As instructed by Manye Mamiyu, we showed up at her house the following Sunday at dawn. Well, not quite at dawn. We were actually running behind by maybe half-an-hour, but I didn't foresee a problem. I had already been learning that, by West African standards, being only a half-an-hour late is like being an hour early here in the U.S..
|Manye Mamiyo Banahene and Her Spokesman|
Adamnor Banahene Samuel
"I'm so sorry," I told her. "But we very much wanted to be wearing African clothing when we received our African names, and the seamstress didn't finish until just now." This was true. Megan had gone to the seamstress at daybreak to pick up our new outfits, which had still been receiving their finishing touches as she waited.
Manye gave a dignified nod, seeming satisfied with this explanation. "Thank you for that," she said graciously. I nodded in return.
We handed over the two bottles of gin and the seven Ghana Cedis she had told us to bring. One of the bottles was immediately passed to a woman seated nearby. She rose and carried it into the house through one of the doors opening off of the front porch. We never saw it again. The other bottle, however, ended up playing a prominent role in the ceremony that was now beginning.
|Manye Mamiyo Saying Prayers|
|Manye Mamiyo Pouring a Libation|
to the Banahene Ancestors at Guest Teacher
Helen Sigler's Naming Ceremony
|Mel Receiving her African Name|
(and being Queened)
Once the glass had made its way around the porch, a shorter stool was placed in front of Manye and I was directed to take a seat on it. She brought out a simple little bracelet that consisted merely of a piece of cotton string and a few very plain beads. She tied this around my right wrist. (I would later learn that this bracelet would signal to the world the fact that I was now a Queen Mother. However, it had a special value, and I would be expected to return it to Manye Mamiyo within a week or so. Of course, at this point I didn't even know I was being made a Queen Mother, so the significance of this bracelet completely escaped me for the time being.)
Manye then began tying on another bracelet, this one a strand of chunkier, off-white beads with a faint wave of turquoise and gold mixed in. She was careful to fit this bracelet to my wrist exactly so, the idea apparently being that it should be hard enough to get on over my hand that it couldn't fly off if I waved my arm. Once she was satisfied with the fit, she sawed off the tails from both bracelets with a little paring knife.
|Kathie Power Johnson, Guest Teacher,|
Going Under the Knife
|Sarah Thomas, Guest Teacher,|
Receiving her African Name
When she had finished, her spokesman found a pen and a piece of paper, and he wrote out my name for me to keep, which was a good thing because I no longer own a memory, and the name is a long one. As it was, it took me the better part of a week to memorize it. Here's what it said: "Manye Dede Adanki Banahene III."
Bernard had been videoing the whole ceremony, but he stopped for a minute when I looked at him in some confusion. "It says 'Manye'," I told him. I already knew that this word meant "Queen Mother."
He shrugged and smiled. "She made you a queen," he told me.
To say that I was surprised would be a gross understatement. I was absolutely astonished. Me? An African Queen? In this lifetime?
But I had already been waved back onto the bench to watch while the whole process was repeated for my niece Megan. Five minutes later, she was Manye Dede Tsaako Banahene II, "Queen to the Youth." (She was 22 at the time.)
|The Building Where the Ancestral Spirits Reside|
|The Placing of Relics that are Part of the Ceremony|
|Three Queens at a Durbar (Festival Ceremony)|
Talk about being flabbergasted! I was quite sure I would have remembered if I'd ever given birth! But she was perfectly serious. Apparently, by becoming a Banahene, I had climbed right up into the middle of their family tree and taken up a recognized position there. I simply couldn't get my mind around it. But after a few seconds of just sitting there gaping at her, I finally shook off my surprise and said, for lack of any other words coming to me, "Well you're my very first daughter." At this there was a little flurry of disagreement among the women who were sitting around me. Thinking that I meant "my first-born daughter," they all hastened to assure me that I had many daughters who were older than this one.
So here I am, almost 60 now (55 then), and I don't even know how many children I have. I feel somewhat ashamed that I have not tried to meet them all and at least learn their names, perhaps even gotten to know them a little. But, aside from always being extremely busy working on Soul of Somanya projects whenever I am in Ghana, I suspect that such introductions would require the giving of many gifts on my part. As it is, the list of people to whom tradition dictates that I should bring gifts each time I come is growing rapidly, to the point that I could easily fill my entire airline weight allowance with nothing else, thereby jeopardizing Soul of Somanya's robustness, since it would mean I could not bring with me much-needed supplies. Moreover, gifts cost money, and Soul of Somanya (and therefore I) simply have none to spare. So I have postponed this pleasure, though with great regret. I have, however, had the pleasure of speaking to another of my new relatives since I returned home, a cousin (brother?) of Manye's spokesman. Having come across my story when researching the Banahene family on the internet, he promptly called me up to let me know that I now have a relative in Texas, where he now lives.
I hope that someday I can meet them all. I hope I can take a more active role in this family I am so honored to have joined. Maybe some day I'll be able to stay in Somanya for more than five or six weeks, and have the luxury of leisurely days that aren't pledged to the completion of training and other Soul of Somanya tasks that simply can't wait for a year or two until I can come up with the money to make another trip. I hope so. I so love being there, and I know that a richer and deeper kind of adventure would be mine if I could spend unhurried hours getting to know this Krobo family that has so graciously, so unequivocally, welcomed me into its bosom--even into its history. For now, I can only dream about it. But one day . . . .