For my Husband, an Educated Fool - Nana Yeboaa


1

We lived in the village of Assesewa
We married after my bragro
(But) Babies, they didn’t come!
The oracles had said
Two you shall get
Later they will come
In the days of our fight for independence
I had my children

Egya Kofi came
From the white man's castle
He came
Around him we gathered
He told a tale of visit
A visit to the white mans land far and beyond
To see his world
All were proud of him



2

He went and came
Agya Kofi went and came with a white woman for a wife
His lawful wife he said
He signed papers and she was given to him
(Hm) Just a piece of paper for a wife
He built a mansion, away from the hut we lived
In the white mans language, they spoke
A sister I was presumed to be

I cook but he eats not
The grinding stone I use
The clay pot
He says when I cook its all dirt
I have not what the white woman uses
He complains when he eats my food
He says I over cook

When the moon blesses me at night
My husband comes to me
But my husband complains
He tells me I am dirty when he feels the shea butter on my skin
He says I smell like a shear butter factory

He says my hair is too thick
He can’t run his hands through them
My husband says that the flesh of my skin is fat
my breasts are too big
And my buttocks too much
He says I am too dark

When my husband comes to me at nights when he is denied
Hear him again! He says I am too rigid
I do not wiggle and giggle
That is why he doesn’t want to make love to me

My husband says I am too backward
Because I use herbs,
I am my own doctor
I have remedy for headaches
I have remedy for worm infestation
I have remedy for malaria
Remedy for impotence and bareness
All these are in the forest



3

My back aches
I till the land from dawn to dusk
The merciless sun beating on my back
the rains soothing and balming
The rewards of my hard work
Cattle, sheep, goats, and chicken
All that my husband knows is kill and eat with his white wife

To my house he points
The fruits of my labour are directed
To a wife who is my rival
Bought by a piece of paper
One who does not toil with her hands?
But paints them
Those shall be diner, servant I am not
The sultry taste of sweat produces food

My husband has turned into a hypocrite
My husband says a woman is not to talk back to her husband
But, I see his white wife raising her hand to him
I too am a woman, a mother of his children
A woman who cooked
A woman who washed
And warmed his bed
Gave him a pillow of breast
Now he doesn’t like me because I am black



4

In the old days, my husband, you were a proud man
You had the most beautiful woman
My hips were the jealousy of your friends
My eyes the emerald of light
The smoothest skin like polished stone
You adorned me with cowries, beads, and gold
Now you distinguish between colors
Because I am black, you do not like me any more
Two babies and the oranges are still strong
The stand with no support
These you say are not ideal
The little ones you cannot hold
The bones that grind against you
That, you love

Through rain and shine
Thin and thick
The star that led, protected and comforted you
In my bosom you found solace
Lovers we have been
Friends we were
I was a mother who breast-fed you
A sister who chided you
Now I am no good
To you an educated man
A fool lost in the world of his ancestors.

18 comments:

Kajsa Hallberg Adu said...

Beautiful and sad words from a perspective seldom heard, ayekoo.

Afric McGlinchey said...

Ah...this one resonates with me. Well written, and pierces the emotions, beautiful one!

Nana Kofi Acquah said...

I haven't read poetry this good in a long long time. I'm sorry to say, my dear, you married a fool

Darko Antwi said...

SHALL I GO TO CAPE COAST OR TO ELMINA?

When a piece of writnig presents a marital issue such as this week's poem, it requires careful examination. Else readers may be left in limbo. Or their judgement may be bias. Personally, I dont know which stand to take.

Robert Frost's domestic 'Home Burial' treats a similar husband-wife relationship. But Nana's work is more complex; interwoven with variety of subjects. And the tempo of conflict is even high.

In this scenerio, the speaker has been abused, and she has also turned abusive and voilent. She pours her anger in rebellion - as she recounts the deeds of her husband, 'the educated fool'.

