Classically, in many civilizations, people attributed the things they didn’t understand to the gods, or to something supernatural. Thus, a lot of belief systems were born. Where does the sun come from? Oh, it’s actually a god. Thanks, Akhenaten.
What are earthquakes? Oh, Titans are fighting, and Poseidon’s mad. My daughter is sick; her temperature is high. Now, I have no clue what a “fever” is, so it must be a fire demon inside her, heating her up. Stuff like that.
So, after about 17 years of existing in a Ghanaian society and being exposed to quite a few real and virtual people of other nationalities and cultural experiences, I believe I am entirely qualified (please note that I am being partially sarcastic) to state the four things which I am pretty sure will guarantee that you are either a wizard, witch or bewitched.
For so long, we have lived in cultures rooted in social practices. What is a private study room? What is a quiet library? What kind of nonsensical time-waster is “people-watching” while sipping coffee? Oh no. We don’t know what privacy and solitude are o, please. Sometimes, even sex could be an outdoor public act. It’s not about your personal life; it’s about our culture. So now, when your relatives come to visit you and you get bored after two hours of pointless conversation where all the important topics have been exhausted, and retreat to your room, it’s antisocial blasphemy. Don’t do that ish, man. Come downstairs so aunty Something-or-the-other can tell you how your nufu has grown or so that uncle Whatsisface can ask you if you’ve found a girlfriend yet.
Okay, but on a more serious note, we don’t seem to be able to understand that introversion is a thing that exist, even – gasp! – among Africans! I’m tired of people looking at me strangely because I don’t enjoy loud parties or going clubbing for hours on end. I’m rather exhausted from the irony of how much people like to talk about how the youth don’t read enough, but I get blasted for being antisocial because I read a lot.
My favourite activity, writing, is a solitary one. But people will take it upon themselves to worry about my mental health and social life on my behalf. Of course, it can’t possibly be natural to enjoy solitude. Man is a social-creature, and as such, he must be surrounded by other social creatures 25/7 (Yes, I added an extra hour!), n’est-ce pas? If at any point, you human, a social creature, would rather be alone than engulfed, there must be something spiritually wrong. It’s an evil spirit. We rebuke it!
- Mental Illness
This is a fun one. I wonder if people got depressed in Ancient Africa, and if they were oppressed due to others’ denial. The way the recorded history of Africa is, I doubt I will ever find my answer. But I find it hard to believe that every African was always mentally alright, never suffered from anxiety, or was never even born autistic.
However, for some reason, we believe it’s a myth on this side of the world. We, who have some of the most religious and superstitious countries in the world, can’t believe in something that we can’t see manifested on the body. I guess somehow, it makes sense. If we don’t like believing in what we can’t see, it makes sense that we worship(ped) so many physical idols and crafted statues to appease our senses.
“You’re depressed? What kind of disease is that? Get on your knees and pray to God to unbind you from that spell that your neighbours have cast on you, oh! I’m sure it was that woman down the road. Ever since her husband died, she has been trying to inflict her own sorrow on others. Tofiakwa!”
Sometimes, it sounds funny, but it’s really not when people start offing themselves not just because of their ailment, but because of a simple lack of understanding in their own communities. It really is nonsense. Despite all my religious joking, I’m actually a Christian, and time and time again, it amazes me at the “Christian” community’s lack of willingness to simply understand each other, so they can actually be useful. Talk about being exhausted of members of your own community. We’re unconsciously excommunicating people all the time.
I bet you didn’t expect this one. But it’s there! See, let’s do a simple survey. All you West Africans who were banned from reading Harry Potter or any book of the sort when you were younger, raise your hands! (My hand is up.) You’d be surprised at the number. My grandfather got the first three HP books for me on my seventh or so birthday. My mother seized them all and handed them to the semi-literate house-help to keep. Apparently, if I were to read Harry Potter, I would become a witch. Interestingly enough, I never had the Wizard of Oz seized, or even Sleeping Beauty. Some witches are more witchy than others eh? I don’t get it.
My favourite animals are horses. My favourite fictional animals are unicorns. But you, let me try mentioning the words “unicorn” or “dragon” in the house and see how all eyes except my little brother’s cloud in alarm. A close family member has called me “bewitched” behind my back before, in all seriousness, no jokes intended. I don’t know how to make you understand. Perfectly practical parents gave birth to a daydreamer daughter who’s always writing and can’t keep her head out of other worlds, and it ALARMS them to ridiculous extents.
Incidentally, on an entirely unrelated note, I don’t know any Ghanaian fantasy and sci-fi authors. That is not to say that they don’t exist; I just don’t know them. If you do, though, be sure to holla at me in the comment section or tweet at me @_Akotowaa. (Anyway, shout-out to Nnedi Okorafor for being awesome!)
- Artistic Aspirations
The crown on the cake. This is the best one. Wahala don come if you, in your black skin, born to respectable parents who have toiled for years to put food on the table so that you can clear it and wash the dishes, as well as open the gate and pass them the remote, dare to come up and tell them that you want to be an artist. A de3n? All those school fees they paid, and still, no sense was knocked into your head? You want to waste this quality education? Tofiakwa. Please, we are paying in advance for law school. Gyae saa nkwasias3m.
Now although I’m not blind, and can see that Paulo Coelho is Brazilian, his story strikes so close to home. When his parents found out he wanted to write for a living, they sent him to a mental hospital. When he came out, they thought things were fine – not knowing, he had joined a theatre group. *hands on head emoji* They found out and sent him right back, where he underwent electroconvulsive therapy. That’s basically when they give you electric shocks until you pass out. The man’s biography is insane. I feel like if we could do some here, on this continent, we would. Our only remaining alternative, however, is to send us to the pastor so he can pray for God to cure us of our ambitious folly (which clearly comes from an inner demon who makes its host reject sense).
I imagine that there are parents who would love to perform an exorcism if their children were ever rebellious and bold enough to stick adamantly to their aspirations. After all, you must be possessed if you insist on following a career path that leaves you entirely broke. Right? Right? Sigh. Sometimes, I feel like I’m so done with this place.
So there you have it: 4 sure-fire ways to tell if you’re a wizard, witch or bewitched in West Africa. Do you pass any of the tests? I display all 4 symptoms on a daily basis! 😉