Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Meeting the Chief

The Disability Database project volunteers paid a familiarization visit to the Gukpenaa recently who is the next in command to the paramount chief of Dagbang (Northern Region). The visit also co-ensided with the celebration of the Eid festival. That week the group did not miss the opportunity to join the Muslim community for Friday prayers at the central mosque in Tamale before proceeding to pay a courtesy call on the Gukpe-Naa, his wives and elders at his palace.

The visit of the international service volunteers afforded them the opportunity to officially inform the Gukpe-Naa of the presence of the UK volunteers in Tamale, the efforts of all volunteers working at the Resource Centre and to ask for his support and blessing. The team also sought his permission to use his name, which many people hold in high esteem, for radio announcements to ask PWD to converge at vantage places in their communities. Then we were led into the palace by the linguist. Following the necessary formalities one needs to follow when you are visiting a chief in Tamale. With guidance from the local volunteers Shaibu and Mariam who also helped with the translation, we presented cola to the linguist seeking permission from the elders to see the chief. After a short wait the Chief and his elders appeared from his private room in to the pavilion amidst drumming and chanting of incantations by the gong-gong biter (LUN-NAA). Everybody in the pavilion stood up singing a song showing respect to the Chief and as custom demands, the Chief has to sit before everyone else does. It was an interesting experience particularly to the UK volunteers who were very excited at the reception given the group by the Gukpenaa (ABUBAKARI MAHAMA). The leader of the group Natasha extended our gratitude at being given such an audience, she then took to introduce the team members to the chief and his elders and also brief him on the Disability Database project the team are doing in Tamale. After the introduction the chief welcomed the team and also expressed his gratitude to the team, especially the UK volunteers for taking their time off and traveling all the way from United Kingdom to Ghana. The Gukpe-Naa was particularly happy about our intention to work with people with disabilities in Tamale who he recognises as the most vulnerable in society and told us that any attempt that is aimed at helping improve the living condition of these people should be applauded. The chief assured the team of his fullest support and co-operation including allowing us to use his name to help conduct our field research.
The team were eagerly analysing their experience after the closing of the meeting and noted similarities on meeting a Chief and customs surrounding meeting a member of the royal family in the UK. Tom being the only person in the group who has actually had the privilege of such an experience noted that you bow and cheer the royalty in the UK too.

The group then split as some travelled on trotros up to visit other IS volunteers in Bolgatanga and Sandema and others went off to pick up some necessities from the market. On that day we were all able to go off feeling excited about how interesting it had been to meet the Chief, how we were now able to put his name behind us when going out to extend our field research and how culturally diverse our group and experiences were.

By Shaibu

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