Category Archives: GH2013

Pictures of Muhammed Ali For You From My Dad

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!

 

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How Far: M3NSA Asks The Question Every Ghanaian Should Be Asking Themselves

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Where dey the savior we dey look for? E be some guy inside the sky or e be me den you?

 

This is the rhetorical question that forms the opening lines to ‘How Far’, the Afro-electronic anthem that the ancestors and 36 unidentified deities delivered through M3NSA last year. We’re here today to discuss the video that was quietly released on March 24th. I tweeted that I it was my opinion that this is M3NSA’s best work to date, and that’s no meager acknowledgement. M3NSA – who simultaneously occupies space as the other half of both the FOKN Bois and RedRed – has a long and impressive body of work to his credit. However, ‘How Far’ distinguishes itself from the rest of the pack.

To put it into context for those who are unfamiliar with either the artist or his work, Mathematically, M3NSA’s ‘How Far’ is proportional to Beyoncé’s ‘Formation’ under the category of Kendrick’s Grammy performance. No, really. It’s just that dope.

In the coming days, there will be many think pieces written about the video and the symbolism RedRed employed to interrogate the question of how far has Ghana really come after “independence” and/or how far is the citizenry going to let things deteriorate before we decide we’ve hit critical mass.

M3NSA has never shied away from uncomfortable conversations in his music. Typically employing humor and mockery as tools, he and Wanlov (his partner in FOKN crime) hold up a mirror to society, demand that we look at our blemished reflection and hold ourselves accountable. ‘How Far’ transcends that approach. Ghanaians have gotten comfortable with the reflection of a country swimming in filth, feces and corruption. We’ve ‘given it to God’ and explained our proclivities away by saying ‘this is Ghana’. So instead of taking us to the reflecting pool in order to gaze at our countenance, M3NSA drowned us in its waters, submerging himself in the process.

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In the video, he assumes several different identities of the ubiquitous Ghanaian citizen: The syto schooler who’s only aspiration is to chew and pour information presented to him in the classroom, rather than to think critically. The profusely sweating police officer stationed at his post looking busy but doing nothing, really. The dissatisfied nurse who will have to go on strike just to receive her salary. The street hawker dashing through the roads in search of a customer – any customer. The preacher warning his congregation of some doom to come if they don’t change their ways. These – not mud huts or roaming lions – are iconic images of Ghana, and Accra in particular.

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Directed by Jarreth Merz, I believe the use of Jamestown as the main backdrop for the video was absolutely intentional and unquestionably brilliant. Jamestown is one of the oldest districts in Accra. It served as the nerve center for commerce and governance on the Gold Coast. The lighthouse that M3NSA stood atop guided European ships into port and would’ve been one of the last things African slaves leaving the coast would have seen as they were being ferried away to a life of perpetual misery. Jamestown in its heyday was probably cosmopolitan and glorious. Had it been preserved, modern day Ghanaians might have found a way long ago to reap pecuniary benefits for themselves after the departure of the British (the recently created Chale Wote festival notwithstanding). Instead, the entire area has fallen into disrepair and decay – like most of Ghana. Jamestown in the ‘How Far’ video thus becomes a metaphor for the condition of the rest of the country; and not just in infrastructure, but in mentality as well. Twin images of bright eyed children and snowy egrets playing and feasting in filth represent the dual realities of an existence that is both beauteousness and grotesqueness.

In short, we’ve had an opportunity to see how far we could take Ghana and squandered it.

Source: How Far

Source: How Far

It was M3NSA’s emphatic, repeated refrain of “God bless our homeland Ghana” (the title of our national anthem), that was most remarkable to me. M3NSA unquestionably shuns religion and I’ve never heard him speak of a belief in any deity, only a belief in self. One only has to circle back to the opening lines of the song for evidence of this. Yet in crying out for God to bless our homeland Ghana, he creates a fascinating juxtaposition that the listener has to grapple with. Are we going to wait for a Man in the sky to fix this mess that we’ve created or does the savior we look for lie within me and you? Maybe the answer is somewhere in between. How far are we willing to go get solutions?

I dunno.

Like M3NSA said after that beat drops, this thing is tricky.

 

M3NSA and ELO source: Accra dot Alt

M3NSA and ELO
source: Accra dot Alt

 

PS: And Imma need someone to analyze that beat. That thang was a monster! Did you hear that? That was some Mozart level work right there! Well done, ELO. Come claim your shine some.

A Maid, A Clothesline and a Mob: Normalized Abuse in an African Country

My grandmother used to live in a flat at Asylum Down in the early 80s. The building was dark with shallow stairs made of brittle concrete that produced the sensation of walking on sandpaper as you ascended them. Having been most likely constructed during the colonial era, there was no indoor plumbing. It was therefore incumbent upon my grandmother to give my sister and I a bath in her metal basin in the flat’s corridor and after we’d eased ourselves in a chamber pot, to dump our waste into a pit latrine that sat about 30 yards away from the apartment building.

