July 13, 2024

The difference between the Tamale you see or know now and the Tamale I grew up in is not just in the spaced houses or cold harmattan winds bringing children in the suburbs around built fires of maize stalks and chaff of milled rice, in the mornings for warmth.

It’s not just in the Taxi Rank whose population you could count with a little effort. It’s not just in the mention of the popular “Silimiin Jarigu Shitogu”, “Rivoli”, “Daani Kur’wagnli”, “Bus Stop”, “Alhaji Sumani Jirambisa”, “Kumbung Teeisa”, “Ananton Doo Petro Shell”, “Victory”, “Picorna” or “Alaasan Hotel” or “Harry Hot”.

The difference in my Tamale and the one you have now is in the strive of young men and women to earn incomes and help their parents and families at homes. Whilst I admire this Tamale filled with tricycles (Yellow Yellow) operated by young energetic men and some old, I’d admire more, the one I grew up in, again and again and again.

These days, I hardly see young ladies with clean slippers (blue bird), shiny natural skins thanks to “Abaabu Siriginli” (popular pomade)…, carrying “pure water”, “iced kenkey”, “light”, boiled groundnut, “simchimda”, “leemu”, etc. I hardly hear they go to “Ayug’ba” to harvest groundnut in people’s farms so they can return home with bags in their own names.

These days, I hardly see a lot of them follow our mothers to the markets, especially in the villages (tinkpan dahi) to help them sell. For that, “Taalia” is no more and probably, “Leefe” has become more expensive.

How do I paint without missing, a picture of the countless young men who made so much from the flourishing fose business? Let me try and paint a picture – of myself leaving Shishegu early morning on a Saturday to Aboabo market to wait for the bale of fose to be opened so I can pick up some selections or rejects and enter the market to sell. I see us surround the bale like bees, whilst the fose owner is treated as a Queen.

I see the big guys pick the best from the bale, as the rest of us quietly waiting to have some rejects to go and try our luck.

From Shishegu to Gbambaya to Nyohini to Zogbeli to Lamakara to Aboabo to Saabonjida to Dagban Dabbi Fong to Changli to Tishigu to Gumbihini to Chogu to Sagnarigu to Wurishe…, young men found pride in being called a fose dealer and so much income out of the trade of the time.

Even with the resultant effects of “Zang ti puwa” and “Baashibu”, there still was honour in many young men walking the streets of Tamale with shirts, shorts, blouses, trousers, etc, on hangers and on their shoulders. Neither the sweat nor the dusty feet nor the torn sandals mattered. Only one thing did – sell and close with some profit in your pocket to go home. Many traveled to markets like Kating Daa, Gushegu Daa, Kumbung Daa, Tampion Daa, etc to sell fose.

And then the “Shoe Shine Boys”. If you could afford a box, a stitcher (abindunche), a nylon thread (chitaani), two brushes, two pieces of Lude or Kiwi polish (black and brown), you were good to go. There was no shame in singing “Yesss shoe shine” across town. Tamale market days were a bingo. We made so much on such days, especially from stitching slippers (namdi nyehi). Some would also go to some villages on their market days to stitch slippers and sandals.

How awesome. I remember the sunny days when I’d grab “pure water”, gulp and find a bowl of TZ, sit under some shade to “do justice” to it and continue till sundown.

Young people in my Tamale were able to do all these and still attend school. We even sold vegetables, kerosene, charcoal, firewood and a lot. That spirit created everlasting perseverance in our affairs and even today, we find no reason to give up, no matter how tough circumstances get.

My Tamale was that breeder of determined and courageous young people learning so many a trade. I fondly look back and feel so much has gone behind the winds and never will sail back home.

That was my Tamale!

Muhammad Rabiu Alhassan, The Writer.

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