Two weeks ago today, I was in my Holy Village of Anyako to celebrate the life of my uncle, Leo Midodzi Demanya. He came directly after my mother and took me and my siblings under his wings after our Mother died while we were still in school. His passing was a blow to everyone in spite of the fact that he was 96.
Having grown up at Anyako, my uncle’s funeral brought to me a new vista of understanding and appreciating growing up there. It was a celebration never witnessed; attendance was massive in spite of COVID protocols. The lives that Uncle Leo impacted were huge, according to testimonies.
I have been to many funerals, festivities and other events, but none brought almost all my relatives, classmates and friends together the way my uncle’s funeral did. It brought me nostalgia I never felt before. I met my cousins with whom I played ampe and hide-and-seek back in the day on moonlit nights, disturbing the old folks with our screaming and extreme happiness.
My grandpa, Amevuvor Demanya, would shout at us to keep quiet, but we took that as part of the fun and continued enjoying being children. Occasionally, Grandpa would sneak behind us and spray us with a pail of water, which would keep us quiet for a moment or two and we got back to being naughty. Today, as I need more peace and quiet, it hurts me for what I contributed in putting the old man through.
I lived in an enclave called Afeyeme, which had an open space that served as our playground. Next to the Demanya family home was that of Jiagge, followed by Adjasoo, Aflakpui, Fugah, Adzika, Kumasa and then Segbefia in a circular shape. You can only imagine what it was like when children from all these homes congregated on the open space. It was a childhood like no other and we had no care in the world when we were at play. We were all not of the same age group though. After all, monkeys play according to size, no?
In my estimation, half of our number is dead and gone. I was the only boy who was excellent at ampe. And it was fun beating my female cousins except one. Naomi would beat anyone under the sun at ampe. I cannot remember if after sweating from all the jumping I had the presence of mind to take a bath. I guess falling into an exhausted sleep was the tonic I needed.
During weekends we would go fishing in the Keta Lagoon, the big boys doing a better job of it than us small ones. Swimming in the lagoon was one favourite pastime. Other times, we went to set traps for rats in the cemeteries a mile away or catch birds. Sundays saw us in church to avoid the cane on our backs next day at school.
When the Lagoon overflowed its banks in 1963/64, the southern third of our house was under water. On occasions I would wade in the water, catch some fish and grill them for lunch before setting off for school, especially around noon. This was because the local Catholic school was under water and they were made to run shifts with our school.
At the funeral, I met just a few of my classmates and we did a rollcall of our mates. Mathew Attipoe died as did Awotor Gawuga, Legbedze, Helegbe, Dzotefe, Gladys Avemee, Margo Agbedor, Felix Korkoryie and others. The thought of having lost these mates made me feel lonely and alone at the same time. My classmates are always a part of me. I regard them as family. To lose any is not a good feeling for me. If people meet in the other world, what would they be thinking or saying? “Segbefia and others are still back there, sweating under the sun and buying fuel at ten cedis a litre.”?
Prosper Kafui Senaya is very much alive as do Oscar Dovlo, siblings Emmanuel and Godson Nyatuame, Christian Asempa, Atsu Forfoe and a few others we could recollect. Agbashi Woanya could not remember I was her classmate.
Some of my mates have never returned to Anyako since we completed school and no one knows where they are. A few boys and girls joined us in Middle School from the island of Seva, southeast of Anyako. I remember Harry Fiawotso, Brandina Sosu, Setsoafia, Amegbor, Hukporti and Daniel Avorgbedor, now a professor of music.
The Seva folks were good at basket weaving and other craft. Avorgbedor was one brilliant chap who gave us Anyako boys like Asempa, Senaya and me hell in academic performance. He never had the voice for singing so it came as a surprise when he became a music professor. I would visit my Seva mates; their parents would order them to pluck coconut for me to drink. By the time lunch was ready, my stomach was already distended from coconut water.
It was immense pride to have your mates visit and parents were eager to play host. We had so much to eat and talk about, young as we were. And we tried to do our best in school so as not to disappoint our parents. Because I was the only boy among eleven girls in the Demanya home, the pressure was greater on me to prove my mettle. I must not be feminised. And I did not disappoint.
Everyone was everybody’s keeper. Any elderly person had the right to discipline any wayward kid and then report back to their parents or teachers. It was a way of ensuring that children grew up into responsible adults. Because of the history of the suffering of our people during their migration, very little room was allowed for deviant behaviour.
Growing up in Anyako was not only fun; it was a period of learning to live among equals, learning to live with adults, learning to be of service, learning the culture and tradition of our people; and above all, learning the language.
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