Portrait of a pulchritudinous Ntoaboma woman.

NTOABOMA—Suppose you live in Ntoaboma like I do. You take a leisurely walk around the village before noon—before the Presby Church bells bellow and summon the prayer warriors of Atetebe. The village is quiet. You know this is Monday; it is not market day. You figure that the whole town must be out on the farm and out fishing. Bored stiff, you decide to take a stroll to the bank of the mighty Amu (the river that the newly-educated, the booksmart in Ntoaboma, the more educated than his Ancestor [the Metha], now call the Volta River). You think to yourself, “I might find some fishermen and fishmongers to chat with.”

True and true. There they are—busy at work. You approach one of several pulchritudinous, extra-gorgeous women that Ntoaboma constantly produces for the rest of the world to behold. Her name is Yankade. You begin a cheerful chat. Ntoaboma women can multi-task without sacrificing a blink of focus. You wonder, how can such a gorgeous, intelligent specimen of humankind be the result of an act of random chance: a product drawn up from a “moleculization” run awry to a unicellular organism; to the multicellular organism—and until the mammals, the apes, the troglodytes, passed humbly by to make way; to this smart gorgeous specimen of art: the Ntoaboma woman? How, by chance, can this happen in any stretch beyond the imagination of time?

For the first time in your life, you’re skeptical about what the booksmarts in Legon-Accra and the Methas that manage your national affairs have taught you—what they have told you they’ve read from several books imported from distant lands across oceans. For the first time, you think you might be brave enough to conjure up a different thought. So, you look up to the Sun and down at the main flagpole at the river bank, adjacent to where Yankade makes her trade. The flagpole hoists the Blackflag, a symbol of one of Ntoaboma’s most famous shrines. It is also used for good luck. Fishermen tie and pull in their seine nets by it—a piece of fish-hauling invention Ntoaboma men have borrowed from their fellow fishermen down the coasts of Ada.

You observe that the flagpole has cast a shadow on the fine sandy bank, right across Yankade’s feet. Yankade notices that you are absorbed in your own thoughts, staring at her feet. The feeling could be mutual, for Yankade knows well that she has sexy feet. But she wonders why a man might stare at her feet unabashedly, devoid of the gentlemanly decorum of an Ntoaboma man.

She asks how long you think the shadow is. Since you are paid through the taxes of these women and these fishermen to maintain some intellectual discipline at the Presby Primary School—you are the new headteacher in town—you respectfully ask Yankade to excuse your indiscreet behavior after realizing the graceless discomfort you may have thrown her way. You pull out a ruler which you always carry with you and measure a twenty-meter shadow. Yankade is befuddled about the sudden appearance of a ruler, but never mind she brushes away her thought. “You know how tall this flagpole is?” she asks. You shake your head. Then she answers, “Fifteen meters. Why does it cast a twenty-meter shadow?” She beckons your indulgence even further as she realizes what a sport you could become with a little bit of courteousness.

“Easy.” You reason to her: Light travels from the mighty Sun in straight lines and hits the opaque flagpole.  The angle of elevation of the Sun is thirty-seven degrees. A simple junior high school trigonometric calculation (20 = 15/tan 37) shows that the flagpole will cast a shadow of twenty meters. Yankade draws you in with another big smile. “You are going to be a very good teacher this year,” she tells you. You are a teacher, yes, but you find her statement exceedingly interesting. “Yankade is certainly teachable,” you think to yourself.

Then she asks yet again: “Can I ask you another question about this?” “Sure, I insist.” You begin to blush. Your masculine juices begin to flow. Since Yankade is a beautiful woman, few pious men can fault your irreverent mind. But you intend to keep the conversation an impressionable one on Yankade.  She offers you another re-formation of the phenomenon of the flagpole and the shadow it has cast on the beautiful bank of the Amu. “Suppose that I never told you what the height of the flagpole was,” she begins. “Suppose that you measured the shadow and yes it was twenty meters, and I told you the angle of elevation of the Sun at this time was thirty-seven degrees. How tall is the flagpole and why?” she asks leaving a gleeful smile to accompany her question.

