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Song For Dr. Ampofo

In homage to Dr. Oku Ampofo
By Natty Mark
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Voices: I suffer with an ulcer

Herbalist: I shall come with green banana

Voices: My blood pressure rises

Herbalist: It's time for papaya

Voices: Bad case of diarrhoea

Herbalist: Counteract it with guava.

Herbalist: We shall use pineapple

Voices: Opposing indigestion

Herbalist: Avocado pear

Voices: Offset hypertension.

Herbalist: I have studied the plants

Voices: Come with the medicine

Herbalist: What I know,

Yes all I know,

Is due to the one,

Doctor Ampofo.

Herbalist: I'd always wanted to do something in the medical field, but wasn't sure of my role. Then one day, while doing some research for an article for my secondary school magazine, about traditional healing, I came across an article about Dr Ampofo - and that was it! He became an instant hero of mine: I wanted to make my contribution to his vision. So, later on, with the required grades and assistance - and support from here and there, I was able to enrol on the degree course in Herbal Science, at the Kwame Nkrumah University. What I began in recent time in my homeland, he pioneered seventy years ago, commencing in distant lands.

1st Voice: He walked the streets of Edinburgh,

2nd Voice: Student at the university.

1st Voice: From the Royal College of Surgeons,

2nd Voice: He received his medical degree.

1st Voice: Then south to Liverpool,

2nd Voice: School of Tropical Medicine.

Voices: To counteract malaria,

Voices: And the plagues of infection

Herbalist: But coming back to Ghana in 1940, the colonial government refused to employ him. So, like the Jamaican medic, Harold Moody, who was refused employment by the English medical establishment after graduating from King's College, he set up his own practice. And what he had begun in Achimota, he continued in Mampong-Akupem, as a form of relaxation and a source of funding for his project: sculpture.

1st Voice: He used the stuff of flooring,

Substance of the pavement.

As well as terrazzo,

He raised beauty from cement.

2nd Voice: He loved to use Ebony

1st Voice: As well as the Odum tree

Voices: Sculpting the African Head.

2nd Voice: Sometimes he’d use Manilkara,

Another time Flos Regina.

He always looked forward,

To working with African Cedar.

1st Voice: He loved to use Ebony

2nd Voice: As well as the Odum tree

Voices: Sculpting the African Head.

Herbalist: Especially in the rural areas, there wasn’t the access to medicines and medical personnel: medicine that many could not pay for. So Dr. Ampofo went back to the original source of healing, to Mother Earth: her great cabinet of wondrous medicine. He consulted with the herbalists of wide renown: he went to speak with those who know. Those who have the knowledge of the gifts of the earth.

1st Voice: They know of leaf and flower,

2nd Voice: Of bulb and fruit.

1st Voice: The one to pound,

2nd Voice: The one to boil:

Voices: People of the soil.

1st Voice: They know of root and bark,

2nd Voice: Of grass and seed.

1st Voice: The one to inhale,

2nd Voice: The one to mix:

Voices: People of the sticks.

Herbalist: They came together. The ones schooled in traditional pharmacopoeia, with the one trained in Western medicine: the clinic thrived.

Then, in the early sixties, another visionary heard of his vision.

1st Voice: At the rendezvous of dream,

The intersection of vision.

President meant the doctor,

On the Road of New Intention.

2nd Voice: Blessed was the day,

When Nkrumah met Ampofo.

When the trickle of stream,

Commenced a river’s flow.

Herbalist: Kwame Nkrumah saw the potential in traditional medicine: he being a man at the root, who knew what Africa had to offer. So he sponsored the doctor, sending him to China, so he could undertake further research in herbal medicine. He returned in 1966, ready to resume his work in Mampong-Akuapem. Then, in 1971, in conjunction with figures from the arts, sciences and traditional healing, a proposal was put to the government: the founding of a national centre, for the research and teaching of herbal medicine. That dream became reality in 1975, with the founding of the Centre for Plant Medicine Research – in Mampong-Akuapem. My hero became the first director.

1st Voice: Asthma

2nd Voice: Arthritis

1st Voice: Malaria

2nd Voice: Diabetes

Voices: Onward he went, in gratitude to the Green Galaxy.

1st Voice: Dysentery

2nd Voice: Yellow Fever

1st Voice: Infections

1st Voice: Sickle Cell Anemia

Voices: Onward he went, in gratitude to the Green Galaxy.

