The one-week observance of the passing of the famed musician, Priscilla Opoku-Kwarteng, popularly known as Ebony Reigns, turned out to be a carnival, as thousands of people from all walks of life thronged the St Martin De Porres School at Dansoman in Accra yesterday to mourn her.
Cheers and smiles quenched the tears on the packed school compound where both human and vehicular traffic was so thick that the police had to close the road leading to the school at the Dansoman Roundabout.
By 10.30 a.m. yesterday, the usually quiet neighbourhood began to soak in probably the heaviest traffic it had seen in years.
The mourners outside the school compound were more than those inside, with some finding space on the school walls and trees.
March 17, 2018
The 20-year-old songstress met her gruesome death, along with two others, in a road accident at Nyamebekyere in the Ahafo Ano South District in the Ashanti Region on February 8, 2018, a week before her 21st birthday.
The one-week observance, according to Akan tradition, was for the family to announce the date for her final funeral rites, which have been slated for March 17, 2018.
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The funeral will be held in Accra but the exact venue is yet to be announced.
Apart from a government delegation, led by the Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Mrs Catherine Afeku, and the Minister of Communications, Mrs Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, there was a long list of celebrities, including Becca, Debora Vanessa, DCryme, Edem, Obrafuor, Superintendent Kofi Sarpong , Shatta Wale, Kofi Kinata, Bisa Kdei, Sarkodie, Ofori Amponsah, Moesha Badoung, Grace Omaboe, popularly known as Maame Dokono, Waakye, Amankwa Ampofo and other members of the Obra Drama Group.
Rapturous cheers went up for the artistes as they entered the school compound.
For almost two hours, the country’s actors, actresses and musicians took turns to eulogise their departed colleague, with Dance Hall artiste Shata Wale, who shed tears for the departed comrade, calling on Ghanaians to show love to Ghanaian artistes.
“When she dressed, you said she didn’t respect. God strike the enemies,” he hit at the Ghanaian media, whom he accused of leading a campaign of vilification against the late Ebony’s way of dressing.
To Ebony’s parents, he said: “If Ebony is dead, I want you to take me as your son.”
Emotional moment for parents Ebony’s parents arrived at the event at exactly 11 a.m., draped in black and white cloths. Her greyhaired and bespectacled father sat together with her mother, surrounded by family and friends.
It was a day the weather remained gloomy throughout, with occasional showers.
With a white handkerchief in her hand, Ebony’s father occasionally wiped his face. Except for a few head nods and chit chat with his wife, he said little.
Seated on his left was his wife, with her hands on her laps. Her only body movement was to tap her bare feet, occasionally, to her daughter’s songs which were being played.
Her eyes remained focused on a black and red canopy with white and peach roses glued on it. Under the canopy in the middle of the compound were four framed pictures of her smiling daughter.
She appeared lost in her thoughts until the poet, Rhyme Sonny, jagged her out of her mental solitude with soul-touching poems.
Another emotional moment came for her when the family of Franky Kuri, Ebony’s friend who died with her in the gory accident, turned up at the event.
Ebony’s mother hugged Franky’s sister tightly for almost two minutes.
Although the observance was meant to be sorrowful, it was full of colour and a display of the best in Akan culture.
A group of Kete dancers, dressed in colourful Kente cloths, twisted and turned to the sound of the drums, occasionally drawing cheers and applause from the crowd.
Amamere, a cultural troupe, were also at their artistic best with their combined drumming, dancing and acrobatics.
Lawyer Kwame Akuffo turned out to be the surprise of the day. Having temporarily hung his gown and attired in a mourning cloth and accompanied by drums, he arrived at the event with calculated dance steps and drew wild applause.
His body gestures and facial expressions managed to get a nod and a smile from Ebony’s parents.
Road safety campaign
Speaking at the event, the President of the Musicians Union of Ghana (MUSIGA), Mr Bice Osei-Kufuor, said the late Ebony’s death must mark the beginning of a campaign to make the country’s roads safer.
He said MUSIGA and other artiste associations must lead the campaign and sponsor a private member’s bill to ensure that Parliament enacted a law that made it mandatory for roads leading to regional capitals to be dual carriageways.
“I survived an accident, Terry Bonchaka died from it; Suzzy Williams died in a road accident; Kwame Owusu Ansah and Vybrant Fire both died through the same horrifying accidents. We cannot allow it to continue. We have the resources and we must use them to construct safe roads,” he said in an emotional tribute that recalled other Ghanaian celebrities in their prime who died from similar accidents.
The Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Mrs Afeku, rallied the musicians to lead the road safety crusade.
“It is a clarion call to make a bold statement on road safety.
The ministry will support you.
Let’s use a statement to make a difference, so that Ebony’s death would not be in vain.
While we mourn her, let’s immortalise her, so that this tragedy never happens again for such young star to die like this. We need to do this so that her memory will live on,” she added.
No state burial
While many have called for a state burial for the young musician, the Tourism Minister told the Daily Graphic that what the government promised the family was a befitting burial and not a state burial.
“We are working with her family, MUSIGA and GHAMRO to give her a befitting funeral. We prefer the package remains on the quiet out of respect for the family,” she said.
The Member of Parliament for Ablekuma West and Minister of Communications, Mrs Owusu-Ekuful, paid tribute to the late songstress, describing her as being “blessed with a talent”.
She rallied young people to do their best, so that when their time came, the world could stand still to celebrate them.
Highlife musician-turned-pastor, Ofori Amposah, urged Ghanaians to celebrate artistes when they are alive not when they were dead.
Ebony’s producer, Ricky Osei Agyeman, popularly known as Bullet, told the media that whatever happened was in the hands of God.
Licence to heaven
For his part, International Evangelist, Rev. Dr Lawrence Tetteh, who is said to have led the musician to Christ a few days before her death, urged Ghanaians to be circumspect and sensitive to what they said about the late Ebony.
According to him, the right to determine would go to heaven was the sole prerogative of God and not any human being.
He called on young Ghanaian artistes to serve Christ, adding: “imagine how powerful a preacher Shata Wale would be for Christ.”
With the speeches out of the way, the Asa Band, Black Star captain Asamoah Gyan’s band, took over the show, dishing out popular tunes.
Emmanuel Adu-Gyamerah reports from Abesim that only four family members of the late Ebony Reigns were in the mother’s house when the Daily Graphic visited the house yesterday.
The house was desolate, as the entire family members had travelled to Accra to observe the one week rites.
A cousin of Ebony, Stephen Nyarko, told the Daily Graphic that Ebony’s mother, Ms Beatrice Oppong, together with some family members, left for Accra last Wednesday to join the others in Accra for the observance of the one-week rites.