Faceless by Amma Darko
ABOUT THE AUTHORAnalysis of “Faceless” Amma Darko was born in Koforidua, Ghana, and grew up in Accra. She studied in Kumasi, where she received her diploma in 1980. She is one of the most significant contemporary Ghanaian literary writers. She is the author of the following novels: Faceless (2003), The Housemaid (1999), Beyond the Horizon (1995) and Not Without Flowers (2007). Analysis of “Faceless”
Attempted RapeThe 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’s Encounter with FofoIn 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 prostituteBaby 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 diedKpakpo 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.
THEMES OF FACELESSDiscrimination against women: Baby T and Maa Tsuru are symbolically representative of the sins visited upon all women in a society where from birth women are discriminated against and made responsible not only for their sins, but for those of men in society. In the story, nothing goes right when men are involved and many of the male characters in the novel are murderers, child abusers, rapists, or simply good for nothing. Those not presented in this light are trapped in their distorted perceptions of women as caregivers and housewives, such as Kabrias husband, Adade, who expects her to be waiting at the door to take his briefcase when he returns from work. Despite the fact that Kabria works a long day, she is still expected to manage the household, cook, and take care of the children.
Maa Tsuru who is abandoned penniless by her husband as a result of a curse (being fertile) is a victim of dehumanisation. Her unfortunate predicament is made worse by superstition, poverty and illiteracy. Her daughter, Baby T is raped by Kpakpo and later murdered by Poison.
Darko, cleverly, depicts these evils perpetrated against women in our society. She urges us, especially men, to search their conscience and have a change of mind in the way they see the role of women in the family and in the society at large.
Street child phenomenon: The novel, Faceless, demonstrates the personal and social tragedy of each and every child that ends up on the streets. As one of the characters puts it in quoting assassinated US president John F. Kennedy, The future promise of any nation can be directly measured by the present prospects of its youth.
Baby T and her siblings end up on the streets as a result of their parents irresponsility. This parental failure exposes them to the streets where the fittest survive. They become prostitutes, petty robbers and heavy drinkers to survive on the street. Later, Baby T is murdered by Poison, the street lord. Amma Darko seems to be asking what hope there is if societies can allow the conditions that result in the fate of Baby T, Fofo and other street children in Ghana and other African countries. Children who are victims of abuse grow up to become abusers themselves, as is the case of poison who is shown to be a victim through his own abuse as a child, but who now no longer suffered the pain, he inflicted it.
Darko succeeds in hammering home a powerful message that children and the way they are treated are the true measures of how societies are judged.
Leadership failure: Proverbs 29:2 states, When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn. In Faceless, it is evident that there is total neglect of duty, either by omission or commission, on the part of government of the day. There is a total neglect of social institutions that see to the day to day running of the society. The police station that Kabria visited with her colleague was in a state of dilapidation. There was no vehicle, no good filing system and the building itself is about to collapse. The police are charged with the sole responsibility of maintaining law and order, but an ill-equipped police will surely come short of this responsibility. Anarchy rules when there is a breakdown in law and order. This is the reason why people like Poison will continue to reign and cause havoc in the society.
The role of the media and NGOs in championing social courses: In Faceless, the role of the media and non-governmental organisations in the propagation and sustenance of peace and crime free society is highly underscored. The role of these agencies is critical. They shoulder a huge responsibility that should be jealously guarded for the good of the society. The people rely on the media for information, and a well-informed society is a progressive society. In the novel, Sylv Po of Harvest FM represents the picture of the work of the media. Sylv Po is both active and intelligent. He develops interest in Fofos case and uses his radio programme to fight against crime in the society.
Kabria, on her own part with her organization, did a wonderful job. MUTE is a veritable NGO with the special task of information documentation on social problems such as demented pregnant women, street child issue, etc. MUTE picks interest in Fofos case and together with Sylv Po of Harvest FM, the mystery behind the death of Baby T is unraveled.
Darko seems to be saying that the responsibility of maintaining a peaceful environment should not be left to the government alone. The media, NGOs, private institutions, and individuals all have a role to play in the maintenance of order and crime free society.