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I felt this was a terrible inconvenience for my attentive grandmother whom I loved dearly, so one day I decided I would be a “big girl” and use the toilet at the latrine as I’d seen her do before. I was shocked by my encounter with wood, stone and excrement. The stench of ten thousand rectal evacuations hit me with the strength of a provoked bull as I opened the door. I was scared. It also didn’t help to have a team of Asylum Down area boys were hooting outside of the latrine as I tried in vain to take a dump. I thought maybe if I stayed in there long enough, they would lose interest and go away? But boys are such a tenacious species. When I couldn’t stand the olfactory assault any longer,  I threw the wooden door open and sprinted past my tormentors. My buttocks itched something fierce because I’d neglected to bring toilet paper to wipe with and foolishly sat on the seat with no barrier. Needless to say, I’ve never been to a latrine since.

Still, I loved that flat. It never occurred to me that the inhabitants of Asylum Down were “poor”. In my juvenile mind, they had all the creature comforts to make life a delight. There was a kenkey seller who patrolled the neighborhood every morning at dawn; down the road there was a salon painted with magical powder-blue paint where women sat and laughed and gossiped; the kids never had to go to school and spent their days kicking around a grimy brown football or playing high jump with a structure made of palm tree branches. How could life be better? The crown jewel of this splendor was the massive iron gate that separated my uncle Kwaku Banker’s two-story home from the humble dwelling places of the rest of the area’s common folk.

Though we were only at Asylum Down for a short while, a number of events I experienced in those few months left an indelible impression on me as a girl: As a Ghanaian girl, specifically. It was in those months that I witnessed my first and only killer bee attack. A swarm had flown into the city, stinging terrified inhabitants with abandon. From her bedroom window, my grandmother watched men and women scream and scurry through the streets with an almost amused look on her face. I begged her to bring her head into the window and shut it, lest she be stung and die, but she ignored me. In a cruel twist of irony, a rogue bee flew through the window and stung me on my belly. Grandma expertly removed the stinger and I sat in the corner afterward and left that old magical, untouchable woman to her own devices until the swarm disappeared and the commotion dissipated.

A few weeks later, I was standing on the balcony looking at the kids playing in the dirt when I heard a thunderous shout… like a crowd roaring at a soccer match. All the boys went running in the direction of the noise and then disappeared into a throng of Asylum Down residents who were responsible for the noise. In the center of this mass of black humanity was a man who was ducking and trying to cover his face. His eyes were swollen and blood seeped from his forehead.

I asked my grandmother if I could go down and see what had happened.

“No,” she said sternly.

My grandmother was never stern with me, so her tone took me aback. I ignored my injured feelings and watched stone-faced as the young man was continuously beaten by the furious crowd and eventually saved by a passing police officer with a rifle who locked him in a vulcanizer’s shed for his own safety until a car could come and take him away. A neighbor came to report what happened to my grandmother, who mmmm’d and aaahhh’d with understanding as the story unfolded.

“What happened, Grandma?”

“The man was a thief,” she replied simply.

“What did he steal?”

She pointed to the web of line that the community used throughout the week. “He took someone’s shirt from the clothesline.”

She didn’t seem bothered at all. Why wasn’t she bothered? It was just a shirt; a ratty old shirt! What was it with Ghanaians that made them want to hit people so much? How was this “justice”? This was a part of my culture that caused me great anxiety and anger, frankly. (I had recently become acquainted with the cane.) Nevertheless, the dark side of my young self hoped that one person in particular would find herself on the receiving end of this brand of justice – and she lived behind Uncle Kwaku Banker’s iron gate.

All of my father’s close relations and friends bore appellations that were related to their profession or occupation. “Uncle Kwaku Banker” was obviously a banker. Likewise “Uncle Lawyer” was a lawyer (I didn’t discover his real name until I was 16), and so on. Kwaku Banker lived a good life by anyone’s standards and was always giggling. I found his presence comforting, but I never got the sense that his wife appreciated him half as much as the rest of us did. I suppose that’s why she tried to poison him with the help of her son in 2002. Uncle Kwaku’s wife – Mary – was a yellow woman with a yellow jehri curl. She was fat and short and looked like a butterball; but unlike butter, she was bitter and she was mean. My God, was she mean.

The couple had two sons, one in diapers and the other barely out of his toddler years. Auntie Mary (and I hated to call her “aunt”) insisted that I play with them when I came over to visit. But there are only so many blocks and games of ring-around-the-rosy a 7 year-old girl can play before she gets bored. Fortunately, Uncle Kwaku Banker and Auntie Mary had a girl living with them who was just about my age. I asked if I could play with her.

“No,” she said frostily. “You can play with my children.”

I just stared at her. Sensing that she had caused some offense, she immediately turned to sugar and asked if I wanted something to drink.

“Do you want some mineral?”

My eyes lit up and I nodded enthusiastically. I had just been introduced to Muscatella and was hoping they had some in the fridge.

Auntie Mary shouted for the girl to bring me a drink, which she quickly did…on a tray with a glass covered in white lace. To have someone my own age serving me made me really uncomfortable.

Soon, Mary announced she had to leave but that I was welcome to stay and walk across the street back to my grandmother when I was ready. She gave some instructions to the girl, gathered her bag, and roared out of the gate in her car.

Finally! The shrew was gone and I could play with someone my own age.

