It’s been a whirlwind, yet priceless weekend of BarCampGhana & GhanaDecides. Somehow, this pocket of solitude found me, and I’m having a bit of a moment. Just me and my long-lost friend Tamale (aided by Adele). Special thanks to the awesome BarCamp Tamale and GH Decides teams for getting me home :)
Photo Credit: GhanaDecides
Wunpini: Gaafara (Knocking)
Tamale: Kpem nya (Come In)
Wunpini: Dasiba (Good morning)
Tamale: Nnaa. Nyin nguni nbala (I acknowledge. Who are you?)
Wunpini: Mma, a bi bang ma? (Mother, haven’t you recognized me?)
Tamale: M bihi maa zooya. Bi pam mii kul gor mi. A yuli (I have many children, and many of them travel What’s your name?)
Wunpini: N yuli Wunpini. Nyini n daa che ka in ba pgem ti ma li, abi tei da? (My name is Wunpini. You told my grandfather to give me that name, don’t you remember?)
Tamale: Oy, Wunpini. Nyini n bala? (Ei, Wunpini, is that you?)
Wunpini: Ing mma, ma nin bala. Ing kumi na (Yes mother, it’s me. I have come home)
Tamale: To di viela. Di yuuya pam. Amaa, che kang bwaha bin shaw (That’s good. It’s been a long time, but let me ask you something)…
…When was the last time you thought of me?
Wunpini: Ei, mma, I didn’t know you speak English o.
Tamale: I do. I speak whatever language you choose to interact with me in. Our communication and link transcends mere understanding. So I ask you again: When was the last time you thought of me?
Tamale: Or have you completely erased me from your memory?
Wunpini: I could never do that. I thought of you time and again. I kept myself updated on your progress. I heard you have not been well… In moments of joy, I yearned to share my elation with you. To transport the things I imagined could help make you better, and watch you bloom from the prosperity of it all. In times of distress and sadness, your resilience kept me going. The reminder of why I left and the number of things waiting to be worked on gave me the push to trudge through inches of snow, to eat foreign foods, to endure tests untold. I didn’t always know it, but you were my inspiration every step of the way.
Tamale Central Mosque. Photo Credit: GhanaDecides
Tamale: Hmm, I often think about where I went wrong. The more I do, the less I know…
Wunpini: You have done nothing wrong, mma. It’s us your children – right here in the sahelian dunes and as far as the beaches of the South – it is us who have erred against you. When you came into being, God made you perfection. He gave you fertile soils that grew all sorts of foods, he imposed rain-filled clouds in your skies to nurse our thirst, he gave you lush greenery, animals who also sought your protection. You were perfection, and then you had us.
You became a mother, and you gave your all. Even when you were weak, you forced your soils to produce. Even when we gave you little rest, making demands here and there, you were patient with us. We learned to rely on you for we knew you were long-chosen to breathe life into our lungs and that you would lay down your very soul for us. You were appointed our guardian and shelter here on Earth, and you played your role as best possible – safeguarding us from colonialism and slavery as best you could.
When all others said we would never amount to anything but a “primitive”, warmongering group of people who’s only titles in life would be as security men, kayayo, and just the vice-president of this nation (no more please, too incapable), you kept egging us on with the dawn of each day. WE took all that for granted. For Mother as you are, we also need to take care of you. Mother as you are, you also need your rest, and Mother as you are, you deserve our respect.
But did we grant you any of these? No, we rather took you for granted. We became complacent. Resting on past glories, prefering to sleep in your comfortable bosom, saying, “That’s always the way it has been”. Some of us realized you were growing weary, and we left to work and help contribute to your upkeep and that of all of us. Those of us who did, and still do, worked/work hard. We gave/give up our lives to your cause, put ourselves in danger in open Accra and Kumasi streets, walked/walk miles in search of water to quench your thirst. But equally so, those of us who didn’t/don’t remained entrenched in what was, forgetting that there is life in motion, and being stuck in the past rids you of the opportunities of the present and future.
