Sunday, April 13, 2008

THE DEER HUNT (Aboakyre Festival in Winneba, Ghana)

The night before the deer hunt,
There was excitement in the house,
We stood upstairs looking down onto the courtyard,
While men and women went in and out
Sweat pouring off their brows.

This was my family house,
The meeting place where all the hunters came to prepare,
Fixing their hunting gear and choosing what to wear,
Where women came to cook,
and where the elders assembled to perform their ancient rituals
Not written down in any book.

Sleep would elude us that night,
We sat up eating plantain and groundnuts,
Steamed white corn flour, hot pepper and shrimps
Slices of sugar cane pulled between our teeth,
Drinking cold minerals while the men had their beers and
Something that made them spit.

Dawn was creeping in when the hunters assembled,
They gathered around in their hunting clothes
With sticks, guns, cutlasses, bows and arrows
Looking fierce and frightening to a young child like me.
The noise and drumming, the shouts and scraping of metal cutlasses and
knives on the cement floor sent shivers up my spine.then suddenly they
left, marching and shouting out of the yard , with all the women standing
behind waving their brightly coloured cloths and banging pots with their
wooden spoons.
Then silence!

A different kind of noise arose,
Women laughing, cooking, sweeping,
Children running around playing, shouting,
Trying to get pieces of food out of the pots when mothers were not
Throughout their work they waited to hear
Did our men catch the elusive deer!
For us the children it was now one big party,
The smells going out into the yard made us lick our lips and act like
Scattered chicks,
Our mothers lashed out when we went near the food with
Their sticks shaped like little whips
But we had no fear the men were not here,
What could our mothers do when their hands were full
With pots and pans, and other things too?
Time was getting on and all were anxious,
The silence became like the calm before the storm.

A distant shout, the trampling of feet,
The drumming and shouting swept us off our feet.
The men came jogging with branches so green
The deer held high, looked frightened, with big eyes so brown.
Our colours raised high,
Our men danced full of life
The women gave shouts in the yard,
We were first, we caught it first,
Good luck will be with us the next year,
We all rushed out and followed the crowd
To the chief’s palace to claim our reward
Now the festival gun was fired,
The hunt was over, the men looked tired,
But this was the beginning for us,
Our Company had won the annual prize
Throughout the day we were full of cheer,
Going in and out of each others houses,
While the men sat around and drank beer,
Late in the night we started to doze
As the night brought things to a final close and all around,
the cooking fires, embers gradually flickered out and died.


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