I asked the girl if she wanted to play. She explained in halting English that she couldn’t play because she had to work. Well, I understood that. It was like at home: you can’t go outside until you clean up your room, right? It only made sense that I help my new friend with her chores so that we could get on with the business of play. So I helped her dust, sweep (and horribly I confess, because I couldn’t work those peculiar Ghana brooms) and clean the kitchen. I was scraping a pot of something white – perhaps burnt banku, I don’t recall – and regaling her with a story about my life in America when we heard the gate open and Mary’s car pull in. A look of terror clouded the girl’s face. And suddenly, Mary’s fat frame filled the kitchen doorway. For some reason, she did not like what she saw.

She began screeching in vernacular. The young girl’s voice turned into a high-pitched whine. I was bewildered. What was going on?

Finally, Mary told me I had to leave. I objected, telling her that I was trying to help the girl with her work so we play and we weren’t done yet. I could see the rage simmering beneath her yellow skin. It was turning her face red. My new friend quietly walked me to the gate, where I cheerily informed her that I’d see her later so that we could play. She shut the gate without a word and padded back into the house where she was met with slaps.

You could hear her screams from the road. They echoed off the walls in that massive house. They pierced the air. They went on for an eternity.

And yet, none of the passersby on the road hearing them seemed bothered at all. Why weren’t they bothered by the sound of a little girl shrieking in anguish? Was this not the same group of people who flocked together to thrash a man for stealing a shirt? Was a little girl’s life therefore worth less than a secondhand clothing item? In my part of Africa, it would seem so.

That was over 30 years ago and in that time, our attitudes towards the worth of the life of Ghanaian women and girls have shifted very little. It’s estimated that 1 in 3 women experience physical abuse at the hands of their partners according to one study. This study does not include the results of the thousands of domestic workers who are routinely raped, sexually molested and physically assaulted by both male and female employers in the name of “discipline”. I wonder, how does inserting raw pepper into a 12-year-old girl’s vagina correct behavior, or slapping an employee with hot pizza increase employee productivity? These are just a few of the sick ways Ghanaian women’s bodies are maligned day after day.

source: ghanaian times

source: ghanaian times

As I write this, local boxing champion Braimah Isaac Kamoko (Bukom Banku) is reported to have offered his niece 400 cedis (about $103) to have sex with him. She refused 1) because it’s her right to and 2) because that’s her uncle. His response for being rebuffed was to punch her in the face repeatedly and to throw feces at her house. When her friend intervened, he beat her up to. Mr. Kamoko then dared her to go to the police, stating that it would come to nothing. Allegedly, he’s been physically and sexually abusing boys and girls in his community with impunity for years. He is now walking free, not even brought in for questioning. This fact is just as much a judgment against him as it is against those who profess to be upholders of the law. Where are the police in this matter, and can they be bought as Kamoko alleges?

We often assume that the perpetrators of abuse are illiterate boogeymen who operate in the shadows, skillfully avoiding the law. That’s the percevied “face” of an abuser. Nothing could be further from the truth. The worst perpetrators of abuse in the country operate in full view of the public. They are often respected members of our society and protected by power and privilege, and they exercise their sense of entitlement by preying on the weak and unworthy… who are more often than not women and girls.

It is this attitude that allows men like Bukom Banku and Peterpan CEO Young Gyu Lee to have the confidence to violate women without a second thought. Similarly, former MP Nelson Baani exhibited no perplexity when he proposed that women who cheat on their husbands be stoned or hanged for the act. It is this attitude that assured Mary  – and the uncountable women of privilege like her – that she was justified in what I am sure was continued abuse of my once young friend.

After all, it’s not like it we’re talking about shirt from a clothesline, right? It’s just a replaceable girl.

Image source: Fox/

Image source: Fox/

I implore you: if you see abuse, don’t turn a blind eye to it. Don’t be culpable. Speak up and save a life.

How Ghana’s Official 59th Independence Day Brochure Became the Perfect Simile for the State of the Nation

Many people are beginning to suspect that this current government – and indeed anyone that does business with this government – finds perverse pleasure in embarrassing the nation. It seems as though Ghanaians hardly have the opportunity to recover from one local scandal or international disgrace before the next one besieges us.

As a collective, we’ve managed to take it in stride. We’ve found ways to turn our tragedy into humor; to laugh at our dismal situations to keep from crying. We’ve turned our pain into art and then used that art as a sepulcher for our hopes, praying that one day a Chinese Jesus Christ will find it in his heart to resurrect the vision of our forefathers, reverse the tide of our misfortunes with his mighty Yuan and make Ghana great again. Instinctively, we know that the ordinary Ghanaian cannot possibly hope to affect change for him/herself or the country because an obdurate political elite goatishly refuses to clear the barriers that would allow every citizen to work towards greatness.

From our roads, to our utility deployment the proof is everywhere.

Why do our best footballers pay for foreign clubs? Why are so many skilled Ghanaian surgeons operating in hospitals in San Francisco, or Alberta, or London instead of Kintampo or Kumasi? Why is Abraham Attah being advised to carry his career to Hollywood if he wants to keep his successful momentum going? Why do people express (pleasant) shock that a sleek bunk bed could be manufactured and sold in Ghana? Because “Brand Ghana”, a term our sitting president fondly coined and uses at every opportunity, is ignominious at best. Long ago, the ancients pondered among themselves and asked, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Now Ghanaians must ask themselves the same thing about the ruling NDC.

