the chief zongo and material distribution [August 12, 2014]

This morning I sat under the shade of a roadside kiosk while waiting for the other members of The Zongo Water Committee to accompany me to the Chief Zongo’s house. Before long, Baba had arrived and without a word, motioned for me to follow him. We weaved in and out of vendors and vehicles for nearly a mile and it was only when we arrived at the lorry station that he looked back at me to explain (as if I didn’t already know), “We are going to the Chief Zongo’s.”

The Chief welcomed us warmly while at the same time trying to discipline his young son who was running around blindly in his father’s maroon taqiyah. Though all of the water committee members were present, Baba did the most talking and briefed the Chief on what we have accomplished so far – from the rainwater collection systems, soap-making, and children’s book, to the business development workshops and sanitation planning with the Municipal Assembly. One of the members added details regarding the criteria by which the committee chose the recipients of the rainwater collection systems. Another explained that we hoped the Assembly would pay for the dustbins and rubbish pick-up. “We don’t know what they will provide us yet, but we’ll know when we talk with the Chief Executive.” With amusement, the Chief Zongo replied, “Well yes, let’s see what we can get. We aren’t going to get free lunch all over. The community will have to contribute.”

The Chief seemed extremely pleased with the project’s progress and, using the same familiar proverb he had employed in 2012, he explained, “You see, a journey of a million miles starts with one step.” This time however he added, “You have already taken many steps. Thank you for all you have done.” Just as we thought the meeting had come to a triumphant close, the Chief Zongo hesitated and added in a reticent tone, “Next time when you come, you must bring kola nuts. It is tradition. At least 2-3 pieces of kola. It is in line with the African tradition, in the line with the Hausa tradition, in the line with the Muslim tradition…” He paused for a moment. The water committee members all fiercely nodded their heads fiercely and one piped up, “All the lines, all the lines.” The Chief Zongo chuckled and made a gesture with his hands extending outwards, “Yes, all the many lines.”

We spent the remainder of the afternoon consisted of the formal presentation of materials for the rainwater collection distribution systems and their distribution to each of the houses. Though I was not present, according to the water committee, the Chief Wangara was so pleased when he learned that all of the roofing would be replaced on his Palace (community building), that he stood up in a profound silence because he was so thankful. Other residents were equally appreciative. Most often, their thanks were expressed through prayer – with their palms up, they would pray to give us strength. “Amin,” we would say in response, “Amin.” That evening I rushed back to the guesthouse to meet with the man who would be running the liquid soap-making. When he was a ½ hour late, I called. “Madam, Madam. I am on my way from Accra. Please, let’s make it tomorrow.”