Ghana Life: Spider Stories, Engineering and Drugs

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Ghana Life: Spider Stories, Engineering and Drugs


Ghana is well known for its rich oral literature: in particular its thousands of proverbs (mmebusem) and spider stories (anansesem). These national treasures, handed down from generation to generation, preserved the wisdom of the past and prepared the youth to survive and prosper in a world where ‘life is war.’ In past ages the retelling served to educate and entertain through long dark tropical evenings and many people regret that this practice is dying rapidly with the spread of television and other modern electronic media. Kwame Mainu was born early enough to have absorbed the oral heritage of his people, as well as a Western-style scientific education: two influences that inspired and enabled, at the same time as imposing almost unbearable tensions.

Kwame Mainu was born on 2 March, 1957, just four days before his country, Ghana, gained independence. As a small boy, and throughout his schooldays, Kwame would join his mates after the evening meal, clustered round an oil lamp on long dark tropical evenings, to listen to the tales of Ananse the spider, who is said to be the prototype of Br’er Rabbit of the Uncle Remus stories. The stories of Ananse, often called a lovable trickster, open young minds to the full spectrum of human aspirations, machinations and susceptibilities. In modern parlance the anansessem might be said to make the youth ‘streetwise.’ The proverbs (mmebusem), on the other hand, could be said to preserve the higher wisdom of the community, and for those with ears to hear they passed on a deeper understanding of the human condition and the common sense that Bertrand Russell asserted ‘was not so common.’

An even greater influence on Kwame was his father’s love of rationality and rejection of irrational custom and superstitious belief. Schooled in colonial times and self-educated by lifelong reading, Kwesi Mainu inspired in his son a respect for democracy and the rule of law and an insatiable thirst for the scientific knowledge that could manifest the Industrial Revolution in their new country. Thus Kwame formed the long-term ambition to become an engineer, but following his father’s early death he was forced to delay his formal education and rely on the legacy of Ananse to confront his immediate poverty and deprivation.

At Suame Magazine in Kumasi Kwame found more than a thousand workshops each owned by a master craftsman supported by five or six unpaid apprentices under training. Kwame could have become an apprentice but rejected waiting five years to become a master and own his own workshop, so he decided instead to organise a group of recently qualified masters to produce market trolleys under his quality control and marketing regime. In this way he survived and even prospered for a few years until the mismanagement and corruption of the Acheampong regime brought the Ghanaian economy to a standstill in the mid 1970s. Then, with the help of his girlfriend, Comfort, Kwame became the toy-boy of a wealthy market queen who sponsored his return to formal education for the next four years.

So far Kwame had relied upon the spirit of the spider to make his way in life, but now with a diploma in mechanical engineering from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, he was qualified to join a project transferring new manufacturing skills to the artisans of Suame Magazine. Being familiar with the Magazine, now expanded to a population of 27,000, Kwame excelled at his work and was chosen to attend a short course in foundry practice at Coventry in England. This led to an opportunity to study for a degree at the University of Warwick.

At last, it seemed to Kwame that his life was set on the path he had planned with his father. He was almost a decade older than most of his fellow undergraduates but he rejoiced in his liberation from the poverty of his homeland. Working in all his spare time he resolved to save enough money to build a house in Kumasi for his wife and daughter. But other students that he knew from Kumasi were building faster and on a far grander scale, and his wife Comfort was growing impatient. Kwame suspected that his compatriots were involved in drugs trafficking and he was tempted to join them. Then on his return from Kumasi at the end of his second long vacation he was stopped by customs officials at London Heathrow airport with an offer that was destined to challenge the contradictions in his intellectual heritage and throw his whole life into turmoil.

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يسعدنا زيارتكم صفحاتنا على مواقع التواصل الاجتماعي حيث نقوم بنشر عروض حصرية على موقعنا الالكتروني.

صفحتنا علي الفيسبوك هنا.

حسابنا على تويتر هنا


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