It has to be said: this brochure has outdone all of their previous blunders and it cannot (and more importantly, should not) be forgiven.

Ghana is failing and the longer we deny this, the worse and faster these catastrophic social cancers will spread. We, who find ourselves among the privilege class must bear the blame for this and take responsibility for the vortex of ineptitude that the country is swirling in. We’ve left the asylum to the inmates for too long. If we don’t build a tractor beam and tether it to planned excellence, we are going to be forever engulfed in darkness with no way to swim out. There will be no bottom to hit and bounce back from/on to assist us. It is up to us, the ones with education, resources and connections to put those facilities to good use and to right the many wrongs of a self-serving and self-congratulating political aristocracy. And we have to be willing to work with the working poor and others without the benefit of elite access to reverse this unholy trend that we’re on.

When critics of the current establishment say that virtually everything that this government does is marked by a dereliction of duty, even on the smallest scale, they are branded as “opposition” or “enemies of progress”. But where is the progress that is so often touted actually seen, outside of the gallant individual efforts of enterprising citizens putting in 80 hours (or more) of work every week? Certainly not at the legislative, executive and/or municipal levels. All we see is meritocracy and mediocrity, daily. Thus, the 59th Independence brochure became a visible picture of the type of ineptitude in government that Ghanaians are forced to navigate and live with. It’s not unfair to ask whose barely literate MP’s side chick (or side boy, if reports are to be believed) was awarded the contract to proof and print these brochures?

As I said before, these mistakes are simply unforgivable; but more importantly, they reveal something more sinister: a blatant disregard for the pride and dignity of the nation as a whole. When the NDC (or NPP or any other party, for that matter) fails on this level, it’s not simply a dingy reflection on that political party, but on all who call themselves sons and daughters of Ghana. Just look at this.

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The entire document is a fiasco… Like someone threw rocks into a calabash, shook them around, and then fed the noise into Google Translate and printed the results.

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In a comical attempt to cover the (frequent) failings of the now-exposed blemishes of the president’s communication team, some sycophants have regurgitated the old excuse that “English is not the Ghanaian’s first language” and that these painful blunders are therefore no big thing. And that’s all well and good…but can someone explain how Uhuru Kenyatta went from honored guest to president of the nation, according to this same document? This error has nothing to do with grammar or command of the English language!

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And then there is this nonsensical insistence on describing John Mahama as a “youthful” president.

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It was a moniker that won him favor with the under 40 crowd during his last campaign. He was painted as cool and hip, a picture of anti-establishment. He can’t rely on that image anymore, and it certainly has no place in a brochure touting 59 years of independence. This is not a Wisa concert. It’s time to build a new façade. The man has 18 kids, most of who were born out of wedlock. It would appear that more often than not, his youthful exuberance is more aggressively applied in the bedroom and not the boardroom where the nation needs most.

Still on the follies of youthful exuberance: Last week, President Mahama read a litany of manufactured accomplishments during the State of the Nation address. Fact checkers were quick to point out the many inconsistencies with what he read and the reality on the ground. Projects that were said to be in the works were mere exaggerations of the truth or non-existent, in some cases. Hyperbole was the order of the day, especially where the topic of access to quality education and healthcare were concerned. At the moment, expectant mothers across the nation either have to share beds or lie on the floor to give birth. Nurses have to leave their stations to fetch water in buckets across town because there are no flowing taps to their clinics. The list of structural ills is endless. So if by “youthful” leadership, we’re referring to a high school boy yobbing about his borrowed Converse while leaning against a rented car pretending to have ownership of either, then yeah… the descriptor applies. Oh, but how we wish this president would run the country like a BOSS MAN.

There’s so much more to be said about #Brochuregate and the many examples of how it is indicative of a general failure in attitude and execution of duty from those who hold responsibility for governing 27 million lives. Like the brochure, Ghana is pretty from a distance, but upon closer inspection, the shit is fucked up. You know what’s worse? Before I could finish typing this post, I came across this apology from the information services department. Look at this:

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Did you note the date?

Yeah. I know. Like…

“Dude, we knew back in JANUARY we were going to screw up. I just went ahead and wrote this letter fuh ya in advance. Cuz I be efficient lydat.”

…or he just didn’t proof read his own letter.

Do you now see how Ghana gets duped of billions of dollars in international contracts? Do you see how we ended up handling the care of two of the most dangerous prisoners in Gitmo (who suddenly became lambs after transfer to our shores)? You see why Monsanto and Big Pharma companies can swoop in and biologically terrorize our citizens? You see why every year, there is major flooding in our major cities, despite the falling of barely 3 inches of rain? Because qualified people aren’t being chosen to handle important, and in this brochure’s case, highly visible items on virtually every level.

The real tragedy is that there are more than a handful of professional and reputable editing organizations (Gird Centre being one of them) that could have handled this for the 59th celebrations of our independence. Why were they not contracted? Surely the printing budget included a line item for professional proofreading as well?

There are zoos that are better and more efficiently run than Ghana is being run right now. Is this the “Brand Ghana” image we are going to continue to export to the world?

It’s time to stop laughing – and trust me, I know that’s hard, given the fact that there are so many clowns showing up for work once a week and running this show.

