The Late Manye Sarah Kukuorkor Mills Okaikoi – Sleep Well
Te aye tɛŋŋ ni kakalɔi enyɔnyɔi ni tawunii hu ahiɛ ekpata nɛɛ
The mighty are fallen, and the weapons of war perished 2 Samuel 1:27
Manye Kukuorkor has fallen and all Gadangme in the Diaspora will mourn the loss of this warrior lady who fought to project the culture of our identity wherever she was, in the diaspora and at home. I hope that what I write will resonate with all the members of the Gadangme Internet forum on whose behalf I pay this tribute.
She was with us long before we set up the Gadangme Internet Forum at the dawn of the millennium. Then, it was about reconnecting with childhood friends and family, but it was also to engage in discussions about the old pristine Accra that we grew up in. The forum was intended to allow us to learn about the history and culture, bemoan the relegation of the language and to explore ways in which we could recreate and instil a sense of pride in all who were Gadangme. Manye Sarah had done a lot of such strategizing on the ground in New York, from where she was instrumental in helping to set up the umbrella body, the Gadangme International.
She did not think that the forum should be just a talk shop for the dissemination of information about our beautiful and richer culture, our interesting history and our wonderful language that continued to survive despite the influx of in-migrants into Accra. She was interested in some sort of activist think tank that would raise the issues, debate them, and then go further to implement whatever action was required back home to lift our people out of their desperation and poverty. She soon took on the role of our older sister, ever ready to intervene in the many ‘fights’ on the forum and to calm the hotheads when they strayed away from our objectives. She would call by telephone, then start talking about an idea that she wanted a second opinion on and at the end of the conversation, plead with you to stay focused on our agenda.
I eventually got to meet her at one of the Gadangme International conferences in Minneapolis. It was an honour when she gave me the task of presenting on ‘what the diaspora can do to assist the homeland’. She nominated me to open the conference with a libation and later on at the dinner dance she asked me to pray before we would start the function.
Manye Kukuorkor, inspired, she motivated, she pushed for things to happen. She wanted better for Gadangme, she was at every congress, a tireless organiser, an astute counsellor, and a prolific fundraiser at every event she attended. For her, it was always about how the much younger ones could be nurtured to achieve greater things, and how civil society must be part of the mix in uplifting the people and making the resounding impact on the social and economic lives of those in the inner city Accra.
We continued to talk on the phone, and when I was fortunate to visit her once in New York, not only was I treated to exciting discourse amongst the good company of Gadangme intellectuals gathered there but I was feted on a rather sumptuous variety of Ga dishes.
She continued her ‘fight’ when she located to Accra and we continued to talk about how she was contributing as a member of the Jamestown Ngleshie Noyaa Kpee, but I had to plead with her not to push them too hard but to synch her passion with their will considering the very different terrain of Accra.
I sent her a message of congratulations when she turned a very young 80 years this February, telling her that her beauty continued to shine through it all, masking her age and that she looked no different from the pictures I had seen of her in her youth when she was a model for my good friend, the acclaimed photographer, Mr. James Barnor who shared this with me ahead of my meeting her. I continued to call when I was told that she was ill but did not know that she had gone back to America.
To her children I would say, your loss is sad and irreplaceable, but be consoled that they were many that your good mother inspired and motivated and who held her intervention in high esteem.
Manye Kukuorkor, valiant soldier of Gadangme cause, as you journey back to the village to be with our ancestors, carry on with your advocacy. But we pray that you ask them to send us an angel to continue the good work that you have done so that glory will continue to surround us all.
Sleep well my sister in the bosom of the Lord your Maker.
Manye Kukuorkor Yaa wɔ ojogbaŋŋ