of peculiar flowers/like sound of laughter/fluid in words you could spell/only after lettering down/libations on territories/virgin with mystic bites/of your footsteps/creating gardens/of hope beyond tales

Thursday, July 14, 2011

When men bite dogs

The line is sometimes difficult to draw; high mysteries and concocted protective devices. My grandmother calls last Tuesday with news about being sued by the palace court. Her offence is keeping a dog in a village which forbids entry of dogs. Granny was fined 200 cedis and two sheep. My want for reason is discontent with a less perceptive response as: “dogs are a taboo here”. Why are dogs a taboo? Why should my lonely grandmother be fined for wanting some company as all humans do?

For the same reason mosquitoes nets were made, taboos are essentially protective devices. I would learn that this provocative taboo against keeping dogs as pets is not exclusive to Maabang, my village in Ashanti region. Our dear canine friends managed to get themselves in trouble also in many other communities across the central region. What did dogs ever do? A taboo, in its pompous free-floating capacity, may be useful for as long as it doesn’t get eroded by pointlessness. Let the palace elders in my village stick to their story of high mystery on the adversity dogs will bring to Maabang if allowed to live there. My research holds much comprehensible findings; not that I love taboos less but I love reason more.

Today’s dogs are paying for a spate ill-health of their ancestry. Rabies, a rather nasty disease, hit many communities in Ghana in the early days. This taboo, needless as it is today, saved lives yesteryear. Although unfair to my grandmother’s rabies-free dog as it is to groom jilted because his family has a history of poor mental health, people can be excused for panicking. I admire my ancestors for their astuteness in managing the outbreak and their inclination to prevent such future crises. Yet the time to let go a taboo is when it is bankrupt of reason for present justification. I trust health professionals and veterinary officers in Ghana to handle any case of rabies.

Why do Krobos not eat snail? I wonder. Our customs, believes and traditional practices make us, I know this. Upholding culture and traditional systems is essential to our continuity. Yet, it amazes me how our generation finds it easier to cling to what is petty like taboos against fluffy dogs whereas we watch our heroes, artists, festivals, songs and names and dance disappear. We are clearly unwilling to invest our time, energy and perhaps money when it comes to planning the festivals that tell our story, celebrating heroes who prepared the way, teaching indigenous songs that will uplift us and cross checking the right spelling of royal names. We are busy, we are modern, we are too advanced to pay attention to the core of our being. There is however time to propagate ethnocentrism, to discard indigenous dishes like “mpohonomu”, “apiti”, “akankye”, “adibiankyinwom”, “tumbani” and “mpotompoto”.

Perhaps it is time we employ taboos to meet challenges of our current social setup. Let us make "new taboos” against leaving elderly persons to be partly submerged in loneliness and partly in boredom. Let us make "new taboos" against forgetting our arts, our artists and our culture. We can use damage from offenders to build “canopy art centers” in communities. We must create space in the Arts for our elderly. My grandmother always has a new story. Why are we not encouraging the elderly to draw, play an instrument, write poetry and just tells stories as they wait around with nothing to do? Should it not be our business spending time with our grandparents so to enrich our life experience with whichever tales are yet to be shared? Should it be part of our school curriculum that we gather stories from time before us?

Four questions pretending to be two: what can arts do for our senior citizens and what can our senior citizens do for the arts? And beyond relevance of taboos and letting lonely grannies keep fluffy dog, what makes a people and what does not?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Wants on a Tuesday morning

I want music in a language I don't understand.
I want the possibilities in mystery.
I want the freedom in uncertainty
I want pieces of my forgotten self
I want meaningless laughter
I want nothing

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Homophobia: Our ancestors knew better!

The tired excuse for homophobia in Ghana is that homosexuality is against our culture, and it’s a new thing young people are copying from the west. An “evil new thing” that ought to be condemned! People go ahead to emphasize how our ancestors punished any individual who had shown the slightest sexual interest in a person of the same sex by death or banishment. Is that so?

Openness to discussion and knowledge sharing on our individual sexual journeys, our sexual evolution and the truth on the stands of our ancestors on sexual preferences has been clamored by cultural and religious spasms from people who have obviously not taken the time to learn from our ancestors by the language they handed down to us on the matter of sex and sexuality.

Such words as Homosexual, Lesbian and Heterosexual do not exist in our indigenous languages. (e.g. Twi, Ga, Ewe, etc...) Why are these words missing in our indigenous vocabulary? One’s sexual preference was obviously not a thing our ancestors found a need to tag.

A sex offender on the other hand, example the rapist is “monaatofo” and the pedophile/child molester is “awengaa” in twi, which is by the way my mother tongue. Let me again point out, sex offenders and sexual offences have specific tags, rightful derogatory in our various indigenous Ghanaian languages. Here is my question; did our ancestor consider homosexuality an offence as today’s Africa wants us to believe?

The emphasis is on the fact that a word will arise when the concept or thing is deemed necessary to name in a community or when the community finds a concept or thing unacceptable. I wondered what my ancestors called homosexuality and so I kept in search for a word.

It shouldn’t be necessary that we find equivalent words for homosexuality or heterosexuality in our indigenous vocabulary. As old as homosexuality is our ancestors obviously didn’t think a person’s sexual preference formed any basis to be identified by, most of all to be discriminated against.

Contrary to what people would like us to believe today, homosexuality has long existed, it is no “new evil thing”. Ancient African Arts has shown women touching each other and men kissing. If there are no tags for homosexuality in our indigenous Ghanaian languages, it because there are also no tags for people based of their taste for food for instance. Since when did people get tags for their preference in anything for that matter? You can tell me when this started if you know but I know my ancestors did not find the need to name people based on ‘how they want it’. Don’t you dare blame your pointless fears, insecurity and cruelty on the ancestors!