Akua Nyameke

by Agyei Sarpong Kumankoma
The stream smiles . . .
Your reflection rides on her
Ripples like a goddess
In a crystal palanquin

You are the lyrics
Of the sunbird’s song
Calling the sun
To wash her rainbow garment
In the stream

This simmering applause
Filtered by bamboo leaves
Welcomes your arrival
Into the meditative calm

Akua Nyamekye-
I have been here hunting
Crabs since the palmwine tapper’s
Second visit to the triplet raffia

I am the clay statue
Who witness the limning
Of footprints of all
The village maidens on this bank

Maggots dance in their footprints
To the cheer songs of flies
Whilst a kaleidoscope of butterflies
Tend in yours, a flower garden

The silhouette fellow
Tiptoes with icy feet
Bearing a golden thurible
Covered in the hypnagogic smoke
Of your fragrance
To engrave your name
On the virgin moon

Agyei Sarpong Kumankoma is a  writer from Ghana. He is a product of St  James Seminary Senior High School in Sunyani, where he currently lives.

You Will Know No Peace

You Will Know No Peace
by Obinna Udenwe

Esther and Ahmed sat on a bench under a jacaranda tree in the Central Park – it was an open park, without a fence to separate it from the road. So it was easy for passersby to enter the park anytime they wanted and sit on the numerous benches scattered around and about the park. It was also easier for mad people who wandered about the city of Abuja uninhibited, to enter the park any time they wanted, unannounced, to take shelter from the scorching sun. There were some corners in the Park that had piles of rags and used containers of all sorts and bags containing God-knows-what heaped in them, belonging to one insane person or another.

Esther and Ahmed had not said anything to each other since they met in the park. Silence sat in between them, studying the road with them, counting the number of cars that passed – their models and colours. Ahmed noticed tears dripping from Esther’s eyes. He couldn’t say a thing – how does one begin to ask a young lady he had raped a couple of months earlier not to cry? How could he ask her to wipe her tears – would he have the temerity to utter words like that?

The long branches and leaves of the jacaranda tree served as a perfect canopy against the sun. Esther wore a skirt that stretched only to her knees, and beneath her sweat polo Ahmed could see that she also wore a shirt – milky or white in colour. She wore a flat shoe and had been staring at the shoe since he met her in the park.

“I… I… don’t want to hear that… again. Please.” Esther broke the silence after a long time. When Ahmed met her sitting in the park already, he had knelt on the ground and said that he was sorry, before she asked him to sit down. None of them had uttered any words after that.

“How can you tell me those words? Sorry? Sorry? Sorry for what?”

“Ah… for… for what I… did—”

“What did you do?”

Ahmed was silent. Esther’s face was up, her eyes reddish and rheumy. She stared at him. Ahmed prayed the earth should open and swallow him.
“For what happened—”

“What happened?”

How could Ahmed open his mouth to mention what happened? What words would he use that would be appropriate? Would he say ‘for raping you’? or ‘for forcing myself inside you’? No. Those words were unsaid in that kind of situation. They were the kind of words that turned into lumps and wedged at the junction between the throat and the mouth, refusing to come out.

“I don’t know how… Please. Please. I am sorry. For forcing myself… inside you.” They were out. The words, feared, abhorred, the lumps, had been pushed out and his mouth was hot. Tears came to his eyes for he saw them run down like water from the young lady’s eyes. Ahmed imagined what she must be passing through.

Silence grew again as the young woman sobbed. He had a handkerchief, but you dare not offer a handkerchief to the woman you raped. How could you do that? Birds flew in numbers, he was sure they could be up to a hundred. They perched on the jacaranda tree, chirping and cooing happily.

Esther began to talk, “That day, I had stayed late in the office. You see, I just got this job then and needed to work hard. I was informed by the manager that they needed creativity and hard work. So every day, I stayed back, few hours after dismissal. I worked till seven, sometimes eight PM, finishing up designs… some front elevation here, some floor plan there….” Esther took a deep breath. Ahmed said nothing. Both of them were architects, working in the same firm. But Ahmed was new in the firm – he had just reported few days earlier when he noticed to his greatest surprise that the young lady he had raped months earlier was his direct supervisor – it meant that Esther would supervise the structural drawings Ahmed made in the office and give orders to him in the construction site.

