Inside everyone who writes, author or journalist, lives a subject, sometimes two or three that he or she cannot completely wash out of his system.
He keeps going back to that subject in his books or articles, sometimes sounding repetitive, and leading his readers on think that he is suffering from a writer’s block and recycling his material.
Do I have some of these hang-ups? Indeed I do; the principal one being this need of the modern African to flee from himself and to reinvent himself into what he is not and what he will never become in spite of his hard try – ‘Buronyi Nkanar’ or a counterfeit white man.
On the surface of it, these attempts seem harmless; under the surface, however, they are very insidious, for in effect what we are doing is rejecting the way God made us, trying too hard to replace it with our own image of what we should be.
I do not get over-worked when I see half of the young women in this country wearing wigs that are straight and long, giving them the European look. It is a fad, and fads come and go. I have seen it all before. In the early Sixties, nearly every young woman you run into in Accra was wearing an “Onilegogoro” named after a Nigerian god, and so tall that on some women it looked utterly preposterous.
Recently, when I poked fun at a nephew for taking to hipsters (Otto Phisters in this country),when he does not have the waist to support it, a very good friend of mine who remembered my days as a night owl, asked “How much of a waist did you have when you were wearing hipsters in the Sixties?”
My nephew could not believe his ears. The uncle he regarded as old-fashion, not very much with it, wearing hipsters in the Sixties?
Although many of America’s successful clothes designers have credited black-Americans and homosexuals with being their inspiration, I wonder how many young Ghanaians who show off their underwear know of its origins.
A black Assemblyman in New York City, disgusted as I am by this most vulgar way of dressing, used his own money to pay for billboards to be mounted all over Brooklyn to discourage the fashion. The good it did.
Just the same I am going to take a stab at it by giving you the history behind this ‘show off your underwear’ form of dressing. Although some States in America now allow some prison inmates what they call conjugal visits, prisoners the world over are the most sex-starved. Part of their punishment is to be denied access to sex.
In an article I did two years ago I said that only a man with homosexual tendencies would have an erection for another male. It has since been pointed out to me I was completely off base, didn’t know what the hell I was talking about.
In any event, some ingenious inmates at an American prison came up with this idea that one way to send messages to other inmates that you were available for sex if they were, was to drop your trouser a few degrees down, letting your underwear show.
Not only did it work, it caught on like grass catch fire. Knowing what you now know do you still want to show off your underwear? Up to you, but the next time you catch sight of a man leering at you, wanting to have his way with you, remember you were the one who got his sexual ardor all pumped up.
No, fads are fads, will be so for years to come. As such, I do not classify those who try to be at the cutting edge of it as rejecting themselves, so let us look at some of my pet peeves.
In the twelve years that I have been back home, I can count on my finger tips the number of funerals I have attended. I don’t avoid them because of anything I have against them. It just happens that after being away for so long you lose contact with school mates, play mates, colleagues and neighbours. You have no idea who is still among the living and who is with the dead.
But here is the biggest complain I have had each time I attend a funeral. Not once have I been happy with the way they are laid out. As much as I hate to use a word that may give offence, every dead man dressed in suit, has the looks of a “trate” about him; too stiff and unnatural.
Enquiries I have made as to why this happens bring out the response that it is the newspapers undertakers stuff into the suit that give this unnatural look.
Compare this with dead men dressed in kente or Ghanaian cloth, and the bodies look relaxed and at peace with themselves; as if they are telling us they have no regrets about their departure from the world.
A year ago, when a young man in my extended family died and I was asked to join the family elders in planning his funeral, I requested that he should be dressed in a Ghanaian cloth. A woman present at the meeting screamed wildly to express dissent. “He was an “abroba” and should be dressed as an “abroba”, not as if he was a “dadze, dadze.”
Support was in her favour, not for me, and for the first time I understood the motivation; a rejection of what the African is. Of course I could have shouted her down given the fact neither she nor any of her supporters were contributing a farthing toward the young man’s burial.
They wanted a funeral cloth but only if someone else was paying for it. All some of these people want is come to the funeral, get half crocked on drinks that someone else has paid for, and collect “nsawa” they have not worked for. But I did relent my tough stand.
At the burial, organised by a religious group I was told was a break away from the Pentecost, the women, only a handful of whom could read and write, decided to sing six gospel music, all in English, and beginning with the popular “I have another world in view”. You had to strain your ears, though, and I mean strain, to hear that the words being sung were in English.
With my face puckered, I looked at the group, trying to make sense of why they would decide to go English in their choice of songs of praise when there was a whole caboodle of such songs written in Ghanaian languages that they would have been more at home with. A sneer crept up my face; the modern Ghanaian for you. In trying too hard to be Western, you cannot beat him.
Suddenly it hit me right between the eyes, my own lies that it is today’s Ghanaian who has this hang-up. The Ghanaian, for as long as I can remember, has always been seduced by, and been mired in the ways of the white race.
The difference between what obtained in my time and now is that the behavior, in days gone by, was only the occupation of high society, a phalanx, who by virtue of studying abroad, or at local universities, and held European appointments felt that they had to keep up appearances.
Those feelings of pomposity and superiority, I had liked to believe, died down with independence, when the wave of patriotic fervor, to go in for the indigenous rather than the foreign, seized the country. To the extent that for the first time many of us began to look down on the Christian names we had been given at the font, and to be more favourable to those that didn’t leave our African identity in doubt.
Also for the first time we saw and heard our parents and our elders doing the unheard of and the unthinkable, challenging Christianity not in its sum but in parts that made no sense at all, or that mitigated against our development such as “Blessed are the poor for they shall inherit the earth.”
Any predictions then that Ghana would, in time, become what it is today, the bedrock of fundamental evangelism, the worst form of Christianity, for it portends the very Neo-Colonialism Nkrumah warned of, would have been dismissed as out of the question.