomodation prices, but let it pass as I dont want to irritate our landlord further.

Only this morning, when my husband had recieved a call from the real estate agent who two years ago brokered this house to us, I understand that he was the “Mr Antwi” intended. Not the popsinger.

Sometimes knowledge make us more stupid.

Pic: A cartoon of named singer borroed from his website.

>African Literature in the Making: Harmattan Rain

> Yesterday, I found some information on facebook about a book by a Ghanaian writer, Ayesha Harruna Attah that came out a few months ago. Her book is called Harmattan Rain, an interesting choice of title that suggests conflicts, since harmattan is the dry season which normally no not include any rains. You can read an exerpt at the Publish Your Story blog (that amongst others feature Ghanablogging‘s own Maameous among their friends) here.

I take a great interest in Ghanaian and West African literature, simply because I want to learn about life in Ghana – and what better way to learn than from books?

About the book from the author herself:

A few years before Ghana’s independence, Lizzie-Achiaa’s lover disappears. Intent on finding him, she runs away from home. Akua Afriyie, Lizzie-Achiaa’s first daughter, strikes out on her own as a single parent in a country rocked by successive coups. Her daughter Sugri grows up overprotected. She leaves home for university in New York, where she learns that sometimes one can have too much freedom. Eventually, the secrets parents keep from their children catch up with them.

What was especially fascinating about this book, if I got it crrectly, was that it was concieved at an African literature center, where a few talanted students are invited each year for a nine month (!) sejour that – if all works out – ends with a book. The center is called Per Ankh as situated in Dakar, Senegal.

There is so much talent in Africa that go unharvested. I think initiatives like Per Ankh could be one way of changing that. What do you think?

Cover pic borrowed from the author.

>Funeral Culture in Ghana

> This years BBC World Service radio play competition had one Ghanaian in the top. Benjamin Kent wrote the play “Funeral Bells” which evolves around the oh-so-common Ghanaian funeral. Loads of people, food and drinks, but often you don’t even know the deceased…

Listen to the play here.

In the pic, my mother-in-law and me at a funeral for someone I’d never met, in a village in Central region, Ghana .

>View out of Ghana: Fotball

> Ghana is the golden country of football. On every small patch of land there is a game coming on in the early mornings and weekends. The European leagues and African derby’s are followed closely on TV. African Cup of Nations hosted by Ghana earlier this year let to even more fotball fever. Fotball is fun. Fotball is entertainment. Fotball is also a possible way out of poverty.

He is a compact, well-built 22 year old I met in front of the Danish embassy earlier this year. Since a young age, growing up in poor circumstances, this young man just knew he was going to be a professional footballer. He was good, he trained a lot and really enjoyed his play. However, his father would not hear of it, but instead wanted his son to work long hours to make money for the family. He moved away from home in his early teens, forced to support himself to be able to continue developing as a footballer.

His talent shone through and soon a prominent Ghanaian football club signed him on for their junior team. They made sure he was put though football academy to further develop his skills with the leather ball. Then last summer, a Swedish coach came to Ghana to look for young talents. His eye fell on my friend and in September he was flown to Sweden to do try outs. Back in Ghana, he was approached by an agent and currently also teams in other parts of the world is showing an interest for the young footballer, a striker who can shoot with either foot. Now he is up in the air, will any of these teams sign him on?

Smiling, he tells me this story over a chilled bottle of Soda water in a nice bar in central Accra. I laugh admiringly and can’t help but ask, but how could you possibly know you would make it?

His eyes grow dark, his jaw tightens.
-I just knew it, I know I am good.

The Ghanaian Dream has been lived by my friend Daniel. His amazing story has all the ingredients of a good tale, except for that the happy ending is – how can I put it – pending.

In the pic, Daniel is showing me pictures and newspaper clippings from his fotball career so far.

>Learn Twi Today!

> Since I came to Ghana, I have been trying to learn the language most often spoken around me, Twi. It is an Akan language spoken as a first language by about 40% of the Ghanaians and as a secondary language my many more.

Ever since I was given a pajama with the mysterious world fleur on it, learning a language is something that has been intriguing to me. My mother told me the word meant “flower” in French, which was somewhat confirmed by a white flower blossoming below the puzzling word. When i said “fleuuur”, I was speaking French! That thought always made me smile.

Language opens doors and can make you become a part of something new, which I touched on earlier here. A newly discovered fellow “obruni” (foreigner) Maame J, descibes her and her half-Ghanaian son’s journey to learn Twi here. It is highly interesting reading for me, and what hits me it how difficult it is to find the tools for learning, so I’d thought I’d describe my process of learning Twi here on my blog.

1, I learned numbers and the Ghanaian weekday-names (find out your name here). A good investment.

2, During my first visit to Ghana, I picked up common phrases like
(Thank you) Me da wo ase (Reply) – Me nda wo ase
(Greeting) – Agoo (reply) Amee
(Wishing someone happy holidays) Afe hya pa (reply) – Afe nkommo tu ye
(How are you?)Ete sen? (reply) – Eye (NOTE spelling is indicative)
It was really difficult just to remember the simplest of phrases.

3, I bought a book in preparation for my move to Ghana, “Let’s Learn Twi: Ma Yensua Twi”. It was ok, for a schooled person it is always good to get the spelling and “look” of foreign words. However, some phrases were a bit old-fashioned. For example few Twi speaking people today say Mema wo akye (I give you daylight), but rather uses the English “Good morning”.

4, I lived with my mother in law for three months and really got the melody of the beautiful language, she speaks the Fanti dialect, as well as all possible greetings (nkyea) under my skin. This is probably the best way to learn a language.

