Tag: @yaa_fremah


Captain Mahama’s murder and the hypocrisy of Ghanaian society

State funerals are events usually reserved for really important figures in Ghanaian society such as heads of state, but on Friday that honour was bestowed upon a murdered young soldier named Captain Maxwell Mahama, with the event broadcasted nationally and watched by Ghanaians worldwide online. So what did the young soldier do to deserve such an honour? Did he give his life protecting others? No. He was given the honour of state burial because he was brutally murdered by a mob who mistook him for an armed robber.

Captain Mahama and his family

Now Captain Mahama is not the first person to have been accused of armed robbery and then subsequently murdered. In Ghana, an accusation like that usually carries a swift death sentence at the hands of a mob if the police are not at hand. And this is also NOT the first time pictures or videos have surfaced on social media depicting what I’ve described above. Mob justice in Ghana has a long history. As a young child I remember people running out with sticks and stones and whatever they could use as weapons when they heard kronfour! (thief). Whether you were guilty or not made scant difference. A painful death is certain if the police do not intervene, and when they do intervene, in most cases it is to recover a dead body.

Like many Ghanaians, I was enraged when I heard and saw what had happened to the captain. That someone had been murdered again by a baying mob in such a brutal manner and wondered how long such atrocities would go on in the country. But I would later feel conflicted by the blatant hypocrisy I was witnessing in the aftermath of Captain Mahama’s murder, and this is why – the media attention that the murder garnered, and Ghanaians’ reaction to it. It seems like Ghanaians couldn’t comprehend that something so terrible should happen to a man who was serving his country. Especially one with a wife and two young kids. In fact, pictures of Mahama’s family were heavily circulated on social media and across national media platforms in Ghana, as if to drive home the horror of what had befallen the captain. Numerous GoFundMe pages were set up to raise money for his young family left behind, and the Ghanaian government not only posthumously promote Mahama to Major but they also set up a GH¢500,000 trust fund to look after his family, with the president of Ghana Nana Akufo Addo publicly donating GH¢50,000 of his own money to the trust fund.

Now don’t get me wrong, this is a fantastic response but what I was conflicted with was the fact

President Akufo-Addo signs Mahama’s book of condolence

that other victims of mob justice in Ghana never received this kind of celebrity attention, generosity and sympathy from the media and the wider Ghanaian public. How many times have we seen pictures and videos on social media of people who were lynched in Ghana because they were suspected of being thieves? Did we care about those people? Did the media give those victims and their family any publicity to highlight their tragedy? Who circulated pictures of the families who were robbed of their loved ones? Where are their GoFundMe pages? Where are the trust funds from the government to help take care of the families they left behind? In fact two days after the murder of Captain Mahama, a man was also set upon and beaten to death by a mob in Krono Odumasi in the Ashanti region. His crime? He was suspected of stealing a mobile phone! Who cried for this man? Where was the media outcry and the public outrage over his death?

It makes one wonder – did Captain Mahama’s death matter more because he was soldier and also a relative to former president Mahama? Is that why there was such a huge public outcry? Then by that reasoning his life was worth more than others who have died at the hands of violent mobs in Ghana. Did those who wept and mourned for him and his family also cry for other victims who had died in the same way previously? Why was he given a state funeral and the countless others weren’t? Were their lives not as important? As he was laid to rest on Friday, his family echoed the publics’ call for a monument to be resurrected in his memory, because in their words, they wanted him to remembered as a hero. But as unpleasant and harsh as the truth might be, Captain Mahama was not a hero. Who did he die protecting? He was an innocent man who was brutally murdered. Yet a monument is be resurrected in his name to remind Ghanaians of that terrible event on May 29th 2017.

If we as Ghanaians are attaching such weight and importance to the death of Captain Mahama, but not to others who have died like him, then what does that say about us as a society? That your death matters only if your someone in society? When have we heard of Ghana police arresting people involved in lynching so quickly? Yet in Captain Mahama’s case those suspected of taking part have been arrested and charged with murder! Why is there justice for Captain Mahama but not for others? Will the proposed monument bear the names of those who have also been violently killed by mobs in Ghana? Had Captain Mahama been an ordinary citizen , would the reaction to his death be the same? The terribly sad answer is probably no.

By Yaa Nyarko  (@yaa_fremah)

Flying the flag for Ghana – meet fencer Yasmine Fosu

When one thinks about sports in Ghana, football, rugby and boxing are perhaps one of the first things that immediately jumps to mind. But what about fencing? Yes, fencing. Did you know that there’s currently a young female Ghanaian making waves and breaking barriers in that sporting field, representing Ghana at international competitions? And she’s only just turned 16!

