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Why Ga kenkey was a taboo in Akuapem-Mamfe

Until the mid 90’s, it was a taboo for the people of Akuapem-Mamfe in the Eastern Region to eat Ga kenkey on Sundays and Mondays.

It was an age-old custom within the area.
It took the enstoolment of the Chief of Mamfe Akuapem, Nana Ansah Sasraku III, in consultation with his council of elders to abolish this taboo.

But there was a sacrifice to be made; the chief and his elders still couldn’t eat Ga kenkey on these days.
In an interview with The Mirror recently, Nana Sasraku explained that the prohibition first affected only Sundays, but was extended to Mondays to prevent the people from eating its leftovers, if any.

The restriction
At that time, elders of the community performed some rites to fortify warriors of the town when they were going to war and they felt eating of Ga kenkey could render them vulnerable, hence the ban.

The taboo was not only for the protection of the warriors but the entire community.
However, over time, this age-old custom has been revoked to enable the people of the community to eat the meal.
Ga kenkey is a meal made from corn, moulded into balls and wrapped in corn husks. Though it is a staple food of the Ga-Adangbes of the southern part of the country, it is sold on almost every street corner and eaten by people from all walks of life.

A reformation

Nana Sasraku, who doubles as the Kyidomhene of the Akuapem Traditional Area, explained that upon his enstoolment, he advocated a reformation of this custom, which allowed the consumption of that kenkey on Sundays.

“The council decided that since Mamfe was no more that small community and had people who were non-indigenes living amongst us, that should change. We even had a secondary school machinery going, and there were people who left here for Accra and what have you. Why shouldn’t we take the Sunday out of it?” he asked.

Due to a lack of consensus made on this decision by the traditional elders, he said, there was a delay for about a year before it was finally agreed that residents could eat kenkey on Sundays.

Nana Sasraku said the decision, which was announced during an Asafosa, a festival of communal drinking celebrated by the people of Mamfe, was received with great excitement.

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“I can still see in my mind’s eye the applause and what greeted that announcement. You could see that people were really suppressed, sort of,” he added.

Upholding tradition

Nana Sasraku explained that since it was the prerogative of every chief to ensure the well-being and satisfaction of his people, it became imperative to revisit the custom and find ways to further “soften” the prohibition.

He revealed that a couple of years later, the traditional council reconvened to weigh the option of getting the leaders to bear the brunt of the restriction to lighten the load on the townsfolk.

The deliberations, he said, resulted in a favourable result, much to the delight of the people.

“The decision was taken that the council of elders, the traditional leaders of the community, will observe that prohibition of not eating kenkey on a Monday and that had remained,” he said.

He added that there were no repercussions following the decision since all rites were duly performed to avert any misfortune, hence that taboo was abolished and now residents of the town could eat Ga Kenkey without any aprehension.

Further developments

Highlighting some significant achievements in his 25 years as Chief, he said despite the disputes that surrounded his selection and enstoolment, he managed to broker peace among some parties engaged in a conflict and collaborated with them to aid in his developmental agenda for the people.

Key among them was the establishment of the Mamfe Methodist Girls Senior High School and the provision of boreholes drilled, with the support of some sponsors, to supply potable water for the community, apart from that of the Ghana Water Company.
He called on all citizens of the area, particularly those residing abroad, to support in the provision of social amenities in the town.

Known in private life as Theophilus Nyanteh Akufo-Parry, Nana Sasraku succeeded his late uncle, Nana Ababio Manteaw, in 1997 at age 32, to become Mamfehene and Akuapem Kyidomhene on August 18.

He was educated at Okuapeman Senior High School (OKUAS), the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science (KNUST) and the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA). He is married to Mrs Sakyibea Akufo-Parry (nee Asare Ayisi), with two children.

Plans for youth centre
The Mamfehene expressed gratitude to his immediate family, council of elders and the people, noting that some of them had passed on.
He said that together with his council of elders, he had plans to remodel the community centre of the town into a youth development centre, which will provide space for the youth, in order to prevent them from indulging in vices such as gambling, alcoholism and drug abuse.

The centre will have a place for indoor games, theatre, arts studio, Information Communication Technology (ICT) Centre and lecture halls, where some life skills would be taught to empower the youth.

Abdullah Anaman
Abdullah Anaman
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