Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Celebrate Ghana, celebrate Anansesεm!

At the place where an ear should be on either side of my face, I have a cardboard sign instead. It reads: tell me a story. Hearing a good story is akin to sitting under a shady tree in a hot place, enjoying a late afternoon breeze while you relax in the company of someone who you're totally comfortable with. Occasionally, a determined fly will buzz by and try to frustrate you, but having consumed a meal in epidemic proportions, you will only watch in a haze of lazy pleasure.

I owe those ears to my grandmother, whose storytelling skills are something of a legend. I remember warm, cosy nights under a starry sky when she would gather us kids and tell us Ananse stories, complete with mboguo (a catchy ditty/song which enhances the story).

Anansesεm is an Akan language word that literally translates as 'spider (ananse) tales (sεm)', in reference to the main character, Kwaku Ananse, a sly, conniving, slippery but ultimately loveable spider whose scheming ways get him into a hot mess of epic proportions most of the time. Sure he is a spider, but his shenanigans spin a web of intriguing tales of adventure and life lessons to be learned, wrapped up in the favourable light of a story that an adult might tell a child, rather than a preachy off-putting command. Anansesεm is testament to the creativity and storytelling powers of wizened elders who were/are able to pass on tradition through the oracle of play. On those nights with my grandmother, nothing existed beyond that moment of unity and contentment, sleepy-eyed, yet listening and enjoying ourselves immensely. The beauty was in being there, participating and bonding.

It is quite a sad reflection of our times that modern living has made many of us retreat behind the walls of electronic communication. I fear we've reached a point where we've come to expect more of technology and less of each other. The other day I spent a ridiculous moment answering questions posed by an automated voice. 'Have you called to talk about Mortgages, Investment or Savings? If you would like more choices, say 'more options'.' And like a silly git, I repeated, 'more options'. That was before the freaky voice had asked me to 'say in my own words what my query was about.' Umm. What is this, a scene from I, Robot? This was the first time a machine had pretty much asked me to summarise my query, making sure to use clear key words. The first thing that came into my head to say was, '..but you're just an automated voice!' And Lord help me if that voice had replied, 'and the Pope is Catholic. Now that we've finished stating the obvious...'
(I have a rant up my sleeve about living in the age of digitalization...can you tell? Perhaps a write-up, or 'rant-up' as it were, will be cathartic..)

Maybe the Anansesεm days are a bygone era and I'm just a nostalgic girl who's remembering the fun part of growing up in Ghana. But with Independence Day fast approaching on March 6th, you will forgive this Ghanaba, won't you? Like I always say, 'you can take the girl out of Ghana, but you can't take Ghana out of the girl..'

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