If you consider the speaker to be a person who upholds and respects her cultural values, then you would realise how ironic and in appropriate the title is. It will be fatally immmoral if we should base her unruly verbal attitude on her emotional state - or give her any credit / benefit for addressing her husband as 'fool'. There's no reasonable excuse for insult.

Besides,she has no regard for her white rival's culture. She looks down upon it with utter disdain: [Hm] Just a piece of paper for a wife.' That is very contemptuous a statement - but non-racial, I think.

An educated 'fool' is not a fool if he becomes mindful of nutrition and health hazards: the use of grinding stones, overcooking etc. However, I have so much pity [for the woman] when a supposed educated person mocks coplexion. There's nothing wrong with the wearing of the darkest of skins, although Egya Kofi may have a preferred choice of colour - and have reckoned as such.

I felt like crying when I read: 'my bosom you found solace... lovers we have been. Now I am no good. Still, I will disagree he's a fool - but by a bigger margin, he is ungrateful.

To be continued...

Anonymous said...

A lament--to the bone beautiful the man not only lacks respect for culture and women but also lacks emotional maturity.As the Good book says--for what shall it profit a man if he gain the whole World and lose his own soul and what shall a man give in exchange for his soul--eller hur Kajsa--Silverzorro.

Darko Antwi said...

PRETENCE IS THE ROOT OF ALL EVILS IN THIS POEM.

Don't be surprised if I should withdraw every grain of sympathy I have for the multreated wife. Because she has contributed to the scheme of her abondonment. She condoned, and pretended to be 'a sister'.

Her pretence may be an act of convenience or he may have acted as a sibling under an oath she was ignorant of. Whichever is true, she cant be justified.

PRAISE.

The use of sensual imagery is an effective device that eases nerves in an otherwise tensed poem: 'Two babies and oranges are still strong. They stand with no support. These you say are not ideal. The little one you cannot hold... That, you love.

As a poem for leisure, it is well-written and amazing. As a text for study, it has the vitality to challenge academic minds. I pray that the Ghana Education Service and the Minisries will see this masterpiece.

Nana, you are brilliant and we adore you.

Prince Kwasi Mensah said...

Nana Yeboaa has touched a real issue: the future of black romance in the midst of globalization. Whether we like it or not, people are going to marry from other cultures. That is a fact of life. Interracial marriages will always be blasphemous to cultural purists but the world is bigger than what any culture thinks of itself.

However, the woman in 'For my Husband, an Educated Fool, is married to a man who is akin to a bird that has one leg in water and the other in sand. Such a man simply does not know what he wants. The reality is stark because a lot of African men who had prior romances back home have had to move on. Yet in moving on, some look back like Lot's wife and become pillars of salt. The bottom line is responsibility for one's actions. If you love the black woman, do not torture her with the presence of a foreign woman. Pick one of them and stop being an albatross of conflicting emotions.

Nana Yeboaa's poem gives us a chance as a people to assess the way we treat ourselves in tangent to the outside world. Do African men respect their women enough not to subject them to such humiliation? Are African women stuck in the mentality that only African men are good for them? This is certainly a call to look in and outside the box of our comfort zones.

I respect Nana's work and hope she ignites a passionate discussion for our own good.

Afric McGlinchey said...

Heartfelt words - I've re-read the poem, from both an emotional and poetic perspective. Emotionally, it succeeds, because it captures the humiliation and injustice of rejection and abandonment by a man who has moved on to his next novelty. Be assured, he'll move on from her too at some point. He is a self-centred arrogant egocentric. But the poet is clearly not in a position to walk away, and this is where the anguish of the poem is felt.
Poetically, I would like to have seen more images, sensed more rhythm in the words. It might benefit from a rewrite. I liked the moon image, the oranges, but so much more lyricism and visual imagery is possible here.
Still, and most importantly, you have a VOICE. And you are using it. Hope this helps many women to stand up and refuse this kind of treatment.

Rob Taylor said...

I am curious how many of us as readers assume that the speaker in the poem is the poet herself. Whether or not this is the case, is it fair for us to make such assumptions?

Anonymous said...

