Phoebe, the poet who is taking a gap year before leaving Ghana for university, returns to us with a poem inspired by the death of her nation's president.
This poem is timely, not because of John Atta Mills' passing (which occurred in July of 2012), but because Ghana has just completed a peaceful election and named John Dramani Mahama as its new leader.
Ghana holds a lauded place in post-colonial African history. One of the few countries to find political stability after imperial powers released their grip, the country is very proud to be free and self-governed. Each election since 1957 has served to establish a stabilizing democracy.
The journey has not been trouble-free, and John Dramani Mahama's recently published memoir "My First Coup d'Etat: And Other True Stories from the Lost Decades of Africa" speaks to challenging times.
But Phoebe's poem, which has shades of Walt Whitman's "Oh Captain, My Captain" is a lovely elegy for a leader she admired.
10th August 2012:
Tunes of the Atentebbe*
the whole of Ghana mourns to the tunes of the atentebbe,
hear the dirge that wafts through the air,
the mood is somber; there is mourning everywhere,
the nation is at a standstill; our president is dead,
even the trees are clad in black and red,
in the spirit of grieving the dead,
chief mourners are over-playing melodrama in their show,
even your rivals have lowered their heads,
for your sake, we have joined our hands in grief,
for a while, we have put our dirty politics to sleep,
together, with one heart, we will weep,
hot, and heavy tears for the cherished memories we keep,
Even in death, we are possessed with your spirit of unity, Damirifa due*, until we meet in eternity.
* Atentebbe- A wind instrument of cultural significance, often played on the occasion of one’s death.
*Damirifa due- An expression of one’s condolences in the Twi, an Akan dialect