A girl named Eudora: My random thoughts

Ambassador Eudora Hilda Quartey Koranteng.png The late Eudora Quartey

Wed, 15 Dec 2021 Source: Isaac Ato Mensah

“I’d like to see a situation where women have just as much freedom as the men do. Maybe I’m talking ahead of my time. Because women in Ghana traditionally do not have so much freedom,” said Eudora Quartey, circa 1974.

Those words were contained in the BBC documentary “A Girl Named Eudora”, accessed on Youtube on 8 December 2021.

Mrs Eudora Quartey-Koranteng, the respected Ghanaian diplomat who until her sudden passing on 20 October this year was ambassador to Italy with concurrent accreditation to several other nations, was known for dressing elegantly and appropriately; she was also articulate and well-poised- all hallmarks of the quality Ghanaian education she received.

The excellent cinematic documentary referenced above is a public document and we will proceed to analyse and comment on aspects of it.

The video shows cars with a right-hand drive which means that the setting is not later than August 1974.

It is so refreshing to see the clean streets back then while at the same time depressing to observe how today our beaches, sea and townscapes are filled with garbage most especially plastic bags.

The script is dated in several aspects with respect to certain concepts and terminologies.

For example, today concepts such as “bastard”, “fetish”, “Blacks”, or “white men” are certainly not appropriate for polite public discourse.

“Fetish” in particular arrested our attention since it was repeated several times.

Today it is more appropriate to use the expression “traditional priest” rather than “fetish priest”.

Furthermore, there were a few controversial and inaccurate statements which could at least do with some qualifiers.

For example; not all Africans with European surnames are descended from sexual violence meted out by Europeans to African slave women.

And certainly there are lots of facts and a deluge of evidence to back this up.

The documentary contends that traditionally African women were not so liberated.

In many respects such as night partying or ordering a drink in public, yes, that is true, even today.

But surely in commerce the very opposite was the norm; the women were often independent and astute; trade in food stuffs, clothes and beads included.

Within the documentary was a detailed rendering of a traditional religious ceremony.

At best this segment was once again the implicit voyeurism seeking to emphasise the stereotypical representation of Africans which the BBC and many western commentators have perfected over the ages.

The producers could have cured this by providing some explanation of the rituals and symbolism of the ceremony.

Without this of course we are left wondering what exactly the point was.

The big earrings of the city ladies of that era is evidence that fashion is cyclical.

The big ring ear ornaments went out of fashion and have now re-emerged.

Has an aspect of women’s liberation in Ghana been with us for a very long time?

The inscriptions on the mummy trucks, including “Fear Women”, reminds us of a subculture of identifying commercial vehicles by their colour or artwork.

Many people were/are bad at keeping vehicle numbers for identification, a key marketing information used today by Bolt and Uber to great advantage….and also by some of our taxi drivers.

Eudora in her narration, raises the issue of Achimota, a co-educational boarding school championed by Guggisberg et al. in the 1920s, and tells us that the concept has succeeded despite the initial fears; no cataclysms happened just like nothing happened when Jews were admitted to Harvard or women to Princeton.

This suggests that when we apply sound logic to our decisions and choices – instead of bigotry, prejudice and assertions without evidence; we do not need to fear the verdict of history.

The producer showed almost nothing on science and technology.

Typical of the BBC then and even now, Africans are mostly seen dancing, eating, singing and talking only.

For example, even when showing the majestic fishermen in the indigenous canoes, nothing was said about the technical aspects of their work.

How did they manage to paddle their canoes to great nautical miles without an outboard motor; how did they navigate safely; how did they know when to fish and what to catch?

It would certainly have been worthwhile to show that Africans had agency and some control of their environment and utilised the natural resources in a sustainable manner.

It was refreshing to see youthful faces of Old Achimotans of the seventies; Wendy Addae, Karen Akiwumi, Anita Ofori, Archie Winful aka Polonius, Suzette Ayensu, Pokua Owusu-Akyeampong and Dorothy Gordon.

Mr. Barham looked so young; he could not have been more than 40.

Again the quality of well scripted local radio/TV production at Ghana Broadcasting Corporation seen in the documentary reminds us of the discipline that came with media production.

Eudora’s overall delivery was commendable, speaking as if unscripted, with flawless diction.

The ending where she talks about the emptiness she feels at times when alone and the accompanying scene of her walking alone through a farm is so powerful, and serves as a point for reflection.

Aloneness – not loneliness – is a lifestyle that is not much encouraged in our society, hence many follow the crowd as a way of finding validation for their choices.

Rest in Peace, Akora Ambassador Eudora Quartey-Koranteng.

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Columnist: Isaac Ato Mensah