THE CLOTH THAT TALKED
By Cameron Duodu
Ananse Kokuroko (as God was apostrophised in ancient folk tales; His Omnipotent Name was not “uttered in vain” — long before the Bible reached us! Yet we are supposed to believe that it was the Bible that came to teach us about the existence of One God, Supreme Almighty! or Onyankopong Twereduampong, Oboor Adier) had 3 children — Owia,[the Sun] Esum [Darkness] and Osrane [The Moon] whom he loved equally.
Yet he needed to give one of them supreme power over all the rest as well as over the whole of creation. How to do this?
He called a grand council of his people, brought his 3 offspring, and set them up as judges, and then asked the populace to interact with them, whilst he watched from the wings.
Esum was the most arrogant of the kids. He gave short shrift to all who appeared before him. That is why, when a person is inordinately wicked, we say that “Esum wo ne tirim” [Darkness dwells inside his head, or in his mind.]
Osrane was so-so — apathetic, unconcerned. Bo, his lot was good. He he only came out infrequently, and only when he chose to. What did he care about what happened whilst his back was turned? Who knew what he got up to in the “Dark Side Of The Moon, huh? Not even Pink Floyd really knew, though they pretended to know. Who was to say nay to The Moon, huh?
But Owia was kind and attentive — at least, in this instance. He was at his best behaviour, providing warm comfort to those who had been left cold by circumstances.
Now it so happened that one of the people seeking justice from the Offspring of Aanse Kokoruko was Kwaku Ananse, the clever rogue who takes everyone for a ride if he can, and can change into a Spider at a moment’s notice, when things got too hot for him as a human being. Because of Ananse’s pusillanimous character, to say nothing of him having taken on some of the worst traits of the chameleons he loved to feed on, he got the roughest justice from both Esum and even the so-so [that is, the apathetic] Osrane.
But Owia said ‘I am required to do justice without prejudice,’ and so did listen attentively to Ananse, and found that Ananse actually had a case, despite the way and manner he was despised by all and sundry.
Ananse was bowled over by Owia’s fairness, for he had expected Owia, as the eldest kid of Ananse Kokuroko, to be the most arrogant of the lot. So after Owia had dispensed justice to him, Ananse sought a private audience to thank Owia — this was allowed in tradition. It was known as “Aseda” [the customary thanks-giving process which acknoledges a favourable judgement].
Once in Owia’s private chambers, Ananse told him he’d been hiding beneath a concealed web in Ananse Kokuro’s own bedroom (!) and had heard The Ominpotent One discussing with himself aloud (whom does God consult, huh?) about how to test his offspring to find out who was best suited to be given dominion over The Earth. It had to be someone who knew most about the word, and who could thus safely be entrusted with the power to outshine all other powers.
And Ananse Kokuroko’s plan was to call an assembly, put on a special cloth he would have instructed his cloth-weavers to create, which would combine all the designs they knew into one cloth. The best cloth — better even than the best Kente — is ordinarily called “Bommo”. and the new cloth would be named by, and to, all the assembly of the people. The assembly would be held in the absence of the offspring. Then they would be called in, and whoever was able to name the new cloth would get the crown.
“But how can I get to know a name which I haven’t heard before?”
Owia asked Ananse.
“Don’t worry sir, I shall help you,” said Ananse. “You just go there, when you are summoned, but do keep your eyes and ears open and observe carefully, allunexpected things that may happen there. Don’t let yourself be distracted by the prattle of praise-singers and the like. Just focus on the really unusual things.“
Owia agreed and Ananse went away. On the day before the Great Durbar, Ananse went to every bird in the forest and begged him to donate one of his feathers to Ananse. The birds were puzzled but didn’t think too much of it. After all, single feathers did fall off them ever now and then.
Now, Ananse took all the feathers he’s otained home, and used aman (gum arabica) to stick the feathers neatly on his entire body. He was so artistic about it that he became the most beautiful bird in the universe — I mean just think of combining feathers from just three birds — the cockatoo, the peacock and the parrot — and add the crown bird and all those amazingly beautiful birds in the forests of New Zealand. And don’t forget Ghana’s own akyem police, with the beautiful red band across his body of liquid gold and silver-strewn black. Right?
