Ivy Britzny Osae

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Ivy Britzny Osae

Ghana


Akuapem Twi

My name is Abena Ahwerenmea. Abena means “Tuesday born girl”. Ahwerenmea is a given name, after my father’s uncle. My official name is Ivy. I come from Ghana, a town named Ahwerase in Eastern region, which makes me an Akuapem. I have been living in Estonia for the past two and half years. I came in as a student, found a job after school, and recently moved to Tallinn from Tartu.

My family returned to Ghana from Nigeria when I was quite young. I lived with my grandmother when we returned, so I could go to school in the next town with my cousins who were living with my grandmother at the time. Grandmother always had family living with her: grandkids, and kids of close relatives, some permanently, others, temporarily, e.g. for holidays. My grandmother was seen as the disciplinarian by our extended family and kids were brought to live with her for some time, for being socially and morally shaped.

The household was quite big. It had 2 different blocks – one had 2 bedrooms with a living room, the other 3 bedrooms with a living room. There was also a kitchen, storeroom, pen and hen houses, shelter for firewood. We had flowers, many plants, many fruit trees (orange, tangerine, guava, avocado, soursop, sugar apple, mango), and cherry hedges all around the house.

It was a close community, where we knew each other, and people who passed by would just greet with special nicknames. At different times of the day or season, you hear different animal sounds such as birds, frogs, crickets. You also get to see different animal species as well, and we knew which animals were domesticated and which were not. Estonia reminds me a lot of my hometown.

There was this species of ant (I don’t remember its English name, just the Twi name: ɔhaɛhe). Mostly, they are found in the forest in dead trees, or along forest paths. They have a peculiar smell when crushed, and one would usually not see or perceive that smell when home.

One day we were in the compound cooking – depending on what food we cook, we usually did food preparation in the courtyard in front of the kitchen. Suddenly, my grandmother – just out of the blue – shouted that one of my cousins get some drinking water from the drinking pot in the kitchen. I was wondering what was going on, since it was quite unusual for my grandmother to make such requests with such urgency.

It turned out that she asked my cousin to go pour out the water at the entrance of the house, because her ancestors were passing by and needed water for their journey. And you would know it because of the smell of these particular ants.

I later came to experience more of such. Sometimes food is put at the entrance of the house as well. My grandmother explained that the journey in the land of the dead is long. So, anytime we smelled that particular ant, it meant the dead had come close to home for food or water, for strength to continue their various journeys.

My family moved to the capital after a few years, and I wonder if that practice still exists after my grandmother has passed away. Well, at least I know anytime I perceive the smell of that particular ant, it means I need to provide energy for my ancestors.