Recently in a conversation with two white men in a car, an argument rose up and I was alone to make my defense against the issue because both had the same tongue. To make the argument more interesting in their favor, one of them gave a proverb supposedly to be African, "If you love trees, you shouldn't be afraid of the forest." The proverb culminated the argument and I was a loser. But after a careful thought, I realized that the proverb didn't look like a typical African proverb. I however refused to concede defeat and jumped back into the argument. I explained to them that the proverb is either wrong or not African.* My point was very simple. In the African tradition, the forest is not about trees alone. There are wild animals, thick, darkness and various sounds in the forest sometimes evoke terror. Again, it is believed that the forest is a depository for demons, spirits and the famous "Sasabonsan" [Satan]. However, to love trees to love the forest is incongruent and has absurdity based on realities and African beliefs. On these analyses, I succeeded to make the bang punch.
This incidence has given me many days of reflection as to my own knowledge about Ghanaian traditions. If I had been naive about what is African and what we believe in, a sheer ignorance had ditched me when I least expected. Hence, the man in my caption came to my thinking as a hero in maintaining such a rich custom.
There's always something about someone to make a reference point and Ebenezer Donkor, known in Ghana movie and drama industry as Katawere, has left a matchless history in the annals of Ghanaian entertainment by his special acting ego. In fact I don't know much about his biography but I've known him and his unique style of acting since the then popular GTV Akan drama series from my childhood. He's known to be using proverbs and wise sayings in acting. As far as acting is concern, proverbial saying is the one and easiest referential feature of Katawere. He's exceptionally good and adds more fun and learning to Ghanaian movies. I strongly believe that in his own way, he's helping to keep the traditional old landmarks in a generation that cares less about African proverbs.
I just would like to make a radical appeal to the National House of Chiefs, including various institutions of African studies in Ghana, to consider it essential and relatively a fine gesture to honor Katawere, an award for keeping the Ghanaian tradition of proverbial saying through the media. I strongly believe that this man has practically proven beyond doubt an ontological experience of this special custom by spelling out common sense in proverbial sayings and therefore deserve such an honor. I will never be surprised if such a gesture shall revolutionize the use of proverbs in the Ghanaian language.
Let our students spend more time on our own literature than Platonism and the big Latin words in English literature.
*I stand for correction (except being wrong) if the proverb is a typical African proverb.
-- Clifford Owusu-Gyamfi
University of Lausanne, Switzerland