White, Red Black

It's a creative short story on the culture of a particular African society.

Some maidens are dancing and singing. Their breasts are barely developed around their chests, are pieces of kente wrappers tied. Other brightly colored wrappers cover their buttocks, and some strings of beads are tied to give the required beats and rhythms. The four young dancers thrill the audience as they dance with practiced steps.

The playground is the closest open space to the family house, and hence, it has been chosen for the occasion. As I watch the maidens shake their bodies to the rhythm of the drum, I remember how watching a similar dance on this playground some years backfilled my heart with joy.

********

It was on a bright Wednesday morning, some few years back. I can still recollect the husky voice of the family head talking to the gods, asking them to bless the union as he poured libations on them. This was after I had genuflected to serve wine to Kwodjo. It was all merry and fun, people ate to their fill, and the elderly men had several pots of wine to drink.

The light drizzle, colorful rainbow, and serene atmosphere that covered Mankesim village were seen and translated as a good omen. "The gods are happy with the union," said Lobo, the drummer. "Adwoa, the gods have joined in your wedding feast. Look at the rainbow in the sky. Nyamiche, Ozu, and Oma have united in smiling at us from above, said, my mother.

It was a common belief in Mankesim that the deities gave happiness, wealth, and children; and showed their pleasure by causing rainbows to illuminate the sky.

I still remember how my mother had advised me in low tones as she rubbed shea butter all over my body on the eve of the night I was to be taken to my husband's house.

"Adwoa, I beg of you to be respectful and dutiful, your husband is always right, and you must take it as I say. Do not exchange words with him, do not bring shame unto this family. May Nyankopon blesses your marriage with a dozen twins, she said with a faint smile.

I was taken to Kwodjos's house at sunset amidst singing and celebrations. Lobo and his crew drummed along the six-kilometer walk with renewed energy and frenzy as if they hadn't been playing all day. Everyone, the young and old, took it upon themselves to show off their dancing skills. Some danced in crooked postures; some twisted their waists to match the rhythm of the drum, while the more tired and elderly ones were reduced to the clapping of hands and shaking of heads.

Kwodjo came in at midnight when it was all silent when all those who escorted me to my new home had all gone and must have probably fallen asleep in their homes. I saw him come in with a piece of white cloth, the one dreaded by every lady in Mankesim village, the one that would determine my status in my new home, the one that would be used to measure the number of tubers and kegs of palm oil that will be sent to my family.

My heart kept pounding as he approached the bed; he put off the oil lamp and lay next to me.

I came out in the morning adorned with very colorful beads, and my shoulders held so high as Kwodjo rolled out tubers of yam and kegs of palm oil to be sent as a token of appreciation to my parent, together with the blood-stained white clothing; a mark of me coming to my new home as a full woman.

********

As I travel in thought and try to remember happy things to lift up my spirit, I hear my name as if from afar. "Adwoa!" comes the family head's voice. It is then I remember where I am and what is about to happen. "What are you thinking of my daughter? It is time, he says with a smile, and it is greeted with loud cheers from the men and women who have formed a circle around the playground.

"Koffi is a famous hunter," says the family head. He coughs, clears his throat, and continues, "Kwesi is a successful trader, and Kwame is a brave hunter. These young men, we believe, are capable of taking good care of you. The choice is yours. He says the last sentence with a mischievous smile on his face as if to remind me that I have no choice at all.

Within a few seconds, a table is brought before me, and upon it lay three caps. I take a long look at the caps, and my tear glands go into action immediately. Their colors hunt me; they remind me of many things.

The white cap reminds me of the kente I was wrapped in on the night I was taken to Kwodjo's house as his bride. The red cap speaks volumes; it reminds me of the bloodstains on Kwodjo's butchered body on the day his remains were brought from the forest, it reminds me of the wrappers tied at Oma's shrine where I slept for two days as part of the requirements for my husband's final burial. Black isn't friendly; I hate it; it is the color of the single wrapper I was made to wear throughout Kwodjo's burial, which lasted for about two weeks.

"You're taking too long, Adwoa; make your choice," says the family head when he realizes that I am lost in thought.

With teary eyes, I raise my head to look at the faces of the men whose caps are before me. They are all smiling, perhaps laughing at my misery. I am thrown into confusion, for I know not which cap belongs to whom. Who owns the red? To whom belongs the black? Does the white belong to Kwesi because he's light-skinned? These questions keep ringing in my head as I get more agitated.

"Oh, Nyankopon! Who did I offend? What sought of life is this? Oh, Kwodjo! Why did you choose to repay me in such a manner? This was not what you promised me. Why did you partake in a death fight? I mourn.

With a very heavy heart and trembling body, I close my eyes and extend my shaky fingers to pick a cap.

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