Wednesday, 6 March 2013

56 Things You Need to Know About Ghana

This here, my Ghana-centric post marking 56 years of independence, is to be read, sometimes, with as firm a tongue in cheek as I had whilst writing it.

1) Ghana is pronounced 'Gah-na', not 'Guyana', 'Gha-nya', or - even more ridiculous - 'Ganja'.

2) There are many languages and dialects spoken in Ghana, and not one of them is called 'Ghanaian'. So don't ever ask someone to say something to you 'in Ghanaian.'

3) Be that as it may, LAFA is a language onto its own in Ghana. Wharrisdat, you say? 

4) Ghanaian Pidgin English is a parallel language which waters down English while mixing with local dialects.

5) Ghanaian is not spelt G-H-A-N-I-A-N

6) The name Uruguay can still trigger intense emotion from Ghanaians. Whatever you do, don't mention the hand of Luis Suarez in South Africa 2010.

7) Local food is an institution in Ghana. You haven't lived until you've had waakye early on a Saturday morning, preferably in ahaban (leaves), fufu and aponkye krakra (goat meat) soup in a chop bar, yam and kontomire in an asanka (earthenware bowl), and omo tuo (rice balls) amongst other dishes.

8) Price is negotiable, and there is no shame in that. However minuscule it appears, haggling is the name of the game when you street trade or buy. No haggling dents your street cred!

9) Realise that asking for extra of the commodity purchased is an intrinsic part of shopping in the market. 

10) You have to be nimble-footed in the marketplace if you cherish any part of your body. The man with the wheelbarrow laden with food products really doesn't care that he's nearly taken out your hip with his metal monster.

11) 'No man's land' is a phrase that must have been coined for the people of Ghana. So what if a tent has been erected, and an entire side road has been taken over by the mourners and well-wishers attending the memorial service of Mr What-is-his-name with no permission, nor apparent concern whatsoever for blocking the road? Swallow your rage and find an alternate route.

12) 'Post no bill' is the most pointless warning you might ever see written on a wall. This is why in spite of the usually bold red letters, that very wall or gate has - among others - obituary notices and remedial class availability.

13) When it comes to beaches, you're spoiled for choice. Take your pick from any of the sandy destinations that litter the coast of Ghana, and go get wet.

14) On any given day, you will hear two or more of the following sounds: a cock crowing, horns blaring, hawkers peddling everything from toilet roll and bananas to mobile phone credit, your next door neighbour bellowing for 'Naa'sei/Akpene/', someone sweeping and singing, with the occasional discordant note creeping in…because in Ghana, noise is spelt C-A-C-O-P-H-O-N-Y.
15) ECG stands for Electricity Company of Ghana - but you’d be forgiven for thinking it is rather Electricity Comes and Goes

16) You will catch Ghana at various moments of emotional outbursts through the microcosm of society that travels by trotro. Football, politics and religion have been known to be the subject of much heated discussions on this common form of public transport. 

17) Everybody knows it’s not a homecoming if you haven’t been re-acquainted with aforementioned trotro rides. Or perhaps it’s just me.

18) You should realize that hawkers have every right to your body. Freedom of movement is very real here. How else were they meant to grab your attention except by pulling your arm, tapping your shoulder or - even more brazen – practically giving you an awkward side hug to draw your attention to the goods they are selling? Or better still, shove their wares under your nose, right in your line of vision for good effect. Marketing by visualization…that qualifies for a Sloan School of Management research grant.

19) Markets produce more terms of endearment than your average short-lived romantic dalliances. ‘Sweetie’, ‘ahuofe’ (beautiful), and 'love' are words you might hear thrown your way as you walk through any market, though the level of urgency with which they are proffered could hardly be confused for the dulcet tones of your lover.

20) Expect your attention to be called to by any of these sounds: clapping, hissing or long drawn out kissy sounds, though this last is supposedly complimentary.

21) Inscriptions on various forms of public transport occasionally turn people into
vocabulary vigilantes, but trust me, they are legitimate entertainment when you are
out on the street. Example: ‘Conquer the deviel’, ‘Jeseus is alive’ (which alone is
another crucifixion)

22) Speaking of roadside entertainment, be on the lookout spellings of
names of shops – ‘Grace of God Anoiting Saloon’, anyone?

23) We love all our neighbouring countries, but everyone knows we have an especial
‘rivalry’ with our cousins over in Nigeria.

24) Braiding salons remain one of the top places to pick up pieces of highly useless
gossip about people you'll probably never meet whilst your hair follicles are being
molested into compliance.

25) I lied about 24. Sometimes the subject of said gossip is probably only a few feet
from where you are.

26) Your car, front lawn or house could be ‘called upon’ at any moment to provide a
nice backdrop to the picture that woman in her Sunday best is currently having taken.
Take it as a compliment.

27) Kelewele stands across the length and breadth of the country have seen
some serious romancing between the sexes over the years. Sometimes, the relationship
is incomplete if it doesn't involve nighttime strolls to buy some well-spiced fried
plantain and peanuts.

28) The skyline of Accra, the capital city, has especially seen some dramatic changes
in the last decade with the addition of many commercial edifices. For the younger
generation, ‘The Mall’, has become one such place to see and be seen.

29) Ghana is a colourful pastiche of culture and heritage, and nowhere will you see
this more vividly displayed than at festivals. Some popular ones are: The Homowo
Festival of the Gas in the Greater Accra Region, The Damba Festival celebrated by the
Gonjas, Mamprusi’s, Nanumbas and Dagombas of Northern Ghana, and the Adae and
Akwasidae Festivals of the Asante. A veritable sight to behold!