On the Durbar Day, Ananse over the crowd, made two or three circles, drawing all eyes to himself, and then then went to alight on a neem tree right in the middle of the square where the assembly was taking place.
Everyone was amazed to see such an incandescently beautiful bird, the type of which they’d never seen before.
Immediately, he saw the bird, Ananse Kokuroko, who liked a bit of fun, offered a pot of gold to anyone who could name the bird. But no-one could.
In exasperation, Ananse Kokuroko shouted: “This is unusual. Here is a bird which I definitely did not create when I created birds. And so, of course, I don’t know its name and neither does any of my people here. Hmmm — it is unique. It is just as difficult to name as the cloth which I am wearing, (he smiled to himself) the unique Kantankyena Bommo, which I instructed my weavers to make specially for this occasion to test my offspring on. Well go and call them in.”
In the din that followed the order to call the offspring in, no-one realised that Ananse Kokuroko had himself unwittingly let the cat out of the bag and revealed the name of the cloth.
All — except Ananse, of course, who having heard the name of Ananse Kokuro’s cloth from the Old Man’s own lips, immediately flew off from the tree on which he was perched. A wild cheer burst out from the crowd, as ‘Ananse-now-a-bird’ performed magnificent aerobatics around and over the gathering, before finally jetting off into the clouds and vanishing from sight, trailing a plume of yellow and red plumes, almost as if they were the afterburners of a supersonic jet fighter.
Ananse then divested of hisancy plumage, and went to Owia and told him the name of the cloth. But clever as he was, Ananse realised that Owia might easily forget the name, once the assembly got going, for as it is said, “Ye ma yenhwe ye ye na!” [‘Do It To Show Us’ Makes It Difficult For An Artiste to Perform! In other words, when an artiste is out on th spot, he may dry up.]
So he said to Owia, ” To aid your memory and make doubly sure that you will remember the name, I shall come to the assembly and when it comes to your turn to dance, don’t be bashful but take the steps. I shall join you and perform a special pas de deux with you, to remind you of the name. So come to the assembly dressed in your best “bommo” cloth. I too will be wearing my best “bommo”. And the bommo name will be what I shall weave my tell-tale reminder to you around”. (Well, who said clever Kwaku Ananse didn’t know how to spin a pun? GROAN! GROAN! )
Well, The Sun went to the assembly. And he was cheered for the interplay of light that was given off by the colours of his bommo cloth. But the others too had spotes on; bad! You remember Dark Black was what Darth Veda relied upon to work his effect? So let your imagination run wild over what colours the Moon and Darkness would be tying and dyeing to work out into wicked costume-outfits.
Stunning stuff was on show at that Durbar, really — I mean, can you imagine that even Earth Wind And Fire were not invited to be part of the main jam session, but were relegated to carrying on pop-chaining in the ‘peripheral spaces’, if you know what I mean — cor! They were jealous, ouch! Michael would have slain the lot, of course — this was MJ territory par excellence — costume plus steps — cor! But, as you know…..!
Well, the proceedings began. Each contestant was asked to dance to the music first, and then was asked point-blank: “What is the name of Ananse Kokuroko’s cloth?”
Darkness was asked first. He’d done his research paaaa — he’d gone into Asamando (the dark underworld) to consult such dead sages as Okomfo Anokye, Socrates and Cicero among others: — but he came out with “Answer? — Baabu!” (Zilch!)
The Moon followed. He too had gone to town, research-wise; he’d plunged into the depths of the oceans — you know, Moonlight Bay, the Bay of Biscay and the Bermuda Triangle and all that, seeking an answer to The Riddle. Trouble oh! — Even Maame Wata herself couldn’t help him. Neither could the Sperm Whale, despite his pretensions to be able to seed the whole of Humanity. In desperation, he fished out the Medusa, who agreed to cold-turkey a few stoned monsters allegedly endowed with wisdom. But even when they got less high, Kwataani — nothing, but nothing worked for Mr or Ms Moon. (Did you know that Moon is a herma? Well, I don’t know for sure, either, but I mean all that cross-dressing — quarter-exposure, half-exposure and all that stuff that confuses Muslims during Ramaddan — doesn’t it provide clues? I mean I ask you!)