5, Bought Florence Abena Dolphyne’s text book, “A Comprehensive Course in Twi (Asante) for the Non-Twi Learner” a smallish red text book from the University of Ghana bookstore for GHC 4 (same in USD) which is a very useful manual for learning the language. It also has extremely useful phrases like Me ye osuani (I’m a student).

6, Lately, I have been lazy and just lived in the language. Interestingly, it seems like I cant help but learning just from existing in a Ghanaian context. I speak to guards, professors, relatives and coworkers and listen (ok, eavesdrop) a lot too.

7, The future hopefully holds a course of some kind. Maybe at the University of Ghana or some other institution. I need to get into the next gear.

The best resource for learning a language is probably a life partner speaking that language. However, my husband has not been very helpful after step one, but that proves that even without that type of support it is possible to learn a language. Apart from books there are resources on the web such as the Twi-English Dictionary (seems to focus on biblical phrases). Kotey’s dictionary can also in part be accessed online. Google Twi Kasa, I have written about here. Wikipedia in Twi can be found here. A video on kids learning Twi here. I have also come across a Twi Pimsleur audio course on the net, as well as the US Foreign Service course has anyone tried them?

Most interestingly I found this 43things-list of 27 people who want to learn Twi. Well, 28 with me!

In the pic, a beautiful silent sculpture I came across in North Legon last week.

>Lunch with Bush and Bin Laden

> We go to a restaurant close to work to have some lunch. I order a salad. And then look around the big open space. And see following mural.

Saddam, Blair, Bin Laden and W. Bush are enjoying a meal together! Interestingly they are all eating Ghanaian dishes. Saddam eats banku and dried fish, Blair fried rice, Bin Laden dips his hand into fufu with goat soup and Bush plantain with kontomire stew. Maybe a top-level meeting like this could have solved some issues? At least it would’ve spread the word about the delicious Ghanaian cuisine.

>Moringa Miracles

> A friend here in Ghana told me about the many healthy effects of the moringa tree (“benzolive” in French, “drumstick tree” in English) some time ago. I had never heard of it, but through a little research online I now know my friend was right to sprinkle dried moringa leaves on her kids’ food.

It contains vitamins (A, B1, B2, B3 and C) as well as calcium and potassium. But the miracle is it also contains complete proteins, which few plants do. Another example is the soy bean, but moringa is much richer in protein! According to Trees for Life an organization promoting the use of Moringa to combat hunger, the leaves also prevent various diseases. Download Trees for Life’s interesing PDF on possible uses of Moringa here.

You simply eat the fresh or dried leaves with your food or brew tea out of it.

The Moringa tree grows in tropical areas and the fast growing tree requires little water and no particular soil. It’s leaves can be fed to animals, a meal made from the seeds can purify water and be used to produce bio fuels!

On my way home from work I always pass a little shed with a “Moringa is sold here” sign (opposite the Shell station at the end of the Tema motorway leading towards Achimota). I always used to wonder, what IS Moringa anyway? Now I know.

Pic of the moringa leaf from Trees for Life

>African Wax Print Fiesta!

> My love relationship with African wax print, the widely used cloth in bright colors, has just reached another level. I think I have always associated Africa with bright colors of clothing and from my very first moment in Ghana (Dec 2004), I have been on the hunt for colorful material of this kind.

I like that its most often sold in “half piece” or 6 yards at a time, I adore the colors and the wild combinations of patterns. Speaking of patterns, I love certain ones, most notably the “water well” pattern, which looks like big kind of dotted circles. I have it in several (5?) different colors.

So of course the next step was to make clothes out of it. I have two seamstresses I frequent. It is so much fun to be able to decide the style myself and most of the days here in Ghana you will see me in some kind of African garment, be it a top, a skirt or the traditional top and bottom kaba and slit.

Recently the ready wear has enetered the Ghanaian market. So recently, I have also bought a wonderful dress (and probably will add another one to it soon) at the Ghanaian designer house Kiki’s Clothing. Their designer introduced me to the wax prints deluxe that on top of an elaborate and colorful print has another pattern in gold over it!

But now Boxing Kitten has arrived. Just like Kiki’s clothing she is mixing patterns and colors without fear. Less is not more, more is more. And my love for African wax print has suddenly reached a whole different level.

Pic from Boxing Kittens fall collection, isn’t it just beautiful?

>View out of Ghana: Poverty

>They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

The meaning of that concept is that we all have different glasses though which we see the world. In this post, as in all others I have ever written, I intend to write about the world I see. Here are my thoughts on poverty (spurred on by Blog Action Day).

With my sheltered and sometimes outright naive Swedish background, coming to live in Ghana has in many ways been being confronted with stories about poverty. I have come to understand the depressing effects of poverty: that there are people who are so poor they buy food and spices for today’s meal only, hoping that tomorrow they will afford rice and pepper again. There are men so poor they can’t afford the transport fare to go look for a job, women so poor they cannot afford to go to church (offerings and sunday clothing requires money) and families so poor they cannot afford contraceptives or an abortion even when their resources are not enough to feed the kids already at their feet.

Then again, Ghana is a relatively well off country in the region, see for instance gapminder for figures. And the person buying pepper for today, at least is buying something. The man not able to find a new job will be fed by his wife who is a successful trader in the local market. And interestingly, the poorest families rarely see children as anything else than a resource and a joy.

Poverty is in the eye of the beholder. I argue, so is glamour.

Pic taken in the Makola Market area, downtown Accra, Ghana.