“They say it is a man’s world. Architecture. When I was in school, we were only five girls out of over eighty boys. My father was an architect. He encouraged me to pursue the career… I love it. I love what I do. But… but… since that day.”
Ahmed brought down his face. Esther had been staring at him. Her gaze had injured him for it was like fire blazing and burning his face, frizzling his hair. He was sweating.

“That day, I stayed back to finish up a structural drawing we had been working on for days. The Director needed to make a presentation at the State Executive Council meeting the next day for some contract… he had asked that I and a few others stay back after work to go over the drawing. When we finished, the other boys left together. I began to walk down the streets to my house. My apartment is a thirty minute walk from the office. I didn’t have money back then. I was just a new staff… struggling to survive.”

Ahmed knew the rest of the story. But the lump in his mouth had returned. He wanted to tell her to shush. He wanted to hold her shoulders. But how could he do that? How would he be able to do that?

“It was around eight-thirty. That part of the street was always lonely, few cars passed once in a while. Only wealthy folks lived there and around seven PM it was difficult to notice anyone outside. There were no beer bars or shops or anything that could keep people outside. You know…” Esther stared at him again. “I had always felt safe when I get to that part of the road, those streets where those folks live. Because I felt nothing would happen there. I knew rapes occurred in dark alleys and streets where plebeians and agbero boys lived. I… I never knew that… I never knew….” Her voice trailed off.

“I am sorry.”

Esther didn’t respond. Ahmed had realized that she probably had never talked about the rape to anyone. It could be the first time she was talking about it, letting the whole story out. But what was astonishing was that she was talking to the person that raped her.

Esther laughed sardonically and said; “Ah, Esther. Look at you. You kept your virginity from all those boys that admired you in the campus… from George that was ready to do anything for you, only to lose it to a stranger.”

“God!” Ahmed exclaimed.

“You didn’t know?”

“I… knew. Please forgive me. I am sorry.” After Ahmed had raped her and left her on the floor, he found blood on his penis and on his body. When he zipped his trousers the blood was on his zipper.

“Forgive you?”

“That day was Tuesday. I remember because George called me that morning to ask if we could renew our relationship. We stopped talking for over seven months before then. I loved him. Oh how I loved him, but I couldn’t sleep with him. I was scared of the pain of sex. I used to do every other thing with him, but I couldn’t make love to him. I was afraid… I was also scared that he would leave after deflowering me. But he left because of that… because I couldn’t agree to sex.”

“That morning George called me. He said he was sorry. He asked if we could get back together. I didn’t waste time agreeing. He asked about my work and I told him how I was coping. I was excited. He hadn’t gotten a job yet. That evening… you raped me.”

The last sentence hit Ahmed in the chest. More tears came out of his eyes.

“Do you know that tears could be hot? They come out of your eyes. Very hot like boiled water… perhaps one day something will happen to you. Something bitter enough to force hot tears out of your eyes, running down your cheeks. Every tear I shed since then has been hot. They burn my cheeks.”

“I stopped wearing makeup since then. What is the need? Am I not worthless now?”

“Please. You—”

“Am I not worthless now? You took away my worth.”

“Please. Please. I am so sorry.” In Ahmed’s mouth saliva had mixed with mucus and he couldn’t even open his mouth. The birds were listening to them. Calm. Even the breeze too.

“I wasn’t scared that evening when you stopped me and pretended to be asking for direction. I wasn’t scared… I didn’t have to. I became scared when you brought out your gun.”

Ahmed wanted to tell her that the gun wasn’t loaded at all. But he felt that would break her more. He kept calm. If only Esther would stop relieving the incident.

“You told me to move. You pushed me and I followed me. You said if I shouted you would kill me and no one would see you. You pushed me through the dark corner into a fenced compound under construction… you pushed me into one of the rooms and asked me to pull off. When I refused… remember that I was begging you. I pleaded and begged. I told you that I had a laptop in my bag. I asked you to take it. I told you that I had some little money too, not up to three-hundred Naira. I told you I was sorry that I didn’t have enough money. I told you that I had just gotten a new job and didn’t have much. I told you all that. I told you that in addition to the money you could take my laptop and my phone and my necklace. Everything I had with me. But the nozzle of your pistol hit my breasts. You ordered me to pull off.”