And now, the orchestra strung up for Mr Sunshine Babe. And he rolled up, stepping out. And he hand’t swung around once when out of the crowd, popped Kwaku Ananse, sporting an outfit to match that of Sunshine Babe, white handkerchief in hand and enormous dark glasses touching his nose, you know, after all he was dancing with The Sun — they looked like some Super Studs at their ‘ coming out party.
Ananse and Sunshine Babe began jigging and jagging to match each other’s every step. This was ballet-in-the-twinkles, as it were, for the Sun’s rays performed bounces and booms to light up Ananse’s cloth and hide his hideous Asabone (missteps.) They looked scornfully at The Moon and moonwalked to tease him/her. Ananse took off his glasses for half a second and stared at Darkness, as if to reassure himself that Darkness could really be present amidst all that dazzle from The Sun. But Darkness was present — Ananse Kokuroko had given him special dispensation to withstand the sun on this special day.
Because “bad dancing must be guillotined or finished off quickly” (Asabone yesa no ntem!) Ananse didn’t waste much time at all, but began getting up close and personal to Sunshine Babe and singing into his ear:
Barima, ahbeg — make ‘u no forget oh!
For ‘u sef ‘u dey wear bommo,
Me too, I dey wear bommo,
Na ‘im De Big Boy too — idey wear bommo!
Na ‘im yown be Kantankyena Bommo
[And Ananse twirled round and sang:]
K-k-k-k-ka-ka-ka-ka- – -kantankyena bommo.
[And Ananse stylishly waved his white handkerchief towards Ananse Kokuroko:]
Yeah! …. Ughmm! Dat one be k-k-k-k-a-ka-ka-ka-ka-ka-ka-ntankyena Bommo!
Kk-kk-kk-kk-kk-kakaka — kk– kaka– kk– kk–kaka — Kantankyena bommo! (And Ananse tapped his feet rhythmically to supplement the staccato beat of the verbal rap. Needless to say, he brought the house down.)
Although the noise in the square could be heard a mile away, as Ananse’s fancy steps — and the effect of rap coming from such an unexpected “colo” source, got the audience falling about themselves in stitches with laughter — Ananse had actually hit on a ‘banker’ method of teaching The Sun what he wanted him to remember.
So much so that even Sunshine Babe, dim as he was (always drying up the waters of the poorest people on earth while allowing the grass in the richest countries to grow greener than green) could not help remembering. Indeed, although The Mighty Sun was,of course, normally pompous without intending to, and quite unimpressed with anything happening on earth, including the Ancient Egyptians’ vain attempts to reach him by pyramid, The Sun, as he went back to his seat, was popping his fingers rhythmically and rapping involuntarily — he even bopped his head up and down and robotted it jerkily sideways, left and right, left, right:: “kkkk-kakaka-kkk-kakaka-kantankyina bommo! ….kkkk– kakaka — kantankyena bommo!”
He was so possessed by Ananse’s teaching method that he almost ruined it all by answering the question before he was asked. But when Ananse Kokouroko turned to him and sternly asked, “What did you just say?”, he quickly zapped out of the rap zone and said, “J-j-just r-r-rapping, Your Ma-ma-majesty!”
Ananse Kokuroko could hardly suppress a chuckle as he said beneath his breath: “I never thought! … But then, what do I really know about my own kids, huh?”
“SILENCE EVERYONE!” Ananse Kokuroko finally thundered.
The place went as quiet as a cemetery at dawn.
“Now we come to my eldest son, The Sun!”
Ananse Kokuroko had not intended to speak in puns, but the spirit of the day had got everyone so merry they got it at once and puzzled him by cheering wildly:
“Speak now, Wise One speak!”
“… R–r–r–ap away, Old Man!”
“Let the rhymes flow, Sire Creator Sir!”
These were some of the responses he got.
Ananse Kokuroko put up his hand. “Okay, okay,” he said. “Do be merry but remember also that we do have a task to accomplish. It is now the turn of The Sun to give us his answer to The Riddle.”
