A Memorable First Time In An African Village

By Thierry

08/08/2020

My grandfather was adopted and brought up in Aného, south of Togo in West Africa. He lived in Lomé, the capital city, close to his adopted family for most of his life. He was born in a typical African village called Kouma Tokpli, in the Plateaux Region. My grandfather had 24 children, and my father was the youngest. All his children were aware of his origins, but only a few maintained relationships with their blood family.

The fact that my grandfather was adopted might seem like too much information, but it changed my relationship with Africa; in a way, it changed my life also. If I had no relatives in the small African village of Kouma Tokpli, I might not have met all the characters who made me appreciate Africa.

The Road To Kouma Tokpli

During my childhood, I spent several summer vacations in Togo. Once, an aunt who had never met my grandfather’s side of the family decided to bring my sister and me along with her daughter to my grandfather’s village, Kouma Tokpli. So, we drove 80 miles from Lomé to Kouma Tokpli. At the time, I had never visited this part of Togo, nor did I visit any other African village. The landscapes on the way were magnificent. Going north from Lomé, along the coast, the landscape changed from coconut groves to vast plains of high grass dotted with big trees. As we approached Kpalimé, the land became greener and greener, and small mountains started to rise from the horizon.

We quickly passed through Kpalimé and arrived at the foot of a range of mountains. At the beginning of the climb, the road was bordered by century-old mango trees planted by the German colons. The sight was beautiful; the trees appeared as though they were forming a guard of honor to welcome us. As we ascended, through the protected forest of Missahoe, the vegetation was dense and lush. We passed a small waterfall and then reached the police checkpoint. We told them where we were headed, and they opened the gate for us. We continued the ascent, and the tar road led to a red ocher dust track, covered with rocks and holes, which made the car shake in all directions to our amusement.

Family Reunion

Finally, we saw a signpost indicating that we had reached Kouma Tokpli. I became excited for my first time in an African village. As we drove along the main street, we stared at villagers who stared back at us, both of us wondering who amongst us was the most surprised at what we were seeing. We passed a crumbling church. Further down the road, we could see the villagers’ houses, which looked small and simple. We stopped at what seemed to be the center of the village. A large tree provided shade to the old men sitting underneath it, who were observing us. Soon, several villagers had gathered around us. My aunt explained to them that we were the Sanvee family, descendants of Josiah, my grandfather. They immediately knew who we were, and one of the villagers guided us to the house of the oldest of our relatives, Nakutsi.

Nakutsi was standing outside his house, holding his cane. He looked very old and frail, wrapped in a traditional cloth with his right shoulder uncovered. We saluted him, and he invited us into his small house, which was made of mud and cement. We all sat on a bench in the main room. He and the other villagers sat on another bench. The Ewe people speak the Ewe language, which is similar but not the same as the Mina language spoken on the coast. We were able to understand what the villagers were saying.

Welcome Ceremony

“Woezon!” bellowed our relative. We answered in chorus, “Yo!” And this is how the welcome ceremony started. Nakutsi asked after the people in our home, the people from Lomé, as well as the people in the White People Country. We answered in chorus that everyone was well. Someone brought water in a metallic cup and gave it to Nakutsi. He spilled a little water on the ground for the ancestors and then drank a little. He passed the cup to my aunt. She took a sip and gave it to my uncle. When it was my turn, I realized that the water was brownish while bringing the cup to my mouth. I reluctantly took a sip and then passed it to my sister. She looked at the water and whispered to my aunt that the water was brown. My aunt smiled and told her to wet her lips with the water if she did not want to drink it. She complied, making a face as she did so, which made the rest of us chuckle. Then, Nakutsi gave a short speech about how happy he was to see us, his family. He thanked us for coming from so far to visit him, and he said that us being there meant we did not forget our family, which meant a lot to him. We thanked him in return for his hospitality, concluding the welcome ceremony. This is how Ewe people welcome guests, but you will find similar welcome ceremonies in African villages across the continent.

Socializing With The Children

African village: walk in the Missahoe forest
Children walking in the Missahoe Forest

Once the ceremony was over, we left the house and wandered around the village. Often in an African village, a large group of children is formed around visitors. They followed us, and we soon started a conversation with them. They were plenty of children of all ages. They were so excited, shouting together, that we barely understood what they were saying. To our surprise, they told us that there was a swimming pool called ‘the submarine’ near the village and asked us if we wanted to go. Doubtful but thrilled, my cousin, my sister, and I accepted the offer. We warned them that we did not bring our bathing suits with us. This was not a problem for them.

Waterfalls And Natural Pool In The Missahoe Forest

We followed them across the village, then a road, and then entered a small path in the forest. They were walking either barefoot or with worn-out flip flops. We wore sneakers, but the children were much more agile in clearing the obstacles in our way. While we went deeper into the forest, my cousin, my sister, and I looked at each other and wondered what kind of swimming pool can be hidden in the woods and laughed. After ten minutes, we left the main path to take a left turn toward a smaller path where the high grass tickled our legs. As we went down the track, sometimes steep, we could hear the sound of water flowing growing louder.

We finally arrived on the bank of a small river flowing moderately fast, with several mini waterfalls. At the bottom of one of these, the river, surrounded by rocks, formed a natural swimming pool. The children of the village were very excited and shouted that this was the pool, ‘the submarine’. They all jumped in the water, splashing around. As teenagers with Western culture, we laughed at what they called a swimming pool. We did not dare to get into the water, so we used the excuse of not having our bathing suits. We watched the other kids having fun.

After a short while, they got out of the water and led us to another attraction. After a five-minute walk, we arrived at the bottom of a beautiful waterfall, 5 five meters tall. Again, they all jumped into the water and then were soon under the falling water, shouting and screaming while resisting the force of the water. Again, we watched them, as they laughed and played, in awe.

Children playing in the natural pool

Enjoying African Village Life

That was a long time ago! I have been to Kouma Tokpli several times after that, having new experiences and making more friends each time—I know the whole village now. Every time I visit, I meet my family and friends; I stay for several days, learning about their lifestyle and habits. When I am there, I forget everything. I live a traditional African village life close to nature. It benefits my body and my soul. I always leave the village feeling rejuvenated, full of energy, and ready for whatever comes next. This is the power of Africa and the reason why I love it so much.

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