Herbalist: I was just thinking how proud his former schools, Anum and Mfantsipim must be, to know he walked their halls and sat in their classrooms. Proud to have had a formative influence on his life. Popular in both, he excelled in his studies, winning scholarships to both Achimota College and Edinburgh University.

Thinking also, of the hazards he must have faced, in the collection of remedy. Snakebite and scorpion sting: the battles of the thorns. As time went on, was tiredness added to the list? As logging began to conquer, the herbalists had to go further, to find what is crucial. The trees were taken, forcing the natural world into transformation. The trees went. Then the inevitable exodus of fauna and flora: some were soon entitled rare.

Onward he went – and others followed him through the Green Galaxy. I haven’t come across all their names yet, but the few I know to have contributed to plant medicine development, are Professors Ansah, Sarpong, Ayitey-Smith, Tackie, Torto and Quartey, as well as Doctors Bonsu and Ocloo; the latter is the present director of the institute in Marpong-Akuapem. Some began it and others are continuing. Because of this, I have received teaching in herbal medicine here and there. I attended a lecture at the Noguchi Memorial Institute; received a paper from the University of Cape Coast; went to an Open Day at the University of Ghana, in the Clinical, Pharmacology and Therapeutics Centre; attended a seminar at the Centre for Plant Medicine Research; workshops at the Tettah Quarshie and Kumasi South Hospitals. And of course, the faculty for Pharmacy at the Kwame Nkrumah University for Science and Technology, where I studied. Apt that this institution is the first to offer a degree in Herbal Medicine, when you think that he was the first great supporter of that subject matter, outside of the Ghanaian medical world: the believer in my hero.

Voices: For stomach problems

1st Voice: Root of the Tamarind

Voices: For menstrual pain

2nd Voice: Bark of the Fig tree

Voices: When thinking of Dr Ampofo

Voices: I think of eulogy

Voices: For a purgative

1st Voice: Use Ashanti pepper

Voices: For enema

2nd Voice: Use Nunum and ginger

Voices: When thinking of Dr Ampofo

Voices: I give thanks with a prayer.

Herbalist: I would like to specialise in the treating of mental illness. I’ve begun to research plant usage in mental health provision, throughout the sub-Saharan regions of my continent. Been looking in Kenya, South Africa, Malawi, Zimbabwe, as well as in homeland Ghana. We are truly blessed by what the trees give us.

1st Voice: Boabab, Boabab

Let me use your bark.

2nd Voice: African Custard Apple

Let me use your root.

Voices: African Ebony

Let me use your root and bark.

Herbalist: Wish Dr Ampofo was alive, just to see that there are at least fifteen hospitals in Ghana, that have Herbal Medicine departments. That there is the Traditional Medicine Practice Council, which administers the exams for herbal practitioners: then registering and licensing the students that pass them. He would be happy to hear that since 2003, August 31st is celebrated in Africa, as Traditional Medicine Day. Even happier to hear that every year in March, his beloved country, celebrates Traditional Medicine Day.

A sculptor who exhibited internationally, he pioneered cultural activism in Ghana - as well as herbal medicine. He was an ambassador, bestowing blessings on us, from the beautiful embassy in his head. My country should have given him the Order of Ghana, the highest civilian decoration, which they gave to the pioneering soldier and diplomat, Seth Anthony.

He went far, because he knew: he knew the potential of the country. Gems in the earth, gold in the people. He wanted a richer Ghana – mentally, spiritually and physically. Health as a launchpad, to a sweeter interaction for all.

There should be a statue of him, outside of a teaching hospital; like the one of Akomfo Anoyke - traditional healer and co-founder of the Asante State - outside the teaching hospital that bears his name. A plaque inside of a university medical school; an annual lecture given in his name; a triennial prize named in his honour, given to a visionary figure in herbal medicine; a street in Mampong-Akuapem, should bear his name; there should be Ampofo workshops in schools.

1st Voice: When fever was raging,

2nd Voice: With its relentless blow.

1st Voice: He’d come with a leaf,

2nd Voice: The leaf of the mango.

1st Voice: Who will you sing of?

2nd Voice: Who sets your mind aglow?

Voices: I will stand in homage,

To sing for Dr. Ampofo.

Sources

Prospects and Scope of Plant Medicine in Health Care – E.Ayitey-Smith

Integrating biomedical and herbal medicine in Ghana – experiences from the Kumasi South Hospital: a qualitative study - Millicent Addai Boateng, Anthony Danso-Apiah, Bernard Kofi Turkson and Britt Pinkowski Tersbol

Traditional Medicine – Marian Ewurama Addy

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