When Elvis Kwashie, General Manager of Joy Brands and my former editor at JoyFm passed, Sabukie Osabutey posted an image of him on her twitter page with the following caption: Rest in Power Elvis! Thank you for everything #TheRealBoss.
Elvis gave me the platform to get my message across to the world, she said, whilst adjusting herself in the sofa. Her then beaming smile dissolved into a reflective mood. There was a loud pause for some seconds before we both said, May His Soul Rest in Perfect Peace.
Then as a 19-year-old aspiring poet, Sabukie was thrust into national prominence when she was featured on JoyNews television. She had been on some programs before, but that single report was all that she needed for the rest of the world to hear about her ability to breathe life into ordinary words that prick the emotions of those who hear them, whilst pondering on the weight behind each message that came through her vocal cords.
Sabukie stumbled on poetry as a way of dealing with the hurt of losing out on a Senior High School debate competition. Back then, she hated the smell of words around her, even if she had once come into contact with them; everything was a complete turn off.
Not that she was bad, but the feeling of what she then thought was a defeat, almost made her shut the door on a future that promises so much, and continues to establish her as one of Ghana’s finest poets. Already at age 25, she has published two books of poetry, the latest, HEALESS WOUND, which chronicles different layers of love, including hurt, healing and the appetite to fall in love again, despite the possibility of being hurt, but also being loved in ways that makes one forgets the scars of a failed relationship. A thought-provoking material, Sabukie’s use of imagery makes each poem a compelling read. In Strangers On The Road To Healing, she writes:
The waves will crash you
In different smiling undertones
They will dance you through the midnight fire
Break your fears into freedom
they will hold you in their manly arms
twirl you round on a sweet-scented bed of roses
like the rock in the middle of the ocean
they are not shaken
you never see them coming
you fall unknowingly in their arms
their cuddles relaxes your soul
they will walk you through healing
but they may be broken themselves.
Beyond the subject of love, hurt and healing, Sabukie’s poetry also deals with the broader theme of feminism, slavery/colonialism and the happenings in the lives of everyday people.
In Jamestown Girl, she reflected on her teenage years in the fishing community which carries the remnants of the scars of colonialism, whilst recounting the prowess of her lineage.
From lighthouse to Ussher fort,
We roam the street with the single panti mami bought
We never cared to make this a thought
All we wanted was the kenkey in the pot
We sought nothing but the free will we shrill
The strokes of the cane still leave our hearts
as stubborn as pandora
Stealing Adukwei’s tapioca
we weren’t given names like Monica
I grew up knowing Atta Ayi, Oko, Akweley and Lobisaa
Oh fun it was being a Jamestown Girl
Banku k3 shitoloo, the daily meal we fed
Akpanga mefuen kedzi enyewulor
The awful smell of a vulture is from its mother’s egg
Proverbs you heard and said
As young as we were
We put our ideas into play and enjoyed ourselves throughout the day
Today modernization has filled our calabashes
With sophisticated ideas
I am proud to be your kaklayoo
and I will make you a perfect shitloo.
Sabukie is not seeking the limelight for the sake of it; she wants to use the power of poetry to illuminate the issues affecting society. She walked into our meeting in a bright yellow outfit. Her hair was kept together in a ponytail. She adjusted herself in a soft green sofa, looked at the menu card and placed her order. Bespectacled, she adjusted her black handbag on a round table between us, in order to make space for the fruit drink and tuna sandwich.
FEW minutes into our conversation, she pulled out her mobile phone in her bag, unlocked it. She showed me the photograph of a young Russian lady also called Osabutey. She spoke about her with so much admiration. She is into ballet and very good at her craft.
Sabukie is hopeful the two may someday meet and share a stage, where the body movements of a ballet dancer can be scripted in poetry and delivered with the appropriate rhythm and gusto.
Anny Osabutey (PrampramFisherman) is an avid country traveler, broadcast journalist, writer, documentarian, amateur filmmaker/photographer and Co-founder of the Prampram Tourism Centre.