President-Mahama

 

 

 

 

The Weekend that Ghana Got Catfished by a Metal Bunk Bed Frame

In February, 2015, the entire internet world found itself spellbound by one burning question: Was the dress blue and black or white and gold?

Think pieces ensued. Twitter wars erupted. Event the scientific community got involved in an attempt to settle the debate. Remember that? Well, not one to be left out of a viral cultural skirmish, Ghanaians had their own #TheDress moment on the waning of the Best Black History Month that ever was… Except for this part of the world, it was like Black Excellence in reverse.

Source: abc.com

Source: abc.com

We all wanted to know: Was this bed made in Ghana? And more importantly, where could one purchase it?

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I first saw this image and the accompanying text on a friend’s page. I was impressed – completely skeptical about the verascity of the claims that this was a Made in Ghana item – but impressed nevertheless.

Josh did not share my optimism and was quick to share his doubts.

“But to be honest I doubt it was made there (Kumasi) oooo.”

“You think it was just assembled in Kumasi?” I asked.

He confirmed that the latter was most likely the case, at least in his mind. Well 5,500+ shares, 12K likes and 1600+ comments later, Ghanaians are still trying to figure out where to buy this bed – and more importantly – if it’s even possible to for our manufacturers to produce something of this apparent quality. Suddenly, the bunk bed became a symbol and a judgment of our abilities as a nation.

First, there was admiration; which was only natural. It IS a pretty stunning bed:

 

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This was immediately followed up by an admonishment to the metal workers who ply their trade on roadsides and barren wastelands by someone who has probably never built so much as a butter tin in his life.

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Naturally, like a shark sniffing blood, this 419 scammer came out of the woodwork and began posting the same message again and again (and again!) in reply to any query concerning where to purchase the purported Kumasi-made bed. Ironically, you could only get it in Accra.

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Ever on the look out for the immortal soul of our neighbor, this young man prayed in earnest that any success that the Kumasi manufacturers might experience would not go to their heads. (The worst sin a Ghanaian could ever commit is to be proud of his/her work and SHOW it.)

Not far behind came the KNUST (Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology) guys, who have blessed the country with inventions such as locally manufactured generators, car batteries and light bulbs.

Let me stop lying. I don’t think a KNUST invention has ever gone to market; or at least, I’ve never heard of one.

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WHOEVER this company was, they must be reputable! But why wouldn’t they reveal their name? This was maddening!

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Of course came the call on the government to provide these types of beds in the country’s overcrowded dorm rooms and boarding schools. This I know will never happen, unless Dr. Bawumia goes on a tour of the country and promises to fulfill the orders himself. It seems this is the only way to get the ruling NDC to fulfill their obligations…

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Right on cue, the naysayers raised their voices. Things in made in Ghana are too expensive (and they are), so it’s better we continue to import more affordable items, rather then supporting local industries.

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BUT! Before we can do that, we have to ascertain if this bed was made in Ghana in the first place! Why, as sister Cornelia asks, would anyone doubt that?

Somehow, this became a race issue…

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But what is a cultural debate and self-interrogation without bringing our Naija frenemies into the foray? I don’t know what this girl was yammering about, but she was pretty passionate about.

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Finally, someone asked the obvious question:

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As it turns out, and as you may have suspected by now, the bed is neither made nor sold in Ghana at all. It’s available at SEARS for close to $600. Given how much interest there is in the item, any importer could pick up 4-5 of them, triple the price and make a killing in the Ghanaian market. I hope someone does.

You ever hear the phrase “I just came for the comments”? I couldn’t help but come back every few days since the post was originally put up to see what people were saying next. It was like a moth being drawn to a flame or like watching a train wreck unfold before your very eyes…and just as sad. Ghanaians are so desperate for a win, to prove that we can excel at something beyond fashion and music, that we’d go to these lengths to congratulate ourselves on an item that doesn’t exist in an industry that doesn’t have the means to support its creation.

The ancestors must be rolling in their graves.

Pastor Chris, Plagiarism and the Pride of Life

Happy Friday, MOM Squad! Under normal circumstances, we’d be chatting about frivolous topics in recognition of Frivolous Friday; but there’s a disturbance in the Force that has to be addressed. I do hate it when folks won’t let the Force remain in balance. Someone is always throwing a monkey wrench into the Force!

I deliberately waited a few days before talking about Reverend Chris Oyakhilome’s (popularly referred to as Pastor Chris) arrival in Accra this weekend – or more specifically, the social media buzz heralding his arrival. I waited because for me, the issues of concern extend far beyond a man, a jet, a presidential delegation to greet said man at the airport, or even the plagiarized images that were used to conjure excitement about his arrival. My issues with watching this Pastor Chris Circus roll into town are centered on my worry for the body of Christ…or specifically, the Black/African branch of that body.

Last week, after I took on the role of the Poka Plagiarism Police, several people sent me a mashup announcing the reverend’s arrival that had been floating around on Twitter and Facebook, ostensibly with the hope/expectation that I would go berserk with indignation as I had before. But I am not indignant about the way the church that is hosting Pastor Chris (or specifically, the folks running their social media campaign) has used other people’s intellectual property for their own selfish purposes. Nor am I indignant about the manner in which the government of the land has diverted resources to accommodate one man and his team and held the rest of the city hostage. Far from it. Instead am grieved….and grieved down to the depths of my soul.

