…David Nyame!! We thank you for this mountainous edifice of food prepared by our very own in-house Chef, Kwabena Poison – The best Chef inside Dansoman. Dear God, we ask you to bless the farmer, the cooker and the eater! May3 fu nsh3 ma mpenpenso). (With one eye open) Ah the Holy Spirit has seized me, anuanom ne adofonom lets begin to speak in tongues over this meal… (The other boys begin to grumble). Oh boys, hold on hold on… be like we get visitors!
(Addressing readers) Oh hello there… you made it! Akwaaba…! You know, boys, before we dig into this big bowl of Banku and Shitoloo, let us first do the Ghanaian thing and graciously invite our guests who are reading this right now to enjoy our meal with us, as we entreat them to small talk about what we’ve been up to. That’s what they came here for after all.
(Slaps Tosin’s creeping hands over the meal) You know, there is always that sense of adventure when you and a friend decide to embark on a journey to a local market be it in Kigali or Lagos. Sktch, currently sitting to my right with an extremely hungry face, and I, did embark on such an adventure. And we have decided to narrate to you our hustle through one of such populated markets in Accra, Ghana. Sktch is a bit shy with words so he will employ all his words into a sketch which you shall see shortly while I do most of the narration.
Termed one of the biggest commercial markets in West Africa, Kaneshie market has become that go to market for almost every household living towards the Circle – Kaneshie – Mataheko – Dansoman – Mallam stretch. All of which are suburbs in Accra with Dansoman being the biggest. Google doesn’t support this statement you say?! Oh well… you don’t have a choice but to believe me now do you? You see why I refused to offer you a seat or even water when you joined us?
So as I was saying, Sktch was late as usual. Yes Sktch! YOU WERE LATE TO THE MARKET. But he eventually got there with the usual trotro breaking down excuse. I think he believes I was born yesterday. Sktch was to spend the weekend with me and the boys in my house (looks round at faces willing to murder just to enjoy their meal). We therefore decided to meet up in the market, buy a few food stuffs and prepare a huge “poisonous” feast for the weekend so we don’t have to give the Auntie Memuna’s and Fausty’s in my neighborhood our last coins in the name of buying food from them as vendors.
I am quite meticulous, so me… I had my list of what to buy. Sktch… not so much. He was supposed to remind me of a few things we might need that I might have skipped on my list. Contrary to popular belief of “boys don’t care what is digested by their stomach as long as they are full”, you would be surprised at how picky boys, especially the ones sitting in this house currently, could be. They can be very annoying when it comes to what they want to eat. That explains my list.
So our journey began. Josephine who lives quite close to the market, around the police quarters of Mataheko, had sang the praises of this one market lady – Fusena. Fusena was supposed to be that go to lady who would pile whatever you bought from her with extra ntoso) or food items even if you bought a single egg from her. The price of her “merchandise” was supposed to be the cheapest from the hills of Mampong and across the shores of Axim. Josephine’s words not mine.
For anyone who has ever been to Kaneshie, you’d be familiar with the two main footbridges. I met Sktch at the second bridge where almost all the trotros coming in from Mallam offload. After a few knocks and insults and the customary I’ve-missed-you-hugs, we embarked on our adventurous quest to find Fusena. According to our GPS in the person of Josephine, Fusena was based on the second floor of the biggest land mark in Kaneshie market which is the Maggi building. It’s called that because it’s branded by Maggi. The shrimps displayed in painting on the building to represent Maggi cubes are painted in such an agile fashion that you would think they could play for our national soccer team and actually score goals for us.
Anyway, the bridge is always highly populated with prospective buyers and traders who have decided to sell on any square foot they find even if it’s atop a moving vehicle. Once it’s in Kaneshie, they don’t mind. We got to the other side after a couple of people tried to stop us to view their wares or to tell us about a “service” they could render us. To top all this confusion off, there was a man of God preaching through his megaphone on the bridge about pre-marital sex. For the sake of the kids who might chance on this narration and for the fact that my ears bled even more from his vivid use of the Twi language to cut his message across, I have decided not to repeat what he said.
As we entered the Maggi building, I realized the scene in there was much calmer as compared to the craziness happening outside. Everyone was clustered in rows according to what they sold. From local print fabric to corn dough piled in heaps in metallic basins, it was quite an exciting scene. To follow the words of our human GPS Josephine, Fusena was seemingly close: to be found on the second floor of the Maggi building latched in one of the corners.
We did find her and it was quite easy; in fact, too easy. As soon as we got to that faithful second floor, we were met with a sound so distinct Sktch and I simultaneously looked at each other and exclaimed, “Fusena!” Haaaaa… there she was in full glory; the plump Fusena in full regalia. She didn’t look like your stereotypical market woman in old cloths, sitting idly singing tunes of “aaamoooo… aaammooooo” or “fresh ni eee… koobi”. No… Fusena had short natural hair with a scarf tied in to hold it up in an up do style. This effect made her cheeks very profound in its full cheeky roundness. Fusena had makeup on. Oh yes… not your typical Ghanaian style “apply- eye- liner- and- maybe- mascara- with- a- touch- of- excessive- blush – no face powder”.
No! She had the full works! Fusena had on eye shadow blended in to give a bright, almost Ghana flag looking effect. It had layers my friends. She also had long eye lashes. As to the authenticity of those spiky long lashes, I will leave that to the gods to decide. Her face was perfectly painted with the right kind of makeup and concealers (that’s what Josephine says they are called) so that her face looked like cream. A brown chocolaty smooth cream and I think I did spot a drawn on mole. Sktch insists there was none and per usual, I was just “making up stories”, but I swear there was.
