A BOW FOR THE WOMAN

Black Star International Film Festival… IMG_4198 …symposium in January had the theme ‘film as a tool for changing the narrative for women’ to drive home the message for the exciting evening the talented Apiorkor Seyiram Ashong-Abbey did a piece that had us all gasping with awe. I am happy and honored to share this with you:

Tonight, I sit in my hotel room in Takoradi and watch the waves of the Atlantic Ocean that kiss Ghana’s feet.

Fragments of my life before the cameras, float to me and then away from me, with the ebb and flow of the monstrous water currents…

Tonight, is the night that I’ll be celebrated as a queen of the screen, for the last time.

Tonight, I’ll wiggle into a body-hugging bespoke gown, just once more.

Tonight, I’ll strut down the red carpet of Ghanaian film, in six-inch heels, and then I won’t look back at my footprints, because that door would be closed, my trail hidden.

Tonight, I’ll smile for the cameras just one last time…

No more movies,

No more 18 hour road trips, from Accra to Kumasi, through Sunyani to Tamale, to Navrongo, back to Peki, over to Elmina, back to Accra,

No more late moonlit nights and early sunlit mornings spent

Striving to get into character,

Striving to escape,

Striving to rid myself of personal values, beliefs and preconceptions,

Striving so hard;

To become some other woman,

To become someone else…

July, 1970…

“Take it off!” the director yelled at me.

With tears in my eyes, I took my blouse off.

This wasn’t the plan, but he said that I had to experience sexual harassment, in order to be able to act as though I’d been sexually harassed.

But I endured the humiliation, because I knew that I had to send a message to the world about my suffering; about the suffering of many Ghanaian women.

And I was elated when by the end of 1970, that movie had encouraged 37 women to speak up about their encounters with rape, about their sleazy bosses, about their rape-children!

37 women had been inspired by me, a nobody who got lucky, because I was “sexy” and “pretty” enough to be in a low-budget Ghanaian film…

February, 1974…

I walked into the office of Ato Blaze, the celebrated movie producer.

I was so eager to pick up my paycheck, for a lead role that I had spent all of the previous year shooting.

But nothing can describe the boiling, torrential blood that rose to fill up my head, when I saw that Franklin Quist was getting paid three times the amount that my check was worth, for a much less daunting role and he was a much less celebrated actor.

I huffed and puffed about it, but Ato Blaze said nothing;

And the next year, I acted in a film that revealed the truth about gender discrimination and equal pay.

Oh, I saw it all and I played them all:

– The Older woman, whom was regarded as the witch of the village, the cause of every family member’s woes

– The powerful married man’s side chick

– The woman whose backside was referred to as “Volvo”, “Toyota”, “Shankus Paradise”, as she walked briskly to catch a trotro to get to work.

– The woman who married for money, because she had no education and a pair of parents who had drummed it into her head that girls are only useful for cooking, for washing and for birthing male children, who could carry their fathers’ names to eternity.

– The trophy wife, with no personal portfolio of her own, who just sat pretty and had no voice, in addition to her husband’s heavy name.

– The lesbian, whom was beaten to a pulp, because her behaviour is un-Christian and un-Ghanaian

– The Rape victim, whom was attacked outside of the court, as people chanted “ashawo!” …who told you to go to a man’s house?!

I’m sure you were wearing a tight dress, apuskelenke,

Aketesia tis3 wo, wop3 b33ma s3m dodo!

Awula otaaa Shia koni moko baa wo bo k3te gbla mli,

Devi v3 gbl3, kp33 aa nku m3 da!

At one point, or another, I was all of these women.

I was told that these women represented all that the Ghanaian woman was and could ever be.

Every time that I was on set, I would weep, because I was treated like a prostitute, who had to beg for her pay.

I wanted to play the role of a president, or a lawyer, or a successful singer, or a renowned film maker…

But those roles were reserved for better human beings; human beings who had thick facial hair, deep voices, private parts that were different from mine.

And I could never be a man, so my fate was sealed.

Tonight, I sit in my hotel room in Takoradi and watch the waves of the Atlantic Ocean that kiss Ghana’s feet.

Fragments of my life before the cameras, float to me and then away from me, with the ebb and flow of the monstrous water currents…

Yes,

Tonight is the night that I’ll celebrated as a queen of the screen, for the last time.

Tonight, I’ll wiggle into a body-hugging bespoke gown, just once more.

Tonight, I’ll strut down the red carpet of Ghanaian film, in six-inch heels, and then I won’t look back at my footprints, because that door would be closed, my trail hidden.

Tonight, I’ll smile for the cameras just one last time…

April 1995…

After having lived 25 years of my life in front of numerous and varied cameras, I finally became the single mother, the widow, who is slaving to put her child through school.

For the first time in 25 years, I felt bold, dignified, empowered.

I felt that I had evolved and, to me, this meant that the Ghanaian woman had evolved too.

I recall how my face would be swollen every night; I would have smiled so much and would have cried my eyes dry, because every other woman on the streets of Accra would stop me to speak favour upon my life and to bless me with their prayers…

I had become their heroine. My work on screen had shown them what they could be, if they wanted to.

June 1996…

I morphed into a struggling young woman, who stood her ground and refused to accept financial assistance, in return for sex.

And Ghanaians hated me for it; but they loved me too.

The Ghana Broadcasting Corporation and The Daily Graphic couldn’t get enough of me.

I led female-empowerment campaigns.

I was icon; not a sex symbol, but the true, big deal, worthy of everyone’s respect kind of icon.

And oh, I saw it all and I played them all:

– The wealthy Ghanaian market woman, who made a show at the bank every Friday, by depositing her hundreds of millions of Cedis.

– The first lady of Ghana, a woman of repute, in her own right… not because of her husband’s status, but because she was an accomplished barrister and songwriter.

– The influenial woman, whom was invited to an event at the African Regent Hotel in Accra, Ghana, which was strictly by invitation.

– The young lady who works in media, is a poet and is invited to do a poem at the unveiling of the First Lady of The Republic of Ghana, as a friend the Black Star International Film Festival, which is run by yet another powerful, Ghanaian woman!

Tonight I sit in my hotel room in Takoradi and watch the waves of the Atlantic Ocean that kiss Ghana’s feet.

Fragments of my life before the cameras, float to me and then away from me, with the ebb and flow of the monstrous water currents…

And

Tonight is the night that I’ll celebrated as a queen of the screen, for the last time.

Tonight, I’ll wiggle into a body-hugging bespoke gown, just once more.

Tonight, I’ll strut down the red carpet of Ghanaian film, in six-inch heels, and then I won’t look back at my footprints, because that door would be closed, my trail hidden.

Tonight, I’ll smile for the cameras one last time…

No more movies,

No more 18 hour road trips,

No more late moonlit nights and early sunlit mornings spent

Striving to get into character,

Striving to escape,

Striving to rid myself of personal values, beliefs and preconceptions,

Striving so hard;

To be some other woman,

To become someone else…

And I shall bow out with Grace, with, with poise, with elegance, with pride, with a strong conviction:

For I have paid my dues to the Ghanaian Film Industry

And through the pain, through the shame, through the disappointments, the insults, the triumphs, the laughter, the sleepless nights and the brazen creativity,

I have succeeded in changing the narrative OF and FOR the Ghanaian woman.

©APIORKOR 2018

learn more at bsiff.org

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