The Ewe Heritage Defined (Part Three)
To me, if one is looking for the true Ewe character, it resides in my childhood friend Amewuda (“Wuda”). Wuda appeared with his father one day when I was in class three. As soon as I saw him, I began to admire the way he carried himself. He was a short stocky serious-looking fellow who appeared to have a lot of confidence in himself. He was dressed in red starched khaki shirt and shorts and white canvas with red socks to (un)match. In 1971, all of us went to school barefooted; so it was quite impressive that this young man had those nice footwear. Soon, he began to assert himself as a smart student and a peer leader, much to the annoyance of Kwadwo Morgan, a rather big bully who had repeated the class a couple of times and acquired peer leadership by dint of “seniority”. Although Morgan was the peer leader, when Wuda came, he also began forming his own peer group dedicated to studies; thus Morgan’s kingdom was duly split according to brain or brawn. I stuck with brawn, Morgan’s group. My class three teacher, who was also the headmistress of our school, had already bestowed on me the unenviable title of “Ogyengyentwie” . Oblivious of the meaning of that long word, I went home to my mother and asked,“ What is the meaning of “Ogyegyentwie”. “Where did you get that word from?” my mother queried. I explained, “Well, my class teacher has been calling me Ogyegyentwie for some time now.” Mother then explained, “Ogyegyentwie” means “monarch of all idiots!” My sister Gina burst out laughing. Then my mother said, “Your teacher must have a good reason for calling you by that stupid name. If you don’t like it, change it.” I asked my mother, “How?” Then mother said, “Find an intelligent friend and learn from him.” Instead of pondering my mother’s advice, I went to sleep with Gina’s laughter still ringing in my ears. The following day, mother was serving food while I was peering into the soup. He took a big piece of fish and put it in my bowl. Then upon second thought, he removed the fish and put it back into the bowl, replacing it with a smaller piece. I protested, “I want that fish back!” “Which one?” Mother asked. “Mepe nam tese Maama Afua kraman no ti” I answered. My mother burst into laughter albeit uneasily, and began frantically looking for the bigger fish. (I was the last of thirteen children by my father’s side and six by my mother’s, and therefore a prince of sorts at home. I was very spoiled indeed!) Mother couldn’t find the original fish or rather pretended not to find it. In any case, I began crying while chanting, “ I want the fish as big as Maame Afua’s dog’s head!!” While I was seriously crying, everybody else was laughing in my mother’s big compound house. In disgust, I left the house and headed for school, still crying and chanting the words of the dog’s head. When I got to school, I went to sit at a corner of the classroom with blood-shot eyes. That was when Wuda appeared with his bigger brother who was in class six. Seeing me sitting there quietly, the brother asked Wuda in a low albeit audible voice, “Who is that big ugly boy sitting in the corner?” Wuda cupped his mouth and whispered, “He is in the same class with us and I tell you, he is the dumbest person in the whole wide world”. Then Wuda’s brother shouted,” Hey bloke!!” “Who me?” “Yes you!” he shouted, looking at me threateningly, “Spell Accra!!” A chill of fear settled in my spine as I opened my mouth, reciting whatever letters of the alphabet happened to pop out, “ Accra….w….x…y..z …eh …d….. Accra” Both Wuda and his brother burst out into a hilarious laughter, repeating as they went out of the class, “Accra…w….x….y….z…. eh….d… Accra”. Later, I felt the strong need to confront Wuda who playfully answered, “Come on Sarfo, accept that you are dumb. You have chosen to join Morgan’s group of dumb ones; need you be ashamed to be described as the dumbest person in the whole world? In any case, my brother was fair to you. When he asked you to prove yourself, how did you spell ‘Accra’? Accra…w….x….y….z……eh….d…. Accra’. Isn’t it the dumbest way to spell Accra? Not a single letter correct!” “Okay…Okay……what about your brother calling me big and ugly?” I asked Wuda.He looked at me curiously as if I was out of my mind, “ Did I call you that?” Then as if by an after-thought added “Do you ever look at yourself in the mirror at all?” “ Yes indeed! I do everyday” “Aren’t you sad whenever you see yourself in the