30) Visit any one of the thriving arts and crafts stores and villages in the country, and
you will be awed by the intricate detail and workmanship. Expertise in wood carving,
weaving, pottery making and ceramics, to name a few, tell their own traditional stories
dating back centuries. 

31) Some tailors seem to be especially schooled in the art of disappointing their clientele. They told you your custom-made outfit would be ready on Saturday…and you believed them, expecting to wear it for that special event on Sunday? Come again!    

32) The loud music, free flowing booze, boogieing and general bonhomie may not immediately give it away, but somewhere in the midst of all that, you will eventually realize it is a funeral, and that in Ghana, they are celebrated, spirited, and over-the-top.  

33) Unless otherwise stated, the attire for funerals is red or black. Donations made by mourners to the family of the deceased are usually announced with colourful language.

34) It is indeed a small world. In Ghana, it shrinks even further. Six degrees of separation? Puh-lease! We halved that before the theory even had a name.

35) That one herbal drug or ointment the salesman is peddling on the trotro cures headaches, body aches, rashes, boils, irregular bleeding, abdominal pain, kooko (hemorrhoids), irritable bowels, erectile dysfunction…just to mention a few.

36)  Tsooboi!’ is a clarion call to action which evokes the response ‘Yei!’

37) It is a common practice to greet strangers and inquire of their health. 

38) Lorry stations are a cacophony of destination announcements, though not exactly as you might know them. In Accra, some unsuspecting passengers in trotros have missed their stops at ‘Kwa-leb’, ‘Cerc’ and ‘Kanaish’ due to not recognizing the names as actually being ‘Korle-Bu’, ‘Circle’ and ‘Kaneshie’ respectively.

39) A hawker/trader who carries their wares on their head could ask you to help them balance their tray of goods back on their heads. Be careful as you do so - and for the love of God, don’t let anything drop or things could quickly turn sour for you.  

40) It is nice to call out ‘Ayekoo’ (Well done) to any workman as you walk past them.

41) Flashing could mean all sorts of things, but in Ghana, it’s more than likely the practice of giving a deliberate ‘missed call’ to another in the hope that they have the wherewithal to call back.

42) Sometimes you have to practice hurdle jumps. There are many open gutters in Ghana.

43) I don’t care how evolved you are, if he looks old enough to be your uncle or father, do not address him by his first name. It has to be the avuncular makeover. Everyone considerably older than you is an ‘Uncle’, ‘Aunty’, ‘Bra’ (Brother)..etc. That is the way it goes in Ghana and most African countries.

44) Gari, dried cassava grated to produce a coarse powder, is something of a staple in most Ghanaian homes. Students in boarding schools are especially grateful for this humble ‘companion.’

45)  You greet, give and receive things with your right hand.

46) Tales of the eponymous spider in the Ananse stories have tickled and cautioned many Ghanaian children. Kwaku Ananse’s web of subterfuge and trickery probably rubbed off on a few rambunctious ones, too.

47)  Even if the purpose of their visit is glaringly obvious, it is customary to ask what mission brings a visitor to your home – but not before offering  some water as a welcome gesture.

48) There is such a thing as ‘mandatory’ worship; because in Ghana, you are never far from a group of enthusiastic believers.

49) Your peripheral vision needs to be on extra sharp sensors. Traffic situations can be chaotic.

50) Sometimes a man is measured by the amount of chichinga (khebabs) he can lay on for the ladies.

51) Azonto needs no introduction - even if you are rhythmically challenged.

52) The peculiarities of giving children traditional Ghanaian names differ from one ethnic group to the other.

53) Ghanaians outside the country love transporting the culture of the nation into the Diasporan life. Chieftaincy, authentic Ghanaian food, traditional marriage ceremonies - you name it, we've got it sorted. 

54) Ghanaians are warm, hospitable people who make visitors feel right at home with a friendly smile and some water to bid you our traditional welcome – Akwaaba.

55) After giving the world a peacemaker in Kofi Annan, and Africa’s ‘Man of the Millenium’ in Kwame Nkrumah, whether or not Cardinal Appiah Turkson succeeds Pope Benedict, very few will be able to say they have not heard the name Ghana. Grab a globe and find out where Ghana is… It is in West Africa BUT never refer to Cardinal Turkson or Pope Turkson as the West African, he is Ghanaian NOT Ghanian.

56) Ghana is one of Africa’s success stories. We have our terrific highs and desperate lows, with the sort of unshakeable optimism that lets us enjoy the creamy middles between those two. My people are vibrant, with bursts of humour and joie de vivre; they are hardworking, with hopes and dreams of creating a country that is better than what they have been presented with. And I would like to think that we are united, wherever our location, by the realization that it is only through our collective effort that we can bring progress and strength to our nation.

Happy 56 years, Ghana…my Ghana.  


Unknown said...

Excellent! Genius!!! U got it right Dava and threw me into a giggling frenzy. Kindly send an ambulance to collect me. I'm practically still in stitches. Bravo.

Davida (@davalinks) said...

I am so glad to hear of this 'emergency'! :D

Kelvin said...

U no wer u get all this genius frm ryt........? Me of course! or did u think all my proding and corrections was for nought........? Think again!!!!!!!!

Davida (@davalinks) said...

Ha! You did a great job. Ladies and gentlemen, meet my (very modest) big brother :p

Bex said...

Omg girl, you killed it! You captured everything that I love - and sometimes despair over - about Ghana! But with such a lightheartedness as to make it fun to read. Number 35 makes me true!

Afra said...

On point as usual.
No. 31 is always happening to me.SMH.