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We are going to take a very close look at the character called Maa Tsuru in Faceless, a novel by Amma Darko.
Faceless happens to be one of the two novels in the African Prose Section of the WAEC Literature-in-English syllabus for both school and private candidates.
The years 2019 and 2020 are the remaining years that a Literature-in-English candidate may elect to study Faceless for the African Prose section of their West African Senior School Certificate Examination popularly called WASSCE.
These notes are equally useful for other candidates in other examinations such as JAMB who are expected to study Faceless by Amma Darko.
University undergraduate level students of African Literature will find these study notes extremely useful.
Who is Maa Tsuru in Faceless?
A good answer to the above question must take into account certain critical aspects of the character of Maa Tsuru. This is exactly what we are going to do in order to analyze the character called Maa Tsuru.
We shall be looking at the physical and emotional charactersistics as well as the social and economic background of Maa Tsuru.
I need to supply you with this information about Maa Tsuru so that we can give a full assessment of her character.
Maa Tsuru is one of the major characters in the novel, Faceless by the Ghanaian writer, Amma Darko.
The Character of Maa Tsuru
Here is a list of the key things you need to know about the character of Maa Tsuru.
AS A CHILD
Maa Tsuru has had to live with an unfortunate social stigma since the night of her birth – the stigma of the cursed child.
The circumstances surrounding Maa Tsuru’s birth are eloquently chronicled by the venerable Naa Yomo in one of the many flashback narratives in the novel, Faceless.
Maa Tsuru’s young mother, having been abandoned by her boyfriend who impregnated her, was so upset that during her labour, in the course of which she died, she pronounced a curse on the man and all his descendants. And by logical extension, Maa Tsuru.
So this is how everyone in her society has come to regard Maa Tsuru. This belief in curses is so strong that even men fear to approach Maa Tsuru.
Mothers, like Kwei’s, strongly advise their sons to give Maa Tsuru a wide berth.
It is from this cultural perspective that one must assess the choices that the grown-up Maa Tsuru has to make about her love life.
AS A MOTHER
- Maa Tsuru is a 38-year-old mother of six children – her two older children who are boys, Baby T, Fofo and her two younger sons fathered by Nii Kpakpo.
- It is significant to note that the father of Maa Tsuru’s first four children is Kwei.
- It is also important to note that Maa Tsuru’s baby in her first pregnancy with Kpakpo was stillborn. This was before the other two younger sons arrived.
AS A WOMAN IN LOVE AND IN NEED OF A MAN
Maa Tsuru’s love life has got nothing much to write home about.
The men who enter her life take advantage of her deep emotional commitment to them, make her bear children copiously and thereafter abandon her to suffer alone.
First, it was Kwei, the father of her first four children. Then Kpakpo, a loafer, smoothly talks his way into Maa Tsuru’s life.
Kpakpo’s appearance on the scene has had many devastating consequences for Maa Tsuru and her children.
- Maa Tsuru has never been properly married, even though she appears to give her all to the men who come into her life.
- Maa Tsuru was just a 16-year-old girl when she got pregnant with Kwei, her 23-year-old lover.
- Kwei, goaded on by his mother, disappears from home under the pretext of getting away from the evil influence of a purported curse on Maa Tsuru and her descendants.
The truth is that the unemployed Kwei could no longer bear the financial burden of taking care of three children with a fourth one right on its way.
- Maa Tsuru is not employed in any regular job. So when Kwei abandons her and their three children, plus a maturing pregnancy (with the yet-to-be-born Fofo), life becomes very difficult for her.
- Once, her source of survival was her aunt’s kenkey business which she assisted her to operate. But with the passing away of her aunt Maa Tsuru now has to depend on odd jobs to take care of herself and her many children.
Maa Tsuru works on and off at different kenkey houses. Sometimes she ekes out a living by washing clothes for other people for a fee.
- Maa Tsuru’s two eldest sons before Kpakpo’s fateful intrusion into their lives, had been lending her a helping hand with fish and money they get for doing menial jobs at both the sea side and the fish market.