“God. Please.”

“Yes. You slapped me. You collected my handbag from me and flung it… I heard the thud of my laptop as it hit the concrete wall. I had just bought that laptop. I’d used all that I saved from the National Youth Service to pay for it. I have not been able to use that laptop since then. It is locked up somewhere in a cupboard.”

“Do you know that I haven’t been able to wear those cloths? The cloths I wore the day you raped me. I didn’t wash them. They are stuffed into a drawer, alongside my laptop, my phone. Makeup kit. And everything that was in my handbag that day. They are all stuffed into a drawer. I can show you.”

Ahmed inhaled deeply. A couple holding hands passed but did not even glance at them.
“You slapped me very hard. Your hand was like a rod. No one had ever slapped me before. I can’t remember if I was ever slapped as a kid. Phosphenes came out of my eyes. You hit me with something. I think the gun and I fell. You pulled up my skirt and tore my pants… I protested with the last energy I had but you slapped me this way and that way. Blood came out of my mouth.”

“You took up my legs. No one had ever done that to me. You placed your gun on my head and said shheee. Shheee. I shook. I shook so much. I remember what you were saying, ‘Don’t make this more difficult for you. Don’t you like me? Don’t you like it?’ I can never forget those words… you said them over a hundred times. Didn’t you?”

More tears strolled down Ahmed cheeks, dropping on the front of his shirt.

“You pierced me. I screamed and struggled. You hit me with your gun till my head ached. You rode me like a horse. My buttocks were bruised by the concrete slab. I couldn’t sit for four days.” She sobbed hysterically. “I couldn’t sit for four days. Four damn days!”

“I pulled down my skirt. You were gone. I brought out my handkerchief and wiped the blood. And put it with everything back inside my handbag. Including my pant that you tore. I was no longer crying… I got to my apartment around past ten and lay on the floor and cried till three am. I took a hot bath.”

“I didn’t go to work for four days. I was in my room. I showered every two hours. In a day… in a day for the four days I took a hot shower twelve times. A total of fourty-eight times in four days. I washed away the blood, the dust, your semen. But I didn’t wash away the fact that I had been disgraced and deflowered by a stranger. I was afraid of HIV and infections.”

“I bought Clotrimazole and inserted into my vagina. And took doses of Diflucan. I was afraid of venereal disease. I feared every day until after three months.”

“Esther. What I did to you… is unforgivable.”

Esther didn’t say anything. She cleaned her face with her hands. And blew her nose.

* * *
It was four days earlier that the director had informed Esther that a new staff would be joining their team on probation. He’d told her that he was an intelligent young man and that he would want Esther to supervise his works for two weeks and report to the firm if the young man would be retained or not. Later that morning, the young man had walked into Esther’s office. When Esther lifted her face from the computer in front of her and their eyes met. She gasped.
“Jesus!” the young man had screamed.

“Esther had bent her head on her keyboard and sobbed.” The young man came to her, after standing for over five minutes, he touched her shoulder.

“Don’t dare!” Esther screamed. “Don’t dare touch me with your satanic filthy hands!”

He had knelt down and apologised. The next day he came before her and was waiting for her in her office when she entered. He told her that his name was Ahmed and that he had not been able to sleep since the incident. Esther walked him out.

The third day he came again, tears in his eyes. He’d said; “What I did to you is unforgivable. I don’t know what came over me. I was a looser. A loner. Evil. Fiendish. What I took from you I can never give back… Please forgive me. Please.”

Esther had asked; “Forgive, you say? You raped me. You hit and bit me and made me to bleed. You took away my happiness and my joy and… my pride. And you ask that I forgive you? Would forgiveness bring back the things you took from me? My womanhood? My pride? How can I look into your eyes… how can I smile with you in this firm or breathe same air with you? No. I am choking right now.”

Ahmed had knelt down. “Please.”

“Please leave. Leave!”

Ahmed scurried out of the office. Other staff had noticed what had been going on. And were gossiping. Some were speculating that they may have been in a relationship and accidentally met each other again in the firm.

