The Burial of Kojo as a Window into some of Ghana’s Pertinent Issues

The Burial of Kojo employs magical realism while featuring a little girl that journeys between two spaces to save her father from giving up the ghost.

The Burial of Kojo employs magical realism while featuring a little girl that journeys between two spaces to save her father from giving up the ghost.

The narrative voice in the movie which narrates from opening to end of the movie belongs to the protagonist; – (Ama Abebrese) who is reading the story of her childhood which she has set in a book to an audience. While this story is moving, surreal and well told, it succeeds in triggering our emotions mainly because it resides on filial rivalry, struggle and finally revenge that ends fatally. However, the film maker, Blitz Bazawule, accomplishes the telling of this unique story with stark juxtapositions that show Ghana today –

Ghana ( Africa ) is in Bed with China

In Uganda, ( BBC Africa ) elementary school kids of Ugandan origin are learning Chinese. For better or for worse, the Chinese are now a strong part of their community and learning Chinese in the words of one of the students will open many doors. In Nigeria Chinese firms own exclusive rights to mine gold in Zamfara, ironically, Nigeria’s poorest state. In Ghana, the situation is no different. The New York Times reported in 2013 that a Chinese illegal miner was shot by Ghanaian police which led to heightened tensions. Chinese use/used locals as fronts to engage in mining that they are/were otherwise not allowed to do. Ghanaian miners that work with Chinese companies reported many problems including a deep disregard for labor laws and the environment as well as the use of violence. Today, in 2019, the same situation remains and nothing has changed. The movie beautifully delivers this societal plague which interestingly acts as the bridge between the dramatic plot and the realistic matter of Ghana’s economy and its murky part that touches the Chinese. The fact that the co protagonist dies in a trench dug up on a mine site speaks volumes. This death re illuminates the fact about danger that miners face / have faced over time, in different spaces and depicted in different works, as well as the reality that the deep unavoidable trench may be a symbol of exploitation, danger, injustices and above all, inequalities in Ghana today. For this reason, The Burial of Kojo also fits well into art that calls for change.

Behind the Scenes of the Trench Scene

Though the movie touches on other issues such as the great exit from small towns to the capital mostly for better opportunities and better amenities, the scenic shots from Nzulezo, Ghana’s south western village that sits on stilts (and mirrors a similar settlement in neighboring Benin . ) are wonderful additions that probably add onto the surrealism of the plot. While living in the water village, the girl ( Esi ) has many recurring dreams that show a black crow that she later comes to fully understand and tackle. Speaking of the Black crow, the pink hues that appear in those scenes that otherwise should look morbid and dark, make the scarier scenes easier to watch.

The movie however feeds into the cliché of certain stock colors representing good and bad. Why does the White dove not represent evil and why can the Black crow for once not represent good? Regardless, a particularly unconventional aspect of the film is that it is totally in two major Ghanaian languages; Fante and Twi, and subtitled in English.

Kojo in the Water Village (Nzulezo)

Symbols

The use of dream sequences ( Kojo’s recurring dream and Esi’s dream ) as a technique not only facilitates story telling but also speaks of the Ghanaian socio consciousnesses that attaches so much importance to dreams. Esi finally discovers through a dream, the cause of her father’s near fatal situation in the trench and goes into another dream to try to rescue her father. The dreams in addition to the moments where the characters undergo deep streams of consciousness feature special types of lights that signal to viewers the difference between regular scenes and scenes that are supposed to be mental projections of the characters.

The Scene with Esi’s mom’s stream of Consciousness

The Western Erasure of African Tragedy

But in the aftermath of the tragedy, many Western media outlets reported the news with unevenly rationed compassion. Some stoked unfounded suspicions about the caliber of the airline itself. Others stripped their reporting of emphasis on Africa almost entirely, framing the tragedy chiefly in terms of its impact on non-African passengers and organizations.

This article was written by Hannah Giorgis and published on The Atlantic blog…parts of it will be highlighted in this post, however, for the original story, go on The Atlantic

According to a list shared by Ethiopian Airlines following the crash, these passengers hailed from 35 countries. Several nations suffered more than five casualties—among them, Kenya, Canada, Ethiopia, China, Italy, the United States, France, the United Kingdom, and Egypt. In the hours following initial reports, the corners of Twitter, WhatsApp, and Facebook frequented by African users were filled with shock and horror, mourning and disbelief. The crash seemed senseless, and its human toll devastating.

But in the aftermath of the tragedy, many Western media outlets reported the news with unevenly rationed compassion. Some stoked unfounded suspicions about the caliber of the airline itself. Others stripped their reporting of emphasis on Africa almost entirely, framing the tragedy chiefly in terms of its impact on non-African passengers and organizations.

Elsewhere, Western publications engaged in selective reporting about the deceased. The Washington Post, for example, led its homepage coverage Sunday with a headline that informed readers only that “Eight Americans among 157 people killed in Ethiopian Airlines crash.” (The Washington metropolitan area has the largest population of Ethiopian descent outside the country itself.) In a tweet about the national background of the deceased, the Associated Press listed eight nations affected by the crash. Not one of the countries mentioned in the AP’s list is populated by black Africans. This, despite the fact that Kenya topped the list of the deceased, with 32, and nine Ethiopians were on board. On CNN and BBC News, the presence of American and British nationals respectively is what drew narrative prominence. (In a brutal irony, the Nigerian writer Pius Adesanmi, author of You’re Not a Country, Africa, was among those on the flight.)

For a full reaction to this write up and more, listen to episode 4 of the Affickypodcast. On this episode, we talk Monsters and Representation, how certain groups are perceived in society and what effects this perception has on these groups on many levels. Also read Which deaths matter for a broader view of the discussion.

