Friday, July 13, 2007

Africa Shoot: Kumasi July 12, 2007

After arriving in Kumasi, we made our way to the market place, which is an experience that I will never forget. We merged with a sea of people, the likes of which I've never experienced. The markets were densely packed, and we were guided by Michael Afranie, a famous television and movie actor, through a very tight labyrinth of stalls, buildings and ally ways, passing cobblers making shoes, textile workers, and vendors selling a myriad of goods -- electronics, fruits and vegetables, live animals, smoked animals, freshly slaughtered animals, toys, etc. It's not an understatement to say the market was sensory overload, and we briskly moved forward as if swimming up stream to our destination: the Queen Mother of the fish market.

The Queen Mother was a young, attractive woman in her early forties and she received us with a big smile and warm greetings. She was glad that we had arrived, but if truth be told she was more delighted to see Michael-- everybody was! Michael is very famous and well liked, and its easy to see why. He's a very handsome man, quick to smile, who wears a floppy hat and beard, who carries himself with the laid back sense of nobility. After much discussion and laughter between The Queen Mother and Michael, she gave us her blessing to shoot the following day, and were promised the cooperation of the rows of vendors that she represented. We stayed in the market a little while, scouting positions for the camera. As we left, we were carried by the flow of people back to the streets, and I was filled with a strange sense of belonging, and let the sights and sounds wash over me.

After a short drive through people and cars all jostling for position, we arrived at the bush meat market, where animals are brought from the countryside to be butchered and prepared for sale. In stark contrast to the fish market, the Queen Mother of the bush meat market was more reserved, guarded and cynical. She was an old woman, dressed in a black dress and black scarf, which she wore on her head. She sat on a wooden bench with one bare foot on the ground and the other leg stretched out in front of her. She told me to sit beside her and placed her finger on the bench to tell me exactly where to sit. As I sat, Michael and Teddy, our fixer, negotiated our shooting permit. The Queen was very reluctant. Bush meat is largely illegal and she feared that we had come in part to help shut down her businesses. Both Michael and Teddy took their time, listening to all of her concerns as well as those of her constituents. It was touch and go for a while and all I could do was sit and smile. At one point the conversation turned to me. The Queen Mother seemed to recognize me. She'd seen me before and was convinced I had been in Kumasi. Despite the efforts of Teddy and Michael, she was convinced that she knew me. She fixed me in her gaze as the conversation continued around her. How could I tell her that I felt the same way, that I'd been here before? In my dreams before my trip I'd travelled many times, alone at night, flying through sky before arriving to walk the streets and countryside of Ghana. Abruptly, the Queen looked away from me. She spoke to Michael and Teddy. Our request to film had been granted.

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