The Greatest, the Prettiest, the Butterfly AND the Bee. There was no one – no one! – like Muhammed Ali.
The world lost yet another icon this week. Muhammed Ali, born Cassius Clay, died at age 74 surrounded by family and friends in a circle of love. His daughter Leila said that his wouldn’t stop beating for 30 minutes after all his organs failed. Doctors had never seen anything like it. He died like he lived: full of surprises, showboating and awe-inspiring.
Physically, Ali cut an imposing figure and was as lightening quick with his tongue as he was with his jab. I never knew much about Ali, except that my dad and everyone my dad knew loved him. That means I too loved him by proxy. However, I never studied him as a historical figure or researched facts about his life. I don’t have any fond memories about what Muhammed Ali meant or affected me personally. It would be disingenuous for me to say that he inspired me personally, though I know he inspired millions. I desperately wish that that was my testimony. The more a read of him, the more of a loss – a retroactive missing out – I feel.
At least I have the memory of certain Ali-isms being quoted with regularity in our home…or at least, one phrase in particular was: Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. (The phrase once uttered obliged the speaker to skit and shadowbox in the moment.)
I grew up with these pictures of Muhammed Ali in an album that my father kept proudly stashed on a bookshelf in our home. I vaguely remember friends of his dropping by the house and exclaiming “Ei! Kwasi! Where did you take these pictures?” My dad would smile mischievously in response and tell the query-maker not to worry about it.
That long forgotten and oft repeated moments didn’t mean until just now when he Whatsapp’d me and asked me to share these rare photos with my friends and readers. I asked him how he procured the shots. The answer shocked me. This my father! And here I was thinking I was wild in my youth. This rogue old man was even more the rogue in his 20’s.
You also want to know how he got these pictures, eh?
Don’t worry about it.
What you are looking at are pictures of Muhammed Ali during his visit to Ghana in 1964. He met with President Nkrumah and Asantehene Prempeh in Accra and Kumasi. I once read that he wore kente cloth wherever he went and insisted on being addressed by his given Akan name whilst in the country.
What a class act.
Please peruse and feel free to share these pictures on all your social networks in celebration of a true son of Africa. If someone out there can digitally clean them up, don’t forget to redirect back here so we can all see!