Hearing and keeping: Akan proverbs (African proverbs series)

Kofi Asare Opoku

$ 163.94 (used)

Unknown Binding (163 pages)

Asempa Publishers, Christian Council of Ghana


Reader Reviews

Seriously flawed for lack of contextual documentation
This book is rather nicely organized into various chapters, in accord with the various vehicles the proverbs use to make their points ('God', 'people', 'plants', 'animals' etc.). But very little material is cited as to how proverbs are made use of in Akan society. [For more on that - by all means see the exemplary treatise 'The Proverb in the Context of Akan Rhetoric: a Theory of Proverb Praxis', written by Kwesi Yankah, and/or Yankah's 'Speaking for the Chief: Okyeame and the Politics of Akan Royal Oratory'].

Opoku's 8-page introduction barely scratches the surface, though there are brief, almost too succinct blurbs at the beginnings of some of the chapters (especially valuable are those on linguists' staffs, Adinkra symbols, and gold weights).

Opoku gives each proverb in Akan, followed by an English translation (many of these he did himself), plus usually an 'explanation', sometimes several lines in length. The trouble is that such explanations are contextual, and Opoku doesn't cite the context. We read in Yankah that context determines the commentary/explanation of the proverb. A proverb will often 'change meaning' according to how it is used, which is determined largely by situational (social, political, religious or even aesthetic/artistic) context.

Often the main metaphorical thrust that a given proverb makes evident doesn't jibe at all with the 'explanation' that Opoku has cited/attached. He doesn't give (or doesn't know) the context, and it's difficult, even impossible in some instances, to see/guess/understand the point that's being made by the 'explanation'. I don't doubt that there is a point, but it's rather a senseless exercise to give an explanation which neither the reader nor Opoku can ever hope to understand given the sparseness of the documentation. In numerous instances I am tempted to think the person who 'gave/attached' the explanation was/is metaphorically challenged - but then again I don't know the context.

Then there is the occasional proverb for which I am dying for an explanation - it's a riddle to me. What's a poor fellow to do?