The other day one of the readers of Wo Se Ekyir encouraged me, after he read “Letter to my Imaginary Friend" to use more mfantse words in my posts, adding that though others who don’t speak the language may not like it, he loved it. I think it’s great that he received the mfantsi-english so well. But I think too of all the Ga, Ewe, Akuapem, Grusi,
I can’t think of how to perfectly segue into talking about tribalism in
When I was in my mid teens, I dated an Ewe man who sang me traditional
W’ayɛ bi o
W’aye bi o
ɔde kɛntɛn na ɛko nsuo
ɔde kɛntɛn na ɛko nsuo
W’ayɛ bi o
Despite how cool the guy was, I found it necessary to tell all that he was the kind of Ewe boy who spoke no Ewe but spoke twi better than any of the other guys I knew at the time. (The way to my heart is ability to speak any ghanaian language perfectly. Akuapem is my weakness. The language dey bi me pass!). Why I needed to justify my choice of an Ewe man in this manner, I do not know. Why did I need to say that my Ewe boy was more Ashanti than the Ashanti boys? Perhaps I did it because even that early, I had internalised that I should not date an Ewe man though no one had told me not to. Later, someone did. Let’s call him Mr. Nkonyaa. He was my father’s friend who sometimes gave me a ride to that village school in cape-coast because his daughter attended the same school. On this day, he picked me up first, and on the way to pick up his daughter from his house, the following conversation ensued:
Mr. Nkonyaa: Do you have a boyfriend
Me: I have many boyfriends
Mr. Nkonyaa: You know what I’m talking about
Me: Yes, I have a boyfriend
Mr. Nkonyaa: What is his name?
Me: William Kofi
Mr. Nkonyaa: Did he go to University Primary?
Mr. Nkonyaa: Does he attend one of the Cape-Coast Schools?
Me: No, he goes to
Mr. Nkonyaa: So how did you meet?
Me: At Presec. Vacation classes (haha)
Mr. Nkonyaa: Where is he from?
Me: He’s an Ewe
Mr. Nkonyaa: Break up with him
Mr. Nkonyaa: They’re not good people
Me: This one was born and raised in
, he doesn’t even speak the language. Accra
Mr. Nkonyaa: It doesn’t matter. Break up with him
Me: I don’t think it’s fair for me to break up with him just because he’s an Ewe
Mr. Nkonyaa: God knows why he put us on different soil. We must stick to our own kind and let them stick to their own. Will you break up with him?
While we were having this conversation, I was feeling quite rebellious, and I had every intention of continuing with William Kofi but ask me what happened?
Readers, I broke up with the boy. I wrote him a letter saying that I no longer wanted to be in a relationship, that is, until I saw him again the next vacation and all thoughts of breaking up flew out of my head and we got right back together. Teenage love:) By the way, I later learned that this man was the extreme type who would not even employ Ewe people in the company that he partly owned. Wow!
A year or so later, I got the same warning from my father. Now that was surprising to me because unlike Mr. Nkonyaa, my dad fraternized with more Ewe people than with Akans. Heck, I’d eaten some cat meat which he and his Ewe friends had prepared against some bɛɛma nkwan and mfantse dɔkon a few times when I was growing up. And he now turns around to caution me against marrying an Ewe man? Hmm. I didn’t get satisfactory answers from him so I asked my mother who explained that they knew of several examples in his family where women had married Ewe men and been mistreated by the man’s family either while the man was alive or after he was dead. She added that the Ewe families they’d experienced always ended up bring an Ewe bride from the village even after the man had married someone from our family. Now I could see their concern and it started to make sense to me that my dad was giving me that advice, he this cat-eating, one-man-thousand-buying, ayigbe-kente-wearing man.
About a month ago, I asked a young man who is about my age and a fanti whether he too had been warned not to marry an Ewe girl. He said that he had and that he thinks his parents would not really be too receptive toward any other tribe but fanti. This is 2008, people. It is easy to say that our generation does necessarily think like our parents but we seek their approval our choice of life partners certainly is one of those things that we ideally would want our parents to approve of. I’ve asked other young people, people with parents far more educated than mine. PhDs, well travelled, big men, and sadly, many of them are telling their children the same. Speaking of which, Mr. Nkonyaa is a Chartered Accountant. The man go school but stiiiilll, ibi tribalistic to the core! To borrow the words of my good friend M.anifest, ibi colonialistic mental. This plenty school matter, ino shɛdaa dey boa us that much o.
Let me side-track a little. I’m starting to get into African architecture. I visited and spoke with one architect who seems incredibly knowledgeable about the topic. While I was soaking up all that he was telling me, it became clear to me that you cannot fully appreciate African architecture without knowing African history. So it should come as no surprise to you that I’ve been trying to learn more about Ghanaian history and especially about the way we were before the coming of the Europeans. There’s no way to learn that without learning about all of
How can we move forward when these are the conversations we’re having in our homes yet we provide academic suggestions for what
If you have any stories to add, please share. Also, if the story in your home is different, Anyɛmi (tr: friend), fire away and let's keep talking.
Ps: Interestingly fanti women are also known dɛ wɔhyɛ hɔn kunnom gya (give their husbands hell) especially in their old age. One guy I met recently was telling me how one fanti woman he knows is giving his friend (her husband) so tough a time that he's miserable in the marriage. Even my mother (who is wassa) says this about fanti women. Yet no one is stopping their sons from marrying fanti women. If you ask me, I'll say there are good people and bad people. All these are stereotypes that we need to let go of in order to move forward.