Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The Wonderful and Not So Wonderful People Every Ghanaian Calls Family

  1. Auntie Kyeiwaa

This aunt is the ɔdendene mu ɔdendene (tr: toughest of the tough). She does not kyele (tr: tolerate) nonsense. She will tell you her mind. She’s either married to some quiet passive man or is one of the rare breeds who have managed to remain unmarried by choice and yet no one can muster the gumption to upbraid her. People secretly think it is because of her ɔdenden ways that she never got married. After all which man could handle such a woman? They pity her but they keep their opinions to themselves because Auntie Kyeiwaa is fire! She has power in the family because when it comes to taking responsibility, funeral contributions, and other family contributions, she has saved everyone’s ass time and time again.

  1. Uncle Samo

This Papa Samo (tr: person who travels abroad and does not visit his family in many years) is the uncle that everyone talks about but you don’t remember. He went to Germany, Canada, US or London many years ago when you were in class 2 but he’s never been back to visit. Whenever his name comes up, everyone wonders why dadaada yi (tr: all this time) he still hasn’t gotten his “papers”. Occasionally he sends his parents $100 or $200. No one knows what work he does. He’s been talking about building a house in Ghana since nineteen kojohoho (tr: since the beginning of time) but even the land he bought was paid for in part by Auntie Kyeiwaa.

  1. Father’s Friend Turned Uncle

This man is not related to you by blood or marriage but when he visits, he acts like he is your father’s relative and has as much authority as your dad. He requests special meals. He never calls your father by his real name. Instead he calls him Ogyam, BKC, or some other nickname. This man likes to send the children in the house on errands, but he never brings any gifts. He’s the kind of man who tempts children to spit in water he requests. He’s really annoying, and everyone looks forward to his departure.

  1. The Uncle Who Doesn’t Give a Whit About You

This uncle visits only to see the adults. He pretends you do not exist. He takes absolutely no interest in your affairs. When he calls the adults, he does not ask of you or speak with you. You hear that it is your parents who put him through school but he really couldn’t care a whit about you. You would not dream of spending your holidays with him even though your parents always suggest it.

  1. The Grandmother You Like

This grandmother is to die for. She makes the best meals, dotes on you and tells corny stories about the good times when you were a precocious little kid. She always brings goodies when she visits and sometimes she even gives you money, or jewellery, or other things you actually want and treasure because they remind you of her. In the best case, you want to be like her when you grow up.

  1. The Cousin You Have Nothing in Common With

You’re supposed to be cousins. Except he’s actually your nephew, but he’s your age and your interactions leave much to be desired. You wish the best for him but you wonder if you have to be friends by force just because your parents think “cousins” ought to bond. This “body arrangement” (tr: Ghanaian slang for trying too hard to be friends) is not working and you wish you’d both just accept that you may be related but you’re not tight and that’s okay.

  1. The Adorable Aunt

This aunt is your role model. She makes time for you. She used to write to you and visit you when you were in secondary school and she even emails you now. You know you’re welcome at her house at anytime and you can eat whatever is in her fridge. She does not throw money at you but she buys you thoughtful gifts and will call you to check up on you. You actually enjoy talking to her because she reasons with you and understands you. When she travels abroad, she always brings you stuff you want, like nikes or books, or clothes from the gap. You remember the one hip fubu jeans you used to wear all the time for records night in high school? Yep, she bought it:) as opposed the obroni wawu(tr: second hand clothing) that you always had to try so hard to disguise as "store reject" or ehm, from a boutique. Your adorable aunt hugs you, and always seems so pleased to see you. She’s the aunt that you know you’d take a break from work to nurse if she ever got sick. She’s everything that family out to be and makes up for the jackasses.

  1. The Cool Uncle

You’re glad your aunt married this man because he’s a terrific guy. He knows so much about so many things and he makes time to help you out, whether it’s tutoring you in Math, helping you make a budget for a personal project, listening to your relationship problems, or driving you to your boyfriend’s house at 10 pm just so you can see him one last time before he leaves the country. He may want you to take his advice whenever you ask his opinion, but you can live with his faults. No one’s perfect, right?

I know it is simplistic to describe our family members as I have but you go ahead and fill in what I've left out. Is the cool uncle also the one with the foul breath, or the adorable aunt also the one who wears the most embarassingly out-of-date weaves? Is your favorite aunt a mix of Auntie Kyeiwaa and "the adorable aunt", or something else entirely? What are your relatives like?