“Easy.” You reason to her: The shadow is twenty meters long. Light travels from the mighty Sun in straight lines and hits the opaque flagpole.  The angle of elevation of the Sun is thirty-seven degrees. A simple junior high school trigonometric calculation (15 = 20 x tan 37) shows that the flagpole is fifteen meters. “So this explains why the flagpole is fifteen meters?” Yankade turns and fixes her infectious gaze on you. “Yes, it’s that simple,” as you giggle away the answer. Yankade shakes her head, “No, my father constructed this flagpole. He made it fifteen meters!”

You are stupefied. “You got it?” Yankade inquires inquisitively.

“Oh, that’s a trick,” you follow her as she chortles away, starting for the village. You pursue her in equal stride. Yankade turns around and begins to walk backwards, away from your impending strides. Ntoaboma women can walk backwards—once they have mapped out an area they can navigate it backwards without trouble, all while balancing a pan of fresh tilapia on her head. She wants to talk but she must go. “No, it’s not a trick,” she begins a lesson she had prepared for you before you even got to Ntoaboma. “You can use an explanation for why a shadow is twenty meters, but you can’t turn around and use that same explanation to figure out why the flagpole is fifteen meters. You have to think outside the box,” Yankade enlightens you.

You stop. She continues away from you, the headteacher of the newly built Presby Primary School. She’s correct! The reason Yankade is so intelligent and gorgeous has nothing to do with the shadow she casts, or the Sunlight that exposes here voluptuous curves, or the supposed workings of molecules that may have come together a long time ago in the deep, ancient past in some primordial pond, or the supposed upward mobility of a unicellular organism towards a more erect voluptuous multicellular being. No. It’s because Yankade was made just so.

“Yes, it’s just that simple,” her voice echoes in the distance. You find yourself alone, stuck in the middle of the beaten footpath from the banks of the Amu to the village center of Ntoaboma. It is time to think for yourself. Reading is a supplement to common sense. Thinking is divine. The bells sound, summoning the prayer warriors of our only Presby Church. You are the head prayer warrior. You must obey the bell. “What a contradiction I have become,” you murmur to yourself, while you watch as the pulchritudinous Yankade disappears in the distance.


  1. Academic theory is one thing, but the real world is another. What is the difference between the learned scholastic intelligence from books and the cultivated thinking that comes from reasoning with everyday life? This essay unfolds a conversation between the two poles, in an exchange between a poised Ntoaboma native and an overconfident school teacher.

    The educationalist Narmer Amenuti is ever skeptical of the newly-educated who project airs of prescience, which often turn out to be sciolism. The science within books is an invention with formulas that restrict the mind far more than they distend its thoughts. Of course, as my friend Akosua would say, the more I write, the more I spoil the story. Enjoy and discuss!

  2. Another fine piece by my brother from the other mother, Narmer. This one is heavy-laden. To unpack it, one needs a full class in the asymmetry of scientific explanation and a good course in cause and effect. But here’s the street straightforwardness for understanding such courses, and it beats down hours, days, weeks, months and years of credit hours. Truly, that we find similarities among the species and across the species do not necessarily point to a common ancestor and what form or shape that ancestor must take. That we pose the theory of evolution to our students in school as if it’s fact, shows how much we are plagued once again by the sciolistic prescience (I beg Abena Maanu, let me borrow some of your fine English! Eh!) of the Metha, the AHI and the booksmart! But what gorgeous and intelligent women from Ntoaboma are. Narmer, I need to visit ASAP!

  3. I agree with you Seth. This is very deep! This is a carefully thought out essay that raises the dust about what mentality permeates many of our psychological contradictions: from religion, to science, to politics and to social organization. I couldn’t have read a shorter essay that could make a better case for re-imagining ourselves for who we are.

  4. my name is John Froude I was born in Eastbourne Sussex England. My ancestors came from Africa.
    Profound essay. But it does not explain the past as does evolution sciolistically prescient or not.
    Either way, lancinating through the net I came across your writing. I have bookmarked your potent creation.


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