Enter fencer Yasmine Nana Serwah Fosu, who has already competed in several national and international competitions, including the British Public Schools Championships, the Cadet European Championships, the Mediterranean Championships and the Commonwealth Fencing Championships, and now has the 2020 Olympic Games firmly in her sights.

byc SILVER MEDAL

Yasmine with her medal

And Yasmine is not just competing, she’s WINNING! At such a young age her list of achievements is extensive. At 14 she had already broken the North African monopoly on the sport by taking bronze at the African Cadet Championship in 2014, and was the first black African nation in any category in either gender to make podium at Cadtes U17, Juniors U20 and Seniors in the history of the sport.  She won gold at the Champion at Arms British Public Schools Championships U14 in 2014, and has claimed gold again at the 2016 Champion at Arms British Public Schools Championships U16. By special invitation of the Mediterranean Confederation, Yasmine finished 7th in the Mediterranean Championships, and she’s the youngest ever to finish 8th in the U20 Junior African Championships as well as the youngest ever to finish 10th in the Senior category at the African Championships. She won silver at the 2016 British Youth Championship U16. Oh, and she came 10th at the 2015 Commonwealth Fencing Championships in Cape Town. The 16yr old is currently ranked 116 in the world Seniors, the youngest person to rank that high.

Yasmine’s accomplishments at her age are made the more remarkable by the fact that fencing is a sport that requires not only physical training and strength, but also draws immensely on the fencer’s tactical skills, skills that take years to develop and hone. So to see her rank so high in the sport at her age is nothing short of amazing.

Yasmine in action

Yasmine (left) in action

Yasmine, who specialises in the épée form of fencing, discovered the sport at the age of 8 and by 11 she was offered a scholarship to start her fencing training at Plymouth College, which boasts Olympians such as Tom Daley. Following another scholarship to Millfield School, Yasmine turned down the opportunity to represent Great Britain, choosing rather to represent Ghana at international competitions. She’s had her fair share of bigotry, often being the only black African AND female in a dominantly white sport competing at an international level. But this experience has only made her stronger. Though she didn’t qualify for the 2016 Rio Games, Yasmine is determined to make history by representing Ghana at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, and at the rate that she’s going, we at Me Firi Ghana know this girl can!

By Yaa Fremah (@yaa_fremah))

The story of ‘Akuaba’

In Kojo Antwi’s song ‘Akuaba’ he describes the beauty of a woman he’s seen – the slimness of her nose, the whiteness of her teeth, and then the best feature of all, her figure, which he compares to that of an ‘akuaba’. Now to those of you not familiar with Ghanaian culture, ‘akuaba’ is a fertility doll who’s legend and tradition is still very much a part of Ghanaian culture today.

 

 

69301-FIGUASAN_1466ALegend has it that there once lived a woman called Akua who was unable to conceive. Because Akan society is matrilineal, it is extremely important that Akan women are able to give birth, preferably female children to carry the family line. So women who are barren often find themselves ostracised in their communities. The story goes that Akua visited a fetish priest who carved her a wooden doll to carry on her back. Akua took the doll home and cared for it as she would a real baby. She was laughed at by those in her village, who referred to the doll as Akua’ba’, meaning Akua’s child. Soon Akua fell pregnant and gave birth to a girl and it is said that from then on women adopted the practice of carrying ‘akuaba’ on their backs in order to conceive.

 

Genuine akuaba figures are female, carved to represent the Akan ideal of beauty; a flat disc like head featuring a high oval forehead, slightly flattened in actual practice by moulding a new born infant’s cranial bones on a round stone. The rings on an akuaba’s neck represents rolls of fat, which in Akan culture is a sign of beauty, prosperity and health. Small scars are made below the eyes for medicinal purposes to protect against convulsions and a small delicate mouth is set low on the face. Akuba figures also serve as protection against deformities and even ugliness – when a woman is pregnant she’s warned against looking at anything or anyone unattractive lest it influences the features of her unborn child. Most akuaba have abstracted horizontal arms and a cylindrical torso with simple indications of breasts and navel, with the torso ending in a base rather than legs.

 

Though carrying akuaba on your back to conceive is not as widespread as it was in the past, the practice is still carried out in

A woman carrying 'Akuaba' on her back

A woman carrying ‘Akuaba’ on her back

some part of Ghana today. If  a woman wanted to conceive, she would visit a local shrine accompanied by a elder female family member. A carving would then be commissioned by the local priest, who would then give the doll to the woman, sometimes along with traditional medicine. The woman would then carry the doll on her back tied by cloth the way a real child would, and she would also feed and bathe the doll – by doing this she’s thought to have a better chance of having a beautiful healthy baby. Once the woman conceives and successfully gives birth, the akuaba is often returned to the shrine as a form of offering to the spirits for granting them a child. Families sometimes also keep their akuaba dolls as a memorial if the child died.


Today akuaba figures are mass produced, often used a souvenirs or decorational pieces in the home. However its symbolism is still prevalent, with parents often buying these dolls for their daughter to play with, in hopes that it will influence child-bearing in their adult lives.

