The university of Ghana’s Efua Sutherland Drama Studio was brimming with drama lovers and as usual, yours truly fished for a seat in the front row and found none. Fortunately, there came Elorm Ajaho, Business Development Executive at Tiqeet, class mate and friend who did me the honors of providing a seat…thanks Elorm!
Ok back to business.
Ato Yawson is a Ghanaian who studied abroad and returns with an African American wife called Eulalie. This play is evidence of the fact that literature is mostly a medium for cultural expression; the play is Ghanaian ( more specifically Akan ) and portrays aspects of Akan and Ghanaian culture namely and more specifically, the importance of child birth in marriage and the prevalence of the extended family system ‘still’ in the Ghanaian society.
Plays always represent or mirror society and have several aims aside entertainment. Plays educate and are tools of societal reform. In this play, as interpreted by Benjamin Boare from the 1st to the 3rd of May, 2014, Ama Atta Aidoo through the characters she uses, presents certain topical issues that a reader or audience are left pondering over. For example, after sometime in marriage, Ato’s family starts wondering when Eulalie would give them a child. Technically, it is none of Ato’s family’s business if he and and his wife have a child or not but in the African and Ghanaian sense, this is indeed very much important and more or less the concern of every.single.member. of Ato’s family.
In most of Ama Atta Aidoo’s plays , she employs “village gossips”, the regular busy-bodies who come in from time to time providing the audience very important information through their exchanges and dialogues and their commentary on the action. Through their gossip, we find out that Eulalie, Ato’s wife has a machine for each of her needs, as the women put it, Eulalie even has a box that cools her water! (they speak of course of a refrigerator). One of these women is barren and gives a first hand narration of how much suffering and pain she has had to endure because she hasn’t been able to have a child. In a monologue, she warns Eulalie of her impending troubles if she is really barren and advises that Eulalie gets another one of her machines to cry for her when she dies. In order words, she will be rejected and unfit to be mourned when she dies.
The Ghanaian lusty desire to see children after marriage is manifested when Ato’s family after a long wait decide to take matters into their own hands and come to question Ato and Eulalie about their childless state. They come along with a herbal potion to wash Eulalie’s tummy. They believe this potion will give Eulalie the ability to bear children.
Unknown to Ato’s family is the fact that Ato and his wife use contraceptives that have given them the choice of when to have children. Of course, the traditional belief of Ato’s family tells them that human beings have no power over when they choose to have children and that it is only God that gives children. This view conflicts with the view of the educated couple who believe having children is in their hands and by choice and can be controlled.
The conflict in the play is mainly as a result of such differences in beliefs and mindset. Ato fails in being the bridge between the two parties. Ato understands his people’s ways and at the same time understands Eulalie and her beliefs, therefore, he should have been the person that should have worked to promote understanding between these two cultures with their sharply contrasting worldviews and values.
The title of the play, The Dilemma Of A Ghost, reflects Ato’s confusion and dilemma because he is torn between his culture and his wife’s culture, his wife and people, his ideals and ideals of his people and the beliefs and ideals of his wife which conflicts with his wife’s. Ato is unable to control his situation and rather becomes trapped in what he could have changed.
His constant nightmares and hallucinations about two children playing the game about a ghost being unable to decide between going to Cape coast or Elmina is what reflects his troubled state and reflects the confused state he is in.
Here are a few photos from the play…
Do you think child bearing should still be given as much weight in today’s civilization as it was then? Share your thoughts…