The fourth day, in the morning he entered her office again and knelt down. It was then that the director came in. “What is going on here?” he asked. Ahmed slumped, looking at the floor.

No one said anything. “You two know each other before?” the director asked. None of them replied. The director saw tears run down Esther’s face.

“Esther. Esther. What is it? My God. You are one of the best people I have here. I don’t want anything to happen to you… or make you lose concentration. I can see that both of you know each other.” He came to Esther and said; “The park down the street. Both of you should go there. Now.”

“Please… Sir… I have work to do—”

“What kind of work will you do in this condition?”

Esther looked down on her computer.

“Young man? Move it to that park. None of you should return to this firm until you have sorted out your differences, whatever it is.” With that the director walked away.

“Please. Let us go. Please.”

“Tell me why I shouldn’t tell him… what you did to me? Tell me?”

“Please.” Ahmed knelt again, rubbing his two palms together.

Esther had shut down her computer and walked away. Ahmed entered his office to shut down his computer. He met her in the Central Park, sitting on a bench, sobbing.

* * *
“Please, can you listen to me? Let me explain why I did what I… the awful thing… I did?”
“What? Tell me what? What on earth could make you do what you did? What on earth could make a man rape a woman?” Esther stood and paced before him.

“You know what I am going to do? I am going to call George and tell him. He is going to get you arrested and believe you me… I haven’t gotten back with him because of what… happened. He doesn’t know what happened but he isn’t happy. I will tell him everything—”

“Please. Please.”

“But I won’t do that.”

Ahmed relaxed a bit.

“Yes. I won’t do that. What are they going to do to you? I want you dead but they aren’t gonna kill you. So they go to court, drag me to the witness box and ask nonsense questions. Then you get a lawyer to defend you… to say that I have no evidence. What am I going to present as evidence? What? Who will believe me if I bring out all those rubbish I stacked in the drawer in my room? Who? I will end up bringing myself and my family and friends to shame.”

“God. Please.”

“Yeah. I won’t do that. I won’t tell the police. I won’t tell anyone. It is a man’s world after all.” She sat on the grass. “It is a man’s world. You guys kick us around. What you did to me, my heart will never forgive you. My mind will never forget. My eyes cannot stop seeing. I have nightmares almost every night.”

Ahmed stood up.

“I am sorry. When I was a child—”

“Shut up!” She sobbed. “Don’t give me any cock and bull story. You want to justify what you did? Fuck you!”

“No… I don’t want to justify anything.”

“I said fuck you! Look, I won’t arrest you or report you to anyone. I reported you to your conscience the day you raped me. I am not going to ask the office to sack you… you will work under me every day. And you’ll look into my eyes and you see me… right there on the concrete floor of that dark building as you tore my… pants and raped me.”

“That day. That day, before I showered, Ahmed… I held my two nipples and cursed you.”

“My God!” Ahmed began to sob more. He knelt on the ground. He understood the meaning of that – for a woman to hold her nipples and curse a man. Ahmed understood the repercussions.

“As far as I am concerned you will know no peace, Ahmed. It’s the curse that has brought us together. Every day you will look into my eyes and remember what you did to me. I don’t know if there are other women. But you are ruined.”
“If you resign from work, Ahmed and leave the firm, you can never resign from your conscience.”

“Please forgive me…. Please.” By then people were staring at the couple. The birds had resumed chirping and flying about. No one in the park passed in front of them. They were ignored.

“I swear you were the first and only person. I have never raped a woman again.”

“Thank God for that.”’

“Please forgive me.”

“I can’t forgive you. Never. No!”

There was silence.

“When you force yourself on a woman, no matter who the woman is… even your wife, you take away that woman’s pride and grace and happiness along with you. You ruin the woman forever until the day that woman leave this world. You ruined my life. I can never be happy again. I can never allow a man climb me without remembering your face and what you did to me. Each time that happens I will lay more curses on you.”

“Please. Just kill me. Please, Esther.”

“If you can rape a woman. You can kill. You had a gun with you. Use that gun and kill yourself. You think you are living? You are dead.” Esther spat on him. And turned and began to walk away. As she did, she could not hear his cries that were attracting stares from even the mad people that were living in the Park. She could only hear the sweet coos and chirpings of the Asha birds and pigeons fighting for space on the jacaranda tree. For the first time since the rape, she felt lighter. She knew peace.