  1. I have the Adorable Aunt and the Cool Uncle and i love them to bits!!!!!!

  2. Ei Auntie "Kyeiwaa beyie guarantee" lol. I do have 2 aunts in that category. (both jamaican and ghanaian ones, I actually admire these women cos who knows i might be one if i never marry my bf)

    Oh don't forget the great grandmother that is like eons old and still alive. Everyone blames their misfortunes on cos she's supposedly "anyen". Your "born-again" christian parents will never let you visit her because she "may give you some".

    Your dad's younger sis aka your mom's worst nightmare of an in law. She thinks your mom "stole" her brother and refuses to spread the wealth to her side of the family. She comes around quite too often just causes some serious drama. Actually this could equally apply to your paternal grandma too depends on how hardass she is

    The highly-educated uncle turned "kowinsani" (alcoholic). This man can discuss every subject in the book, lecture you on world politics and how the government is well-corrupted. Speaks 26 world languages with all 'em rotten teeth from chewing too much "bisi". Blames everyone else but himself for all his problems and spends all his paycheck on apioo when his kids school fees aren't paid. He's married to a rather humble pretty woman who is obviously too good for him, yet she tolerates all his adulterous ways chasing young girls and their baby-mama drama. You know that man be checking out his young nieces but everyone brushes it off cos how dare we expose such perverted ways...

    i'm out!

  3. I swear have/have had some of each character. Esi, this was a great, great piece. The richness of your charaterisation took me. It shows how much you've studied the family scene. Thanks.

  4. haha, everything you've said is true!!!!
    i have a sneaking feeling i might be an auntie kyeiwaa, married or unmarried, hehehe.
    Oh well, that's why we need variety, right? But I have the adorable aunts and the cool uncles.

  5. Haahha...I got a Kyeiwa whose real name is actually Adwoa Kyeiwaa! is no nonsense for sure but for some reason has met her match in my family so we all go head to head but she is the reason all my mum's siblings seem to be at loggerheads!...grr...and the reason one of my aunts calls all church of Pentecost members "azaa fuor"(crooks,tricksters etc.)

    I got the cool aunt and uncle who are not blood relatives...and the coolest aunt who is my grandfather's twin brother's daughter...haaha...beat that!

    Oh and the family friend turned mediator/big brother/uncle/advisor who never ever let me "nash" on Valentine's day in High school! Cool huh?

  6. i also have an auntie-in-law in ghana like you write in first step. she is a cool woman for me :-9

  7. Well, there are the family friends that you grew up with and that sometimes become closer to you than even your own siblings.These ones very quickly become family, their parents become yours and vice-versa, you know they love you like they love their own kids and you'll do anything for them.

  8. right. but i never grow up with ghanaians. i'm married to one and his auntie is my auntie. how do you say? me dor wo ghana ?

  9. I agree with NY, this was a wonderful post. So much content, including the Ghanaian expressions I can't learn from anywhere else. Many thanks, Esi! (Fot the vivid characters, we have them in Swedish Families too...)

  10. Gotta love auntie my family she IS actually Afia Kyeiwaa! She and my mum can never agree on ANYTHING. Does my head in but I love her to bits!

    Then there's your cousin Naana who's not your cousin but you grew up together and your so tight outsiders think your sisters and insiders actually believe you are related. When your parents have had enough of you they talk to her parents about you and vice versa. You save each other from your parents wrath many a time and your gonna be each others bridesmaids if you ever stop bickering!

    Cool uncle is also a bit of a Boga, you love him to death but every now and then he comes out with embarassing clothing/a high-top hair cut/swearing in bad grammar 'that man is a FUCKING paaa!' huh? Love him anyway

    In my family we have a Papa Alhaji (though this man is not always muslim). He's THE MAN. Used to beat EVERYONE when they were kids...all of your aunties and uncles VIVDLY remember it. As do you and all your cousins. But if you need his help he is always there for you. He eats 2 meals a day...both fufuo with light soup and it the healthiest person you know. Everyone is scared of him and he always ruled with an iron fist yet none of you can imagine ever living life without him. You love him and secretly believe even though he is 85 he will live forever...

  11. I think u totally forget the Uncle who is always asking for handouts, even from u.