“It was not living but they were surviving fairly well.”
It is difficult to say if Maa Tsuru’s illiteracy and ignorance regarding many issues have contributed to shaping her largely miserable life.
However, it is quite clear that Maa Tsuru comes across as a rather naive character especially in her dealings with the men who come in and go out of her life as and when they please.
- Maa Tsuru cares more about having a man in her life than about the quality of life that particular man is bringing along. So men like Kpakpo can come in at will, enjoy her hard-earned meals, impregnate her , defile her child – Baby T – and leave her to take care of the mess.
- Maa Tsuru’s behaviour also appears to suggest that she feels very strongly that the survival of her relationship with Kpakpo should take precedence over the emotional needs of her own children.
- For fear that her strong and public response to Onko’s rape and persistent harassment of Baby T might land even Kpakpo in trouble, Maa Tsuru swiftly silences the emotionally distraught Baby T any time she complains to her about Onko’s lewd remarks.
- It is difficult to understand the thinking behind Maa Tsuru’s acceptance of Kpakpo’s plan to sell Baby T into child prostitution and life on the street.
- Fofo’s frustrations with her mother’s childish choices regarding her male lovers clearly demonstrates Maa Tsuru’s lack of discernment in dealing with her emotional issues. Even a child like Fofo seems to know better.
- We must, however, not forget the fact that cultural beliefs and societal expectations could have been the driver of Maa Tsuru’s behaviour .
For one thing, here is a young woman whom most young men dare not approach because she is considered cursed from birth. But Maa Tsuru lives in a society where a woman without a man, any kind of man, is not accorded much respect.
Therefore, in her desperation to settle down with any man that comes her way, considering her limited choices, Maa Tsuru ends up inadvertently hurting herself and her young children.
For instance, to save her relationship with the terribly disappointing Kpakpo, Maa Tsuru tries to cover up Kpakpo’s defilement of Baby T. And when things get to a head, she chooses to let the 12-year-old Baby T go into prostitution rather than end her relationship with Kpakpo.
Fofo is probably too young to appreciate these realities of her culture which continue to influence Maa Tsuru’s actions.
The role of Maa Tsuru in the novel, Faceless
Maa Tsuru plays an important role in Amma Darko’s novel, Faceless.
I will now give you highlights of the significance of Maa Tsuru in Faceless.
MAA TSURU’S CONTRIBUTION TO THE THEMES IN FACELESS
- The themes of streetism, parental neglect and loveless homes
The narrator uses Maa Tsuru’s experiences to develop the themes of failed love relationships, broken homes and parental neglect. These issues are among the major causes of the street child phenomenon.
As their male lovers either defile their young daughters or abandon them and the children they bore with them, or both, one after the other, the Maa Tsurus of this Ghanaian society are forced to allow their children to leave home and make the dangerous streets their safest refuge.
Maa Tsuru is thus used as an instrument of satire to expose and criticize all that is wrong with many Ghanaian families.
- Amma Darko uses her novel, Faceless, to criticize the culture of superstition in the Ghanaian and African setting.
There is a general acceptance by society that there is a curse on Maa Tsuru’s head. It is further believed that this curse is responsible for her behaviour and her personal woes.
But the novelist thinks otherwise.
Amma Darko contrasts Maa Tsuru’s condition with that of Naa Yomo.
The conclusion is that superstition retards family and social progress.
As Naa Yomo puts it, had her late husband decided to cling to unhelpful superstitious beliefs, their children wouldn’t have risen to the positions they now occupy in their jobs and in society at large.
MAA TSURU CONTRIBUTES TO THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE PLOT OF FACELESS
Maa Tsuru’s singular decision to give away Baby T to Mama Abidjan and Mami Broni has had a significant effect on the plot of Faceless.
For instance, it eventually results in Baby T’s untimely death.
This sad death of an unknown child prostitute in the dark alleys of Sodom and Gomorrah marks a major turning point in the novel.
It is what will lead to an investigation by MUTE, an NGO, and the unravelling of the thorny issue of street children, its causes, its dangers and its possible solutions.