Naa Adoley sat with her head down, fanning herself furiously with her Kente embroided fan. She heard the funeral criers in clear warbling tones behind her, competing with each other to be the loudest crier and earn the highest sum, while the priest struggled to project his voice over their mismatched harmony, his clipped London accent sounding out rather briskly as the church was only booked until 9pm. Only his voice reminded Naa Adoley that she and her mother had succeeded in their battle with the family elders to bury her father in London; nearly every single member of the congregation was wearing the standard Ga funeral mama, with the Gye Nyame symbol stamped on the cloth at regular intervals. The church was also draped with kente cloth, including the pews, the pillars and even the coffin. Naa Adoley refused to raise her head to look at the coffin directly, which was uncovered to the waist and revealed her father’s body in his trademark agbada. Naa Adoley’s burn scar on her wrist started to itch. She squeezed her mother’s hand in comfort, while across the aisle in the opposite pew, that woman sat with her son, her father’s son.
The priest prompted the congregation to rise to sing a hymn, and as the guests droned on about God’s faithfulness, Naa Adoley tried hard not to think about the living proof of her father’s lack of that quality sitting across the aisle.
They sat down in haste, and Naa Adoley’s uncle promptly reached the podium to read her father’s biography, which reduced a legacy of 60 years to 6 paragraphs. The biography was an unfortunate template of the African immigrant story; with her father attending Accra Boys Secondary School, a prestigious private boarding school, the graduating from an accountancy degree with honours from the University of Ghana and working in a government department in Accra for a couple of years before coming to the UK on a student visa with big ambitions that manifested into retiring as “chief security for all the Royal and Government residences in London for 40 years”, though it was pointed out that he often went back home to “establish big businesses and systems in Accra”. Naa Adoley did not look across to the other system that he established. It was only one year past his retirement, that “the good Lord saw fit to call my brother home” and the standard “Damirifa Due” rang out from the family elders, though Naa Adoley could not be sure how sorry they were, since with his demise, they became closer to inheriting the massive plot of land in outer Accra with the eight-bedroomed imcomplete house plus boys quarters as the centrepiece. Her uncle happily added that “He leaves behind a loving wife, and beautiful daughter, Naa Adoley, and also a strong young son, James”.
The itch on her scar intensified and Naa Adoley sneaked a look at her mother’s face beside her, to see if any of the falsehoods contained in her husband’s biography had affected her outwardly. Her mother’s face was as calm as the day when the nurses told her that her father was terminal, as serene as the day when that woman turned up at the family meeting, with her long sweat-slicked weave-on and her ripe red shellac fake nails, demanding her due share of her father’s estate.
“And now we will hear a tribute from the children, read by the eldest child of the deceased.” The priest stepped from the podium and gestured to Naa Adoley to step up. Naa Adoley shook her head slightly. Where has the time gone? She approached the podium slowly, summoning the courage to read what she had prepared last night, when that woman had produced her father’s signet ring, proving to the family that he had indeed travelled to her village with drinks and cloth and pledged her as his wife.
Naa Adoley reached the podium, and started shaking slightly. The priest, assuming it to be nerves, smiled at her encouragingly and gestured towards the programme booklet, which contained the initial tribute that Naa Adoley had written in the immediate wake of her father’s death, when she and her mother were curled around her father’s body for hours on end, before the nurses had to pull them forcibly away, the fake tribute, Naa Adoley thought savagely. She took the new tribute written on a single sheet of paper from her pocket, unfolded it slowly, and placed it on the podium.
The taxi incident came to her mind, unbidden. She shook further and fought against the memory fragments; the cold shock of the fan yogo as she ate it in the taxi, the blast of the tro tro horn as it rammed into the taxi and the toxic smell of burning rubber as the taxi burst into flames. Naa Adoley fingered the burn scar on her wrist and remembered the strong grip of her father’s arms as he pulled her from the taxi. She dropped the paper and opened the booklet.
Chantal Korsah (@) is a London-born Ghanaian writer and playwright, who has had her poetry published in several British and American anthologies, and is currently working on her first novel and on producing her first written play, a biographical play about Yaa Asantewaa, the famed Ashanti Queen Mother.
Related country: Ghana
All rights to this story remain with the author. Please do not repost or reproduce this material without permission.