It is hard to decide what to call this remarkable book, the first of two volumes. It is for the most part a collection of stories told by a West African bar girl,"Hawa," to anthropologist and musicologist John Chernoff in the mid 1970s. She tells about her life as a girl in a Muslim village and as a young woman in Accra, Lomé, and several other places, the lives of her fellow bar girls and about the men (mostly European but also African) she encountered, took from, gave to and left.
Chernoff wants the reader to approach Hawa's stories as "an ethnography done by an illiterate." Hawa is not only an ethnographic subject; she is also an observer, an ethnographer. Like all ethnographers her observations are partial, skewed, but also enlightening. >> continue