Carved Wooden Hangers For Beautiful Ghanaian Dresses

Sonya Carpenter was a young English lecturer from Warwick University helping with a course on job costing and financial accounting at Kumasi University in Ghana. Kwame Mainu’s restored wife, Comfort, had offered to take Sonya on a dress shopping spree, so early one Saturday morning in 1997, Kwame drove Sonya to Comfort’s house where she was introduced to Ashanti breakfast of red bean stew, fried ripe plantain and gari. Kwame could never understand how women could rush out to the shops after such a meal but that is what Comfort and Sonya did, leaving him with the output of the London printing presses of the previous two weeks.

Kwame Mainu’s main concern was helping small engineering enterprises in Ghana, upgrade their technology and business skills, but he had also become involved in efforts to stop the illegal export of narcotics. On a visit to a local engineering workshop, Kwame had learned of the manufacture of hollow wooden coat hangers and he suspected these were to be used to conceal packets of drugs. The machines were ordered by a company called Sika Ye Na (money is scarce) Enterprise, which had several businesses in Kumasi.

Kwame was quite content to wait for the ladies to return. If he wanted the news he could turn on Comfort’s new satellite TV and watch CNN, or for deeper analysis he could turn to The Economist and The New Scientist, but his mind kept returning to the phenomenon of shopping. At almost forty, Kwame was well aware that there were many characteristics of the fair sex that the feeble male mind could never fathom. One of these was the female addiction to shopping. Once they set out on a shopping trip there was no known means of predicting when they might return. Lunchtime came and Kwame realised that he must eat alone, so he called the maid and asked what was easy to prepare. After lunch, he took the opportunity to indulge in a full-length siesta. This time, he expected to awake naturally and he was not disappointed.

Later, with the London publications fully digested, Kwame was about to turn on the TV when he heard the crunch of Comfort’s car on the gravel drive. After a short interval, Sonya burst in with, ‘Look at the lovely dresses we found!’ Comfort soon followed with, ‘There are so many new stores opening these days, Kwame. Cessie has opened a new dress shop on Prempeh II Street and she’s called it Sika Ye Na like her other businesses. We bought heaps of the latest styles. Every dress comes with a beautiful carved wooden hanger. Cessie says she’s sending loads to Ghanaians in the UK. I’ll give you the ones to take back for Akosua. I’m sure Afriyie will want to copy them.’

‘I’ll take the dresses,’ Kwame said, ‘but leave out the hangers.’

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