The Ewe Heritage Defined (I)
Last year, one disturbing reaction of a respected forumer on ghanaweb was to attack another respected forumer for writing an article to extol his own tribe. By the snide comments spewed up in denigration of the author, I concluded that praising one’s own cultural practices had become an anathema on ghanaweb. I reflected on the matter for a long time, trying to figure out where a person who exposes positive aspects of his own culture could possibly go wrong. I could not rationalize the basis for the mass condemnation of the article until somebody recently stated in the comments section of another article that tribalism has to do with praising one’s own tribe! That was when alarm bells began to toll in my head. So all of a sudden, it is no longer an affront to any of us that other people daily spew insults on other tribes and denigrate their members as second class citizens. Rather, it has become offensive for one to say to the world, “My people have a beautiful cultural heritage!” If people got offended when someone praises his own people without condemning others, then how will such people feel when others speak their own language? I am sure that too will sound offensive to them. So one may ask, “You hate my culture, and hate my language…….. and what does it make you?” A subconscious tribalist! And yet such subconscious tribalists have the gall to accuse those who write good things about their own tribe as tribalists……….. This conclusion led me to an experiment here today. Why shouldn’t I, an Asante, write the good things I know about the Ewe people? Then let me wait patiently and count the number of people that will accuse me of tribalism! Indeed, I take some blame for a delayed article on the superior Ewe brain, and whereas I might not be accurate about the true origins of that superior brain, what I know should be enough to generate a positive discussion about the Ewe people. What I aim to achieve is an experiment where people who do not belong to other tribes will write the positive experiences they have gathered by interacting with these tribes: their loyalty, their wisdom, their honesty, their compassion and their patriotism. This idea does not originate from me. Late in 2010, a respected writer here argued that ghanaweb might be unwittingly promoting ethnic division in Ghana. Then another writer later suggested at the beginning of the new year that a solution to the ethnocentric feud is for others to warn their siblings of the same tribe not to insult other tribes. Since the two gentlemen came up with their concerns and suggestions, I have noticed key players in the tribal battlefield tone down their incendiary rhetoric. So I said to myself, “Sarfo the Black, for the first time on ghanaweb, you are witnessing some improvement, albeit infinitesimal, about how we address those tribes we consider adversaria”.. Then I said further, “Why don’t we flip this whole thing on his head and rather encourage people to share their best moments from people of other tribes and races?” Bingo!! I must state from the outset that people who have done most for me in life come from other tribes and races. Therefore my experience is unique. One day, I hope to write a compendium the size of the Bible to document the noble acts of people who are neither of my tribe nor race, but who meant more to me than my own family. For now, let me speak only of the great Ewe people…… When I was eight years old, I stole a substantial amount of my father’s money to go and purchase wisdom. A guy called Atta had convinced me that were I to bring the equivalent of a $1000.00, he would make me one of the smartest guys in the whole wide world. The proposition appeared attractive to me because my teachers had already dubbed ne “ogyegyentwie” which roughly translates to “monarch of all idiots”. So I began pilfering my father’s money until my mother caught me red-handed. She stripped me naked and beat me up until bloody wiles popped up on my skin. In the aftermath of this strange experience, my mother said, “If you want to be smart in school, look to the Ewes”. I asked Mother, “How?” Then my mother answered, “I don’t know; but at least you can start by eating their food.” I suspected that my ever-cunning mother was up to something pragmatic (like saving substantially on the expenditure on food) but I was all out for the idea. I will eat myself into smartness! Thus begun my interest in akple, yoki-gari, agbeli kaklo, agbelima, garifuto……. In short, I became an addict to Ewe cuisine so much so that when I went to sleep, all I dreamt about was how to go and eat Gatogbe or Alabama. Gatogbe was a popular spot in Effiduase, run by a termagant Ewe woman, where we joined a long line of customers to buy plenty of Akle and palm-nut soup, all for the price of five pesewas. That price bestowed its name on the spot. As for Alabama, my class-mates and I used to walk over a mile and half to that spot to go and buy Yoki Gari. In any case, I began to experience some sort of smartness just as I began to eat Ewe food, and I actually topped my class by Class Five; thereafter I joined my sister to Adeiso, where I encountered an Ewe called Djisenu in Class Six. By then, I considered myself a class champion until Djisenu humbled me. He easily came first in the class exams and no matter how much Ewe food I ate, I could not beat Djisenu. Then I figured out that if I could avoid an Ewe, my first place in class was going to be guaranteed forever. Thus I left Adeiso and returned to Effiduase, where I joined the class of my own tribe. The change worked for me; I was first for the entire three terms in Form One until in Form Two, Akoli and Atimakpor appeared on the scene. Those two were my nightmare; I was no match for them at all. They pushed me to third place with the two of them firmly planted in front. So I began praying earnestly for them to die! Surprisingly, my prayers were answered somehow because both of them transferred to another school. From then on, it was a piece of cake for me……until Koforidua Sectech. We were having a field day holding ourselves forth as the brightest students on the block until Alomele and Alomenu appeared from a pilot JSS to show us what smartness really meant. We had no respect for products of the experimental JSS but these two were rather different. That term, they got an average of 90% in Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Add Math, Applied Electricity, French and Basic Electronics while some of us were scrambling for the 60% average in these subjects. Alomenu and Alomele topped our class of a hundred and fifty students easily! That was when I decided to opt for humility and to conclude that since I could not beat an Ewe genius, I must as well befriend him. From then on, I ingratiated myself to Ewes who became my room-mates, best friends, study mates and role models. Wherever I went to school, the Ewes showed class and took home the honors grades. The best professors were also Ewes, and I dare say that the best of persons with the best character- the most honest, the most loyal, the most beautiful and the most creative- were all Ewes. In the end, whenever an Ewe took the lead in my class, I would always give up and watch in sheer wonder and admiration. Finally when I finished school at the University of Cape Coast, two Ewes had taken a firm lead in front of the class of one hundred and eighty students while I struggled to maintain a third position. At law school here in Texas, an Ewe is not in the lead among the class of 2011 but at least he will be the only African to graduate this year with magna cum laude. I have learned to love, respect and be proud of my Ewe siblings because they set the standards for me to aspire to and they have cherished me as one of their own……And my association with Ewes has been of immense inspiration and benefit to me. This is because long after my attempt to buy wisdom at age eight, there are people in my town who still question why my rich father ran Atta out of town: they believe firmly that the man did as he promised, but to me the secret lies with my mother’s insight about the Ewe food, the Ewe friendship and the Ewe inspiration.
Source: Samuel Adjei Sarfo lives in Houston, Texas. You can email him at email@example.com
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