Udenwe Obinna is the author of the novel Satans and Shaitans.

A Ghost in North Legon

By William Saint George

My spirit this morning was as severe as the North Legon sky, as the wind that raised the curtains up and let them fall while I lay in bed staring back half bemused by their haunting manner, severe as the silence in the hostel that reminded me of my sudden loss.

It was sunnier in my sleep, I recollect. There were people. Many people. I called them friends. We had things to talk about, stuff to do, smiles to exchange. It was sunnier in my sleep. I heard laughter too and she was there.

That thought made me smile. The curtains raised themselves high and I caught a vision of the stark Madina skyline; the zongo spread into the distance, a hundred corrugated sheets above which was a dense forest of low hanging power lines and jutting antennae, the ragtag estate was held back by our high wall protected by a razor fence. The world had lost some colour, or I was going mad with grief. Either way, my reality was not what it had been yesterday. I loved my sunnier dreams. I had friends there.

An hour must have passed. I heard the sound of rain outside. The smell woke me up. I don’t remember what dream I had this time, but the feeling lingered: it was the warmth of humanity, the belongingness that I longed for so much it drove me mad to think that some god had preordained this present lot.

I slithered out of bed and sat on the cold floor. I stared at nothing for a while, then, I shook the spell of sleep from my eyes. It was eight AM. I should be getting ready for work. The curtains agreed with a frantic nod. The rain was still falling outside.

I got up and briefly considered my austere room. There are two beds at each end of the square room; one for myself, the other for my quiet roommate. He must have slipped out while I was asleep. He always woke up at six, bathed, dressed, sat at the edge of the bed closest to the window to check his email and then, without rousing me, exited. My dearly beloved roommate is a specimen of mechanized humanity. His unchangeable routine annoys me more than it should. No, it isn’t that I am jealous of him, far from it! I am rather glad that I am not like him. He is a machine, programmed to be productive and religious and clean and generally dutiful. He executes his internal instructions with passionless accuracy. He is good at what he does; he is manufactured to be normal.

I am not, and though right now I am beset by demons on all sides, I feel more at home with them, understanding that they are in truth on my side and together we make my life more fascinating.

Beside his bed is our only study desk. Beside my bed is the chair. Between the beds is just the bare, concrete floor. In the middle of that, in a little heap, are my clothing. I left them there last night after my last frustrated evening with her. My dutiful roommate did not disturb them while performing his morning ritual. The good boy that he is, he knows not to interfere with my personal matters. He knows as little about my life as I know about his. I don’t care much for him beyond having his presence constantly remind me that there are people most unlike me. And he cares little for me beyond what is generally acceptable to whatever social algorithm he lives by.

We like our arrangement as it is.

Our room is dark and spartan as the love in my heart. It contains all that is necessary and nothing more. It smells because most of my clothing are unwashed, the bathroom door is left open, and no one bothers to flush the toilet these days.
I dropped my underwear in the pile of clothing and walked naked, in dejected fashion, to the bathroom to stare at myself in the mirror.

After five minutes of deep consideration, I concluded that I was not a happy man. My eyes were red and hungry, my cheeks empty. I wore a fierce scowl because I must have been angry at myself. My skin was dry and peeling. I had dark spots where pimples of days past had been removed. The aesthetist in me thought that I was ugly. He wanted to avert his eyes but you see, the flagellant in me was stronger. He held my face to the mirror. All my past selves looked at that face with pity. Were I another person, they would have spat on me.

At last, having had enough of myself, I splashed cold water on my face and buried it in my towel. The water stabbed my face like a knife. It dripped like the tears I was unwilling to shed. It was too cold for a bath, I convinced myself, and hurried out.

I glided like a ghost to the pile in the middle of the room and, without much thought, slipped on the same old black trousers, two months unwashed and muddy, the same old shirt filled with her scent from our last embrace, and I tucked an old handkerchief in the back of my pocket.

Beneath the pile of clothing were my sandals. The straps were torn, the soles were pealing from overuse. I did not care. The fabric of my soul was in tatters and that needed mending. I have no time for torn sandals and smelly shirts.

