Tuesday, November 07, 2006

By Melissa Rick

Her dark face worn with clusters of wrinkles, demanded respect from the many difficult years each wrinkle represented.  She had a subtle shake, a combination of years and illness.  A few days prior, Gundona the female chief had been in the hospital and still carried a deep chest cough with her as a souvenir of some irritating illness.  She has been ruling for seven years now.  Traditional leaders in Ghana still play important roles.  Although they are no longer military leaders, they act for the social service interests of their people and as lobbyists. 
Gundonaís palace was part of a mud compound house that housed over 300 individuals.  The room she was sitting in when we visited her was one of these circular clay rooms.  It contained no windows and the sun tried to permeate the darkness through two doors located on either side of the room.  Flies swarmed the room and the heat gave it a strange smugly atmosphere.  Thundering drums gave a droning sound outside the room. 
She sat on a raised platform on skins.  In the Northern Region of Ghana the chiefs sit on skins whereas in the South they sit on stools.  For a chief to be dethroned it is called de-skinned or de-stooled.  We presented Gundona with a cell phone as a gift.  Through a translator she thanked us then told us of the grievances of her and her people.  She asked us to provide her with a car and to get the community a health clinic.  We didnít know what to say.  As we climbed back into our air-conditioned bus, we were humbled and determined to remember this and the many similar experiences we experience daily in Ghana. 

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