mirror?” I was silent for a moment, recalling that I had been unimpressed by my own looks. After all, my face had been regularly compared with crocodile, chimpanzee, goat and other ugly animals; and my head and forehead had been compared with Mountain Afadjato, Kwahu Ridge and Obuotabiri….. Then observing my long silence, Wuda said, “Come on, you take things too seriously……If you like, join my group, and I will teach you how to read. You are ugly all right, that you can’t change, but at least you can learn to become smart.” I left Wuda, angry that he would not apologize to me for hurting my feelings. I also hated his self confidence as opposed to my palpable diffidence. But others joined Wuda’s group and improved on their academic performance. As for me, I remained in Morgan’s group where I learned how to fight and steal. But strangely enough, whenever we went on break and practiced how to fight, I was always paired with Agya Kwasi, a retard who had repeated class three four or five times. I thought I was quite assertive and strong when it came to fighting retards. Thereafter, something happened that made me switch to Wuda’s side. When we got to class four, Morgan’s peer numbers began to dwindle partly because Wuda was appointed the class captain and everybody wanted to be in his good books. Then Morgan, intent on turning things around, began spreading rumors that Wuda was not truly a Ghanaian, and that he came from Nigeria where his people’s best delicacy was human meat. The rumor gained grounds until Wuda heard of it. In that week, school had reopened from the long vacation and all the teachers were at a meeting. We were therefore left to do whatever we wanted. I remember that I was busy fighting Agya Kwasi and holding his leg in midair when Wuda appeared with a few of his friends and confronted Morgan, “Wuna wusi mewe nipa nam?” Wuda asked in his broken Twi, holding Morgan by his front shirt. I let down Agya Kwasi’s leg, and we formed a circle around the two champions. I thought Wuda had now entered the lion’s den, and the showdown would surely end with him crying for his Mama. Instead, I saw Morgan’s eyes dilate in fear, and I was flabbergasted. Wuda repeated, “Wuna Wusi mewe nipa nam?” I had not lost hope, Wuda was young, short and stocky while Morgan was the biggest and oldest boy in class. I was sure what I saw in Morgan’s eyes was just a fleeting moment of self doubt. He would soon compose himself and prove himself worthy as head of the pack. Soon he was going to lift Wuda up and throw to the ground. Wuda would then flee like a rat, scampering for cover even if he wasn’t going to cry for his Mama. But when Wuda repeated, “Wuna Wusi mewe nipa nam?”, instead of Morgan performing his virtuoso act, he fell on his knees and began chanting, “Wuda mepa wo kyew wae; Wuda mepa wo kyew wae; Wuda mepa wo kyew wae….” Undeterred by Morgan’s plea for mercy,Wuda lifted Morgan from his knees and began shoving him around in circles, repeating his chant “Are you the one that says I eat human meat?” This theater of chant and shove continued for well over twenty minutes, until Morgan saw an opening. He wrenched himself from Wuda’s grip and jumped over our heads, breaking the circle by brute forcet. He ran as fast as his legs could carry him. Wuda did not pursue him; instead, he gave a speech about how bullies were never as strong as they pretended to be. To say the least, I was mesmerized. Here was a short albeit stocky guy who overcame the bully on the block and stripped him of all dignity! Later in life. whenever the story of David and Goliath was told, the image of Wuda shoving Morgan in circles came to my mind. Only then could I manage to make sense of how Wuda managed to subdue Morgan, causing him to flee from the school. From that time, Wuda began to merge the brain and the brawn groups in class four, and to assert himself as the leader of both. Morgan stayed away from school a whole week. Then we, the remnants of his peer group, went to pay him a visit in his house to seek insight about his act of sheer cowardice. He explained to us that Wuda’s native town was full of voodoo, and that he knew for a fact that Wuda was immersed in some sort of boiling water the day he was born; therefore Wuda’s strength was not of mere mortals. It would be suicidal for him to try to fight him bare-handed, hence his decision to postpone the fight with Wuda until he was certain of victory over him. Until then, avoidance was