I have been working for a while in Accra’s biggest slum; officially called Old Fadama but notoriously known among the citizenry as Sodom and Gomorrah. Whenever I am there working, it is really not poverty and destruction I see. What I see, is a lot of hope and an all out war against poverty; against systems, against political and economic wickedness in high places designed to keep them down; against lethargy, against fate.
Majority of the people here are migrants from the Northern parts of Ghana. They have abandoned lands and spouses and the familiar to come and wrestle their fair share of the national cake from the gluttonous. If the Accra Metropolitan Assembly doesn’t come after them, the rains do. If the rains don’t come to torture them, fire does; and yet they rise. I was told by my fixer that “if fire burns down a wooden house today (most of the houses are wooden), by tomorrow they build a new one. I don’t know where they get the money from”.
On my last visit, after doing a couple of portraits and we were heading out of the community, a young man who was playing oware with his friends suddenly had an epileptic seizure and was thrown so violently, his forehead crashed into the dry ground and he started bleeding profusely. The silence was chilling as everybody waited out the spams that were tearing through his muscular body. When the spasms seized, a neighbor quietly poured water from a “buta”, (a plastic kettle filled with water for ablution) on his face to wash away the blood. He has survived this one too; and he will rise.
Sometimes, I feel there’s a part of the West that is trying to quickly make up for the years of damage they have done to the reputation of Africa. A lot of them are so zealous, now they don’t mind pretending everything is well with the continent. The truth is, everything is not well. We are on our way but we are not there yet. We have energy. We have youth. We have intelligence and passion and drive and determination and creativity… what we are praying for now, is leadership.
Everyday, we pray for another Mandela, another Nkrumah. We pray for men and women who will make the total liberation and rise of Africa their heartbeat and be willing to live and die to see that come to pass.
The Arab Spring has clearly proved that the violent, unplanned overthrow of leadership is not the best way forward. A destabilized Africa enriches everybody else but Africa. What we need is a deliberate plan for rising out of the ashes… and I know that we will rise. Africa will rise again. Africa is rising.