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PSA: The English version of this piece can be viewed via this link: almazohene.substack.com/p/sep-2021-guest-post-2
[Image description: The text be ‘How Anybody Go Know Sey You Be Ghanaian’ on navy blue background wey lilac paintbrush stroke dey highlight the segment]
The sun dey shine waa for Osu here. Ebi Sunday. I dey sit some man ein front. E for collect all my information take tear Ghana Card give me. E dey wear nose mask so I no fit see ein face, but the way e dey talk I know sey e taya. We all taya. Me too I stand queue inside the whole day.
Name? He ask me.
Fui Can-Tamakloe, I tell am.
Are you employed?
If you be writer for Accra, you go understand sey if anybody ask you whether you dey job, you just for talk no.
Are you married?
I tell am sey I no marry. E raise ein head take watch me. I see wedding band for ein finger top. I know sey for the mask ein back this guy dey smile.
Why, what are you waiting for?
I take my normal answer give am. I tell am sey I no meet girl I go like marry.
What languages can you speak?
If them ask you this question pɛ you for know what dey go on. I tell am my mind. E raise ien head watch me better. Be like my answer shock am.
Only English? he no even try hide the fact sey my answer over am.
I tell am say yes.
No Twi, Ewe, or even Ga?
I no waste my time explain to am sey I dey barb small Twi, I fit write Ga too small, but ebi Ewe wey I no shedaa dey barb at all. Last time I biz some Ga man something for Ga inside. My man listen me wey e start laugh. E tell me sey make I never try speak Ga again. Like I want ask am sey if e dey laugh me, how e dey expect sey I go learn?
Where do you come from?
Ryder your man turn detective. E want know everything. No be small Hercule Poirot.
I tell am sey I dey commot Whuti. Whuti be next to Anloga. E dey Volta Region inside. For that side, the sea dey swallow the land. My family get cemetery wey dey the beach ein body. At first then some gap dey, but small small the water dey gbɛnkɛ the graves all. More times e no go kyɛɛ then the graves all go dey under sea.
So you're Ewe?
I be Anlo-Ewe. For English inside, if you talk "I am" e dey make you feel like sey vim dey. But if you turn am, “Am I?” you start dey sound like sey all your vim loss.
And you cannot even speak Ewe? Sherlock Holmes still dey toa so, your man really just want make I feel some way.
So how will anyone know you’re Ghanaian?
At that point I start dey think plenty. I dey kai my grandmommy, then she be old teacher. Sekof she no want make we brɛ for life inside, this woman make all of ein grandkiddies learn Blɛ first before anything else. If you know Blɛ talk, more things dey you go fit do than if you no know Blɛ talk.
I start dey think of how the British people no make I learn my own languages. I dey think of the schools wey dey Ghana, wey still dey paint No Speaking Vernacular for the walls top. I dey think of all the times wey as we be kiddies we laugh more niggas sekof them dey mix mix Ble then demma house language. Ebe nonsense play we play before. I kai how then we get five English periods for the week inside, but as e come Ghanaian Language then the periods be two pɛ. I dey think about all the kiddies wey them lash lash sekof them catch them sey them dey speak demma own language.
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As I start dey write for pidgin inside, then I no get solid reason for am. I try am sekof then I want see how story go dey if them rep am for Pidgin inside. But as I do am, that be when I see sey somethings dey ebi Pidgin pɛ we fit take talk. English just no dey fit. E no reach.
Rydee if I dey write for pidgin inside, ebi sekof I want make more people read the things wey I dey write. But I fit dey there dey think about Ewe. Like I fit write for Ewe, how e go feel like? What I go write? For Ghana if you no fit speak your own language, you dey feel someway. Like sey everybody get ein group wey you no dey inside.
Pidgin be rebellion. If you dey speak am, then you know. For school then e easy sey them go stop you if you dey speak local language, but as for Pidgin, them try teey but them just no fit. Pidgin be how we dey control English. We dey make the white people know sey we take demma language wey we improve am. We give am correct flavour. That be why if I dey write for pidgin inside, I dey feel like sey I get some kind power. Like some part of me dey wey nobody go fit take from me.
More times I dey take poetry talk more of the things I no dey fit talk. Some time then I dey drink plus my paddy wey we start dey talk about pidgin then identity. Ebi that inspiration I take rep this poem.
We Call It Beautiful
We talked about everything.
From funny tweets to politics, music and love.
One time we spoke about gendered pronouns and how they don't exist in Pidgin.
Not just Pidgin, you said. Fante, Twi, Ga and Ewe too!
And I suddenly came to the realisation that gendered pronouns don't exist in our languages because when They only see genders,
We see people.
And if what Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o said is true, and language really is the carrier of our culture, then misogyny, homophobia and transphobia are not our heritage.
Then we spoke about languages, words, and all the other things we lost in the violence of colonisation.
How I'll never know the joy of writing poetry in Ewe because I never learned to speak it. How people say Ga is a harsh language because of how it sounds.
But everything bad that ever happened to us; Everything untrue about who we are;
Was only ever written in English, and we still call it beautiful.
I feel sey if anybody wan know if I be Ghanaian or not, them just for ask.
[Image description: The text be ‘PRODUCED BY’ on navy blue background wey get lilac paintbrush stroke for top]
Fui Can-Tamakloe be writer wey dey stay Accra, Ghana. E dey like dey explore more of the relationships wey Ghanaians get plus demma environment. Fui dey write for English den Pidgin inside. More of ein works dey on online platforms. Fui dey love talk about writing, drink beer for beach top, then ask government plenty questions for social media.