key. Morgan added that he had already taken the necessary steps to consult a powerful Ewe priest who was preparing him to face Wuda and to beat him up until he cried for his mother. “Amaga ne Amaga hyia a, na yehu Amaga Hoho!” he intoned and continued further, “Do not be disappointed in me. Next time I will make Wuda cry maa maa maa before your very eyeballs”. But there was no next time; Morgan left for another school. A week later, I had another conference with Wuda. “ You better join my group now Sarfo,” he said, “ You are the biggest boy in class now. Morgan is gone, and although you chose to follow him, you are no longer as dumb as you used to be; you are now improving in your school work. If you join my group, I will help you to study more, and you can become my vice.” “What is “vice”? I asked confused. “Vice” means either my assistant or my bad side; however you want to explain it.” “Well, I will be your vice then. I was thinking of bringing Morgan’s group together again and leading it myself; but what is the point? You are the class captain now, and I choose to be your assistant, not your bad side.” From that time, I became Wuda’s best friend, spending time with him either in his house, or my house and learning many new words and how to spell them. That is how I began the acquisition of my vocalic inventory from him One day, Wuda decided to test my intelligence for a reason unbeknownst to me. My father was in the cocoa-buying business. One day, Wuda told me that he had decided to manufacture a plane, and that he had all it took to make one, except the bundle of string needed for the plane’s flying parts. I quickly volunteered to provide him with a bundle of string from my father’s stock. When I got him the bundle, Wuda produced a toy plane and asked me to follow him to the school field. There, Wuda wrapped the string around the plane and set it between his legs. He then asked me to sit behind him in order to experience wonders. Excited to fly, I sat behind Wuda who had pushed the little toy plane out of his thighs to enable me find space on it. Wuda began to recite some incantations while I closed my eyes to enjoy the levitation. I was all ready to soar into the clouds when Wuda finally burst into a hilarious laughter. I was furious! Then Wuda said, “Come on Sarfo; you are still dumb in spite of your improved school work! I was just kidding with you. Morgan told me that you once stole your father’s money to go and purchase smartness. I did not believe him at first, but now I do. You are still dumb anyway. If you don’t take care, somebody is going to sell you off for sixpence. Come on…you cannot accept whatever somebody says without asking why. You’ve got to ask questions man; otherwise you will be hoodwinked!” “What is “hoodwinked?” I asked Wuda. “ Come on….eh never mind. Find the meaning in the dictionary.” “What is “dictionary?” “Go and find out what it is, and then after that, find the meaning of “hoodwinked” and “dictionary”. Come on, I am not your dictionary!” Wuda said impatiently. After this experience with Wuda, I resolved never to believe without questioning, and to accumulate as much vocabulary as Wuda, so that I would not be humiliated again for my lack of understanding. To achieve this latter aim, I started to read vociferously………At the end of the fourth grade academic year, Wuda’s father was transferred, and I never saw nor heard from Wuda again. Oh Amewuda, the friend of my innocent years, my champion, mentor and teacher, wherever you are, I salute you. It has been nearly two score years since I last saw you, but your face is still fresh in my mind. Write back if you remember this account, and let’s share the moments of fun and friendship together, for you also represent the best in the Ewe character and genius. It is true that today, the days of innocence are long gone, and masqueraders and mountebanks have cast their long shadows upon the real Ewe character, obscuring its intrinsic quality with a penumbra of roguish utterances and unfounded insinuations. They are chained to the bottomless pit of Plato’s cave, from whence they gaze eternally on the wall of distorted shadows. But you, Amewuda my childhood friend, you and others like you represent the true character of the typical Ewe: intelligence, courage, honesty, sincerity, perseverance, creativity, independence and distaste for oppression……….
Source: Samuel Adjei Sarfo
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