1879 was when Tetteh Quarshie planted some cocoa seeds he smuggled from Fernando Po in Mampong Akuapim. The first produce of cocoa in Ghana, from his farm, was ready between 1884 and 1888. One Peter Botwe bought the seeds and resold them on credit to a trading company in the town. Only Peter would know how long it took for him to get his money, but when he did, he bought himself a storey building from a Dutchman. He inscribed “HONESTY IS
THE BEST POLICY. SOFLTY, SOFTLY, CATCH MONKEY” in front of the building. Local farmers quickly accepted the teachings of cocoa plantation and pioneer the industry of Ghana’s most notable export. Tetteh Quarshie’s cocoa farm is a national treasure and a tourist attraction, with some of the very first plants still bearing fruits. However, Peter’s “catch monkey” storey was recently demolished when President Kuffour decided to reconstruct the roads in the town during his first administration. Fortunately, I saw that building, walked passed it to school every day till I finished junior high.
Apart from being recognized as the pioneers of Ghana’s most priced cash crop, the Akuapims are also known for their crisp version of Twi, proverbial speeches, music, dance (fontonfrom) and the love for “bush meat” (game). Documented evidence suggests that the early settlers were Guans, Ashantis, Krobos and Adangbes. Twi became the universal language (as far back as the 1750’s) for towns like Abotakyi, Mamfe, Mampong, Obosomase and Tutu (all Guans) because it was the language the rulers spoke. I am yet to meet an Akuapim who struggles with his/her identity … proud like the peacock but effortlessly respectful. However, patriarchy and sexism are also traits. Some argue that the Akuapims have successfully built marriages and families because of respect (yeah right! the necessary respect must be accorded to the elderly and male family heads even if they’re being blatantly stupid) and patriarchy (I disagree). One of their famous sayings is “ɛnimguase mmfata Akuapimni ba” translated “disgrace does not befit the child of an Akuapim,” transcends an ordinary idiomatic expressions. This is like a liturgy, and its meaning is not taken lightly. Let’s just say it influences their actions … they live a cautious life. But when disgrace beckons or becomes inevitable, trust the Akuapim to vanish faster than naphthalene ball exposed to sunlight. They believe that a “son’s story begins with his father’s …” obviously patriarchal, but I’d subscribe to the saying for this piece.
My father’s father was born in Dego, a Fante town in the Central Region of Ghana. He was a postmaster. His mother, an Akuapim, was a trader. Work brought them from Tarkwa to Osu. The movement to Osu meant that his mother couldn’t actively trade like she did in Tarkwa, therefore the black and white television became her companion as a housewife. She later made some friends in the neighborhood … visiting them became a habit and the postmaster was not pleased to return home each day to see only his two little sons at home. She constantly repeated the reason for visiting neighbors as a better option to being at home. One day, the postmaster returned from work drunk. His wife was not at home as usual. He waited for her in the living room, and immediately the wife made an entrance, he welcomed her with a slap. His wife also grabbed the nearest vase and a coup de main saw a strike to his head. The postmaster fell flat. There was no sign of life. Out of fear, his wife packed a few belongings and together with the two boys, traveled to Tutu Akuapim where her mother lived. She then left the two boys with their grandmother and traveled further to Togo the following day. Their grandmother also took them to the village. If they had stayed in Osu with their father, I’d have probably been telling the story of the Ga.
My mother is an Akuapim, but father mostly identifies himself as a Fante (we both carry Fante surnames). I identify myself as an Akuapim, because I grew up there and I was brought up the “Akuapim way”. Oh yes! I went through the ranks. My upbringing was not garnished with classics, or playing the piano, no! As an Akuapim child, you are firstly made to understand your traditions and the need to respect the gods and your ancestors, then great granny gets to school you on “taboo 101.” Well, mine had a shrine, she served the gods with ɔtɔ (boiled yam and palm oil mashed together) and boiled eggs on every festive season as tradition demanded. It was a taboo for anyone to steal from the gods. Great granny added that anyone who stole from the gods went crazy immediately from a slap by the gods. Well I stole the boiled eggs on countless occasions from the shrine, under the gods’ watch and I’m still sane (or what do you think?). The hobbies were kyaskele, piloloo, (there are no English words for them), football, bird hunting, socks ball and counters ball. Today, if I can put my thoughts in writing, and appear to be opinionated, then I owe it to the internet and the Ghanaian friends I’m working on this project with.