Well Rob never considered that for a moment that the speaker was the poet--that is part of the poems --multi meaning and power of seduction surely?--Silverzorro.

Darko Antwi said...

IN A NUTSHELL

As much as it is believed that the husband's attitude [but not his choice to marry another] is unbearable, I also think the agrieved wife's reaction is forbidden by custom. Probably if she had followed traditions of the village of Assesewa, she wouldn't have dared the use of 'fool'

Traditions aside, customs defied; the use of 'fool' (as an abusive language) underlines the extent to which the woman is hurt. The term, fool, also weilds so much force as a weapon to inflict pain upon her corrupt husband. In a sense, it is effectly ployed to raise attention / excitment, and to lure readers into the crushed spirit of a dejected wife who was once a good steward /faithful from the period of the 'oracle' through to the period of presumption (conscent)that led to her playing as 'a sister' - and consequently a victim.

Yeah, Rob, I understood the author is the speaker, but i try to treat her detached from her work.

Darko Antwi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ImageNations said...

This is a story I know very well. It has happened to a lot of people I personally know, not only women but also men. In fact, to be honest and not hide behind others, it did happen to me.

I had this girlfriend from childhood (aged 15) till I completed my first degree (aged, 23). We were very close and all and sundry (forget the cliche) thought we were about to marry. But as fate would have it, her mother, who had been domiciled in London for more than two decades, invited her. So she went but came back and went for good again. It was on the day we were to celebrate our 10th anniversary (aged, 25) when she told me that we had to go our separate ways, because we are too far apart. I knew that wasn't the truth but what could I say. A young man from a humble background in a town with no internet access. You can just imagine. I was heartbroken but I faced it with pride.

In all, this piece speaks to me and evokes a sense of loss. I like the imagery.

Rob Taylor said...

Nana Fredua, a sad story - thanks for sharing it.

Darko, I agree with your impulse to detach the author from the writing.

Whether or not I get the sense that a poem is auto-biographical, I always believe the poet and speaker are separate entities.

Even if something is about actual events (which we as readers usually can't immediately know), it is only based on them. The story has been turned into art, and in so doing their is always some adjusting, some refocusing of the story, and of the speaker. So perhaps the story is "true," but that doesn't mean, in my mind, that the speaker is the author.

Felix Kuuire said...

quick observation..not to be chauvinist here: u c a man cannot say the same things about a woman, becos society will laugh at him for being a cuckold but c a woman does it and gets sympathy.

c the double standards? feminism did more than just empowering women. It emasculated men. da see-saw of gender equality is tilted to man a monster and woman a warrior!

Bernadette said...

Thank you all for your comments, poetry has many meanings to different people and at different stages in life. Poetry interpretations are personal. I am glad this piece has generated much debate and discussion. One thing I vowed in writing is not to apologize however, I would like to point out that is the complexity of writing poetry in Twi and deciding to translate, you loose a lot in the English. Enjoy!!!

Like wise I take all criticisms in stride.

Mariska said...

When I first read the poem I felt it was written as though coming from a humble local girl who knows nothing of the white man's ways but felt the threat of the other woman.Maybe pre 1960's For one to say the woman had become abusive and agressive is a bit over the top. "hell has no fury like a woman scorned". The scenerio is of a highly educated man returning and finding fault with everything he use to hold dear just because he had been to Europe and married a white woman.
These are the type of people called "disappointed europeans" or someone who is now more British than the British man. Nana, the man is an educated fool, he throws away what is valuable and beautiful because he became educated - and yet the very places he learnt from are now trying to regain much of what has been lost, what he now dispises.

As to the piece of paper matter, we all know the beauty of a full traditional marriage where families are intertwined together so the first wife cannot see the value of a marriage on paper that did not involve family. The critic should step back and view this as coming from a typically traditional girl.

Anonymous said...

I need to contact Nana Mintaa Yeboaa. If you are her or know of her, please let me know how I might reach you or reach her. You can contact me through the web site: www.cmrp.org.nz I need some assistance on puberty rites in Ghana for some research. Thank you! Ang