The other time while on a visit to my mother’s shop, a customer walked in to get a soft drink. We were, then, buried in the dossiers of the conversation that my mother didn’t see the customer enter. She sprang to her feet, when she saw him, as though a cockerel awoken by danger, and made her way to serve him.
‘It’s been a long time my son’, she said piercing the air with her right hand, as if by doing that the customer would come to appreciate the weight of his absence. The customer was singing along to Wisa’s song Ekikii me that was playing on the stereo.
‘Yes ma’am. I visited the village’.
‘So I heard’.
‘Thank God you’re back. Hope your people back in the village are doing fine?’
‘They are doing well ma’am, and thank you for asking’.
I sat there quiet with my attention arrested by this ancient Chess game on my tablet – whose name looks absurd to pronounce without twisting one’s tongue, so typical of Chinese names. The only time my mother’s discussion with the customer attracted my attention was when the man began to describe to her how he had to disguise himself to fend off attention in the village. He said he wore dirty jubba robe – Islamic clothing – to paint a different picture to the villagers, as someone who’s struggling in the city. He didn’t want them, especially his relatives, to know he’s doing so well in the city, else risks being visited by the witches and wizards in the village.
My mother stood there with a smile caked on her lips, with the air of calmness about her. She appeared unmoved – so special of her when a story seemed normal to her ears. I saw words rushed up the throat of my mother, but she never uttered a word. The only time she ever came close at urging the customer on was when she nods at the brilliancy of the whole plan. When he was done with his little story, they all laughed on cue. His eyes met mine, and held, as though to tell me how brilliant he’s for doing that. When he left, I began to toss his story in my mind. His story connects to other stories, I have come to learn, going on in the continent. There are many youths who have been stopped from visiting their hometown for some interesting reasons as saving them from an attack from witches and wizards in one’s family or the village.
While residing in Monrovia, Liberia, I heard strange stories. When someone walks into a spider web on his way to work or while entering his room, he blames the witches in his family for trying to blight his bright future. Others blame these witches when they hit a foot into a stone while walking. The stories are innumerable, a consequences of history, frustration, superstition, mistrust, and poverty in the continent. Any form of setback in the life of an individual is blamed on the witches and wizards in his family.
The situation looks bleak that some preachers have, even, identified this weakness, and exploiting it to their advantage. There are special prayer sessions held to fight witches and wizards. Some men of God instruct their church members to come with canes, allegedly, used to beat the devil to repent. Many buoyant families have dithered, broken, and dried up because someone was told that the cause of his bareness, unemployment, unintelligence, and misfortune was that man or woman in his family who is a witch or wizard.
This level of thinking has created what is in Ghana called witch camps – homes designed for witches and wizards who could no longer live in peace in their own homes without being blamed, beaten, and/or killed for someone’s misfortune. Their only source of peace was to opt to live in these camps so that they could live again. How much is enough really enough for us in Africa? For how long are we going to subjugate our mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers on the altar of this belief?
And yes, there’s nothing as natural death in Africa. Every death is said to be caused by somebody. And this belief has compelled many families to seek explanation for the death of a family member from a spiritual doctors – persons who double as witches or wizards. Are witches and wizards peculiar of Africans and Africa? Or perhaps, we have over glorified the relevance of these persons with charms in our society? The Western societies, too, have their share of these personalities, however, the key questions are: Do they see them as evil as we do in Africa? Or are their witches and wizards wicked as those in Africa? Or is it the case that African witches and wizards dislike positive progress, as is often alleged? Or perhaps, we have contributed to overblowing the negatives of the witches and wizards of the continent?
There are witches, and wizards in the continent. Any yes, there are powers available to us which are more potent incomparable to the one used by these witches and wizards. There’s God, Jesus, and Holy Spirit – trio available for our use at no charge. What gets to me is the way we give these persons so much power they do not deserve. Could we end the way we over glorifying these people, and learn to take responsibility for how our lives turn out? I pray for the time when we will think, and do things beyond this belief – so essential to the continent’s development; when we will learn to rationalize events instead of shoveling tradition to explain them; and when we will learn to position the witches and wizards of the continent in the place they really belong. It’s said that African witches and wizards are villagers. Is this description true?
For more on Kwabena Brako-Powers please visit his blog on: www.brakopowers.blogspot.com or www.brakopowers.com. Please do share your comments with me. I am interested in learning from you as you learn from me.