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  • Writer's pictureMwatabu S Okantah

Ghana Time, or, Fools' Frontier? (Part Four)

Updated: Jan 28, 2020

The real Africa is to be found in its villages. If this celebrated Year is to have a lasting impact, it has to take root at the village level. The culture is still alive there, even as it struggles mightily against a vampire Western world that only knows how to suck its lifeblood. The long, potholed, deep rutted, weather worn, unpaved road into the village of Atonkwa is the perfect metaphor for that daily scuffle. Chief Eduakwa likes to say, “In Ghana, if you see someone driving straight, you know they are drunk.” Each new day in the village begins at cockcrow, with the Sun rising to the sounds of the goats, the chickens, people moving about in the rhythm of morning chores and the laughter of children running off to school.

In 2016, at the request of Kwa David Whitaker, along with another close friend, Vince Robinson, Chief Eduakwa entered our names in the Royal family/village register.

Each time I have come back, I assured Chief Eduakwa, the Family Head, Nana Kodwo Awotwe, and my friends, that I would be returning with my wife. Now, we are riding in the car with Nana Kwa, suffering that tortured road into the village. The main road was washed out during the Study Abroad tour I led in May. It was now November. I was giddy. Aminah held my hand. She was quiet. I could feel her anticipation. We were in the moment that had been 29 years in the making. We were in Atonkwa, standing in the courtyard between Nana Kodwo Eduakwa V’s Palace and the still under construction, Royal Family House.

No longer a stranger, I have become a familiar face. Even though I do not speak Fante, people still smile and speak when they see me. In many ways, Atonkwa has become a model in terms of African Americans repatriating and being assimilated into village life. My connection to this village comes through Nana Kwa. More “Elder brother from another mother” than friend, it is a mutual love for Africa and for African traditions that has nurtured our relationship over the past twenty-five years. His personal spiritual transformation inspired in him, the desire to become an African Chief in order to do the work of “helping prepare African American children, families and communities to gain their freedom from oppression and domination.”

A Milwaukee-based Ghanaian, Dr. Anthony Mensah, directed him to Nana Kodwo Eduakwa IV, then Chief of the village of Atonkwa, who secured permission from the Paramount Chief at Elmina to Enstool him as Tufohene [Adviser], Nana Kra Kwamina II. I would meet the current Chief, Nana Kodwo Eduakwa V, in the mid-2000s, when he visited with us to evaluate the Akan based Rites-of-Passage Programs we facilitate at Kent State and West Virginia Universities. I would also develop a Memorandum of Understanding with Nana Eduakwa, to bring students and community stakeholders to Atonkwa to live with host families as part of the KSU Ghana Study Abroad Program. The highlight of Nana's memorable visit came when he performed a traditional Fante Naming Ceremony at our home for our grandson.

Although my wife has seen all the pictures and heard countless stories, being with her in the village brought tears to my eyes. I had been “adopted” by a set of twin brothers from a special village mother, on my first visit. Panyin and Kaakra, and their mother, Araba Asmaba, were there waiting for us when we arrived. It was my first opportunity to meet her, and the three of them were excited to finally meet Aminah. I recalled all the anxious questions about Africans “not liking us” as we embraced. Although Nana Asmaba spoke no English, we did not need Panyin to translate the love we were all feeling. In all of my travels throughout West Africa, I have only been treated with kindness and with good will. Even during a few tense situations in Lagos and in Dakar, I always felt protected by my hosts.

Staying in the village always reminds me of my visits with my paternal grandmother when I was a small boy. She lived deep in the up south Maryland woods, not too far from Washington, DC. I remember hating to use the outhouse. I wanted to know why we had to go to the well each morning to fetch water. It would always take a few days to adjust, but by the end of my visits, I never wanted to leave. Aminah did not want to leave Atonkwa. Standing on the veranda that first morning, a little girl, walking with her father, made eye contact, and just came over to give her a hug. We would see Maya, again, when her father, Kwofi, led us on a tour of the Gloria Pointer Memorial School—founded by Clevelander, Yvonne Pointer. He would also take us to the Catholic middle school, where we sat with Queen Mother, Nana Akua Kyerewaa Opokuwaa.

Like Nana Kra Kwamina II, Nana Kyerewaa was also Enstooled in the village by Nana Eduakwa IV. A traditional Akan Okomfo [Priest], she is a respected spiritual leader in the Elmina-Cape Coast area and Convener of the Central Region African Ascendant’s Association of Ghana. She made it possible for us to meet and to interact with a number of folks from the Diaspora that have repatriated, including Rabbi Kohain Halevi, Executive Secretariat of PANAFEST Foundation. We were even blessed to meet a few of the African Americans that were among the 126 people from the Diaspora that were granted citizenship in a historic Jubilee House Ceremony with the President of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo.

I had to keep reminding myself, I was not dreaming. I was back in Ghana, in Atonkwa, near Elmina, in my room in the Royal Family House, with my Soulmate. During our four weeks stay in the village, our bond grew even stronger. I knew Aminah was now seeing and feeling those things I have attempted to describe to her each time I have returned from the village. Nana Eduakwa added her name to the family register and Nana Kodwo Awotwe, poured a traditional Libation. He explained that he had asked the Ancestors to bless us. He thanked them for allowing us to return to the land of our ancestors. He asked them to continue to guide and protect us on our journey. We left the village knowing we had finally found the ultimate safe space.

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