 

By Yaa Nyarko (@yaa_fremah)

Heroine, Leader and Rebel – the story of Queen Nanny

Have you ever seen a $500 Jamaican dollar bill, sometimes referred to as a ‘nanny’? Well if you haven’t, there’s something pretty special about it – and that special thing is the portrait of the woman that graces it – Queen Nanny of Jamaica, the Ghanaian born rebel, Maroon leader and national heroine, famed for her struggles against the British colonial empire during the 18th century.

 

a $500 Jamaican dollar bill

a $500 Jamaican dollar bill

Much about what is known about Queen Nanny was passed down orally, as written sources about her are few and vague. But it is generally believed that Nanny was born in what was then the Gold Coast, and came from the Ashanti tribe. There are contradictory views on how she arrived in Jamaica – some say that her village was captured in a tribal conflict that resulted in her and some family members being brought to Jamaica as slaves. However, others believe that Nanny was of royal blood and came to Jamaica as a free woman, even bringing along slaves with her.

 

It is said that Nanny and her ‘brothers’ Cudjoe (a famous Maroon leader who went on to lead several slave rebellions), Johnny, Cuffy, Accompong and Quao escaped from their plantation into the surrounding mountains and jungles. Whilst in hiding they split up to organise Maroon communities – it is said that Cudjoe organised a village that became known as Cudjoe Town; Accompong settled in a community that became known as Accompong Town, and Quao and Nanny founded a village in the Blue Mountains on the Eastern (Windward) side of Jamaica, which was later named Nanny Town.

 

Under Nanny’s leadership, Nanny Town and the Windward Maroons that lived there thrived and multiplied, and became a

A Maroon community

A Maroon community

troublesome thorn in the British side. Due to Nanny Town’s strategic location at the top of a ridge, surprise attacks by the British was virtually impossible. A master at guerilla warfare, she trained her troops the art of camouflage and there many oral accounts where such tactics were used to defeat the British in battle.

Nanny’s cunning skills as a military leader also meant that she was also able to organise successful raids on plantations, where they freed slaves, burnt down crops and stocked up on weapons. She’s credited with having freed close to a thousand slaves during her lifetime.

 

Queen Nanny was not just a military leader, but a cultural and spiritual one as she played a major role in the preservation of African culture and knowledge. She was known for her Obeah powers – obeah being a form of folk magic or sorcery that contained good and bad magic, charms and luck. Combined with her knowledge of herbs and traditional healing methods, which some attribute to her Ashanti roots, Nanny rose to become the spiritual leader of the Maroons.


monument-to-nannyToday Nanny is widely regarded as the only person to have been successful in uniting the Maroons across Jamaica. During her lifetime, she was hated by the British and early historians who wrote about her did so in derogatory terms, often portraying her as savage and bloodthirsty. Some sources cite that Nanny was killed in battle in 1733 by Captain William Cuffee, however others claim that she died an old woman in the 1760s. One can find of monument dedicated to her in Moore Town, Portland, Jamaica.

 

By Yaa Nyarko (@yaa_fremah)

Tribal scars or something else…?

What stories do facial scars tell?

Tribal-marks-Fante-246x300

Like many Ghanaians, my mum has quite a noticeably large scar on her cheek.  Growing up in Ghana this was quite a common sight both in men, women and even children, with the scars ranging in shape and size depending on the tribe one belonged to. I’ve always assumed that these scars were tribal scars or a form of ethnic identification, but I recently discovered that this was only partly true.

 

Like I mentioned before, these scars on the cheek can represent an ethnic identifier, which is the case for the Gonja, Dagomba and Frafra people of northern Ghana. However facial scars can also be found among the Akans, who usually reside in the southern parts of Ghana, and for them, their facial scars tell a whole different story.

 

traditional med

traditional medicine

In the olden days, before the advent of modern medicine, ‘ abibiduro’ or traditional medicine in its English translation, was
used to cure all sorts of illnesses. In fact, abibiduro is still widely used in Ghana today and in some cases are even prescribed by doctors. Back in the day, traditional herbalists made a black powder called ‘botכ’. Botכ was a mixture of different types of traditional medicine grounded into a powder then mixed with charcoal. Botכ worked in the same way as western medicine such as aspirin or codeine, which was used to fight various fevers which particularly affected children. Aspirin and codeine worked as a symptomatic treatment to reduce fevers, and this is exactly what botכ was used for back in the day. Because taking it orally rendered it ineffective as its healing components were destroyed through digestion, a small incision or cut was made in the cheeks of children who suffered from fevers such as malaria, and the botכ was placed in the cut.

 

tribal markAfter healing, a scar remained, thus representing a form of vaccination. These types of practises have obviously been phased out and are rarely used these days due to advances in modern medicine and the accessibility of healthcare even in the remotest parts of Ghana.

Hence these facial scars are most likely to be seen among our parents and grandparents’ generation rather than the generation of today. So next time you see a facial scar on a Ghanaian, don’t be so quick to dismiss it as just a tribal mark!

By Yaa Nyarko (@yaa_fremah)