“The Baby Fence-mender” by Nii Moi Thompson.

On the eighth day after the birth while the moon was yet to evanesce, kinsmen thronged the now famed compound to witness the miracle baby. It was a replica of a shanty town; unplanned cluttered dwellings with very good asphalted roads flanked by open drains.

“Did you find it easy to get here. Here, taste this.” I was greeted at the wooden gate by my fiancée, Dede, offering a calabash of fresh, hot, dark corn wine she had fetched from the cauldron sitting on flaming logs, yet to boil fully.

“Oh yes,” I slurped a little. “I told the driver I was headed for Asere in Ga Mashi…Lante…”

“Lante Djan We”, we synchronized. “Yes, yes!”

By now kinsmen and friends, all clad in traditional white had carved a crescent seating formation, leaving the middle of the compound bare, where I noticed a ring of ash. I took a seat.

“That’s my Uncle Kwei Mensah and his wife, Nyɛkwɛ Kai”, Dede nodded. They were old and grey; I could say almost or a little past three-score.

“It’s indeed a marvel”, Dede explained. “She has been childless for decades, and my grandmother has given her no rest at all.”

“Your grandmother has patience the size of my baby finger”, one lady behind us interrupted our conversation, unwelcomed. I could detect an ample doze of tartness in her voice. She sounded salty.

“I know, Nyɛkwɛ Amateokor. Let’s not ruin today”, Dede, skinning her teeth, was not one to take offense at a first jab.

A towering old woman came hobbling across the compound clutching a baby wrapped in a piece of white calico safely to her bosom. The rite was set in motion. The moon was still blessing us with good light. She commanded much respect, for everybody either rose to bow or wave at her as she lurched into the ring of ash and rid the baby of its cloth.

She held the baby up towards the moon and chanted, “We present this infant to the Supreme Being”, then laid the baby down in the circle of ash, repeating the process twice.

“Oh it’s beautiful…it’s lovely. Our ears will rest henceforth”. Nyɛkwɛ Amateokor was still casting vengeful subliminals, this time echoing it across the entire compound.

A bowl of water, signifying rain was thrown unto the aluminium roofing sheet and allowed to dribble on the baby. Next, the aged woman gently tapped the back of the baby and repeated, “Never lie, steal or cheat. Take after me.”

I stared at Dede. “She is held widely as the eldest kinsman of good repute,” she explained. I nodded.

“This is water, and this is wine. Know the difference.” I saw the baby suckle on the old woman’s finger as both corn wine and water were put in her mouth. “Henceforth, you shall be called Lamile…Lamile Amoaben-ajaaku.”

The uproar which erupted was thundering.

I followed as the kinsman handed the baby over to her mother, slapped the cork of a bottle of schnapps and offered libation on behalf of the infant.

“Agoo Ataamei ke Awomei. Tswa Tswa Tswa omanye abla’o Tswa Tswa omanye abla’o. Tswa omanye aba, Osoro (Osu) Ahatiri, Obu Ahatiri, Oboro dutu wokpe, Wodsebu wodse nu, Wo ye wo nu wo kodsii adso wo, Gboni bale etse yi ana wala, Enye yi ana wala, Esee tuu, Ehee fann, Eyi aba gbodsen, Ese aba halaann, Wekumei wona faa ni wo fa le, Eba tsu eha wo ni woye, Eko atasi ni eko aba, Ganyo humile koyo tsua dani owieo, Tsua Tsua Tsua manye aba!”

“Hiao!”, the guests said Amen to that!

After the neighbours had chucked down enough meat and emptied the cauldron of its corn wine, and everybody was dancing to the E.T. Mensah’s “Abele”, I noticed Nyɛkwɛ Amateokor had locked Dede’s grandmother in a seemingly fond embrace, both swaying to good hi-life music.

“Look at them,” Dede sniggered. “This baby has made brothers of Nanumba and Konkomba.”

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