You can now study these notes on the character Naa Yomo in Amma Darko’s novel, Faceless.
Naa Yomo is the 87-year-old family matriarch in Maa Tsuru’s household. She has only two teeth left in her mouth.
She lives in a room opposite Maa Tsuru’s.
Naa Yomo is the only direct surviving grandchild of “the great man” who built the house and, therefore, the last surviving member of her generation.
She is “mother, grandmother and great grandmother to someone and everyone”.
Naa Yomo is a “sly old woman” who is either “croaking” at someone (as she did to Odarley, ordering her to greet her) or “growling” at anyone who enters her household (as she did to Kabria and Vickie on their unsuccessful first visit to the house to meet Maa Tsuru). That is her friendly way of welcoming visitors, especially if they fail to notice or appreciate her presence.
She is mostly seated in front of her door. Naa Yomo, therefore, sees everything that goes on in the family compound.
Naa Yomo was once married but is now widowed. She pays glowing tribute to her late husband with whom she had eleven children. He helped her to make sure that none of their children ended on the street. Six have survived and are in good employment with some living in government bungalows.
“ He was a good man. A good man would never say to his child, there is no food, go out onto the street and find some money for food. He would say, there is no food so we’ll all drink lots of water and go to bed. Tomorrow is another day. You will go to school and I will make sure there’s food to eat when you return home.”
That is why she finds it difficult to understand why the younger members of her household, like Maa Tsuru, have allowed the street to become the home of their very young, vulnerable children.
Naa Yomo knows and still remembers a great deal of the family history
- She tells with pride the story of her great, great grandfather who shook hands with the British colonial governor, Sir Gordon Guggisberg himself.
- She recalls how she survived the great earthquake of 1939.
- She gives a vivid account of how Maa Tsuru came to be regarded as a cursed woman.
“ I was in the room when Maa Tsuru was born.” She tells of how Maa Tsuru’s dying mother, filled with rage and bitterness, piled a string of curses on Maa Tsuru’s father and his descendants (and by extension, according to many, the baby Maa Tsuru) who abandoned her to suffer alone after impregnating her.
So knowledgeable is Naa Yomo that Kabria and Vickie after interacting with her conclude in these words:
“If the contents in her head could be deciphered with the click of a mouse, she could fill up another George Padmore Library.”
Naa Yomo is popular and well respected in her neighbourhood. Here is what the girl who showed Kabria and Vickie the way to Maa Tsuru’s house said of her:
“No one can get lost going to that house. Everybody around here knows Naa Yomo.”
She is very much attached to her ancestral home. This explains why she has refused to go out and live with any one of her children in their modern well-endowed homes.
Naa Yomo can be extremely uncharitable in her remarks about persons she considers as not living up to her standards of normal human behaviour. For instance, she tells Kabria and Vickie that Maa Tsuru’s strange ways can only be attributed to one source:
“She has lost her soul … Only a woman robbed of her soul would do what she was doing.”
In like manner, Naa Yomo has no kind words for Poison, the street lord:
“ Him? He came here. To her. Evil man. Very evil. And because he came to her nobody here wants anything to do with her. It’s over a week now since he came to her, and since then, she is always indoors. But people give her food leftovers because of the children. We are still family, you know.”
So the above are the essential aspects of the character of Naa Yomo. Let us now take a look at the role of Naa Yomo in Amma Darko’s Faceless
Naa Yomo wields substantial authority and influence in her household. From the comfort of her seat in an otherwise troubled household, she uses her croaky voice to maintain a semblance of order and peace.
So when she demands that Maa Tsuru come out to meet Kabria on her second visit, Maa Tsuru has no other option but to obey.
It is due to the high level of respect she enjoys that makes Onko avoid her totally after defiling Baby T. He leaves home very early while the old woman is still in bed and returns home very late when she has retired to bed. This follows the insults Naa Yomo rained on Onko for his shameless behaviour.
But at the same time, by holding on to old traditions, she is wise enough to try to protect the family name. This is why she would not push for the case of Onko’s raping Baby T to be taken up. However, one wonders if that traditional attitude helps to deter male sexual predators like Kpakpo and Onko.
Naa Yomo extends her authoritative voice beyond the confines of her house. Any outsider who appears in the house should show courtesy. We see this show of authority as she makes Odarley get back and greet her properly. She exerts the same control over the staff of MUTE, any time they come around.
Naa Yomo, therefore, represents the old, almost dead, but largely lofty values of her people. She insists on the age-old tradition that young people must greet the elderly. She herself trained up her children in an exemplary manner and is now living off their remittances in her old age.
Unlike some of the younger ones, Naa Yomo continues to have a keen interest in what goes on in the lives of the other members of the extended family. That is why she expresses worry over Fofo apparently not coming with Odarley to visit her suffering mother whom the others are treating “like a leper” just because Poison, the notorious street lord, paid her a visit.
Instrument of satire
Amma Darko uses the character Naa Yomo as one more instrument of satire.
She is critical of what she considers to be the wayward behaviour of the younger members of a household with a history of honour.
“This house was built on a foundation of honour. Now see what some of them have done to this honour.”
Naa Yomo goes further to condemn the strong attachment her people have developed to superstitious beliefs like the role of perceived old curses in the choices they make. To her, labour pains are bad enough to make a bitter, dying woman in labour make very negative utterances which should never be used against the child she left behind.
She is therefore constantly cautioning her people against “laying the red carpet for superstition” in their minds.
“You know, when the seed of a curse finds fertile ground in a human mind, it spreads with the destructive speed of a creeping plant. And while it does, it nurtures superstition, which in turn, eats into all reasoning abilities and the capability of facing responsibilities. The only reason why my six children are all living in their bungalows, is because, after the death of our fifth child, my husband, God bless his soul, stopped nurturing his superstitious mind and focused more on facing up to his responsibilities. And that was why he died a good man.”
The role of Naa Yomo in the development of the plot of Faceless
Naa Yomo may not have featured as prominently as Fofo, Odarley, Maa Tsuru, Sylv Po and his Harvest FM, Kpakpo, Poison, Onko, Kabria or even Creamy in the action of the novel. But she remains a major link in the overall development of the plot. Here are some important points to note about how the character Naa Yomo contributes to the plot of Amma Darko’s novel, Faceless.
Naa Yomo is the one who receives members of MUTE staff to the home of Fofo and Maa Tsuru. She is instrumental in ensuring the success of the insightful interview that Kabria and the rest will later have with Maa Tsuru. This interview reveals much regarding the causes of the street child phenomenon.
Secondly, her account of Poison’s visit to Maa Tsuru throws more light on the myth surrounding the true identity of Baby T and the link between Baby T’s death and Poison’s rape attempt on Fofo and, of course, Fofo’s attempt to rob Kabria.
Finally, Naa Yomo’s timely action of sending Odarley to report the death of Onko, to Fofo at MUTE offices, making one of her children transport Odarley to the place, will provide one more clue to MUTE in their investigation regarding the circumstances surrounding the death of Baby T.
In fact, Naa Yomo’s motive is to assist MUTE and Harvest FM with the information of Onko’s visit to a jujuman just before his suicide.
Clearly then, Naa Yomo is at the very centre of the effort to understand the troubling social phenomena of superstition, irresponsible parents and street children – all being major themes in Faceless. Her sharp mind, her articulate disposition, and her uncharitable attitude towards waywardness among the younger generation are what make the 87-year-old an important figure in Amma Darko’s novel, Faceless.