Where is the Chief? is the title of a play written by Gloria Yartey that will rock the theatre landscape next Sunday, April 27.
It will be staged by the Theatre Mirrors Group at the Citizens Centre, Asylum Down, Accra, from 8p.m. to celebrate the 22nd anniversary of the group.
Set in Kyebi, the district capital of Akyem Abuakwa, about 60 years ago, ‘Where is the Chief?’ unfolds the story of how a CID man disguises himself as a cocoa farm labourer, goes to stay in Kyebi and investigates the murder of a chief called Nana Akyea Mensah.
In the 1990s, a wizard of a CID man, retired Police Assistant Commissioner, H.A Nuamah, painstakingly wrote a very detailed account of the story, complete with pictures, and published it as a book: "THE KIBI MURDER CASE."
It is this book which has served as the raw material for playwright, Gloria Yartey, with over 100 scripts to her credit to come out with her latest sensation, true life story, entitled: WHERE IS THE CHIEF?
According to ACP/Mr Nuamah, the climax of the week-long funeral of the late Okyehene Nana Sir Ofori Atta I was set for Sunday, 27th February, 1944. The last rite marking the end of the funeral was the celebration of the WEREMPE custom, which was the act of blackening the stool of the late chief, formally making him an ancestor in the line of kings.
In the past, this rite was, nationwide, performed with slaughtering a human being and using his blood to "purify" the stool.
In the evening of Saturday, 26th February, 1944 all the principal players in the stool blackening ritual assembled for final preparations.
The question was which human being’s blood was to be used for the ceremony. Present was Nana Akyea Mensah, Chief of Apedwa, and traditionally commander of the Okyehene’s royal bodyguard.
Nana Mensah quite clearly explained to his colleagues that times had changed. The colonial authorities at the Christianborg Castle in Osu had taken over the power of life and death from the chiefs. It was no longer possible for the chiefs to sit anywhere and condemn anybody – if they used any human blood in the ritual, the Gold Coast Police would arrest them.
However, hardliners at the meeting opposed Nana Mensah, and, after the meeting, they planned that when Nana came in the morning for the rites, meaning to use the blood of goats and sheep, they would kill him and use his blood – after all he was top royal blood, and the only mole in their midst.
And so Nana Mensah was killed for the ritual. But his ghost did not rest.
Nana Mensah’s ghost haunted them so much that eventually they all confessed, were arrested, and after a famous jury trial, they were all condemned and hanged.
This is the story, chilling to the bone marrow that Gloria Yartey has scripted under the title "WHERE IS THE CHIEF?"
The play has about seven scenes, and in the lead role as Nana Akyea Mensah is the stage manager of Theatre Mirrors, Abdul Sheriff Mohammed, with a track record of over 1,000 appearances in "Mirror" productions.
The scene you will not want to miss is when Nana Mensah arrives to attend the funeral of the Okyehene – amidst pomp and pageantry.
The biggest weakness of the story is that regrettably it is an all male story, with a role for only one woman, Ama Wuoakyi, wife of Nana Mensah, who accompanied her husband to the funeral in Kyebi.
That role is expertly played by RUKAYA ABDUL KALIM, whose actual girlish age of 22 belies her character on stage, as a full grown middle aged woman, first wife of the Apedwa chief, Nana Akyea Mensah.
The scene the audience will not want to see is the climax scene, where Nana Akyea Mensah is murdered in a gruesome manner by his own people — Pipim, Asare Apietu, Amoako and others — all stool carriers at the palace.
The serious story has one scene specifically written to reduce tension in the audience. Two elders visit Nana Akyea Mensah in his transit quarters at Kyebi, and these elders, prior to the return of Nana from the palace engage in hearty conversation with Ama Wuoakyi, Nana’s wife.
Eat well before you come, because these two elders, FOSU and BOTWE will make you laugh uncontrollably and possibly fall off of your chair.
According to the business manager of the group, Jackson Adams, this performance slated for next Sunday, April 27, is to celebrate the 22nd anniversary of the group.
"By God’s Grace, we have been around for 22 years and we want to celebrate it in style…," he said.