Market and Stories

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

By Melissa Rick

A couple of weekends ago I stayed at a Ghanaian familyís house.  They are a wonderful couple from the church that I attend that have been generous to show me different aspects of normal Ghanaian life.  When they picked me up from my hostel, we immediately went to a Farmerís market.  Me and Ante Charity went into the market.  Immediately after exiting the car a small girl with enormous metal bowl on her head attached herself to us.  She would carry all of the produce and food stuffs that Charity bought on her head.  Many like children were following all the other individuals in the market.  I was amazed what these small children could balance on their heads.  The bowls were overflowing with yams, pineapple, fruit, meat, and more. 
Charity moved confidently through the market as I followed along in her shadow in a state of sensory overload.  There was kenkey (balls of dough wrapped in corn husks), dried shrimp and fish, fresh hunks of meat, all kinds of fruits, and vegetables.  Charity talked to the sellers (wura) in Twi.  At each stand the amount the item is sold in is grouped together, like 5 for 2, 000 cedis.  Usually the seller would smile as she packaged the items and throw a couple extra into the bag.  Food stuff seems to follow clear gender roles in Ghana.  Men sell kabobs, meat, coconuts, and on the street popcorn.  Women sell everything else from working the chop bars (where we each most of our meals), to the small stales, fruit, and water.
Later that day, I played with their grandchildren and tried to teach them how to pop gum.  It was fun to be called Ante Melissa and Ante Akosua (my Twi day name).  Charity taught me how to make groundnut soup.  Later that night the power went off as part of the scheduled rolling blackouts.  We sat around in the living room and told stories.  I though it was interesting that they told Western and African stories.  I heard African tales I had heard before and are famous in this area, like the Ashante story of the Golden Stool.  In West Africa, Ananse (the spider) is a central role in folktales.  He is clever, lazy, and gets in trouble.  They told different stories with Ananse as the central character.  The variety of the stories was interesting.  I think that Western and African cultures influence each other and take different elements from each.  However, I also think there is an unequal exchange with African cultural elements losing.  For example, I never heard African folktales before coming to Africa but in African Western folktales were told.  Another surprise and insightful observation. 

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