When political party stalwarts stole Poka’s work, I considered it a slap in the face of every artist who would eventually suffer the same fate. After all, should this party come to power, they would expect that all illustrators, musicians, etc. pay taxes on whatever profits they made from the sale of their work in order to support the agenda of the state. Yet on the back-end, they had the audacity to use that same intellectual property without the artist’s consent or knowledge, effectively robbing the artist(s) and then potentially taxing him/her on goods they had stolen once they came to power. This is robbery of the highest order…twice in broad daylight. It was important to speak up, so I did. Yet at the end of the day, we instinctively know that Ghanaian politicians and their cronies are uninventive autobots who pander to pedestrian sensibilities and recycle old ideas, enriching themselves in the process. Intuitively, we know we can’t expect much out of that batch. But when you’re a believer – a true believer – in the power and presence of God and all His mysteries, this sort of theft and behavior only produces consternation in those who call themselves faithful…unless you’re a religious zombie. And right now, West Africa is ripe for the Religious Cult Zombie Apocalypse.

There is a wave of anti-intellectualism that has swept through the Black and African church that is crippled us mentally. On a cerebral level, we are damaged that it WOULD take the power of God, dressed as Aristotle perhaps, to heal us of this plague. It is widely known that the average human uses less than or about 10% of their brain. That’s a lot of wasted potential. And if that doesn’t bother you, scientist have just recently discovered that the human brain has far more potential and power (about 10 times more!) than we previously thought, and can store information roughly equivalent with the entire internet. Yet somehow, when a “Man of God” becomes the topic of discussion, many cannot engage our brains at all.

So this becomes my question: If you call yourself a Child of God – daughter or son of the most High King – what in His holy name are you doing plagiarizing someone else’s work? Could you not tap into that same spirit that spoke the heavens and the earth into existence to create a phenomenal work for your church’s crusade? Did you spend any time in prayer, seeking revelation or inspiration for that cause…or did do exactly what your superiors kick against Sunday after Sunday? Did you imitate the world, instead of imitating Christ? Your actions and fruit say “yes”. Their silence on the matter says they approve of your inferior mentality. As the old adage goes: You know a tree by its fruit.

I don’t know anything about Chris Oyakhilome and the Chris-tians that follow him after apart from what I’ve seen in the news. I know he allegedly subjected his wife to physical abuse over a period of years. I know he has bleached skin and curly, processed hair. I know his marketing team knows their stuff. There are white people all over his website; which I have to add, looks like a virtual shopping mall for all things religious and not necessarily holy. In that regard, it’s really impressive. It appeals to the materialistic nature of desperate men. But did I get a sense of honoring God and pointing web visitors to either Him, His Son or the Holy Spirit? Not so much. But that was just my user experience on Pastor Chris’ e-real estate. Yours may be different.

Religion is a funny thing. Despite the fact that there are millions of people around the world who simply consider themselves “Christians”, there is little uniformity of belief or unity in the body of Christ. There is little consistency in terms of what is expected from a Christian. I know that my pastor would be horrified if he discovered that his social media team had stolen someone else’s work to promote his event and then ignored pleas to take it down and/or credit the work. (And before any of you ask or cast aspersions: Yes, I did ask Poka for his feedback and he informed me that this is precisely what happened: the guys at the Accra church have ignored his requests… I say motivated by an ungodly spirit of privilege and pride.) My pastor has always preached that the body of Christ must be an example to the world, that we must be more innovative, more hardworking, more loving, out-serving, seeking to “imitate Christ as dear children.” In short, we must strive for excellence.

I do not see this in the average Ghanaian who professes to love Jesus, many of who have abandoned their work posts, contractual obligations unfulfilled and diminished productivity because they are “expecting something from God tonight”. What about what God is expecting from YOU? Indeed, there are more “sinners” who are better Christians than the average Ghanaian Christian. ‘Christian’ means ‘like Christ’. Does a quick scan through scripture show a Jesus who stole other people’s intellectual property, or enriched himself through offerings and tithes? Was He a taker? No. Jesus was a multiplier. He was a provider. He was a good steward. He was an intelligent man who spoke in parables and reasoned in the temple. The average Christian and their pastors are incapable of reasoning – because of that spirit of anti-intellectualism that’s sweeping through the church! It’s all superstition and voodoo, quite frankly.

For example, what’s the first thing Kobina Church-Goer says if you criticize his Man of God?

“Touch not my anointed ooo, and do my prophets no harm!!”

In other words, the Man of God is never to be called to account for his sins; and if you dare, God will get you for pointing out Kobina Church-Goer’s idol’s faults. And make no mistake, men like Duncan Williams and Chris Oyakhilome are idols for people all over this region of the world.

Matthew 23

Matthew 23

There are so many things that are awry with the way Christianity is practiced in West Africa that it’s hard to see how we’re going to straighten the crooked paths without demolishing the whole thoroughfare. Pastor Chris’ arrival in Accra and the fiascoes that are bound to ensue are just a symptom of a larger issue.

