I am not sure if it is okay to put up the images of the chiefs I met (officially and unofficially), and about whom I am going to write here. Just to be on the safe side, I’ll just narrate my experience of meeting them and not post any of the images from my meetings with the chiefs.
The chief who was going to take me to meet the Paramount, Bolewura (Chief of Bole area) had given me the time of 8:00am to be at his “palace” so that we could walk next door to the Paramount’s palace. By the time my assistant and I managed to get everything ready – everything being traditional (and non-traditional) gifts, known as “kola” that one is expected to present to the chiefs in his/her first visit – it was already 8:30 (and I was pestering my assistant to speed-up the arrangements while he was assuring me not to worry about being late, for it seems Ghanaian punctuality can be compared to Nepali one!). Anyway, with help from a couple of local boys, we managed to get everything to this chief’s palace and we were almost an hour late than the time agreed!
May be because it was too early in the morning or may be it is the custom to meet the chief in his private residence, we were taken to what looked like the private living quarters of this paramount, and not the official “palace” which stood just by the roadside, and had a painted inscription proclaiming it as such and welcoming the visitors. Anyway, my first impression was that the Bolewura, the paramount chief of the Bole area lived in a modest house like most other people here, including the lesser chiefs. However, there was a 4×4 vehicle (albeit in a pretty bad condition with a lot of bumps and scratches on the body of the vehicle) parked outside the house. I guess this much privilege one should enjoy if one is the paramount of an area where traditional council and chieftancy is still fairly strong.
As we were led towards the room where we were going to meet the paramount, I heard (and then saw) a generator running to provide electricity, for it was a scheduled load-shedding in the area. Again, I said to myself, this much privilege one should have if one is the paramount of Bole! I wasn’t, however, expecting what I was about to witness as I entered the room to meet and greet the paramount. There was a large flat screen TV, which was tuned to the MTV and on the full volume just next to the door. As I looked around to see the audience, expecting young boys and girls – the so called MTV generation – I see this old man sitting on a pile of skins, resting his body and legs on those leather-moulded cushions with the remote in his hand. And he was THE PARAMOUNT of the Bole – known as Bolewura!! He was watching/listening to some American hip-hop star at full volume! I just wished I had a movie camera to capture that moment! It was such a strange and ironic view that I don’t think I will ever forget.
For some strange reason, the first thing that came to my mind seeing this “scene” was the story about a Malla King in Nepal that we had to read in primary school history books – the one who used to sit at the window of his palace’s top floor room, inspecting the smoke coming out of the roofs of every household within his dominion. Apparently only when he saw smoke coming out of each and every household did he went down to take his meal – the smoke being the sign that something was cooking in those households, and that all his subjects had something to eat! Here, in this strong traditional heartland of Ghana, where the chiefs are revered like kings (and in many sense they are practically the kings of their dominion), it was all very strange strange to see a paramount watching MTV on a large flat-screen TV running on a fossil-fuel generator, while his subjects were going on about their daily business on a day of scheduled load-shedding.
Anyway, just an observation and the thoughts that came to my mind at that moment in time, and nothing more! I guess part of being the modern-day paramount is that you have to “modernise” yourself with time and technology!!
The chief leading me to the Bolewura sat on the floor ready to greet his “boss”, while they directed me towards the sofa to sit down. I decided to follow the tradition and sat on the floor myself to greet Bolewura. The TV was still in full volume so it was difficult to hear what was being said between the lesser chief and the paramount. I guess he was introducing me and explaining the purpose of my visit. After this introduction I presented the “kola” to the paramount, and was asked to say a few words to introduction myself. I introduced myself to the paramount and explained the purpose of my visit to his area. At this point he turned the volume down a bit, probably because I wasn’t speaking loud enough for him to hear with the TV in full volume in the background. As I finished talking, the paramount granted me his permission to stay and work in his area and assured me that I would be welcome anywhere in his dominion! The meeting was a success after all.
My assistant then asked if I would like to have my picture taken with the paramount. I said I wouldn’t mind if the paramount didn’t have any reservations. He assented and I took a couple of his shots myself, before handing the camera to the assistant and going to the paramount’s side to pose for the picture. Another couple of snaps and our meeting was over (Later I found out that the picture that my assistant took of me with the paramount was completely out of focus! Somehow I wasn’t as disappointed, probably because I enjoy taking pictures and try to get as best snaps as I could but don’t enjoy as much being in the pictures myself!).
We then left the Bolewura, who still seemed more focussed on the MTV than on anything else, and thus making full use of the generator that was burning away the expensive fuel!
Next, I was taken to meet and greet few other chiefs, who act as the advisors (often termed “king-makers”) to the Bolewura. Most of those visits were pretty ordinary, except one. The last of the “king-makers” chief that I was taken to greet actually used the “kola” that I had offered him to perform a little ceremony to pray for my successful stay (and work) in Ghana! Before this chief, none of the other chiefs (including) the paramount had actually performed any kind of ceremony praying for my success. So, this was one of those special moments as I heard what he was doing through the translations. And of all the meetings that morning, for me, this became the most special one and will remain as such.
Well I said I would not be posting images of my meetings with the chiefs, but I couldn’t help posting these two pictures of this chief performing ceremony for my successful stay and work in Ghana.
Thank you chief! And so far I think your prayers are working!!