PLOT, SUMMARY—-BY INSTRUCTOR TOLU AKINTADE.
The novel opens with fourteen year old Fofo sleeping on an old cardboard at the Agbogbloshie market. Except for her new job of washing carrots at the vegetable market in Agbogbloshie, her life in Sodom and Gomorrah, a slum close to the market consisted mainly of watching adult movies and taking alcohol. In her sleep, she dreamt of living in a home with a roof and a toilet, a dream shared by other street children like her.
She was woken up suddenly by Poison, a street lord who attempted to rape her. Fofo resisted him and ran to Odarley, her best friend who lived in a rented wooden shack. She told Odarley about Poison’s attempted rape and her intention to see her mother whom she believed had some connections with Poison. Fofo’s mother, Maa Tsuru informed Fofo, that her elder sister, Baby T was dead and Poison had threatened her into silence over Baby T’s death. She therefore urged Fofo to leave for her safety.
KABRIA ENCOUNTER WITH FOFO
In sharp contrast to the life in Sodom and Gomorrah is Kabria’s life with her family. A mother of three lively children- Obea, Essie and Ottu, she lived in a decent neighbourhood in Accra, worked with MUTE a non-governmental agency and drove a problematic old car nick-named Creamy. She ran into Fofo at the Agbloghoshie market while shopping for vegetables. Kabria was standing with other spectators at the spot where Baby T’s body was found when Fofo, disguising as a boy tried to steal her purse. Kabria rescued her from the angry mob. Fofo revealed her female identity and told Kabria that Baby T was her sister. Meanwhile, a lot of people had been made to believe that the dead girl (Baby T) was a kayayoo(a market porter from the north) to conceal her true identity and discourage further enquiry into her death. MUTE (the non-governmental organisation where Kabria worked) got interested in Baby T’s matter and granted Fofo protection by taking her into custody temporarily while conducting investigations into the circumstances surrounding Baby T’s death.
The circumstances surrounding Baby T’s death was revealed through two main sources: Fofo and investigations by MUTE.
HOW BABY T BECAME A PROSTITUTE
Baby T was the third child of Maa Tsuru while Fofo was fourth. Their jobless father, Kwei had abandoned them mainly as a result of the superstitious belief that Maa Tsuru had been cursed from birth. Baby T was sexually abused by her mother’s second lover, Kpakpo and was further defiled by Onko, a generous uncle who lived in the same compound with them and in whom she tried to confide.
Through Kpapkpo’s gimmicks, Baby T was sold to a prostitution ring consisting of Madam Abidjan, Maami Brooni and Poison, the street lord and ring leader. She was made to work as a child prostitute in Maami Brooni’s brothel with her earnings sent to Maa Tsuru who simply turned a blind eye.
Meanwhile, Onko’s welding business had suffered great setback after defiling Baby T. A witchdoctor made him believe that his misfortune was caused by the defilement of Baby T whom he said was a cursed child. As a form of remedy, the witch doctor asked Onko to bring some sacrificial items which would include Baby T’s pubic hair.
HOW BABY T DIED.
Kpakpo helped Onko to connect with Baby T once again. Poison eventually led Kpakpo to Maami Brooni’s brothel where Baby T worked as a prostitute. Baby T remembered what Onko did to her in the past and totally declined to sleep with him. Enraged at her refusal, Poison slapped and tried to beat her into submission. Baby T was found dead on the concrete floor with her head split open. She was alone with Onko in the room at the time of her death. Onko committed suicide thereafter.
SETTING OF THE NOBEL
The novel is set in Accra with locations in Agbogbloshie market and the notorious slum, Sodom and Gomorrah. However, the events in the novel happen everywhere in Africa including Nigeria.
Sometimes it is better to tell the story of a street child than to look for his murderer. We learn this definitively from Henning Mankell’s book. Amma Darko tells the opposite story: searching for the murderer makes for a better life for those who survive in the streets.
14-year-old Fofo is a street child living in a part of Accra named “Sodom and Gomorrha,” a place that is not good for anybody, least of all to children. Fofo has made it her task to find out what happened to her sister, Baby T, who was found dumped behind a marketplace, beaten and mutilated. Baby T. was the third child of Ma Tsumu, and was born after a brutal beating intended to abort the baby. Her father disappeared, leaving Ma Tsumu to fend for herself with four children. Soon Ma Tsumu found a new lover to share her bed, Kpakpo, who is good-for-nothing and earns his keep by “dubious” means.
Not willing to accept the presence of the new lover, the two brothers leave home. Soon after, Baby T. is sexually abused by Kpakpo. Hurt and confused, the twelve year old girl doesn’t confide in her mother, but instead in a family friend, Onko, who in turn rapes her. Ma Tsumu who then learns about the tragedy finds herself unable to do anything but take money from Onko, who continues to live in the same compound as Baby T. The situation is untenable. Kpakpo suggests that Baby T be sold into prostitution. The theme of discrimination against women is always present in this story. Baby T is representative of the sins visited upon all women in a society where they are discriminated against from birth. There is a note of home in the landscape of the story, when Baby T’s sister Fofo meets with a group of women who run an institution that documents issues called MUTE. The four women are inspired by the plight of Fofo and convert their library center into a practical street initiative.
Author Amma Darko has lived in Accra, near the marketplace where the crime happened. She evokes the vicious cycles of poverty and violence that drive children to the streets and women to prostitution. Her powerful message says that the way children are treated is the true measure of how societies are judged. When life is viewed through children’s eyes, it becomes clear that societies must find the answers to the moral predicaments that they finds themselves in.
“ FACELESS must be compulsory reading for all those who claim to be interested in the plight of street children…[who] cease to be mere statistics or a point of reference for media hysteria, academic discourse, or political rhetoric.” Kofi Anydoho