Author: Amma Darko
Publication Date: 2003 This Edition 2010
Publishers: Sub-Saharan Publishers
Reasons for Reading: Won the book in a Reading Relay organised by logo-ligi and also from my TBR
Faceless is the third novel written by Amma Darko, with an introductory essay by Prof. Kofi Anyhidoho. It tells of the death of Baby T, a child prostitute whose naked, beaten and mutilated body is found dumped behind a marketplace in Agbogbloshie, a slum area in Accra, the capital of Ghana. Details of the murder and Baby T’s life, are skilfully revealed by the author through two sources: one, Baby T’s younger sister Fofo, herself a street child; and through the rehabilitative intervention of an NGO, known as MUTE whose efforts through one of its Programme Officers, Kabria, unearth’s the proverbial can of worms that is the whole story of Faceless
Baby T’s story is heartbreaking. The third child of Ma Tsuru, Baby T is sexually abused by her mother’s live-in lover, Kpakpo. Confused and betrayed, she confides in a family friend and co-tenant, Onko, who takes advantage of her trust and rapes her. Baby T’s mother, Ma Tsuru, a tragic figure destroyed by the men in her life, is helpless to do anything. Weighed down by poverty, illiteracy and shame, she takes money from Onko, and matters take a drastic turn when Kpakpo, always on the loose for fast money manipulates Maa Tsuru and Baby T is sold into prostitution, to also appease his ‘guilt’. It seemed a nasty situation has been tidied up. But has it? Subsequent events, leading to the tragic death of Baby T proves otherwise.
Discrimination against women is a pervasive theme in the novel. Symbolically Baby T carries the sins of her parents, as well as those visited upon women in a society where culturally men are the masters and women bear the brunt of injustice; Maa Tsuru, Baby T’s mother whose husband abandons her penniless, as a result of a ‘curse’ is also a victim of discrimination whose hapless predicament is made more poignant by superstition, poverty and illiteracy. Thus though we have most of the male characters in the novel being murderers, rapists and irresponsible fathers, yet it is the female characters that suffer in a community of drifters and hustlers where characters like Poison, the local thug and Kingpin reign supreme.
Faceless is also the tragic, unfortunate story of a social canker in Ghana and indeed, the bane of developing countries, streetism in a metropolitan and urban environment; and a powerful social commentary and insight into the multifaceted issues underlying streetism, that is broken homes, rape, poverty, illiteracy AIDS, etc. She leaves no stone unturned in exposing and analysing the characters for their various behaviours and at the end, people like Maa Tsuru would receive thee sympathy of the reader and well some disgust, while Fofo would earn admiration for her brevity and courage in wanting to seek the truth and nothing but the truth behind her sister’s murder despite threats on her life from shady characters like Poison, who bring up only abhorrence. I do believe also that Kabria’and her children from the ‘urban posh’ environment are a foil to Fofo and her gang, the contrast created presenting a cruel view of the two worlds.
The fate of Baby T only strengthens her sister Fofo who, through the interventions of MUTE is given a new lease of life, so to speak. And the author seems to buttress this point further by quoting: “The future promise of any nation can be directly measured by the present prospects of its youth.” John F. Kennedy (May 29, 1917 – November 22, 1963)
Faceless is a well-researched novel, with the narration drawing on real-life events and places/slums like Agbogbloshie, Market, Makola Market, Korle-Gonno, and the all-notorious Sodom and Gomorrah (named after the Biblical city that God destroyed because of its numerous sins) of all which are in the Greater Accra Region of Ghana. The characters are real and believable enough and though some, like Poison are stereotyped I do believe the portrayal of such characters highlight the predominant truth and nastiness of the whole streetism and gang phenomena
The writing is brilliant, with simple easy to understand Ghanaian English, interspersed with the vernacular, giving the reader a feel of the Ghanaian culture and what makes her tick. I particularly like the narrative style, which though straight forward draws the reader in, building tension as the author takes us through dizzying moments of intrigue and suspense to reveal the hidden truth behind Baby T’s murder.
I believe Amma Darko is a force to reckon with and I recommend this book wholeheartedly.
About the Author: She was born in Koforidua, Ghana, and grew up in Accra. She studied in Kumasi, where she received her diploma in 1980. Her first novel was published in a German translation in 1991, and was published in its English original in the Heinemann African Writers Series in 1995 as Beyond the Horizon. In between Beyond The Horizon and Faceless, we have The Housemaid, also published in both a German Translation and in the Heinemann African Writers Series in 1998. There is more than ample evidence that these three works constitute an important trilogy and must be read as such.
I appreciate your patience with me as I catch up on your blogs. Thanks a million! Shalom! 🙂