It was announced this week that the municipal government has actually authorized that several of the busiest roads in the city be shut down in order to accommodate traffic to the Pastor Chris-tian event. Why? Because they have bought into the cult of personality and are pandering to the people’s superstition: A superstition that says that if we “honor the Man of God”, we will get jobs and running water and healing from cancer. It’s no accident that the government has made these accommodations for this “miracle worker”. In doing so, they can further absolve themselves from their responsibilities and mandate as the leaders of that corner of the world. After all, if GOD couldn’t heal your child of malaria, what can we (with our development budget allocated for sewer management and hospital equipment – ooops, now squandered on trips to Dubai and V8s – my bad!) do?

Selah.

We are headed for dark days if we continue on this path. We’ve seen this in history before, where British men of the cloth used their God-given authority to rape newlywed brides on the night of their honeymoon in order to “bless” the marriage; where the Vatican enriched itself from the sale of Black flesh and the amassing of African gold; where Protestant preachers in the American colonies burned women at the stake for being too mouthy. If Accra can shut down the city so one man can do a crusade, leaving the residents vulnerable to any number of calamities due to impassible roads, the government can authorize just about anything for the sake of these Men of God. What happens tonight to the child who gets knocked by a car and can’t get to the hospital in time because the fastest routes have been blocked? What is his mother’s consolation? Why was there no consideration for the citizenry– or intelligent thought – applied to this visit? Could Pastor Chris not have held his event outside of Accra? Could the organizers not have partnered with other churches in the area to have shuttles take attendees from designated parking lots to and from the event? What would Jesus’ PA do?!

Speaking of Jesus and roads: Did Jesus stop traffic on Palm Sunday? Absolutely. But the following week, He was crucified as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. What is Pastor Chris’ sacrifice when all this is said and done? If there is none, then the jets, the escorts, the road blockages are just vanity.

I hope that people will take the time to evaluate their relationship with these silk suit wearing master manipulators and ask themselves the hard questions. But they probably won’t. They will justify these self-serving acts and declare that God approves of them because these men are His “chosen and anointed”; And also because one day, they also hope to recipients of the low-hanging fruit…and they certainly don’t want the rest of us criticizing or making them feel bad about it when they do.

Over to you.

The African Seductress: Wiyaala Invites Us to Explore “This Place”

source: Instagram/Wiyaala

source: Instagram/Wiyaala

“Are you sure you want to do a video chat? I’m only wearing my bra.”

“Girl. That’s okay. I’m about to take my bra off.

The tone for our conversation has been set: Hilarious, honest and real. After a whirlwind month of shooting, sneak peaks and promotion, Noella Wiyaala still made time to give us – the MOM Squad – the scoop on her latest project, Leno.

You know M.O.M. interests differ sharply from the rest of the flock’s, so go ahead and prepare yourself as we slip into…

****MOM Mode With the Young Lioness of Africa, Wiyaala!!!****

 

MOM: I saw in the video that you were standing in a swamp. Was it cold?

Wiyaala: It was freezing! At some point it got to 1°C. Just when we were done shooting it started snowing. I was outside in a sleeveless dress with my face like this. (She imitates a mannequin with bug eyes and chattering teeth.) And then the director would shout, “Here we go! Action!” So I had to relax my face and loosen up my body like everything was just fine! I had on Wellington boots, two pairs of long johns, trousers…so many layers. But my toes were like ice… they were freezing so much that I couldn’t feel them by the end of the shoot. And at the last shot, the water got into my boots! (She shudders.)

Oh! And the make up artist didn’t turn up, so I had to do my own make up myself.

MOM: Are you serious? The thing with the eye…you did that?

source: Wiyaala's Instagram

source: Wiyaala’s Instagram

Wiyaala: Well, I’m an artist. So I just drew an outline and painted it. Sometimes you have to improvise. And for me, I’m always ready to do whatever it takes, at any point, at any time.

MOM: Ei. This is very serious!

Wiyaala: Very serious! The cameraman and director were surprised I was able to do this myself. They said, “Are you sure you can repeat this for two days?” And I said “Yeah!”

For me, make up is always easy. Once my eyebrows are done and I have lipstick and powder, I’m good to go.

MOM: Was that your first winter?

Wiyaala: Yes! And we were in the north, and they told me it was going to be colder than the rest of the country. I met a little girl (the director’s sister’s child) that had never seen a Black girl in her entire life before. She was shy of me at first but I charmed her with “magic” and we became good friends. I don’t know what it is when I’m among children. Just give me 20 or 30 minutes and they want to show me all their toys!

MOM: Where was the video shot?

Wiyaala: It was shot on a farm in Yorkshire. The director’s sister and her husband owned the property and we shot there and also a few other places in the area, including St. Mary’s Abbey.

MOM: When I watched the trailer for the video, I thought the plot was reminiscent of the Camelot era, with King Arthur and Guinevere. Earlier you mentioned that your love interest was a “Viking.” What’s the story behind that?

Wiyaala: There were Vikings that had settled in the north of England long ago, so we were going for a medieval look. The story is he’s traveling through the forest and hears singing and eventually encounters this beautiful woman. He follows her around the forest…

MOM: Eiiii! So are you a witch???…or you are some spirit?

Wiyaala: (She laughs.) Well…all women are witches. Good witches! (She becomes serious.) No, I’m more like an enchantress or a seductress (with my voice). The last verse says “let’s go to this place where nobody knows us – just the two of us.” Then we go and have fun. (She makes loud, smacking, kissing noises.)