In five minutes the last bus will arrive. I will have to go out and sit among people. They will shun me as they often have and wonder in their minds what a queer sort of individual I am. They will have conversations around me but not with me. I was nothing but an afterthought to them.

Strange as it seems, this gave me some immense comfort. I had become a ghost, thin as air and unseen. I left my haunt with one hope, that the day will swiftly pass and night will come so I can sleep once more and dream my sunny dreams.

Jesse Jojo Johnson writes under the pen name William Saint George. Among his several interests are world history, philosophy, photography and amateur music composition.
He works as a software engineer at Asoriba. He publishes on his personal website.

My Girlfriend is Chinese

by Ron Riekki

And we live in France, in Lille.
We take pilgrimages to Paris almost on a weekly basis.
She says she loves the smell of the Eiffel Tower’s metal. We go there and hurt our necks glaring up at the tip of this massive phallic symbol. I tell her this and she says that I need to see trees instead of sex. She says that the Eiffel Tower is alive, a great elm. She says it breathes, it moves, it hears. She says it has heard me.
We sit longer. It is a handsome day. It is a day where you could almost feel good alone, a day where there is so much calm and beauty to the air. I tell her this and she puts her hand near mine. She never takes my hand. That would be too vulgar, too brave, too something. She calls it trop. It is her favorite word.
She speaks Chinese, speaks English, speaks French, speaks German. I hear all of these languages. We go to bars with her friends and she moves her tongue so gracefully that you can listen to a dance. You hear the symphony of countries. She insists that she balances all of her friendships with people from other nations. She is upset I only seem to want to be around the French. She says I am too French, that France is the only country in my blood, the only country in my platelets and my plasma.
We lie down. We stare at the ghost clouds. The last word she has said is blood. I think of the three hundred or four hundred suicides that have happened from the Eiffel Tower. I tell her this.
She sits up. She tells me not to talk of ghosts.
But I tell her the sky looks like ghosts.
She says it does not.
I tell her it does.
She grabs my mouth. She cups my mouth so harshly that I actually cannot speak. I see terror in her pupils, the way that they dilate when they need to take in as much information as possible, how fear seems to open up the darkness in us.
She stands, starts to walk away, tagging me along.
It’s like I can feel all of the spaces where the bodies have landed, the pavement hot where it shouldn’t be, hot in shadows.
She goes down a road, against the traffic of those approaching the building. We get far enough away so that the tower cannot hear. She tells me that if you speak of ghosts, you might just be a ghost. She asks me if I am a ghost.
I tell her no.
She studies my eyes.
We walk away from the tower.
We find a café and sit outside. She faces away from the direction where we came. Buildings hide the tower. It’s harder to find the Eiffel Tower than one might think. Buildings swallow buildings in Paris.
We drink vin rouge. She cups the bloody glass. I know not to tell her this.
She tells me that I need to find the tao. She says I need to find a new way, one where I see more good. She insists I find more grace.
She is Christian. And Buddhist. And Taoist. And Hindu. She mixes religion like a bartender. She is a long island ice tea with God.
She tells me that I need to learn to see trees instead of sex or I will lose everything.
Eight months later, she leaves me. With an almost  pregnancy. Except we had sex rarely. Sex was something that needed to be treated like a tea ceremony. There needs to be a quiet, sober restraint to it. It must feel fifteenth century.
I can hear her voice. Fading.
Until it is gone.
And now I sit in parks and I think of her lips. I think of the thin tea of her lips. And I wonder how to not see the ghosts in clouds. I think of how to see the roots of the Eiffel Tower, its branches.
I clutch a brand new Spanish-French dictionary in my hand. I look at the ceiling of the world. The French word for sky is ceil. I can only see ceiling.
I open the dictionary. I say ceilo. I look at the sky and say ceilo. I try to see the sky as a cello. It is not just a ceiling. I try to hear the sky as a cello, its grace-filled notes. It takes an hour, a meditative hour, maybe more, and finally I hear the hint of a brazilwood bow being raised.