Should the Conversation surrounding Consent be Culturally Packaged?

This post acknowledges other relationship types but stays within heterosexual relationships for the purpose of this post.

 Whether we've ever copulated, intertwined, fucked or quite colloquially rolled in the sack, no matter the number of times, the act and its frequency simply do not translate into an automatic go-ahead that whoever is welcome without my consent!

My screen lit up. It was a simple link leading to a story of a young Ghanaian. He’d been reported to the police. His feet had taken him into the bedroom of his white female acquaintance who he’d had sex with. The woman had been asleep (read: drunk) and had obviously not been fully aware of the events that took place in her bed. I shook my head in awe and disbelief but mostly in awe.

…..She’d taken his name to the police despite the number of times they’d been together. Interesting…

Capture d_écran 2018-10-07 à 12.14.52

We sat in the auditorium waiting for the western experts to come talk to the local African students union about Consent. My temporary concerns were typically millennial; – I needed a source of power for my dying cell phone.  I needed to post highlights of the conversation to my Instagram feed. I needed to note down key points. I finally found a power station and then turned my focus off the device to the humans around me.

My friend quickly analyzed the seating arrangements in the room and compared it to the African society only we had seen growing up, and which, only we, could quite conveniently dare to analyze…The men sat up front in their burly suits, wearing their overall sense of self-importance around their necks like their stifling neckties. They carried equally bulky briefcases and wore shiny leather shoes that only they, could see their bloated self-reflections in. A pair of spectacles or two sat on tired noses. They were exhausted but determined to bombard the foreign experts with questions. ‘How dare you spoil our women with messages that will make them rebel? We’re here to cross-examine your intentions, first, it was feminism, now its consent,…’

Behind them was the matriarchy, we sat expectant, speaking in loud tones and ready to jump on anyone who dared hush us up. This was our time, we had a voice, anyone who wasn’t with it didn’t understand women’s empowerment, we were here and our objective opinions were valid.

Behind us sat the newbies, a mixture of men and women who weren’t quite sure of their contribution or place in the group.  Well, just yet…..Beside me, a male in his late twenties started to engage me in small talk surrounding the language of consent.

-Do our people really understand consent?

-I honestly don’t think some African guys understand the language of consent.

-Why?

-I mean,….consent is always mostly left in that messy place between let me convince them a bit more or let me reason out with them on why they should probably be doing x or y with me…

-But sometimes the women mean yes when they say no…..or what do you think? Really why do you think consent is one big blurry area in our part of the world? Aren’t our women ours?

Its many things, I would say a part of it comes from sexism and the different reactions to what a person does based on their sex. First, of, the concept of sex with enthusiasm begs many questions. Is this sex pre-marital or marital sex because we are schooled differently on how to react to these two types of sex. Sex education which is taught as a topic under the Religious and Moral Education course is full of Bible quotations and a tirade of do’s and don’ts. To summarize what we learn in this class, it simply remains at three words, –  ‘DON’T DO IT’.  Then, suddenly a person marries and is suddenly supposed to know what to do, or women become wives, remain pure and true while husbands daydream of that nasty mistress who was so uninhibited and knew just the right thing to do. Needless to say, women are taught to cater to EVERY need of the husband IF we want happy homes. Also, pre-marital sex is usually about sinning and asking for forgiveness later. The persons in question go in under a thick web of shame and guilt that sits on their shoulder, undresses with them and lays on the bed of fornication with them. Images of hell replay over and over and the sweltering heat of Ghana serves as a visual reminder of how hellish Hell will be if they do not repent. What enthusiasm will there be to show in a situation like that? Most importantly is the fact that the religious message surrounding sex is more severe on women than it is on men (read: through the backings of religion, women’s sexuality and not that of men’s is controlled). Maybe hypersexuality, zeal or interest is whorish. Maybe certain sex positions are not honorable enough for wives. Girlfriends and hoes are the ones that are deserving of being turned over like pieces of furniture, not pure wedded wives….. All these combative reasons and more, push women to indirectly show interest in ways that can be misleading. The idea is that even if I am interested, I would not want to be won over easily…Let me show interest, but let me not be over the top interested otherwise, they may think I’m a hoe…..

-Yeah because I know about that myth that says that she may be saying no but she actually means yes….so what do we really do then?

-No means no. Take the word for what it is and do nothing unless you are absolutely sure the person wants whatever is being offered. Yes, that is said in fear, under the influence of alcohol, under direct cohesion do not equal consent. Also, no matter the number of times you’ve been together, consent is needed for EACH TIME, even if she is your wife or partner or if you think you own them because you paid for them.

-….What if I’m the one she relies on for everything? Do I not deserve some love?

-Do you deserve or do you feel entitled?

-Do you speak of male entitlement?

-Yep,…don’t you think some males are entitled? Deserving something and being entitled to something are very different concepts…

-True..

-I was at a party and this guy wanted to talk to me, I was standing with a group and he walked up and asked for me to speak privately with him. I refused, and then he came back later to ask if I was ready this time. To show his insistence, he grabbed my forearm, ….was he deserving of or entitled to my attention?…..my friend got catcalled in the streets on her way home. She loves to show off her legs and she stands at about six feet one. She wore her mini jupe and set about her life’s activities. The catcalls were ignored but then she realized she’d soon gained a literal follower who was upset that she had ignored him previously. He pursued her until she got really frightened and called her mom. Did he feel entitled to her attention or did he deserve her attention?….

-That’s rough.

-Yep. She always talks about it…..I think she may need to talk to someone after this episode…

-The experts are here…

-I see them.