Origins: Up North and Uneasy
Life is never easy.
Living in a society enslaved by profitless traditions almost compares to the maddening pain of a struck toe. A pound of tribulation for good times; four-fold in a regressive economy that favors only the rich but afflicts the poor.
Darra Yussif came along at a time when the nation was incapacitated by crippling economic crisis. The country crumbled under gargantuan debt from chronic borrowing, with standards of living tumbling as costs of same soared.
Her family lived in remote Tuya, a small farming community in the Mion district of the Northern Region of Ghana. Like most families sustained by low income, the Yussifs managed meagre meals, just fine clothes, and a leaky roof. They had a large farm, and on market days Darra helped her mother sell its produce to traders who trekked in from cities to buy in bulk. Life was austere and the basic needs — little more, really — were met.
Darra was the third of eight children. Her two big sisters had been ‘cut to purify’ and eventually given in marriage before they turned 16; she was 14, just two years away from an identical fate. Each day served a troubling reminder of that scary fact, and although little Darra tried to enjoy the present’s pleasures, fear lingered of the day she’d be forced to marry some geezer she neither knew nor would ever love.
Here was an innocent Primary Six pupil, an ambivert who only mixed company with few. She rarely joined other girls play at the riverside when they’d go fetch water. Darra had quite an intellect, and the good academic performance that translated into earned the approval of her teachers and parents — mates, even.
Good grades on the terminal report was sweet — literally — for an evening, at least, as it guaranteed a particularly sumptuous serving of her favorite dish, tuo zaafi. Her parents wanted the best for Darra and her siblings, doubtlessly, and would do whatever was required to keep them in school — even if that meant selling part of their land, as had already been occurred.
Granted, education wasn’t at its best in the village; partly run by donations from altruistic individuals, it still lacked much. On the compound stood two thatched mud structures – classrooms housing Lower Primary pupils – leaning uneasily to the side like some tower in Pisa, only without the glamour. Those of Upper Primary classes were hosted under luxuriant trees that stood years strong. Given the circumstances, rainy days halted anything brainy.
Life, eased by local relishes that make faces glow with contentment, thrived on priceless, little luxuries. The elderly gathered under large trees to have a good time after toiling in the fields, with the meetings made even merrier by that most delightful of brews: pito. Funny nicknames mocking how hunched or bald some poor fellow was, or even the sheer number of missing teeth they had, stirred cheery conversations. Nearby, at a respectful distance, children skipped about playfully.
It was a world idyllic as it was simple, and Darra loved it.
Would that bubble ever be burst?
Would Darra’s worst fears eventually catch up with her?
Could she avoid rites set for all young
girls her age and not bring dishonor upon herself and her family?
When The Sun Pointed South is a weekly series — exclusive to Daily Mail GH every Saturday — that tells the entirely fictional and incredibly inspiring story of a young girl who escaped the rigors of life in Ghana’s North, braved odds down South, and emerged smiling.
Mathy Adortsu — Daily Mail GH