Tag Archives: Ghana

Addae’s Birthday Gift

Addae opened his eyes. Dim light was filtering through shutters but the sun was not yet up. His little sister, Echo, was sleeping quietly on a mat beside him. He could hear noise outside. Momma and Lale, Addae’s older sister, were preparing the morning meal. Poppa would already be out gleaning grain in the fields, but would return in time to eat before catching a tro tro into the city for work.

Addea jumped up and ran from the hut. He loved to run. He would run everywhere. This morning was no exception. He looked at the sky. It was pink.

He ran faster.

He would wash himself at the village well and race back before the sun touched his hut. Addae’s name meant Morning Sun. Momma said he earned that name by making her wait all night for delivery.

Addae arrived at the well only to find that Raziya and her mother were already there. Raziyah was two months older than Addae. She was fast, for a girl, but Addae would never concede that  she could out run him. He must have slept too long.

“Greetings, Addae.” Raziya’s mother smiled at him.

Addae bowed his head. “Good morning, Auntie. Hope you slept well.”  Addae was still breathing hard, making it difficult to speak the greeting. Raziya smiled. Addae frowned.

Raziya’s mother drew a pitcher of water from the well and poured it in a bucket. “Does the morning sun withhold its smile from our humble village?”  Raziya held the bucket for her mother.

“No, Auntie.” Addae grimaced.

“That is not much better. Come closer, Addae.”

Addae approached Raziya’s mother. Raziya scowled.

“Today is an important day. You must look your best.”

Addae nodded.

“Bow your head.”

Addae obeyed.

Raziya’s mother poured cool water over Addae’s head and torso. He sputtered, scrubbing his head, then his chest with his hands. He wiped the water and sleep from his eyes and smiled for the first time. Raziya and her mother smiled back.

“I thank  you for your kindness.”

Raziya watched Addae as her mother once again dipped the pitcher in the well. Addae looked up as morning rays touched tree tops.” He must hurry, he thought.  “God’s blessings, Auntie.”

“God’s blessings, Addae.”

Addae sprinted from the well, down a dusty path. He wove between huts with great speed. When he rounded a corner and came upon his own hut, he stopped, abruptly. Something  was different.

He looked to the sky. In spite of not being first to the well he had raced the sun and had won. Morning rays had not yet touched his hut.

“Momma?  Poppa?” he called.

No one answered.

The charcoal fire was burning, serpentine smoke snaking in the gentle morning breeze, and there were cakes on the fire. The clay oven was lit and bread was baking, but neither Momma, Lale or Echo were close by.

Addae entered the hut.

Momma? Lale? Echo?

He heard something outside and ran out of the hut.

“SURPRISE.”

Addae jumped. Momma, Poppa, Lale and Echo were all there smiling and laughing as the morning sun washed over them.  Addae laughed too.

“Greetings, my son, and birthday wishes,” Poppa said.

“Greetings, Poppa, and thank you,” Addae replied.

“We have a gift for you.”

“A gift?” He could see no gift.

“For your birthday,” Echo said, as Poppa drew a bundle wrapped in brown paper from behind his back. Addae’s eyes grew big and Poppa laughed. The paper crinkled as Addae took the package from Poppa.

“What is it?” Addae asked.

“You must open it, brother,” Lale said.

“Your sister speaks truth,” Momma laughed. “Open it.”

Addae beamed then tore into the package. When the paper fell away, he held up a brilliant blue, long sleeved polo shirt with three stripes on it and the word, Adidas.

“Put it on,” Momma said.

“It is Adidas,” Poppa said. “It will make you fast.”

“Addaedas,” Echo said. “like you.”

Addae put the shirt on over his naked chest and they all laughed. It was much too big.

“He will grow into it,” Lale said.

“He will grow out of it,” Momma said.

Poppa smiled. “Run, Addae. Run, before the morning sun climbs too high.”

Behind the scenes

The boy in the photograph was very proud of his  Adidas shirt. He told us it made him fast. He received it for his birthday. His parents bought it at a store in Accra which sold used clothing donated from the United States. In Lubumbashi, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, I saw one child with a Los Angeles Lakers jersey . I live near Lone Peak High School in Cedar Hills, Utah and was surprised to see a boy in Sierra Leone wearing a Lone Peak High School jersey.

I have been to Africa many times. It is a continent of contrasts not free from turmoil or strife. Yet, in my travels throughout the continent, I have been blessed by many people of kindness, faith and love. The story above is based on a visit to the village of Yamoransah, Ghana. There I met a family I grew to admire in a very short period of time. Their lives are much different from my own. Yet, we share a common desire, to see our children grow up in the light of the morning sun.

African Adidas
While his little sister shyly watches, this African boy stands proud in his Adidas.

 

Mat Maker, Yamoransah Village, Ghana

Cedar City Art Walk Image 10.

This is the last of ten images in my show at the Cedar City Art Walk, in Cedar City, Utah. If you haven’t yet seen the show, there is still time. The show runs through the end of the month. If you can’t see the show check out each of the images on my blog. Thanks for stopping by.

Woman works with root fibers
Working with root fibers in Yamoransah village, Ghana.

Her fingers were relentless, working the root fibers back and forth, back and forth, smooth; arms and shoulders made strong with the repetition of mat making. In a crumbling stone building, the women of Yamoransah toil daily to transform roots into food. Mats are a useful by-product.

She showed me how she made them; the same way her mother made them, and her grandmother before her; the heat of West Africa bringing nothing more than a sheen to her chocolate smooth skin, while I was drenched in sweat.

Without words we watched each other work, I with my camera, she with her body. When I motioned for permission to take her photograph, she held my gaze. I looked in her eyes and she did not look away. Our worlds were separated by barely bridgeable miles and Lifetimes of experience. Our lives were mutually incomprehensible. Yet, in this moment I was blessed by her grace. I left Yamoransah with more than I expected.

 

For more info on my show check out a June 11th article in The Spectrum.

http://www.thespectrum.com/story/entertainment/2015/06/09/suu-features-exhibition-stories-tell/28764023/

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Village Matriarch, Yamoransah, Ghana

Cedar City Art Walk Image 7.

Village Matriarch
Though she is old, she leads–perhaps because she is old.

Three hours from Accra and the roads got really rough. We had been driving into the bush and each mile seemed to take a millennium. The more we drove, the farther back in time we went. As we drove into the village of Yamoransah, young girls stared at us as they mashed roots for food. Young children surrounded us, posing for our cameras. The village Matriarch watched our approach, proudly. She did not speak English. There was no need. This was her village.

As we approached, she slowly rose and the children quieted. She did not need her walking stick for authority. Her voice was soft and quiet, yet the young mothers gathered their children and went inside.

Somewhere, in the delicate balance of past and present, she kept her village safe. The old ways still worked, although her eyes were growing dim.

Teenagers charged their cell phones at a generator near the village well.

 

For more info on my show check out a June 11th article in The Spectrum.

http://www.thespectrum.com/story/entertainment/2015/06/09/suu-features-exhibition-stories-tell/28764023/

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Yamoransah Village

I was the stranger, lost in time.  Her eyes asked questions I could not understand. Our paths crossed–our lives tangent. She let me take her photograph.  I did not consider it thievery, although the trade was in my favor. I will not forget her face.

Woman works with root fibers
Working with root fibers in Yamoransah village, Ghana.