Ron Riekki’s books include U.P.: a novel, The Way North: Collected Upper Peninsula New Works (a 2014 Michigan Notable Book), and Here: Women Writing on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.His play “Carol” was included in The Best Ten-Minute Plays 2012 and his short story “The Family Jewel” was selected for The Best Small Fictions 2015.  Twitter: @RonRiekki.

Mitigating The Silence, A (Re) view On Mawuli Adzei’s Taboo

Title: Taboo
Author: Mawuli Adzei
Publishers: Kwadwoan Publishing
Year : 2012
Pages: 245
Reviewer: Kwabena Agyare Yeboah

‘’ Places are ghosts.’’ ‘’ Memories are ghosts.’’ ‘’ To name something is to bring it to life.’’ These sentences appear in different times in Yvonne Owuor’s eloquent, language-dense debut novel Dust. Owuor provokes the amnesia of a nation in a straight-forward term, showing and naming. Mawuli, on the other hand, shuttles in subtlety in the Ghana project. Both, however, have the common trait of bearing witness to history. Something that Kwesi Brew puts it better in Ghana’s Philosophy of Survival – But we have always been here on this land of ours./ Our country is our home and will always be here at home/ To watch, listen and take our suffering/ ‘til true happiness comes naturally and without bitterness.
Taboo as a word comes from Tongan tapu or Fijian tabu which literally means ‘’prohibited’’, ‘’disallowed’’ or ‘’forbidden.’’ Taboos can either be behavioral or verbal. This essay will explore verbal taboos (in the context of the novel) which are deemed as ‘’inappropriate to say aloud or to print.’’ Say ‘’F-word’’ instead of ‘’Fuck.’’ This background is important because even though Mawuli invites us to remembrance, the title of the novel is a form of verbal taboo. In Akan verbal taboo system, there is a variety called ammodin (unmentionables). The title speaks to something without saying it. It is euphemism. It is verbal taboo. Too.
The novel opens with the death of Togbi Somadza, known in private life as Gabla Gakpanya who was the chief priest of Tugla in Sembe and the religious rift that ensued thereafter. After the failure of the Traditional religion gate to arrest his soul, he proclaimed from the land of the dead through Afa (Ifa in Yoruba) divination –
I have crossed the threshold. In vain those kinsmen at the crossroads ululate and shout my name across empty spaces. [5]
Set in the late 1950s, the ensuing religious rift is one that is familiar, especially with the Achebe-Ngugi archetype of African novels. The Gakpanya household is microcosm of what occurred in southern Ghana as Troare Household is what happened to Africa in Maryse Conde’s Segu.
Gabla left twins, Ata and Atakuma, seeds of his loin. Ata always admired the father and wanted to succeed him after his death. And he failed. Atakuma strayed to the white man’s religion, Christianity. But it was his internal conflict that he would battle with, one that started in his younger days.
How could he have forgotten to make the sign of the cross? He wondered. He felt guilty. Perhaps he hadn’t internalized the practice of frequently making the sign and invoking the name of Jesus in every propitious situation. It was the same the Tugla adherents did routinely – swearing by Tugla and pointing their forefingers heavenward. [39]
He was leaving home to study as a Christian priest. As a priest, he pursued intellectualism. He read books of virtually every human endeavor. It was not for knowledge sake. It was for validation of his (in) actions. He read Liberation theory or Christianized Marxism as its distractors call it. It was his impetus for questioning the church. He read David Rice’s Shattered Vows. He read all those who were against celibacy in the Catholic Church. He quoted and studied at length, certain portions of The Bible. He thought about Sigmund Freud and his psychoanalysis. He read reports of other priests who were perverts, homosexuals, had children et al. All were to justify his sexual nature and why he was what he was.
Meanwhile, at the turn of the millennium, many African countries had yielded to the economic pressures of the international community. The dictators of old bought new clothes from Kantamanto Market. There were to be elections. The doomsday prophets were having a free day. So were armed robbers and alleged ritual killers. Everybody forgot about the armed robbery. The real political meal was the serial killing of women. Inspector Oduro was tasked to solve the latter. The Big Men at the top were breathing fire.
It is hard to think about the main plot in Taboo, nothing gets resolved. I have never read any novel that mimics the Ghanaian life so closely. In Ghana, nothing gets resolved; we just move on. ‘’Amnesia. Collective amnesia,’’ Insp. Oduro called it.
On the pages of Taboo are glimpses into the lives of public servants who work under poor conditions yet the public expects them to perform at the highest level, the top official who is a puppet of the executive, the activist and the everyday Ghanaian people who dream dreams.
Manyo, the twins’ paternal uncle is an interesting character. On pages 16 and 33, he talked about the hypocrisy of the Christian converts. Yet, when his nephew Atakuma, later Father Shakana, sought for his help, he did not criticize him. He did what fathers do. It was not the case that the traditional religion won. No. In fact, none of them won. It is a novel about a man’s daemons told through religion.
Manyo’s endearment for his brother’s widow Ablewor enforces Catherine Acholonu’s Motherism theory as opposed to the kind of Feminism conversation that was going on during the election in the urban area.
In the real life situation, Charles Papa Ebo Quansah was convicted for the serial murder of nine women, including his girlfriend, in Kumasi and Accra in 2002. In 2004, he spoke to the press and said that he was being used as a scapegoat. Even if Charles indeed killed the nine women that he was accused of murdering, what about the twenty-five or so whose cases remain unresolved?
Like Taboo’s ending remark, the question is a simple one. Who killed the women?
If I were a bookseller, I would clutter up my desk with copies of this novel and when anyone walked in, I would ask; do you want to read some fiction? If that does not happen, something else should. When the author dies, his tombstone should read ‘’WRITING IS BURIED HERE.’’

