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Culture A La Jinjini


Dr Kwame Nkrabeah Effah-DarteyCulture A La Jinjini

The year was 1959 or thereabout. It was a Saturday afternoon, heading to dusk. I was a very small boy, yet to go to class one. I was following my mother, returning from the farm. At that time, Jinjini was a very big community, and we needed to walk through a maze of houses and dark streets before finally reaching our house, near the Presbyterian Church.

How can I ever forget that we passed by the house of my mother’s sister, as always, and reader, just as we got to that area, I heard the firing of a gun inside that house.

As I learnt later, it was my mother’s sister’s husband, Kwaku Twene who had fired the gun, killing his wife; my very first evidence of “spousal murder”.

As I grew up, from Jinjini village to Achimota, later, Legon, Sandhurst, and manhood, I kept on relating with the children of my mother’s murdered sister, until I learnt that one of them had become the queen mother of Jinjini.

I remember as NPP Deputy Minister I visited her one Saturday morning and she referred to my police bodyguard as “border guide”. I laughed so much she said, “Kwame, I did not go to your Achimota”.

She fell sick for a while and rumours went wild that she was dead, but being a queen mother, you dare not say she is dead. I was told the one week celebration was billed for Friday 15th February 2013 and I needed to be there – not just because I am her brother but also as a politician, your funeral attendance record is key in your chances. At any rate, my relationship with her was so personal that politics or no politics, I had to be there.

And so on Thursday 14th February 2013, as lovers were sorting themselves out, circa 8pm, I sat in a car. Ignited the engine and set off from my Asylum Down law office, heading for Berekum for my sister’s one week celebration.

All along the 350-kilometer route, I saw so much evidence of revellery- Valentine’s Day was very seriously observed by the generation of today. As usual, Bantama in Kumasi was on heat and all along in Sunyani, the youth, as late as 0200 hours, had blocked the highway with human chain, just drinking and dancing at the Tyco area. My car had to slow down to a tortoise’ pace, as one young guy just refused to make way, daring us to pass over him.

I conveniently used his delay as an excuse to get down and release liquid excreta and when returning to board the car, the very young man obstructing us said: “Please you look like Honourable Captain retired Effah Nkrabeah”. I answered, “Yeah, yeah; I am the one”.

He then asked, “Please, one moment. This our Supreme Court case, shall we win?” I was amazed. At 2:00am, instead of being asleep, this young man was drinking and blocking the road. “Whether NPP wins or NDC continues in this stolen power, do you really care?”

In Berekum, I went straight to bed, and as early as 0900 hrs on Friday, I was ready with my team to go for the one week celebration. They corrected me, “Captain, we are not going for anyone week celebration, we are going to ‘tren’ her…”

I boast to my friends that I had Grade 2 in GCE 0 Level Twi language far back in 1972 but reader, I have never heard the word ‘tren’ in the Akan language. ‘Tren’ – what is ‘tren’?

If we are not going for one week celebration then why did I come?

I wrote about four letters to judges saying I have travelled. There is this particular Fast Track High Court Judge who I am sure will doubt that I have travelled; but here I was, in Berekum for ‘tren’. What is ‘tren’

Oh, it is a formal way of announcing the death of a king or a queen mother- a very elaborate process. Okay, let us go and see. Around 11:00am, we arrived in Jinjini, my hometown.

According to history, around 1700, following the Battle of Feyiase and the collapse of the Denkyira empire, some of the Denkyira royals fled from the Asantes and one of them, Serwaah, along the flight, saw a river and remarked that “nsuo yi agyene papa” (this river is very cool). So she settled there and named the river “Gyenegyene” which was corrupted by white man to Jinjini.

As the settlement grew, Serwaah’s descendants down the line ruled as chiefs and queen mothers until in early 1980s when my sister was selected and enstooled as Nana Hinneh Amankwaa II, the queen mother of Jinjini.

When we arrived at the forecourt of the Jinjinihene’s Palace, I saw a teeming mass of mourners, all over. It took thirty minutes to go round greeting the front ranks, and with difficulty, they found some a corner for me and my team to sit.

I confess never had I seen so many mourners at one particular funeral in Jinjini. I will estimate over five thousand: Canopies everywhere, so many chiefs and queen mothers, cultural groups performing with dances, as the greetings continued by new arrivals.

The atmosphere was just like any ordinary funeral except that speaker after speaker avoided mentioning that the queen mother was dead. One typical announcement was from the delegation of Omanhene of Drobo, Nana Bosea Gyainantwi.

His message was that he has heard that the Jinijini queen mother had gone for a medical checkup with the herbalist and so he was bringing cash and drinks for the herbalists and attendants to take very good care of the queen mother. And the greetings continued.

Suddenly reader, I spotted one extraordinary very good-looking, slim tall stately queen mother, looking sombre, coming up and the way I shook her hand, I am sure she read mischief in my eyes and demeanour. She gave me an interesting long look as she went on.

She reminded me of a famous episode in history.

The emperor of Rome; half demented Caligula was invited to attend a certain wedding in Rome. Immediately the emperor saw the bride, he felt his heart arrested by ultra-spasmodic desire for her to be his own.

The emperor felt very uncomfortable as the wedding rituals proceeded and at the point where the groom was asked to kiss the bride, the emperor screamed: “Hey, you there, you are kissing the woman I want.”

Immediately, Caligula’s killing bodyguards rushed for the upstart gentleman who had the misfortune to kiss the very woman that the emperor wanted. The bodyguards “took care” of that chap, and the bride became a wife to the emperor.

I turned and asked my team: “Who is this queen mother?” “She became queen mother of Abisaase under a year ago,” they said. Suddenly there was a hush, total silence. Stillness everywhere.

A delegation emerged from the palace, walked slowly to the microphones and the traditional sister of the queen mother, who is the queen mother of Fetentaa (two kilometers north of Jinjini where my mother grew up until my father snatched her to Jinjini) told all of us that she received a message that her sister was unwell and had been sent to the herbalist for treatment.

A message has just been brought to her that try as the herbalist did, it could not go well, and so her sister had joined Nananom at ‘Nsiedo’. With this announcement, a gun was fired three times; there was wild drumming and now it was official that the queen mother was dead.

To my surprise, as many as over one hundred women from all sides emerged onto the central part of the courtyard and started wailing, crying, and writhing themselves. I was amazed. Was it being stage managed or real?

I looked at Jinjinehene Nana Baffour Asare Tutu and I noticed that he was steadily wiping tears from his eyes. I tried to catch the reaction of our beautiful queen mother from Abisaase but she was so far away I could not see whether her facial elegance had been destroyed with tears.

All the wailing women suddenly turned and marched to the other end of the Palace High Street then came back and went again- wailing, crying, their hands over the heads.

It was now late in the afternoon, the ‘tren’ of the queen mother was over and mourners were beginning to thin out. Her mortal remains would be given a final resting place on Friday 8th March 2013 and thereafter when a successor is installed, the funeral rites would be performed.

If all this culture is just ‘tren’, then I predict culture explosion at the burial on 8th March 2013.

Regrettably I might be compelled to write another letter to the court for date and I can almost see this Fast Track High Court Judge ask in public: “Captain, how many times will you use your sister’s death as an excuse?”

I would answer him: “My lord, you know our rich culture?”

Written by Dr Kwame Nkrabeah Effah-Dartey



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