Friday, November 28, 2008

Mrs. Woarabɔwodzin

Married. 50 years. Never wed in the western way. My grandfather, Egya Kwesi Amoaful remains same. My grandmother Maame Ama Krah remains same. Names remain same. My mother's parents. Matrilineal as we are. Nobody took nobody's name. Marriage was contracted. Marriage was legitimate. God, the Ghanaian God, was present all right. No rings. Just drinks and wills and mills of kin.

The Ghanaian man isn't stronger than the Ghanaian woman. She farms, she sustains. She is an ɔbaatan, which means not only that she feeds and clothes but also that she protects with her spirit and her strength. These days, she even pays the electricity bill. She has no formal schooling, which often also means that her common sense is keen. She is not having a battle between careers and family. That she can have them both has never been in question. That woman has a career that takes her far from home. She has always experienced other lands, in her search for food to bring to her community. They call this kwando. In that way, perhaps she is worldlier than her husband. She belongs to a fraternity of women doing same. So why the hell are you buying into the notion that you too, are weak? What battles do you have to fight now that our grandmothers have not already won? You have never been inferior. Nothing has been denied you. All you have to do is accept your powerful role. That is how our family has worked.The Ghanaian feminist fights not for equality with man. She fights for equality as (w0) man. She fights not for women, she fights for her race, she puts her children through school, sometimes having to sell her expensive African cloth which she has bought for herself.

Now you, why do you tell me that unless I have a "wedding", that unless I become a Mrs. X that our marriage is illegitimate. Unless I wear some frilly lace or satin gown, in the sweltering heat of Accra, and have some little children masquerade infront of me, there's nothing similar to it in my nature, my culture, that our marriage isn't marriage? Tell me, does the Ghanaian God (or any God) live in a chapel? That ceremony is to me the way that unfamiliar things can sometimes seem grotesque and farcical. Mrs. X. How does this title fit into the land from which we have come? It doesn't belong, my dear. There is no Mrs. X. There is just me and you and we are married.

Why do you think a translation of Mrs. is not possible in our language? In a desperate and unsuccessful attempt, they say Owurayer. But think, my dear, what does that mean? I will think for you, if your scholarship in the white man's land has overcrowded your forelobe with thoughts that bear no similarity to our way of life that you have become a stranger to the philosophy, language and thought of our land. Owurayer means the wife of owura. In the same vein, we could speak of Ewurakun, a title for a man meaning, the husband of Ewura. Now think again. What would be the equivalent of such a title in English? Mr.? Forget it. Mr. bears no mark of woman or the relationship to woman. Mr. exists without woman. Ewurakun, doesn't. Owurayer is not an exclusive title in the way that Mrs. is. This is our truth.


  1. I love this piece. I am really interested in the lives of Ghanaian women pre-colonialism and in my research ( the little that I have done) I find that they were more empowered, liberated and independent than many Ghanaian women today. There was not this limited 'western' definition of what the role of a woman is....Do check out my blog at



  2. Thanks so much for this piece. It has reaffirmed my own thinking and beliefs. In fact i remember my grandmother who was all that you described and more; she had an amazing career, was an excellent homekeeper and raised her children and even some of us her grandchildren, was a loving and devoted wife but was always her own woman. She has always been my inspiration......

  3. Just as the other commentators I found this post very illuminating. I have many times tries to explain the difference of gender in Ghana to people back home in Sweden, the tedious work women here do, but at the same time what a independent platform they have.
    I believe our view of weddings all over the world have been highly influenced by American movies, sadly at the expense of our own traditions.

    Thanks for a great post!

  4. Aseda nkoaa! More of these!!

    It's fascinating to watch this obsession with the following ritual by especially in Accra:

    - church wedding
    - expensive wedding ring(s)
    - change of wife's name
    - subsequent flaunting of 'married-ness'
    - speaking English with kids at home

    As in your observations, I'm fascinated with uncovering what it means to live originally despite the allure of foreign cultural practices. In a way I understand the urge to imitate the culture of those who appear successful. It's only the more fascinating however if these same proponents deny that they're copying without much sophistication.

    ( I wrote rant on the church-wedding bit in particular on GhanaThink's GhanaConscious a while back. )

    Indeed, 'this is our truth' : it is less expensive and more intimate to stick to our good old marriage procedure (get a pastor to pray a blessing if you like); it's less hassle the wife keeps her name (it's worth keeping, gee!); doesn't hurt if the children speak the language their grandparents spoke so the can communicate with older/wiser people (we learnt English at school and we haven't turned out any worse), etc, etc.

  5. Thoughts of a simpletonNovember 17, 2009 11:15 AM

    See- what makes a great marriage is the "essence of marriage" not the flashy ceremonial, matrimonial displayed in church. I think it is all good but once the essence is lost- forget it.

    @ Paa kwesi- i visited ur blogg- very interesting. I like it. I will frequent it. You see, many christian tradtions was started/ adopted by some priest or king who wanted to free themselves of sins. Personally, going back to the roots of christianity- Judasim.

    @ Esi- I like this piece- it very poetic and read with such ease- I like it. My Grandmother too, was a stong independent woman- In Nkrumah's time- she owned a car and sold cloth- did not even speak a word of English,- hah.