Kwabena Ankomah – Kwakye’s The Deliverer (published by Sub Saharan Publishers) won the inaugural Burt Award for African Literature (Ghana) runner-up prize in 2010. And at only 86 pages, the book is a welcome reminder of the wealth of fresh and new talents springing up in Ghana.
The book opens with the following brief but powerful prelude:
Some say our ancestors emerged from a mysterious hole somewhere in the Brong Ahafo Region of Ghana. Others say they fell from the sky on one rainy night, a few years after the second battle of the gods. Yet others say they were brought to our present home through a mighty whirlwind. The truth about our origin, I now believe is buried so deep and so forever that no man alive can dig it up. My name is Osei Tutu, only son of Yaa Mansa Badua… (pIV)
While there are many erroneous beliefs about the origins of the Asante, there seems to be one truth – one which the protagonist, Osei Tutu seeks to tell.
The story has it that once upon a time, Asante was a tribe or state made up of eighteen divided villages. Villages like Adum, Amakom, Manhyia, Bantama among others formed the divisions that made up the Asante tribe but these villages were not united. Then, Denkyira: a kingdom to the south of Asante popped up one day, and gradually conquered all the Asante villages. Once conquered, they had to pay yearly tributes in the form of gold, farm produce and slaves to Denkyira.
As this continued for a long period of time, there needed to be a deliverer to rescue the Asante states from this seemingly entwined eon. It is this search for a deliverer that carries the story further and further, maintaining a great deal of composure – elevating suspense – to keep the reader watchful for who emerges as the willing deliverer just as the prophecy foretells. ‘There had been a prophecy that the first son of the Otumfuo would be the deliverer of Asante from Denkyira.’ (p6)
Although the story draws heavily from a historical reservoir, it is not one of those narratives where fiction is substituted for history texts books. Kwabena-Kwakye’s tale chronicles events in an era of some three hundred years before the coming of the white man and ‘those were the days when tribesmen and women, young and old, were all governed by kings, customs and rules, when men bought and sold their fellow men as slaves, when clans and tribes fought to subdue rivals and weaker tribes. (p6)
On completing the novel, I thought the author must have pulled a strong narrative out there: a narrative where history is recreated into fiction and at the end, thereof, – morals and lessons imbibed. Heroic names like Osei Tutu, Okomfo Anokye and Otumfuo Oti Akenten will remind Ghanaian and other African readers of their history classes. However, the way Ankomah-Kwakye chooses to tell his story makes for a much more enjoyable reading experience. Mythical stories surrounding a name like Okomfo Anokye who is believed to have brought the golden stool into the Asante Kingdom are highlighted in this story, and what makes it more interesting are those pieces of history that are clustered together.
In as much as I enjoyed The Deliverer, I felt that the book could have lived up to its fullest potential if only the story had been a bit lengthier. However, I take comfort in the fact that the book ending suggests the likelihood of a sequel – … The Deliverer ascends the throne of the Asante Kingdom when ‘a new enemy arose from the south…’ (p86)
The Deliverer is a well told story and merits the award for which it was given. Any reader who loves good young adults stories will enjoy this one.