SETTING OF “Faceless” by Amma DarkoThe story of Faceless is set in one of the most hostile parts of Accra, called Sodom and Gomorrah, named after the biblical city that God destroyed because of its numerous sins. Although the author uses unreal names, she narrates what can possibly be described as real-life events at venues that really exist. Agbogbloshie, Makola market, Abossey-Okai Abeka, korle-Bu and the all-notorious Sodom and Gomorrah can really be found in the Greater Accra Region of Ghana.
PLOT-SETTING-SUMMARY 2Sometimes 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.
LITERARY DEVICESStyle/Language: The novel is divided in into three unequal partsbook one being the biggest. The story is narrated with the eye of God point of view. This is why the pronouns such as: he, she, they, it, his, her, etc., are predominant. The story is quite conversational as characters can be seen in face to face interactions.
The writing is brilliant with simple, easy to understand Ghanaian English, interspersed with the vernacular, giving the reader a feel of Ghanaian culture and what makes her tick. The narrative style is straightforward, drawing the audience in, building tension as the author takes us through dizzying moment of intrigue and suspense to reveal the hidden truth behind the murder of Baby T.
Monologue: This is a long speech made by a character in a story especially when he or she is alone. This device is amply used by Amma Darko to portray the frustrations of Kabria caused by Creamy, the 1975 VW Beetle handed down to her by her husband, Adade. Creamy is an old, rickety car that has seen all kinds of weathers and need to be changed. It frustrates and embarrasses Kabria that she is seen on several occasions talking to it. One time, the car stops in a traffic and Kabria begs it not to disappoint her.
Flashback: This is a device used to recall past events during current events to help us understand the present. We get to know about Maa Tsurus past through a flashback provided by Naa Yomo. We equally get to know Poisons past through flashback. With this we understand what makes Maa Tsuru and Poison behave the way they do. We even sympathise with them, knowing that they are victims of circumstances.
Anticlimax: This is the arrangement of the events of a story so that they appear in descending order. The story of Faceless begins with the death of Baby T followed by the gradual unfolding of other events that cause her death. So the story starts from where it should end.
CHARACTERISATION/ROLESBaby T: Baby T is the third child of Maa Tsuru. She is sexually abused by her mothers live-in lover, Kpakpo. Confused and betrayed, she confides in a family friend and co-tenant, Onko, who takes advantage of her trust and rapes her. At the advice of Kpakpo Baby T is sent out to Maami Broni through Mama Abidjan to become a comfort woman. She is murdered by poison when she refuses to sleep with Onko who is plotting to get a strand of her pubic hair for the cleansing of his contaminated blood. Baby Ts body is dumped behind a blue Rasta Hairdressing kiosk Salon. The discovery of her dead body triggers Fofo to seek justice for her.
Maa Tsuru: Maa Tsurus mother is betrayed by the young man who impregnated her. She rained curses on him and all his descendants as life drains out of her in giving birth to the baby who will later be known as Maa Tsuru. Maa Tsuru grows up labeled as a cursed person. People distance themselves from her in her family house, where she also resides. After having two sons and two daughters with Kwei, he abandons them. Her two sons leave as soon as they are able to fend for themselves, thereby escaping the nightly moans coming from Maa Tsuru and her new live-in lover.
A new man worms his way into Maa Tsurus bed and connives with Mama Abidjan who promises to find work for Baby T through her questionable recruitment agency in exchange for periodic payments to feed Maa Tsurus new family. Maa Tsuru gives birth to two more children, bringing the number of her children to six and forcing Fofo to leave home. Maa Tsurus life is full of sorrows and regrets; she represents a typical African woman who is made miserable by the men she allowed into her life.
