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| culture kayayo |

‘Here, I’m free. I don’t work for anybody. After market, I don’t fetch water for anybody. I don’t have to go to farm and then come and cook.’

k ayayo c i t y In Accra, communities of Kayayo have developed based on tribal affiliations. Mamprusi women and girls sleep huddled on the pavement outside the markets in which they work. Konkombas, who started moving south en masse during a tribal conflict in the 1990s, have become a minority in the shanty town that bears their name. Now, this miniature city sprawls for several kilometres around Agbogbloshie Market in central Accra, and the various tribes of the north each have their own neighbourhoods. Slowly, their wooden shacks are being replaced with concrete rooms, a sign of increasing permanence.

‘We are all from the same village, and we know each other before we are here,’ explains Lamisi, a 25-year-old woman from Tumu in the Upper West Region. Lamisi shares a room with seven girls, all of the Sisali tribe. They sleep together on the floor of a nine-square-metre room, their belongings hanging from the ceiling or piled on shelves.

‘There are no problems,’ Lamisi says. ‘Nobody [in our room] is there stealing, a witch, no. We are all the same.’ While Lamisi says she is happy to be living with her friends, she admits that Konkomba is not always a comfortable place to live. ‘If you do bad, or you do good, nobody is there to control you, to say that what you did is wrong, or what you did is good,’ she says. ‘There should be some control, from parents. Some people are not going to work. They will be stealing, and some of the girls, in the evening they will go to Circle [a place where prostitutes congregate].’ Whether they like their lives in the city or not, all of the Kayayo tend to agree on one thing: they could not make this money in their home villages. Hamama Mahama, a middle-aged mother of four, has been working in Accra for months at a time throughout her life. She makes more money than her husband, a farmer, and is putting three of her children through school.

‘For us, we’re used to this,’ she says. ‘But our children shouldn’t have to come and do this.’ G

Above left: Lamisi registers for college entrance exams in Accra. She graduated from high school in Tumu, her home in Ghana’s remote Upper West Region, but had to travel to the capital city to make money in order to pay for admission to a teacher or nursing training college; Above: a Kayayo girl in Kumasi sweats after chasing a car in the hope that the passengers would pay her to carry their bags

54 january 2011

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