A Chat With Akwamufie Queenmother
It was sunset on a Thursday in a community at the mountainous Akwamu dynasty in the Eastern Region of Ghana. The atmosphere was calm, bright and fulfilling with every 'Kwasi, Kwame and Ama' going about their normal duties.
But for an 18-year-old Yaa Baomah, it was a turning point in her life as the unexpected happened to her that faithful day.
The royal family of Akwamufie, one of the significant towns in Ghana’s history, was meeting at the Abusafie at the centre of the town to discuss and find a successor to the late Nana Ansaah I.
With no expectation, Yaa Boamah found herself in the auspicious meeting at the Abusuafie, where she was confined. For two weeks, her relation with friends and some of her family members was cut short. Rather, she had to learn the traditions and customs of the Akwamu people in order to become queenmother.
Now, 62, and queenmother of Akwamu Traditional Area, Nana Afrakumah II, recall how she was prepared for her coronation as the queenmother for the area when Group Two called at her palace this morning.
Dressed in her traditional regalia, she reminisced: 'I wept the whole day of my coronation. This is because I was not going to have the opportunity to play with my peers and do certain things in public again.'
She said that her mother was supposed to have been installed the queen- mother, but due to her old age, the mantle fell on her.
She said that because she was not married and it was difficult for men to come closer to propose to her, her family and the then chief, Nana Kwaafo II, arranged a suitor for her.
Forty-two years since her instalment, Nana Afrakumah has used her role as the queenmother of the area to influence her people in various ways, especially the as regards traditions and customs.
She said everyone in the community has been assigned responsibilities during Odwira festival celebrated every August. This, she explained, is to expose the people, especially the youth, to their culture.
Further, to ensure discipline and peaceful co-existence, she has banned people from fighting or raining insults on people especially in public. The women are not allowed to walk in public in cover cloth. 'Anyone who flouts this law is fined,' she said.
Like all queenmothers, Nana Afrakumah told the Group that, all girls who experience their first menstruation are brought to her by their parents for groming on how to dress, how to compose themselves in public and what not to do.
'As the queenmother of my people, I sometimes double as an arbitrator in disputes in my community. When people have problems that they are unable to solve, they bring them to me for settlement,'
Notwithstanding, things have not been easy for Nana Afrakumah. Due to a 17-year-old chieftaincy dispute in Akwamufie following the death of Nana Kwaafo Akoto II, some aspects of the traditions have been affected by the situation.
She said that for the past 17 years, the people have not been able to celebrate the Odwira and Adaekese festival, which are of great significance to the Akwamus, thus depriving the youth the opportunity to admire and learn their culture.
'The dispute has brought division to Akwamufie,' she said, noting that only those who are on her side listen to her and give her the respect due a queen- mother.
Nana Afrakuma now blends tradition with modernity and no longer performs some rituals expected of her. For instance, she said that whenever she pays her last respect to the dead, she is required to purify herself with the slaughter of a ram.
But according to her, she no longer performs such a ritual, because 'it is against Christianity to atone with blood.'
Back in her days, Nana had little former education and learned hair- dressing, adding 'those were the times when there were no hair dryers and we had to fall on stretching comb.'
Nana Afrakumah now has three children-two of males and a female and does petty trading and farming to while away time.
She advised parents to strive to send their children to school and avoid spending on funerals and clothing.