If anything mma, it is we who should be worrying ourselves to sleep over the wrong we have done.
Tamale: When will I see you again? You left with no goodbye, not a single word was said. No final hug to seal anything. I had no idea of the state we were in…
Wunpini: I was young. I didn’t understand many things. I never thought it would take a decade to see you again. I left without a thought to how you would feel, how you would BE. True, I meant to leave and educate myself, and hopefully, “one day”, come back and help lift you up. But I guess I wasn’t the only one who had that smart idea. I guess we all left you to fend for yourself. With our good intentions, we committed the utmost cruelty: we neglected you and fed you to isolation.
Traditional mudhuts in a village
Tamale: Don’t you remember the reason you loved me before?
Wunpini: I do. I am. Now that I’m back, it’s coming back to me. Not in pure bursts of clarity, but rather in impressions of what was, who you were, who I was with you. You’ve changed a lot, as have I. We’re both far from being the greatest we can be, from milking our potential for all our worth, but I’m proud of you for who you are. For the fact that you have ridden out many storms, for the fact that you have not buckled to the misimpressions we throw at you. For the fact that you are still here, and for the fact that while you might seem weary with dust, your innate potential has only grown.
We haven’t much time to really get acquainted, and you look so different I barely remember some of the faces you used to make. But I remember the feeling of various places. Like my former school. I felt that I was near Tamale International School before I saw the sign post. I felt that I was near Sakasaka where grandpa’s house still stands before the taxi driver confirmed that was the neighborhood we were driving through. I remembered the urge to run out into the rain and soak myself in your blessings with the pitter patter of this morning’s raindrops against the roof. And eating that wagashi (fried cheese) near the Central mosque reminded me of your many treats from the kitchen which many of us have no idea about. You said it best: Our communication and link transcends mere understanding.
Great transport infrastructure. Photo Credit: GhanaDecides
Tamale: I gave you the space so you could breathe, I kept my distance so you could be free, and hoped you’d find the missing piece to bring you back to me…
You did the hardest thing I imagine a parent could do for their child. To let them go out into the world, to seek themselves, and to determine which path they would take. Perhaps sometimes you wished otherwise, mayhap some would say you did wrong, but borrowing from the words of Khalil Gibran, I believe our Maker chose you for a very divine purpose: that you be the bow from which we, your children, are sent forth as living arrows. That He predetermined our miles of separation, as He did our hour of reunion.
They say that sometimes it takes traveling all over the world is search of something, only to come up disappointed and find that something waiting for you on your doorstep. I came back to you because it has always been you and about you. True, I am way taller than you last saw me, and I have changed in ways even I am somewhat unaware of. But I have not forgotten who I am and where I come from. I have not forgotten you and all you taught me. I might speak Arabic, French, English in addition to our local language Dagbani, but the essence is still the same: they still emit the values you yourself taught me – honesty, modesty, hardwork, discipline, tolerance, persistence, respect. I might not do things the way they have always been done, but I believe there is no coincidence and maybe some elements of my change are what we need in order for you to regain your strength and be reinspired. I came back for you.
Tamale: M bia (my child) When will I see you again?
Hush mama, let’s get you to bed. I am here. Now. I might have to leave again, but I will always come back. Even if I’m physically far off, my spirit is still right here with you. Never will it take as long as it did. I am your daughter and for that reason, what happens to you happens to me, and all Ghanaians for that matter. Northern development is an essential part of Ghana’s total development, so this I promise you:
When the rain is blowing in your face, and the whole world is on your case. I will offer you a warm embrace to make you feel my love…I could make you happy, make your dreams come true. Nothing that I wouldn’t do. Go to the ends of the Earth for you. To make you feel my love.
Jemila Abdulai is the creative director, editor and founder of the award-winning website Circumspecte.com. A media and international development professional and economist by training, she combines her business, communications and project management expertise with her strong passion for Africa. Besides writing and reading, she enjoys travel, global cuisine, movies, and good design.