NTOABOMA—Once again, I am paid an impromptu visit by my grandfather. I asked, “For what do I deserve such an august guest in my two bedroom semi-detached bungalow in the middle of Accra?”
It is evening, the Sun is setting. If you knew how tradition worked in Ntoaboma, you would quickly realize that I had made a cardinal mistake in asking that question. How? You will soon find out.
The evening meal is the most important meal in Ntoaboma. In fact, there is no such thing as breakfast in Ntoaboma, nor is there such a thing as lunch. That kind of segregating meals into time zones throughout the day, which has been inherited from lazy primitive colonialists who had no knowledge of cooking, and could not cook for themselves, has not yet influenced the sacred traditions of Ntoaboma. Even in Accra, Kenkey, Waatsey, Fufu and Banku are almost always prepared and sold throughout the day. Food is eaten on demand, when one needs it, not timed. There is no time set to eat in Ntoaboma—a civilized human eats as he becomes hungry. Only the thanksgiving meal of the evening, when the Sun begins to set is used to mark the end of a day. This meal requires the whole family to gather—or to be accounted for in a reasonable manner. No exceptions!
So, the Akple-shia, a.k.a the Akple Waters, must begin boiling; Grandfather is here. That ritual became instantly clear to me after initially forgetting the workings of this tradition. I am glad I could recall.
Some folks in Accra may already know so much about Akple Waters. Others may have only heard much about it. Still others—having been born and raised in Accra, without any real interest in learning anything of consequence about their fellow country folk from Ntoaboma and such distant villages—could care less what Akple waters are, what these waters do, and how these waters uplift both body and soul. Akple Waters consists of two types of water: (1) the water for cooking Akple and (2) the water for the Okro soup. In Accra, these waters are rather looked upon as follows: (1) the water for cooking the Banku and (2) the water for making the Okro stew.
Except the waters are distinct in preparation. One is salted before the fact, i.e. the Akple water is salted to boil, and the other water is salted after the fact, i.e the Okro soup is salted to taste. In addition, the pot that holds the salted water is also distinct from the pot that holds the unsalted water.
This ritual, especially performed in the evening, again when the Sun begins to set, usually takes place before interviewing an august guest—like my grandfather—about the purpose of his visit. There are two reasons. First, by inquiring ad hoc about the purpose of a guest’s visit without at least the simultaneous performance of this ritual signals that you wish not to entertain your guest. And secondly, it signals that you wish for the guest to leave your home before you gather and dine with your family. Obviously, a grandfather is not the kind of person you wish not to welcome to the dinner gathering table. In fact, the grandfather and the grandmother are the very heads of such end of day gatherings. They are, in essence—by visiting your home when the Sun begins to set—visiting gods!
Which means two things for you. You can either welcome them to your home like any civilized person would do in Ntoaboma and be blessed by them, or you can show crass unwelcoming reception by turning the Akple waters—by whispering into your partner’s ear—into hot water for bathing. (Daavi, Akple shia ne tror zu lele’a!). Look, except for the fact that some of your hungry children would fuss a bit, it is your choice; as in tradition, nothing is set in stone but the consequences of one’s actions in Accra can be felt all the way back in a village like Ntoaboma. Or so I believe.
The blessing of welcoming such people of consequence to one’s Accra home indicates that one is in tune with ones beginning and also indicates that the Accra elite still operates within a system he respects—not a system which he has been sanctioned by the primitive (neo-)colonialist to partly hate and partly despise. The Accra elite need not agree with this tradition per se, but he needs to acknowledge that he is, by living in Accra, in tune with the direct costs of his own actions of either welcoming Ntoaboma tradition or not. That is, everything the Accra elite does, like signing bogus development projects for the rest of the country or signing bogus IMF and World Bank loans in the name of country, can be felt all the way back in a village like Ntoaboma. The Accra ruling elite, in order to understand his own actions needs first to understand a place like Ntoaboma.
My grandfather was in Accra because he came to launch a direct formal complaint at Ghana Cocoa Board, situated carefully on Kwame Nkrumah Avenue, for stealing all that is important to Ntoaboma—our farmlands. The Cocoa Board has managed, through primitive colonialist education in the Mission Schools to convince Ntoaboma youth, plus youth everywhere else, that farming cocoa for American dessert appetites (as in chocolate drinks) is more important to the country than growing Cassava and Okro, the vital ingredients for preserving the Akple Waters Tradition. My grandfather understands that without such mainstays as corn, cassava, and okro, eventually Ntoaboma culture will be eroded, there will be no such traditions, and consequently there will be no opportunity to build a higher society in Ntoaboma shape and form to replace it. Those who do not understand this cannot think beyond the first step of any action they take.
Cocoa is only important to Ghana in so far as Ghana is not important to Ghanaians, that is, in so far as Ghana remains an important resource extraction site to the colonialists. Contrary to what you have been taught, cocoa is not a sign of freedom. It is rather a sign of servitude. What free Ghanaian drinks hot chocolate? What free Ntoaboma woman owns a refrigerator to store cold chocolate drinks in an era of Dumsor (the lack of electricity)? For a truly independent Ghana, strong traditions as Akple Waters, instead of Chocolate Drinks, are what we need to build upon—not traditions we should scrap. My grandfather summed up his piece of mind in the libation he poured before the rest of the family gathered to enjoy the Akple and the Okro soup that evening:
“Akple e’nye Ame. Eye, Ame ha nye Akple. Ame si le balima la, ne se nu le eto la dzi, eye Ame si le eto la dzi la, ne se nu le balima. Ela’bena, akple e’nye Ame, eye Ame ha nye Akple.”
“Akple is Man. And, Man is also Akple. Let the Man in the valley listen to the voice on the mountain and let the Man on the mountain also listen to the voice in the valley, for Akple is Man, and Man is Akple.”
Who you are is also what you eat. What you eat is what you grow. What you grow must be enshrined in tradition, or you no longer can exist for who you truly are.
Ghana’s Cocoa Board is a lazy group of unthinking men, shackled by visions of traditions in distance lands where hot chocolate is simply sought to satisfy primitive appetites during seasons of cold unrelenting weather, or where cold chocolate is brewed to appease hot, humid summer throats.
Essentially, Ghana’s Accra ruling elite has turned the whole countryside into cocoa mining—cocoa galamsey, or Calamsey. There is ample logic to the origins of the current plague of galamsey (ala gold mining by rogue Chinese firms) that threatens Ghana’s Waters and Forests today. The more educated than his Ancestor (the Metha) now sitting at 41 Kwame Nkrumah Avenue bought into the chocolate traditions of others many years ago—not into his own traditions; not into what he does; not into what he needs; not into what he must do in order to assert his own destiny. By accepting Calamsey, the Metha primed himself for today’s unrelenting assault on Ghana’s Waters—today’s unrelenting assault on Akple Waters—and consequently has lost, and continues to lose, everything that is important to him.
My grandfather, in his libations, called on the inner soul of the Metha to wake up to recognize his own shackles in humble deliberation; to listen, to learn and to come to understand that the threat of Calamsey to Akple Waters, in much the same fashion as all of Ghana’s Waters are threatened by galamsey, remains a serious one. For, Akple Waters do indeed uplift both body and soul in the same way that Ghana’s Waters remain our lifeblood—certainly not hot galamsey chocolate drinks. The Libation calls on Ghana’s Accra ruling elite to listen to the voice in the valley, and the voice on the mountain, wherever it is that he has been schooled to think that he stands. Listen and understand.