Weep! Please weep! For my uncle, WofaKwadwo Kuma.
For he is dead.
Why should it concern you?
It should be, precisely because he was so ordinary.
He could have been met on the streets of any village in Ghana.
He never went to school. And he didn’t learn any particular trade.
But he cultivated cocoa farms. Not necessarily farms he had constructed himself, but those left to him by his mother, his elder brothers Wofa Kwasi ‘Pong and Wofa Kwadwo Adade.
It was the latter who got Kwadwo Kuma to be called “Kuma” (younger) so as to be easily distinguished from his elder brother. Two Kwadwos in one household could create problems, you see. So there were often Kwako Panin (elder) and Kwadwo Kuma in one home.
Wofa Kwadwo Kuma chose Christmas Day to go home to his ancestors. Or rather, Christmas Day kindly chose to take him away to a place where he would no longer be worried about how he was to survive after reaching the ripe old age of ninety-plus.
At that age, he probably felt that he had become a “nuisance” to his younger relatives. How would he have celebrated Christmas, this year, for instance, had Christmas spared him the journey to “far beyond”?
He lived in a social environment in which the children in one’s extended family come to your door early on Christmas Day, singing: “Merry Christmas oh! Merry Christmas oh!”, and expecting to be given biscuits or toffee or – money.
If you gave them money, they they would use it to buy crackers with which they would make noise. Would you be able to confide to them that you were dreading having to tell your wife that you don’t have enough money for her to use in making a special soup for the day? Yet, if you drove the children away, it would seem as if you didn’t “like” them! What the hell!
The cock that woke you up early each morning had got itself killed by a huge articulator truck that had parked on the road near your house. Many such trucks parked there, on their way from Tema to Burkina Faso or elsewhere.
Why do they choose to park at Nsutem? Answer: Because Nsutem is only two miles from Bunso “Junction”, and yet it isn’t as crowded, in terms of parking space, as Bunso is.
One well-known feature of Bunso is that there are many chop bars there. It even boasts of a “hotel.”
Anyway, who knows exactly what attracts truck drivers to a particular place, anywhere in the world? In America (for instance) an entire sub-culture has been built around truck drivers. Have you heard of, or seen, a film entitled Smokey And the Bandit?
Wofa Kwadwo Kuma’s cockerel went and lay beneath an articulated truck parked on the road at Nsutem. The truck’s bulging differential, actually. It hid him – from hens that passed by.
The randy cock would dash from beneath the truck, ambush the hens and jump on them. But on this day, the truck under which he was hidden had moved without first using its noisy starter and giving him a warning to get out from beneath it. The truck’s battery had died. And so, the driver and his colleagues were push-starting it. The cockerel hadn’t realised what was happening, and had been cruelly crushed.
When Kwadwo didn’t hear it at three in the morning of that day, rendering its version of “Koo-ku-ro-koo!”[Cock-a-doodle-doo] he knew instinctively that the worst had happened. He had instructed the children of the house: “Mommutu no!” [place the cock under a raffia basket and place some heavy objects on top of it so that it couldn’t scamper off after hens and get killed.]
But no-one listened to an “old man” like him these days, and unless he remembered to go and see whether his instruction had been carried out (a more difficult practice these days than he was prepared to admit!) the cock was allowed to roost where it liked. And now, it was gone.
The reason why I am able to tell you so much about WofaKwadwo Kuma is that he once saved my life and I therefore developed a close affinity with him. He knew that I loved him to bits, and so he was always able to tell me what was really in his heart.
As he lies at rest, I remember vividly how he saved my life. I was about five or six years old. He and his elder brother, Uncle KwadwoAdade, had come to Asiakwa to see us, and I had insisted on going bck with them to see this “Nsutem” place that I had hear so much about. My mother often went there for funerals but she would never take me with her. Now, my uncles had come to Asiakwa. I would go with them!
At first, they said I was too young to walk the “long” distance [of about six miles] between our two villages. But I insisted on going with them.
It turned out to be such a lovely trip. My two uncles never ceased talking, all of the three or so hours that the journey took. And I learnt a lot. They particularly excited my curiosity about a drink which they said was brewed from a type of wild palm tree that was abundant in the forest surrounding Nsutem but of which I had never heard: odoka.
Anyway, when we reached Nsutem, I was astounded to find that their house was very close to the Supong River. Not only that – the Supong, which was fairly small at Asiakwa, was surprisingly large at Nsutem. Its face was brownish, and it was so still you couldn’t see it running, whereas at Asiakwa, you could almost see the riverbed..
And then, I saw him – a boy of about my own age, called AkwasiKom. He was in the big river, swimming away like a duck. Maybe the tiredness of the journey had turned my brain into jelly, for I immediately threw my cloth on the bank of the river and was about to join the boy in the water.
My uncle yelled at me: Kwadwo! Stop right there!HE knows how to SWIM!”
Eh? At Asiakwa, the two rivers we had, Supong and Watford, were small and relatively harmless and one could swim in them at any time one felt like swimming. But that was not the case with the Supong at Nsutem?
My uncle explained to me that although the river looked still from the surface, there was something in it called owheam [current] which could catch you and take you away, unless you knew how to swim!
My respect for Kwasi Kom grew immensely and I entertained the hope that he would teach me how to swim – especially, to withstand the “current”. Alas, he never did have the time to tutor me – to my eternal regret!
Uncle Kwadwo, da yie! [Rest in peace]