Cultural EXPRESSIONS

JUST ONE MAN – #360WritersChallenge 3rd Place Winner

It was a very long return journey home Efo Dolu that dusk. The hunt he had set off on at dawn had proved empty again and the sharp pangs of hunger that clawed viciously at his stomach were insignificant compared to the berating and nagging that he knew awaited him back home. And he was beginning to feel he deserved it. After all, he was the man of the house. Barely had he reached the shrub-hedged boundaries of his thatched compound than he met with the distinct shrill voice of the mother of his children. ‘’Kokuvi,”- that was her pet name for him- ,”I hope you did not come home empty-handed today too.’’ He swallowed bitterly as his steps slowed down automatically, as if invisible boulders had been tied to his feet. He could not reply his wife.

ET4Where from this horrible menace, this terrible famine that threatened to starve the entire Ewe tribe into devastation? The most powerful torgbuis in the entire region had been consulted. Sacrifices had been made, even to the extent of killing all those the oracle had pointed to as being the cause of the famine but it only intensified. Things could only get worse, because they had traded all their valuables- ornaments, precious artefacts, even some royal sikenu– in exchange of food from the nearest lands but the drought had aggravated and there was very little else they could do to survive. Most citizens had given up and were actually living nonchalantly, as though they cared not whether or not they saw the dawn of the next dawn. Others, however, had indomitable spirits and were ready to die fighting, if need be. Such a man was Efo Dolu, the hunter.

The scene painted above was what Efo Dolu’s ten-squad family and in fact, all households like his, were up against. No food. No water. No happiness in their souls. But strife and confusion were as abundant in the communities as the grains of sand by the side of the Tsidzii River.

Indeed, times were hard.

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The next day, Efo left home again at the break of dawn, as was his routine. But this time, he did not use the same route he had been using in previous times. It was time to break into unknown sectors of forest. Did they not say it was foolishness to do things the same way but yet expect different results?

Gun slung down his left shoulder and armed with a half-cup of water and two semi-ripe mango fruits he had chanced upon in the previous expedition, he ventured into the forest. Soon, he arrived at the junction that led into the parts of the forest he was familiar with. A left turn at that same junction, however, would throw him into unfamiliar areas.

ETHe did not know the dangers in those parts. He even wanted to discard the whole idea. But something, an invisible force, a compelling spirit…kept lifting his feet, one after the other, step by step. Was it his mind? Or was it some divine influence? Whatever it was, he kept moving. He walked for hours, taking a sip of water every now and then. Soon, he arrived at a place where an interposing thicket blocked his way. Efo made as if to make a U-turn when a thick green rope locked his feet down. He tumbled down awkwardly into soft earth with a heavy thud and banged his head against a hard mound.

Efo Dolu rose up slowly and brushed off the loam in his hair and on his frayed clothes. Then he bent down to find what had made contact with his head. He dug it out of the ground. What he saw marvelled him!

It looked like agbeli, but looked far bigger. It was not something he had ever seen in his life, and he was sure none of his folks knew anything like that existed. He may very well have discovered a new foodstuff! ‘Excited’ was an understatement, the man was elated!!! Feverishly, he surveyed the nearby fields and found to his utmost amazement that the forest had acres upon acres of the crop. He then cut off the upper portion of the tuber he had first uprooted and buried it in the soil, so he could take the other part home and come back for the other portion later.

Efo Dolu walked home with his chest out and his head high.

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ET3That evening, the Dolu family cooked and ate the tuber the man of the house had discovered. They did not know whether it was poisonous food or not so they first boiled it and fed the domestic animals with it. When nothing adverse happened, they then treated themselves to slices, accompanying it with green herb atadzi. It was the best meal they had had in months! And needless to say, the matrimonial bed of Efo and his wife saw vigorous activity that night. His hard work was duly rewarded, and in good measure, too!

The next morning, the palace received the hunter and his wife, who told the king the amazing story of the discovered crop which would save the entire tribe from perishing. The king picked his strongest men to accompany Efo Dolu to the forest, from whence they came with good report. And that was how an entire tribe was saved from dying from hunger.

Weeks later, Efo went to inspect the tuber head he had buried and to his surprise, it had swollen up, with shoots arising from it. With the king’s permission, he named the tuber crop “ete”, loosely translated to mean “swollen”. (The Ewe people still call it by that name.)

In appreciation of this special feat, it was in the Ewe Kingdom that the Dolu family and all their unborn generation be accommodated in the palace and receive special care all the days of their lives.

All it took was an ordinary hunter who was willing to leave his comfort zone. Well, maybe a supernatural hand was involved too.

THE END

 Glossary of Ewe words used

Efo: Respectful title for a male.                                     Torgbui: Priest in charge of an oracle.

Sikenu: Treasures.                                                        Agbeli: Cassava.

Atadzi: Stew.                                                                 Ete: Yam.

Tsidzii: The name given to the present Red Volta when it was not as big as it is presently.

Author: Leslie Akplah, Student Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST)

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