Fred Hunter had to get to Kumasi to cover what might be the last great ritual of traditional Africa, the enstoolment of the Asantehene. But, as they say, West Africa Wins Again. Which means don’t count on anything happening until it happens. West Africa did not disappoint.
Enstoolment preparations made, there were other stories to write. With our Ghanaian friend Jeannie, whose house we used as a mail drop when we were in West Africa, Donanne and I went to Koforidua. There the three of us toured a cocoa plantation. Cocoa, the source of chocolate, was one of Ghana’s main exports. I thought I should know what cocoa pods and their seeds looked like. We drove on to Akosombo, had lunch and inspected the country’s premier development project, the earthen dam athwart the Volta River.
Returning to Accra, we went to Dan’s Milk Bar to feast on ice cream. Donanne and I had hot fudge sundaes. Jeannie was partial to the coffee ice cream.
The day before we expected to go to Kumasi we had lunch at the home of the tall, slender and very good-looking Ghanaian journalist who acted as a Monitor stringer. I envied the fact that he had published a novel in London. His wife was a dancer. She moved with grace; her skin had a burnished quality and a café au lait color. Also at lunch was the stringer’s son, perhaps ten years old. He was very dark, so richly dark that I wondered how the mixed-race dancer could have borne a son his color. We ate African and tossed around ideas about the enstoolment. I asked if ritual murder still went on. The stringer laughed. “Impossible to know,” he said. “When you come back from Kumasi, maybe you can tell me.”
The next day at the airport after we waited several hours, our flight was canceled. The most important of enstoolment ceremonies would take place early the next afternoon. “If I don’t get to Kumasi tomorrow,” I told a journalist colleague who lived in Accra, “I’ll have some explaining to do.”
“I guess I’ll drive up,” he told me.
“I’ll take a chance on the plane,” I replied. The airlines people had assured me that the flight would take off early the next day.
“Good luck, chappie,” he said.
I told him about lunching with the stringer and his family.
“They have no children,” he said. “That boy’s the kid of one of your man’s wives up country.” The journalist laughed at the expression of surprise on my face. “I believe he has two wives up there. They tend farms for him.”
“Oh,” I said.
The journalist corked my shoulder. “You’re in Africa, right?”
“Last time I checked.”
“Better check again.”
Going back to the house I kept pondering: Three wives! I’d thought that the stringer and I were very much the same sort of person. But he had three wives. (As things turn out, the stringer and I later emailed about this matter and my journalist colleague was apparently misinformed. The stringer maintains that he never had multiple wives.)
Despite all the warnings, the bafflements and the uncertainties of getting there, we were determined to see Opoku Ware II enstooled. Would we actually get there?
Next post: The great tribal rite takes place! Opoku Ware enstooled!