John B.A. Agandin
John A. Agandin, born at Sandema- Balansa (in 1983), attended Balansa Primary School, Ayieta Junior High School and Sandema Secondary Technical High School. He was trained as a teacher at St. John Bosco’s Training College in Navrongo and taught in Sandema Junior High School between 2006 and 2008. He studied Geography at the University of Ghana and Development Geography at the University of Bergen, Norway. Currently he is working as a Research Officer at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in Accra.
He has a lively devotion to literary and cultural works and has recently published a collection of Bulsa folktales titled “The Adventures of Asuom – Folktales from Northern Ghana”, published by Afram Publications Ghana Ltd.
The Matrimonial dance (Nipok-fiak gogta)
The song cut through the waves
Of the windy December night.
Mother hushes the children
As we scramble to the rooftops
Straining our ears to hear
The name of the newly married man.
His father’s father’s name in fact.
The song sounds faint and far
As the gentle harmattan breeze
Carries the evening voices away.
The house and its inhabitants are still now
Awaiting the breeze and the voices
To bring home the glad tidings
Of the young man who has attained
The noble feat of marriage.
Excitement looms, hearts skip faster
And then acclaim and applause
As the breeze turns our way.
Names of the great great grandfathers
Of the groom are mentioned in song
And their appellations are intoned joyfully
Whilst poking fun and mockery at competitors
Who are now told to go and clear farmlands
Having lost the race to marry the damsel.
The talk of the house turns to marriage
Those who have recently married
And those eligible to wed
Are the subject of our chatter.
There is a renewed urgency in our steps
And the work of cooking the evening meal
Is carried on with new energy and intent.
Mother calls out to the kitchen
That sister should not “over hurry” the TZ
As big brother scurries into the room
To sort out a pair of trousers and sandals
All in preparation for the nuptial dance.
Whispers, giggles and excited babble
Is heard all over the yard
As young boys and girls talk about
The impending dance
That is to come so far far away.
For the bride is destined far away.
So father forbade the young ones to go
For the night is pitch dark and gloomy
With thick harmattan dust
You cannot see a finger in front of your nose!
Yet for all that, to the dance we must go.
Sister stumbles out coughing
Weeping with smoke in her eyes
Tripping over firewood, spilling the salt
And upsetting kaponta1 all over the floor.
In anger father forbids her going
And she saunters about in the yard sulking
As mother goes to complete the cooking.
It is a vain command from father though
For go, she must, as many others like her.
They will scale the walls of the house
Walls that they normally consider high.
From all corners of the land
Young girls and even wives will scale
Their fathers and husbands compounds
To mingle with their peers at the bridal dance.
There will be no sleep tonight
No rest for weary limps
Tonight is a celebration of continuity.
The old recall their own nuptials
And spring onto the dance floor
To shake old congealed limps.
The youthful are eager
To catch the eyes of new admirers
And jump into the crowded floor
Dancing with aptitude and vigor
As if possessed by the spirits
Displaying great skill and potency.
The children are not left out
For they also must practice
To steady their limps and steps.
As they will take over the mantle
In their own time.
Fowls are slaughtered
Money is flung or pressed on foreheads
And bottles of akpeteshie are drained
Until bodies become numb to the cold
Of the approaching dawn.
The elderly are always first to leave
But the young stay on
Dancing and drinking the night away
Rubbing bodies in the nuptial dance.
Maidens showcase their form and skills
Earning admiration from young men.
Many acquaintances will be struck
And the seeds of new nuptials sown.
As the sun creeps towards the east to be born,
An ecstatic night draws to a close
And we all steal back home
To rest aching limps on wearied mats
In preparation for another day
And anticipating the next market day
When the ritual would be renewed.
1Thick porridge used in preparing TZ
The sun rose quickly and majestically
Shining happily in all brilliance
His rays struck with fierce-some joy
Upon the bare brown earth.
There is not a cloud in the heavens
Energy gushes forth in torrents,
All life glows with vigour and intent,
Birds, beasts, gods and men.
The land is awake, zealous and festive
It is an hallowed day,
Bubbly with contentment and laughter.
Soon the drums thrill, the whistles blow
Goats and sheep, rams and bulls
Bleat and moo in joyous ecstasy.
The birds chirp, the doves coo
Kids and calves bray and fray round the house
And smoke rises from cooking places.
It is Feok!
This day we shall eat and be merry
We shall evoke and celebrate
And dance with strength and skill
The dance of our fathers.
Like one mighty heart soon the land
Will throb with our heavy dance steps.
We will recall the valour and skill,
The courage and strength,
And the charity of our fathers,
Who rose against the cowardly Babatu
and his marauding beasts
And slew and smote them upon the plains.
Oh how are the mighty fallen?
Who defied even the pale rulers of the land?
That piled and pillaged the countryside
And dared to raise their haughty brows
Against the valiant of our land?
They met more than their match here.
At their peril they fought the sons of Buluk
Supposing to add them to their haul
But a call came from Acham
A war cry resounded round Azagsuk.
This land breeds gods not men
The cowards fled forth to their death!
Let the drums roll
And the horns and whistles blow
Let it be told over the rooftops
And announced over the re-diffusion boxes
Let all join in the praise of the land
Where men are men by deeds
As they drink the delights of battle
For the sheer love of the motherland.
Let the dainty beauties of the land,
The proud mothers of the soil,
The noble fathers of the plains,
And the energetic youth of the country,
File forth to the market place.
Let none remain at home
Neither the patriarch of five score years
Nor the infant at the breast.
Let the trees and hills resound with war cries
Let us retell the tales of gallantry
Let us join in the dance of the ancestors
And raise a cloud of dust today
Let us eat maasa and koosa;
And chew kola nuts and tobacco;
Let us drink the pito pots dry;
Let us find us wives today;
Earth, stop and stare!
It is Feok!
Morning after Feok
The land is soundless and still
As the mighty calm after the storm
Tired and worn out from the trampling
And stomping these last many days gone by
From homes, to the palace, the market
And back to homes again with drums
Humming and buzzing all day nonstop
Horns and whistles calling from rooftops
Singing the praise of ancient warriors
Men’s blood boiling in response
And hearts throbbing with the drums
All was now silent and spent.
The patter of the feet of excited children
The dainty steps of maidens
The eager stride of energetic youths
The heavy drag of grey bearded old men
The resounding trod of war dancers
And sweaty women chasing them
Round and round the market place
That made the land throb and tremble
All that is now still and resting.
All is wearied with aching joints
And sprained muscles sore
None is stirring.
The air is still and thick
Clad with a heavy cloak of dust
Looming over the horizon
Like an approaching storm.
The trees stand motionless
Even the birds are not stirring yet
Safe one solitary strange bird
Calling in the distance
Breaking the silence before the break
Of the whizzing harmattan wind
That will dissipate the dusty curtain
And all come alive at once again.