Issue V – Out of Sight, Deep Inside Our Hearts

Literary genres in simplified ways help us to mitigate silence. What we can not say, we write. From everywhere around the world, we are faced with the enemy of humanity – humanity itself. Under its own construct, it proclaims hegemony, forgetting that that construct is just a product of the human agency. Whilst we were on break, we heard about the Ferguson shooting and many needless others in the US, the Charlie Hebdo shooting, the thousands who fell at Baga and the continuous assault of ISIL. Our collective response as a people to these atrocities, even more, exposed our attitudes to bodies as metaphors. We saw certain bodies as mournable; others as unmournable.

It is at juncture that our literary voices matter. It is here that we need to be bold to confront ourselves. Like the writers in this issue, our voices matter. We should speak against evil not because it relates to us but because it threatens our every existence as human beings. You will find in this issue many ways that these writers lead us to confront injustices, even as in, injustice  of nostalgia as seen in ”Igloo”. Or, confronting the physical space, of what we know in ”Drawing For Survival”. Even, breaking verbal taboo in ” I Am Looking For A Wife” and ”Fatwa/Vendetta?”  Here is the full issue:

1. I Am Looking For A Wife                                –   Sena Kodjokuma

2. Drawing For Survival                                    –    Kwame Aidoo

3. Fatwa/ Vendetta?                                         –    Michael Aseidu-Siaw

4. Lucid                                                            –    Seth Boss Kay

5. Igloo                                                             –    Nikhil Nath

6.On Third Worldedness Verse 3 To Komla      –   Dr. Teddy Totimeh

Kind regards,

Kwabena Agyare Yeboah & Aisha Nelson.

On Third Worldedness Verse 3 To Komla

by Dr. Teddy Totimeh

It is difficult to live here
It is much easier to die
Life passes on in starts and stops
Meaningful flow belongs nowhere
It is difficult to keep going
It makes sense to stop and sit
And think
That nothing good could emerge
Not here
Problems persist
In the land of the living dead
Nobody solves problems
When everybody has given up

Basic health needs overlooked
Necessity smothered in luxury’s clothes
A cry of need is lost in corruption’s slipstream
The traffic of life’s busyness passes by
Standing for something good
Standing up for a better future
Is odd
There is a huge crowd press
Directionless existence for the now
Blurs future aspirations
And life is lived
Like death
Doing the same thing
Over and over and over again

And yet a little light
In the land of the living dead
Glows in the darkness
A life, lived how it should be
Wakes up some dead people
Points in directions hitherto obscured
By the fog of despondency
Persistent amnesia
Success locked up in the good old days
Embodied once more
Substance peeking through clouds of doubt
In the land of the living dead
A candle light
Can be bright as the sun
On a harmattan day

I want batteries