Last week at about this time I was putting the final touches to my essay for threesixtygh’s #360WritersChallenge. The theme of the competition was “Untold Stories Of Ghanaian Culture” and participants were supposed to write fictional stories which brought to light aspects of Ghanaian culture that are relatively unknown; at least that’s how I interpreted the instructions.
I was excited when I first began the essay. This was a chance to challenge myself as well as get to know more about Ghanaian culture, a topic which I admit I have very scanty knowledge of, and of course, the prizes would surely come in handy. Within a few days however, this excitement soon gave way to frustration as I struggled to settle on a topic and also found out how difficult it was to get adequate material for my work.
A couple of options seemed the best bets for me. One of the ideas was related to the floods Ghana has been experiencing almost perennially, the recent of which, on the 3rd of June this year, is one of the worst disasters in Ghana in living memory.
Due to irresponsibility of both government and its citizens, the rainy season in Ghana is now a time of fear and panic and the mere gathering of dark clouds sends hearts racing and feet along with them. I feel however that rain is supposed to be a source of joy. Rain means the planting season begins. Rain means good harvests. Rain means kids running around and getting wet. Rain means lovers exchanging a passionate kiss and that old couple rekindling their passions in search of warmth. Rain means blessings, renewal, celebration and I strongly believe that in the past, there were festivals of prayer and supplication to beseech the deities for rain as well as festivals to celebrate the coming of the rains. I believe if we manage to tell these stories, we’ll begin to see the importance of rain and the need to prepare for it. Unfortunately, I seemed to be mixing up my Nigerian history with Ghanaian history and I soon found out that most of the festivals in Ghana are harvest festivals celebrated months after the end of the rains.
I finally settled on the culture of marking the faces of children. Tribal marking is a practice that sadly, still occurs in some Ghanaian societies and is still performed on little children whose rights are trampled upon and whose faces and lives are marked forever. And while excuses like identification and medicinal purposes are still given for some of these practices, the reality is that tribal marking is an act that infringes on a person’s rights and should be outlawed.
Doubts plagued me throughout the writing of my final essay and I wasn’t helped by the lack of material online about Ghanaian culture. I made a million and one changes to my draft and criticism and help from some very good friends were very important to my final submission. I must admit even as I pen this down, that I am still wracked by doubts and fears. I have however rediscovered the need for going to a library and reading beyond one’s scope of study. I have also learnt that there is the need to start telling some of these stories because if we don’t, in the near future they won’t be untold; they’d be forgotten stories.
At 23:59 today the winners of the competition will be announced and I have been a nervous wreck until just a few moments ago when I wrote this down. I do want to win this competition and I am glad of the experience. Going forward however, I want to tell untold stories of Ghanaian culture because we do have some absolutely beautiful stories to tell.