He turned to the Sun and smiled, “My dear boy, what is the name of the cloth I am wearing?”
Now, you could hear a cannon not fire its shells. A pin did not drop;
“Father,” Sunshine Babe began “in your unlimited wisdom, you have created a cloth the sort of which no weaver has ever dared to dream about, let alone actually try and weave. My investigations show that it took the combined artistry if all your weavers together to craft it.”
There were murmurs of discontent from the crowd.
“Hey, sonny, you were asked a simple question. Give us a simple answer and stop all this sunshine stuff!” some unkind spectator was heard to murmur loudly enough to send a titter through the crowd. Oh yes, trust them — there is always a wise guy of that type in every crowd in the world, who will piss on somebody else’s parade.
The Sun ignored the interruption: “Father,” he intoned, “Your cloth is called KANTANKYENA BOMMO!”
The crowd was silent. They didn’t know whether it was the right answer or not. The place was in a deathly silence.
Then suddenly, Ananse Kokuroko turned to The Sun and beamed a smile on The Sun.
Then he thundered: “That is the correct answer …. and you have no passes. My son, you are the winner, and from now on, you rule the entire world.”
And with that Ananse Kokuroko levitated Himself and flew over the crowd.
And he went … higher.
And … higher.
Through cumulus nimbus and every other cloud. Till no trace of Him was left anywhere in the sky.
That is why it is The Sun that now rules the world, changing seasons at will, and extinguishing The Darkness whenever he appears, and turning The Moon into nothing more than a cold, reflective glass, even on those days when The Sun permits The Moon to show its face to the earth.
But in his glory, The Sun did not forget that he owed it all to Kwaku Ananse, The clever Spider Man.
He called Ananse to him and asked him, “Kwaku, what can I do to repay the glory you have earned for me with your cleverness?”
And, as usual, Ananse couldn’t decide. H scratched his head several times. And when it came down to the crunch, Ananse remembered that he hadn’t eaten anything that day. Not that there was any time he wouldn’t have thought of his stomach.
Remember how Ananse went with the Jackal to dig up his mother-in-law’s dead body and made a meal of it? (Someone should remind me to tell you that story one day! Seriously!)
How Ananse fooled his family to place food in their farm, claiming that it was a sacrifice to the gods, who would eat the food and bless their harvests, and then secretly stole into the farm at night to eat the food, until he was caught one night by his own sons? (Someone please don’t forget to ask me to narrate that story, either. Some time!)
Or how Ananse was ungrateful to his kind friend, the Tortoise, and swallowed The Tortoise whole one day to assuage his hunger, and then they came across some soldiers, and The Tortoise bit Ananse’s innards very very hard till he flet like dying and the Tortoise said, “Ask the soldiers to behead you”? And The Tortoise crawled through Ananse’s beheaded body and began to take those peculiar steps of his, which say, “Ananse did it to me! .. And I too have done it to him?” (Ah well, if you won’t ask me to tell that story in full, it’s unto you!)
Yes, standing before the great Sunny Boy, Ananse could only think of what to eat. So he told The Sun: “You know Sir, my only means of catching prey is to weave my web and lay in wait for prey to enter the web so that I can catch them and eat them. Well, you are the only one who can melt the webs I weave and cause them to break when prey enters the web. So please, from now on, don’t let your power melt my web, either before, during, or after after I have woven it. Please.”
And The Sun said, “I am happy to grant your request, oh my good friend Ananse. From now on, as soon as you spew the liquid from your body to weave your web, I shall use my power to dry it for you and make it so strong that no insect can tear it and get out of your clutches, if ever it falls inside your web.”
And that is why The Spider’s web is so strong that no insect in the world that can extricate itself from Ananse’s web once it gets into it. It is The Sun’s rays that serve as a catalyst that enables the Spider to make all those fantastic designs, which have baffled man and beast since the day The Sun became Ananse’s good friend.
And on this My Birthday, this is my present to all my Readers, and if this story pleases you — or even if it doesn’t — let it inspire you to write down any good Ananse yarns that you can weave, and spin it on the Internet for us all to read it.
Let some of the Goodness of the story go to others, and let some come back to me.
COPYRIGHT@Cameron Duodu 2010