One Manís Meat, Anotherís Poison

Presented with the opportunity, the past three weeks have been used to sample the rich cultural heritage and beliefs of the people of Equatorial Guinea and information and knowledge gained is more than interesting.

As Africans in the sub Saharan region, there are many similarities in the beliefs and practices between Ghana and Equatorial Guinea, yet they live and express them so differently. Of course, language leads on that score.

But for the language, something in Ghana could be mistaken for Equatorial Guinea's. Spanish is the first language, French follows before their main local dialect, the Fang. In Ghana, English, the Queen's language reigns supreme and we are still trying to figure out which of the local dialects should be made be second national language.

Taxi drivers in Equatorial Guinea are almost the same as those we find in Ghana, -- sometimes affable, sometimes rude, some also ready to cash in on the just arrived visitors, usually referred to in Ghana as 'Johnny Just Come.'

Unlike in Ghana, however, funerals are not an elaborate affair. They are mainly Catholics, but unless really necessary, the most time a dead person is kept is seven days, but they are often buried just a day after their death.

Yes, they do assemble for the burial and funeral rites, but it is not as elaborate, expensive and time consuming as well as now an avenue for fashion parades as pertains in most parts of Ghana now.

The similarity in food in particular, is intriguing, though they are prepared and eaten differently. So it will not be out of place if a Ghanaian, finding herself in any of the towns in Equatorial Guinea, spotted a home bred fowl, what is usually called 'Efie akuoko' for that person to start thinking of a good bowl of fufu served with chicken soup from that fowl's poultry.

But hang on, that can only be wishful thinking that country as that bred of local fowl are only meant for ritual purposes. They are reared and kept around, but in Equatorial Guinea, those fowls are not eaten, what is known as the poultry farm breeds and frozen chicken are their preferred choice.

Upon enquiry, it was revealed that because of their strong belief in other deities, those local breeds are used more for ritual purposes. It is used to curse, pacify and for other rituals that will inure to their well being, by those who believe in that practice.

Indeed, it is the strongest expression of "one man's meat is another's poison," as interestingly, it sometimes serves the same purpose for many communities in Ghana, particularly, the rooster. Apart from the sacrifices it is used for in the rituals, poultry is our delicacy. 

In a typical traditional setting, when one comes out victorious from a situation such as sickness, childbirth and return from a long trip, the person is presented with a fowl, often the home bred, though in the cities and big towns, the poultry bred is taking over.

In Ghana, it is almost a taboo, using one's left hand to handle food and do anything of importance to him or her. Indeed, there is a popular Akan adage that 'no one points the left finger at his father's house', just emphasising how the use of the left hand is abhorred or considered demeaning.

It is the opposite in Equatorial Guinea. The use of the left hand is as accepted as the use of the right hand. The left hand is used in the handling and serving of food, both cooked and uncooked, it is commonly used to serve at bars and many other services that may require the use of the hands.

It was a terrible experience some of us had to go through sleeping hungry on our first day in Bata, because we refused to buy grilled fish from a lady because as you can imagine, she had handled it with her left hand. 

Unfortunately, it was the only available food and convenient to find too, ignore the left hand touch and it was a good meal, stick to your belief and be prepared to go to bed hungry. We opted for the latter, more because both the seller and buyer had language problem and could not express themselves. A clear case of 'one man's meat being another's poison.'