Her lips were a bright red and glossy… and out of those very lips came the words we heard as we stepped foot on that sacred second floor…those words flew straight across the hall to an innocent “rival” market woman who sat across the floor to the side facing the car park behind the Maggi building.
“Ony3 Gbemi y3 j3n! kwashia! Ole mi? Ofee ohi3 nkp)tonkp)to tam) gbee fee ni ok3 ntagy3n k3n kw3 mi! ohi3 fl3fl3 onu?! Ony3 k3 Ots3 k3 Onanakansua f33 gbemi! Kwashia…” For those of you, who don’t understand these words; thank your stars you don’t. These words have given me sleepless nights. I can certainly tell you that they are of Ga origin and strong enough and piercing enough to make you question your mother for birthing you.
We felt very sorry for the lady across the floor. She looked on, screaming to the general public in a sing song tune the goods she sold, as if oblivious to the insults being rained on her. With caution, Sktch and I approached Fusena’s stall. Sktch almost broke out a laugh, but swiftly, I slapped him hard enough on the head to push it back into his lungs. This wasn’t the day I would be defiled and my whole ancestry questioned by the words of a market woman.
We arrived at the spot that read “Madame Fusena’s Food Boutique. The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace. Exodus 14:14”. Fusena stepped out with a whisk quick enough to make me take several steps backward. “Oh my brothers, welcome welcome welcome! Meni ny3baa he? What will you people buy? You have come to the number one boutique in town”. “Madame… eeerrrrmmm … w) baa he…” as I went on and on based on our list of groceries. I wasn’t going to make Sktch do the buying and bargaining. It could easily have led to the two of us paying for Ghana’s deficit if he spoke.
“Oh, is that all? I also have…” this is a typical Ghanaian thing (Please don’t fall for it). The market women will always suggest to you things that might compliment whatever you have bought. It’s almost like they know the meal you are going to make and they can scientifically calculate the extras you need. Well, this time we needed those suggestions from Fusena because a certain someone (Sktch) had forgotten to write down the things he was supposed to remind me off. “Enyi3?” as I asked how much the total was… “Oh, sistey Ghana cedi p3” she said with a broad smile revealing the silver covering her incisors.
“Ei Madame Fusena! Maaba? Mahama eba bi3 hu aloo?” I said, as I complained to her about the price. As Ghanaians, we never go with the first price we are told. Fusena being the seasoned market woman she was, immediately stepped in in a bid to counter my displeasure and pass her prices as legitimate and very cheap (thank you Josephine). “Oh, don’t say that my breda. Fine boy nakai?! Ah! Show me your car keys and I will load you my boutique…!” All I can say at this point is both Sktch and I were very flattered considering our mode of public transport to the market – trotro.
I paid for our “merchandise” and no sooner had I handed her the money than Fusena began speaking to us about how times are tough and that, we shouldn’t repeat the mistakes of past leaders and her generation’s mistakes. This generation can effect change for a better Ghana if we came together as one voice and pushed beyond what we thought our limits were she said. All of us chasing the same jobs just because we thought they paid well and how we the youth lacked the urge to pursue creativity in entrepreneurship and be our own bosses – we love quick money too much she said.
She continued by adding how most of us have become so westernized we have failed to even take time off to learn about our roots and everything about it from the music to the oral traditions. Even wearing our own traditional clothes had become a problem. She proceeded to say something that struck me even harder which when translated stated, “Even the Doctor and Lawyer must eat! If all of you become office people, who will grow food for you to eat…?”
These words really got to me and I came to understand how we as Ghanaians had lost our way instead of building on the foundations and positive precedents set up by people before us. Agriculture is indeed the life-line of Ghana and must be exploited by many. The West has seen many millionaires come out of that sector alone.
We left Fusena in her second floor “boutique” right after she had finished her advice session with us and complimented Sktch and I on how good we looked. Everyone knows I love to mix African styles and fabrics with a youthful twist (pops collar). She told us to keep it up and hug her. Who were we not to?! It was such an interesting and inspirational experience I tell you.
As we sat in the trotro bound for Dansoman where I lived, we realized we had left out something very important. What was this important thing you ask? We forgot to take a much needed selfie with Fusena of Madame Fusena’s Food Boutique. This really saddened us and going back to the market was just not an option then. Just look around at these hungry faces in my hall.
Sktch being the seasoned photographer he was, we vowed to carry his camera the next chance we got, to go in search of that one picture we needed so you all could bask in the glory of Fusena in picture form. Imagine! Our inspiration to be better Ghanaians in picture form! I was actually surprised he didn’t have his camera with him. ECG (Electricity Company of Ghana) was also at it as usual, so you know the battery situation for our camera phones was sad while with Fusena.
Considering all these factors, this is certainly a quest I am eager to embark on again and this time we will surely be prepared – Finding Fusena – Finding our Inspiration to be better Ghanaian youth and in effect cause a positive wave of change in our country.
I pray most of you will join us in finding her for this one special once in a life time photo. But please, if you do end up in Kaneshie market on any day, do pass by her stall and request for a picture with her. Hopefully you won’t mind sharing it with us all. Just post your pictures on Facebook or mention me on twitter @mr_asante or @sktchmathews with her picture. And don’t forget to add the hashtag #FindingFusena to the picture so we can let everyone know she has been found, even on Facebook.
Fusena could be anyone in your life who inspires you and works hard to keep people around them happy and highly motivated to be the best that they can. Fusena could be a mother, sister, father, brother, friend, neighbor, wife, boyfriend, boss etc. Please do take time of and share with the world through social media how these people have motivated and inspired you. And by sharing these stories, you just might inspire people to be great like we have.
For now, this is a piece of art work depicting the image of Fusena according to Sktch’s imagination. This might probably help us all on the quest to Find Fusena. Enjoy!