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November 4, 2015
Star Features


Time is a hell of a thing ...

with Owen 'Blakka' Ellis

Howdy do, world! What a gwaan, Jamaica? I'm sending you one box of big ups from a place called Bolgatanga. Those who check out the box regularly will realise by now that this is the third in a series of sharing about my sojourn in the West African country of Ghana. I'll write the fourth piece in this series before I depart the land next week, but it won't be the final. Trust me, it will take me a long, long time to completely reflect on and fully share the fullness of this experience.

So yes, folks, I'm greeting you from great distance and across time. And talking about time, time is a hell of a thing, heh! In his seminal piece, Uncle Time, noted poet, teacher, mentor, the late Dennis Scott, tells us that "Uncle Time is a spider man, cunning and cool..." And it's true peeps, time can be very tricky! For example, my wristwatch reminds me that local time in my current space is five hours ahead of time in Jamaica, but my eyes reveal scenes that appear to be stuck in a time that is decades past or centuries ago. My senses tell me that here in Africa I'm engaging energies and encountering spirits that are as ancient as time itself.

I am having cause to reflect on some of the mystery and mystique of time this past week, mainly because I have been spending a lot of time travelling, but also because several times thus far, I have felt as if time is either really standing still or I have somehow travelled back in time. Like on Monday when my travelling comrades and I visited the village of Yebongo where the entire community gathered to welcome us with singing and dancing, pouring of libations and the sharing of 'pito' - a traditional drink made of fermented millet that immediately made my stomach feel warm and my head feel light.

Our visit to the Bolgatanga region, and the village of Yebongo, specifically, was to accompany and stand in solidarity with our brethren Nene Kwasi Kafele, a big man with an even bigger heart, who has dedicated several years of his life and committed invaluable amounts of time, money and other resources to the cause of not just connecting emotionally with Africa, but also contributing tangibly to the growth and development of Africa. I have been talking a lot about time and, as all of us know, our people spend a lot of time talking or singing. Yeah, man, we full a lyrics!

Well, Nene Kafele is one of those rare individuals who spend more time doing than talking. Unlike the several Jamaican deejays, singers and players of instruments who capitalise on pan-Africanist sentiments and Afrocentric ideals to increase the appeal of their creative work but fail to grasp opportunities or make real effort to actually go to the continent, Nene has visited and worked in more than 19 African countries. And unlike the folks who spend immeasurable time angrily ranting on social media about Africa, Nene has spent the last 27 years quietly working with Africans, working in Africa and working for Africa. He has initiated and arranged several trips over the last two and a half decades, facilitating the life-changing opportunity for over 65 people to make the connection to their ancestral home.

Monday's gathering was a meeting to provide information and updates before an even bigger event on Tuesday, the groundbreaking ceremony for another of Nene's initiatives, a borehole that will provide regular and safe access to clean drinking water to the community. The ceremony culminates seven months of tireless fundraising and arranging.

So yes, I'm linking you from Bolgatanga in the Northern region, and this place is very far from where we're staying in the capital city of Accra. How far? Let me give it to you in time. Bolgatanga is actually 14-hours-of-riding-on-a-bus away from Accra. Yes, peeps, 14 hours by bus is a long time. But what is 14 hours in the greater scheme of things? What is a mere 14 hours in the context of that massive continuum called time? And when is a good time to look to Africa? No greater time than now! box-mi-back@hotmail.com

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