Pornography is not typically discussed in Ghanaian homes, neither is sex. Adults act like it doesn’t exist and their children end up discovering it on their own. For many Ghanaian boys and girls, pornography becomes their main source of ‘sex education.’ In Ghana, pornography is referred to as ‘abonsam cartoons’, loosely translated to mean ‘the devil’s cartoons.’ Guest writer Kuukua Asante tells the story of 13 year old Kayla’s introduction to abonsam cartoons.
Happy reading! 🙂
“Ao! Ma please, Ma please…. Agyeii”
Mansa’s screams and pleas were making my heart pound even faster. I had already started sweating from where I knelt, waiting my turn of the lashing after Ma was done with Mansa.
“Stupid girl! Evil child! Beyifo) You want to spoil my child for me eh?”
“No Ma…I’m sorry-”
“Shut up! Ashawo!”
Whoosh! The cane would slice through the air before landing in a piiiw on Mansa’s body.
“How dare you talk back at me?”
Whoosh-piiw! Whoosh- piiw!
“Agyei ee! Ma please! Aaoo”
“And as for you Kayla,” Ma said, turning to where I knelt in the living room floor, “I haven’t even started with you and you’re already crying. Better go and write down your confession to Father Quaye, because by the time I am done with you, you will no longer be able to speak. Akola bone!”
I try to get up from the floor but my knees suddenly weigh a ton. I wipe my eyes with the back of my hands and stare at wetness. I hadn’t realized that I was crying.
Mansa is our house help but Ma never calls her that in public. It’s always ‘the girl who lives with us’. She is not allowed to eat with us at the dining table, or sit by us in church, or go to the movies with us. She cooks, cleans and washes Ma’s clothes and the car. Sometimes she picks me up from school even though I have told Ma that it embarrasses me. I am old enough to walk home from school by myself. I’d rather she washes my clothes for me instead but Ma won’t allow it.
Mansa and I teach each other things. She taught me how to play Ludo and Snakes and Ladders and Stay – for you. I taught her how to use the microwave, my computer, the TV and the DVD player.
We are in trouble right now because of the DVD player.
Ma attends weekend school and when she’s away on Saturdays, Mansa invites Ayittey, the boy next door, to come play Snakes and Ladders with her. When Ayittey comes over, Mansa sends me to go and buy Abuyaa Waakye for them. Abuyaa is quite far from home but I don’t mind because Mansa will give me some of the waakye, and wash my school uniforms for me.
Ayittey did not come and play snakes and ladders with Mansa today. She said Ayittey had gone to visit his family in Takoradi.
“That is what he said, but I know he’s lying. There’s another girl p333”
“Why would he lie about that?”
“You talk like a child.”
And the conversation ends.
Mansa ends conversations like this all the time. I have learnt not to ask too many questions when she’s talking to me, otherwise she suddenly remembers that I am thirteen years old and then the conversation ends.
Mansa brought out Ma’s brown CD case. It is the one she does not like me to even touch, but Mansa has gone to bring it to the hall. She locks the front door, closes the louvres and draws the curtains even though it’s only 1pm. She also does this when Ayittey comes over so I always have to knock when I come back from Abuyaa, and they always take too long to open up.
“Ma said I should never touch that CD case, Mansa.”
“Yes, because it is not for children. It is for Adults; this is Abonsam Cartoons”
Mansa says we are going to watch some of Ma’s Abonsam Cartoons. She makes me promise never to tell anyone and then opens the case after I have agreed. There are several CDs with naked people on them. Mansa takes out the one that has the two naked black women holding handcuffs on it and inserts it into the DVD.
I try not to ask questions as naked bodies start dancing across the screen. I am uncomfortable looking, but I am curious to see more, so I keep watching. Then I start to feel a strange discomfort between my legs. I look away from the screen and at Mansa who is lying in the big couch across the TV. She has one hand in her skirt and the other is rubbing her breasts.
“Why? Do you want me to turn it off?”
I shake my head quickly, not wanting to be called a child again.
“Come, come and sit next to me.”
I quietly do as I am told.
“Let’s watch something else” Mansa says after a while. I silently sigh but my relief is cut short when she reaches for another CD from Ma’s brown case. This one has three white women and two black men on it. All of them are naked.
I want to tell Mansa that we should stop but I don’t. I just sit quietly and watch. The strange discomfort is growing and I want it to stop. I don’t want it to stop. This is all very confusing, very wrong.
“We have to stop, Mansa.” I push away from her and walk towards the DVD.
“I knew I shouldn’t have done this with you” she says, sitting up now. “Don’t turn it off ok, five minutes p3 then we stop”
“But Ma will -”
“Ma will come home at 6, we will put everything back before she comes. She won’t know unless you tell her. Will you tell her?”
I shake my head, and walk back to the couch. The lights go off as soon as I sit down.
“Dumsor! You see your bad luck!” Mansa accuses me but I am more worried about the CD stuck in the DVD.
“Do you think the power will come back?” I ask.
“Do I work at ECG?” Mansa retorts, irritated by the stupid question. She’s packing up the CDs, I can see that she’s scared too although she hides it well.
“It will come back. It always does at 6pm.” I say, but the wild thumps in my chest betray the trust of my words.
We go about completing our chores while we wait, and hope, that ECG will bring back the light.
We did not hear Ma come in. It’s only 4:30, we weren’t expecting her! We did not even hear her open the main gate. All we heard were the loud knocks on the front door.
I slowly unlock the door to let Ma in.
“Good afternoon, Ma” it takes every muscle in my scared stiff body to move my lips.
“Why have you people locked yourselves inside? And why are the windows closed? Is it not hot enough?”
I fiddle with my fingers and say nothing. I am too nervous to even swallow my own saliva.
“Herh! Am I talking to stones?”
“No Ma” Mansa replies.
Just then the ceiling fan begins to rattle and spin- the power is back! The TV turns on, the DVD player also turns on and auto-ejects the CD.
Yie! Ma has caught us feeli feeli!
If you are new to the Taboo series, it is a collection of fictional stories that depict real life happenings in Ghana; those things that we normally don’t talk about. If you also have a story to share, please send an email to email@example.com. My hope is that each of these stories will cause us to pause and think. I also hope that they will start conversations. Share your thoughts with the hashtag #OurTaboo. Thanks for reading.- Keni.