Storytelling Winner: ‘NO ONE IS LIKE A BROTHER’

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Editors Note:

The following traditional story won the first prize at the 2nd Annual Peter Y. Ballah Traditional Storytelling Competition held Saturday, March 29, 2014 at the David Kuyon Forum for Human Rights and Culture in Gbarnga, Bong County.  Organized by an NGO called Village People Empowerment (ViPE), the competition brought together 15 traditional storytellers from around Liberia in the initial stage of a larger project aimed at preserving Liberia’s rich culture.  ViPE is founded by Rudolf Janke, a German national.  Aptly named after the late Liberian cultural icon Peter Y. Ballah, the first traditional storytelling event was held just months before the icon passed away in 2012.  Ballah was also honored for his expert folkloric renditions at the event that year and it was decided that an annual traditional storytelling competition would be named in his honor. 

The 15 contestants were vetted by a panel of 6 jurors based on the message, appeal, appropriateness, delivery and overall coherence of the stories in the Liberian context.  Consideration was given for the use of music and dance, both of which are typically used to add flavor to the stories and solidify the traditional context. The jurors chose three finalists who would later in the afternoon perform their stories before a live audience of over a hundred people of all ages.  The finalists included Mrs. Yomo N. Numa of Bomi County; Mr. Tony T. L. Kerdoe of Nimba County and Mr. Emmanueal F. Tamba of Bong County.  Numa’s story, “What I Will Do?” was about a frustrated young wife who consulted a medicine man in an effort to make her husband love her.  Kerdoe’s story “Leadership”, converges chickens and politics (who would have thunk it?) in a very important lesson about leaders and followers.  Tamba’s story, “No One is Like A Brother”, examines the deep crease between two brothers who find themselves on either side of the poverty line and the wealthy one’s wife’s effort to bring them together. 

After all three were presented, the audience was asked to vote and Tamba’s story emerged to claim the first prize. The story was actually composed by Tamba who, in his acceptance remarks, revealed that when he was growing up, he shared with a friend that he wanted to be a storyteller.  “My friend laughed,” narrated Tamba, “but that did not stop me from pursuing my dream.”

The Daily Observer is proud to publish Emmanuel F. Tamba’s award-winning masterpiece, “No One Is Like A Brother”.  We shall make an effort to publish the stories of the other 2 finalists in subsequent editions. A video of each will also be posted on our website, www.liberianobserver.com. Enjoy!

No One Is Like A Brother

“Many entreat the favor of the nobility, and every man is a friend to one who gives gift. But all the brothers of a poor man hate him; how much more do his friends go far from him? He may pursue them, yet they abandon him.” (Proverb 19:6-7)

Once there were two brothers who lived with their parents in one of the villages in central Liberia. These two brothers were called Pokpa and Flomolo. Pokpa was the big brother to Flomolo.  Pokpa was much closer to his father while his brother Flomolo was closer to his mother.  Pokpa’s father trained him how to work like a man, so that when he died, Pokpa would survive on his strength and hard work.  But Flomolo was trained by his mother, and grew up lazy and unable to work for himself.

After many years, the parents of the brothers died. By now the both boys were grown up men.  Pokpa worked so hard and was well established and married, but his brother was very lazy and thus, poor.  One day Pokpa decided to desert his brother for his laziness.  “I prefer welcoming my friends on my dinner table than my lazy brother,” he said. He finally drove away his brother who had been staying with him since the death of their parents.

One Christmas morning he invited his three wealthy friends, Mulbah, Lepolu and Najuah.  Form that day Pokpa was always in the company of his friends and left his brother starving with hunger. One evening while Pokpa and his wife were eating their new rice with palm oil, she asked, “Can you call your brother to share this dinner with us since he his not too far from us?”

“Gormah,” Pokpa said to his wife, “If only you repeat what you just said, you will follow him.”

The woman discontinued the conversation and they continued their eating.

However, Gormah, Pokpa’s wife loved Flomolo; she decided to secretly send food to him as often as she could.  One afternoon while Pokpa was in the field working, Gormah decided to teach him a lesson to love and appreciate his brother.  That afternoon when Pokpa came home, he met Gormah lying on the ground crying with a great regret.

“What happened to you?” He asked.

“When I was cooking your food,” she explained in tears, “one crazy man came and took the pot from the fire and ran with it. I managed to pursue him with a big stick unfortunately for him I hit him hard and he dropped dead.”

Pokpa was very furious when he heard this. He asked, “Where is the body?”

“It is lying in the kitchen wrapped in the old mat,” Gormah said.

When he saw the body, he did not care to open it, but how to bury it. Thinking on whom to go for help to bury the crazy man at midnight, his wife suggested that he asked his three friends for their help.  He accepted his wife suggestion and decided to go to his friends so that they would help him with the burial.

Pokpa proceeded to the home of his first friend, Mulbah.  After he explained what had happened, his friend told him he couldn’t help because his wife was sick that night. Pokpa moved on to his others friends’ homes and they also gave him excuses.  Pokpa was so frustrated by his three friends who he was so sure he could depend on in such desperation.

When he got home, his wife suggested again that he should go ask his brother to help him bury the man.  

“My brother?” Pokpa asked. He held his head in his hand wondering whether it would really work since he had mistreated his brother many years ago. “I don’t think my brother will forgive me to come and help me,” he said.

“Just try and see,” Gormah urged. 

Pokpa went to his brother that night.  When Flomolo heard him knocking at the door, he was glad and happy to see his brother coming to his home for the first time after many years.  Coming out to meet his brother, Flomolo asked, “What brought you to my poor home at this time of the night?”

“Our people say, if you see the toad in the day, if it is not running behind something, then something is running behind it.”  Pokpa explained everything to his brother who, without any hesitation got prepared to help his brother Pokpa to bury the crazy man. Flomolo told Pokpa that he is always his brother no matter what had happened.

After the burial, the next morning, while Pokpa was washing his face, two messengers form the town chief’s court came to him and his wife. “You are under arrest,” one of the messengers said.

“For what?” Pokpa asked. 

“You will know when you get to the Chief’s court,” the men replied.

When they got to the court, surprisingly Pokpa saw Mulbah, Lepolu and Najuah, his three wealthy friends, standing adjacent to the chief in the court.

“Do you know these men?” the chief asked.

“Yes” Pokpa replied.

“According to these young men, your wife killed a crazy man and you went to them to help you bury the man, but they refused. Still you managed to bury the man along with your brother under the cotton tree. Therefore, you must go and dig the body out and bring it to my court now!”

Pokpa, along with two messengers, went and dug out the body and brought it in the court.

In the presence of everyone including Pokpa’s three friends, the chief asked him to untie the mat on the body.  Pokpa untied the body and, to everyone’s surprise, there was a big log lying in the mat.

“What is this!?” the chief screamed.

To the amazement of everyone, Gormah, Pokpa’s wife stood up and confessed. “Chief, this was a trick planned by me, to prove to my husband that no one is like a brother. My husband trusted and loved his friends more than his own brother.  But when this problem occurred, his very friends refused to help him and even deceived him. “Our Chief, I did not really kill anybody,” Gormah said.

The chief ordered Pokpa’s three deceitful friends arrested and put them in jail and he set Pokpa and his wife free. From that day, Pokpa lived with his wife and brother happily in their town.

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