Here are five examples of how Amma Darko makes use of symbolism in her novel, Faceless.
1. The blue Rasta kiosk and the clean-shaven body of Baby T
Amma Darko makes reference to the blue Rasta kiosk on several occasions as the place where Baby T’s clean-shaven body is found lying naked.
In the Ghanaian culture, a female body, whether dead or alive, is not supposed to be exposed to the full glare of the public under any circumstances. And when that body is clean-shaven, it means that it has been robbed of its dignity and pride.
The image of the clean-shaven, naked body of a brutally-murdered female lying in the open is as embarrassing as it is unacceptable. The author uses this image to attack the way and manner society has continued to debase womanhood through all forms of inhuman treatment.
This is clearly one motif pointing to Faceless as a feminist novel.
As Kabria tries to interview the owner of the kiosk concerning the identity of the deceased’s body, she is initially met with a very cold and hostile reception.
In fact, the owner of the blue rasta kiosk is portrayed as one of those Ghanaian women who find pleasure and pride in bleaching their naturally dark African skins with dangerous chemicals in order to make them look lighter and appear more foreign.
One other symbolic significance of the blue Rasta kiosk, therefore, is that it represents what is alien, morally reprehensible and an eyesore in the Ghanaian society.
According to Wikipedia, Rastafari is Afrocentric and focuses its attention on the African diaspora. It is therefore ironical that the blue Rasta kiosk where authentic African hairstyles are supposed to be done has come to represent all that flies in the face of the values of African people.
2. The street
The street is a repetitive motif employed by the author of Faceless.
When children like Fofo, Odarley and Baby T run to the street, they hope to find freedom, food, shelter and some form of security there. On the contrary, however, all they encounter on the street are a direct opposite of what they hoped for.
The street is a symbol of insecurity, danger and depravity. It is an open space without any rules nor any government. In fact, the government does not appear to regard the world of the street as falling under its jurisdiction.
So, the children are left to fend for themselves. And in the process of doing so, they are exposed to all forms of immoral behaviour, harassment and violence.
The street may appear to represent a place of refuge for the fatherless and defenceless Ghanaian child but it is, in fact, a place that crushes their young spirits and deprives them of their humanity.
3. Sodom and Gomorrah
The setting of the novel in this suburb of Accra, going by exactly this same name, is Amma Darko’s way of putting before our eyes the desperate nature of the life of the street child.
Placed in its original biblical context, Sodom and Gomorrah is a symbol of moral decadence and sexual perversion. The setting of Faceless is therefore very appropriate as it sufficiently epitomizes the kind of society the novelist portrays and criticizes.
Social evils such as child prostitution, child trafficking, drug peddling, unsanitary conditions etc are rife in Sodom and Gomorrah.
Amma Darko uses Sodom and Gomorrah to present to us a diseased society in urgent need of remedy.
4. The Police Station
The police station is a symbol of a diseased society cursed with almost dead government institutions. The decrepit police station together with its disinterested personnel gives a simple and powerful message to the reader of this novel – here is a society so sick that its most important institutions have all gone to sleep.
Amma Darko gives a detailed description of the state of disrepair of the drains, walls, file cabinet, telephone and windows as well as the officials manning them. This leaves no doubt in the reader’s mind as to the hopeless state of affairs in the Ghanaian society.
5. Adade Family and the Vehicle Named Creamy
It is not all doom and gloom in Faceless. Amma Darko juxtaposes loveless families like Maa Tsuru’s (where all forms of abuse are the order of the day) with the more stable Adade family.
In the Adade family:
- the marriage, just like Kabria’s car, Creamy, is stable and is performing its basic function despite some difficulties
- the children are all in school and appear to be well catered for
- the family regularly sits together at meals
The Adade family, together with Kabria’s vehicle, Creamy, is, therefore, a symbol of the almost ideal stable home.
Amma Darko uses the Adade family with its problem but functioning car, Creamy as a symbol and a message of hope for the society. The message is that whereas a perfect home may not be entirely possible to build, it is always possible for society to create more Adade families where conditions will be conducive enough to keep the children away from the street.