Kabria: Kabria is the backbone of her family. She multitasks as a mother, wife and social worker. Kabrias husband, Adade, an architect, contents himself with his work, joining co-workers to drinking spots to release tension and returning home for dinner. Kabrias children; Obea, Essie and Ottu are all in school. Each childs character is a force to reckon with, but Kabria takes care of their needs almost single-handedly. Kabria plays a crucial role in the unravelling of the mystery behind the murder of Baby T. She takes an interest in Fofos case and manages to get her organization, MUTE, to delve into it. Kabria is Fofos foil character as her family life presents a sharp contrast to Fofos and her street companions.
Fofo: Fofo is the fourth child of Maa Tsuru. She leaves home when she can no longer put up with her mothers excesses. She sets out to find justice for her sisters murder when she gets to know that Baby Ts mutilated body has been found at Agbogbloshie. In a twist of fate, she runs into Kabria who works with a non-governmental organisation named MUTE which functions as an interventionist and alternative library for every social, gender and child issues. MUTE takes an interest in Fofos case and determines to find out what led to Baby Ts death. With the help of Sylv Po, the reporter from Harvest FM, they work their way into a syndicate led by Poison, the street lord that trades in child prostitution, drugs and all manner of street crimes.
Poison: Poison was an innocent boy who ran away from home to escape the constant abuse of a drunken stepfather. He got himself caught up in a bad company. He ended up as a messenger in a brothel while working his way up by bullying, raping and murdering and is now known as Poison, the street lord―a clear case of a victim turned into a victimiser. He is the one that killed Baby T and ordered for her body to be dumped behind the Rasta Hairdressing Kiosk Salon at Agbogbloshie.
Kwei: Kwei is an unemployed mason who still lives with his mother when he should be on his own fending for himself. His relationship with Maa Tsuru is not accepted by his mother as she sees her as a cursed woman. Kwei does not listen to his mother; rather, he gets Maa Tsuru pregnant. He leaves for a greener pasture, leaving promises of a better life when he returns, and so is not around when his first child is born. However, he comes back with tales of woe and disappointment. He gets Maa Tsuru pregnant the second time and abandons her. He comes back after the birth of his second boy empty-handed, but looking like a changed man. Somehow, he manages to warm himself back into the arms of Maa Tsuru. He impregnates her yet again, but this time he becomes fed up with Maa Tsurus fecundity. He gives her the beating of her life with the sole purpose of aborting the baby, but fails. The baby is named Baby T even in the absence of her father. Kwei comes back the third time, lures Maa Tsuru into his arms, gets her pregnant and disappears for good, leaving Maa Tsuru with four children to cater for. Kwei represents the theme of parental irresponsibility.
Kpakpo: Kpakpo is another character that exemplifies the theme of parental irresponsibility. He is small in stature, but full of fraud and deceit. He makes a living by tricking people; he copllects rents from them without providing accommodation. Because of this, he is always trying to hide from his creditors.
Kpakpo takes advantage of Maa Tsuru promising her love and warming his way into her bed, and bearing two sons with her. He becomes a leech on Maa Tsuru, sucking her and her children dry. He is the first to molest Baby T one night when Maa Tsuru is away as a result of pregnancy complication. He is the one that suggested sending Baby T away to Maami Broni to cover up the shameful thing he did to Baby T. Kpakpo later abandoned Maa Tsuru with their two sons.
Onko: Onko lives in the same compound with Maa Tsuru, Naa Yomo and other tenants. Everyone in the compound sees Onko as a kind man, especially the children who usually cluster around him. After Baby T is molested by the live-in lover of her mother, she confides in Onko, but he takes advantage of her and rapes her. However, Onko continues to eye Baby T. This new situation is too much for Maa Tsuru to take, so she decides to take the advice of Kpakpo to send Baby T away.
After the raping of Baby T, Onkos furniture business begins to crumble. His customers begin to leave him until his business finally collapses. He seeks help from a native doctor and amongst the things he is asked to bring is a strand of Baby Ts pubic hair. He finds his way to Maami Broni through Kpakpo and pays Poison a huge sum of money to sleep with Baby T. Rmembering how Onko destroyed her life, Baby T refuses to sleep with him. It is while Poison is beating Baby T into submission that he murdered her. Onko commits suicide afterwards.