MOM: Eiiii Wiyaaaaala!

Wiyaala: …and people were surprised at how cool I was in this video. Normally, I’m known for jumping around the stage – but this time it’s a love song. ‘Leno’ is performed in Wale, Sisaala and Dagaare

MOM: Yes, it’s true! All of your performances – like Tinambaynyi, for example – are known for being very strong, high-energy spectacles with lots of muscles and theatrics. This is probably the coolest I’ve ever seen you. It’s very different.

Wiyaala: I’ve also realized that sometimes when I’m writing some of my (newer) songs, some of them come out sounding different from the ‘normal Wiyaala’ afro-pop…sometimes they come out sounding like ragga/reggae. So I said, “I’m not going to limit myself. If it sounds good, I’ll perform it and perform it to the best of my ability.” I won’t force myself to recreate the typical ‘Wiyaala sound’.

I want to add more lyrics in English to my music with the aim of drawing a wider audience towards my traditional music in my local dialect. Music is music! If I can sing any genre of music, I will sing it.

MOM: So if you hear a song in Chinese, will you perform it?

She laughs and asks why not!

Wiyaala: Even if it’s “Gangnam style”, I’ll still sing it!

MOM: I’m glad we got to this point, because we’re talking about singing in other people’s languages and using visuals from their cultures in your music. Are people usually open to that?

Wiyaala: I am an entertainer! Sometimes you have to sacrifice to please your fans. When you’re visiting a foreign country – even if it’s just two lines in their local language – you saying “Good evening” or “My name is…” – it means a lot. And I know the power in that. If I learn a new language and manage to include one or two lines in my song….wow. People love it!

(She pauses to think.) I wouldn’t mind doing a song in French.

MOM: You know, Beyonce recently came under fire for her portrayal of a Bollywood performer in ‘Hymn for the Weekend’? What would be your response to someone who says that you are appropriating English culture/history in this video?

Wiyaala: For me as a musician, I’m just trying to tell a story. In this video, the plot was very close to those medieval or King Arthur days. And they even used to have Black people living in England in that era, so I personally don’t see anything wrong with it. And in a way, I realized that in the north of England where we were shooting, there were a lot of similarities between them and the north of Ghana where I’m from.

They are both isolated from the main cities. They both have only one shop that everybody goes to and when it’s closed, that’s it! At the end of the day, we are all branches of the same tree. I don’t find anything wrong with that. There’s nothing wrong with learning. There’s nothing wrong with appreciating each others culture. It’s supposed to promote togetherness. If we understood each other, we’d have less conflict and war.

Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 5.44.19 AM

I was in Yorkshire on holiday as Wiyaala; but I had to opportunity to shoot this video and I wanted to do it to pay homage to the environment. I could have worn my African print, but I always do that. This was just something different to excite people.

MOM: Oh yeah. People LOVE your costuming for the video. The white hood, the headdress, the make up…

Wiyaala: But I do understand people’s concerns about appropriation…I think this happens when people go beyond. You can always tell when people are taking it too far.

MOM: Will you be shooting in other parts of the world?

Wiyaala: Oh yes – God willing. I’m full of vim this year. We have some locations we’re looking at. I’m just going to be shooting. *pew pew pew!!*

MOM: I could talk to you all night, but I have one last question. It’s about your upcoming film, ‘No Man’s Land’. How did you land that role? Did they approach you, did you approach them…

Wiyaala: Yes! The film comes out on February 13th at Silverbird Cinemas. It’s a Salma Mumin production about conflict in the Northern Region between two ethnic groups. I play an angry, vengeful girl named Dumuni who is trying to avenge her father’s death. In the midst of this conflict she wants peace, but at the some time she also wants to avenge her father.

MOM: So she’s torn…

Wiyaala: Yeah. And you know, I haven’t even seen the movie! I can watch myself on my videos because I’m singing…but talking? Oh no! It’s just different. I have butterflies in my stomach just thinking about it.

And some to find out that Salma Mumin and I are sisters…real sisters! Her mother and my mother are first cousins.

In the movie, there is a scene where I carry Adjetey Annan on my shoulder. Everyone told me I couldn’t do it, and that I should put him in wheelbarrow.

MOM: They didn’t know, eh?

Wiyaala: They couldn’t believe it! I had to do that take about five times. And when you look at my legs in that shot, you can really tell I used all my muscles. My ego wouldn’t let me put him in a wheelbarrow. He asked me, “Are you sure you can carry me?” And I told him, “Look, when I lift you, just relax. I’ll carry you!”

Scene from the film 'No Man's Land'. (Instagram)

Scene from the film ‘No Man’s Land’. (Instagram)

 

Noella, John (her manager) and I chatted for another 40 minutes afterwards. Our conversation concluded with them sharing a link to the full length feature of ‘Leno’ with me and listening to me loose my mind over the visuals and the story line. We talked a little more about beauty and race and of course – hair.

She made this humorous remark with regards to her tresses: “The day I see Brazilians wearing my hair is the day I will also buy their own!”

Somehow, I don’t see that happening.

 

Leno (This Place) is on Wiyaala’s self titled album, available on iTunes. Watch the official video here and share your reactions in the comments!