I am going to show you the essential points to highlight in an essay on the assessment of the relationship between Maa Tsuru and Fofo in the novel Faceless by Amma Darko.
Amma Darko: Faceless
What kind of relationship exists between the character, Fofo and her mother, Maa Tsuru?
The relationship between Maa Tsuru and her fourth child, Fofo can only be described as troubled and seriously strained.
The 14-year-old Fofo hates her mother for dumping her in the world just to suffer. She spares no effort to turn the heat on her embattled 38-year-old Maa Tsuru at the least opportunity. Since Fofo never stops blaming Maa Tsuru for the troubles they all go through, each and every encounter between the two invariably ends on a very unpleasant note.
However, there are indications to suggest that in spite of her criticisms, Fofo still loves her mother. She does not really enjoy the emotional pain she causes Maa Tsuru anytime she lambasts her for her bad choices.
“Deep down inside her she felt some affection for MaaTsuru. Yet an overpowering urge to hate her also consumed her sometimes. She often pondered over whether what she deemed to be hatred was merely a desire to cushion the pain of her existence and to blame MaaTsuru whom she held responsible for dumping her in the world, because that was how she felt about herself, dumped.”
But the abiding shadow that looms large over the estranged relationship between mother and daughter is Nii Kpakpo, the jobless, smooth-talking lover of Maa Tsuru. Fofo’s judgmental and unforgiving attitude toward Maa Tsuru is borne out of no other factor than what she considers to be the terrible decisions Maa Tsuru keeps making and the way those decisions have brought suffering and danger to her and her children.
Incidentally, almost all such decisions have something to do with Maa Tsuru’s love affair with Nii Kpakpo.
For instance, Fofo cannot understand why Maa Tsuru should allow Nii Kpakpo to come into her life. Then she is shocked at the fact that Maa Tsuru chose Kpakpo over Baby T and followed the smallish child molester’s lead to send Baby T, crying bitterly, out of the house in the care of a stranger, to an unknown place. Fofo criticizes Maa Tsuru for feeding the jobless Nii Kpakpo and his two sons at Baby T’s expense.
It is Fofo’s dread at the prospect of suffering the same fate as Baby T’s which will finally drive her onto the streets.
To Fofo’s utter dismay, Maa Tsuru continues to nurse the idea of opening her doors and legs to Kpakpo if he ever returns to the house after disappearing mysteriously, leaving Maa Tsuru to singlehandedly fend for their two young sons.
And when Maa Tsuru appears to care very little about the brutal and untimely death of Baby T, Fofo is scandalized.
So, while Fofo may still have some affection for the woman who gave birth to her, she finds it difficult to forgive her for her decisions. It is very likely then that Fofo’s intense loathing is more directed at the decisions her mother continues to make than at the person of the woman herself.
“ So when she thought of her sister, Baby T, and their stepfather, she often concluded that maybe what she deemed to be hatred for her mother was actually a passionate loathing for some of the things Maa Tsuru had done that maybe it was her intense hatred for those things that diminished to almost non-existent, the delicate line between her mother herself and the things she had done.”
It is against this backdrop that we can adequately assess the relationship between Maa Tsuru and Fofo.
To put it simply, theirs is a troubled and uneasy relationship. Whenever we see Fofo and Maa Tsuru together, we cannot fail to feel the tense atmosphere that characterizes the exchanges – “rounds of war with words” – between mother and daughter.
Consider the following.
“Where is he, mother?” she asked Maa Tsuru.
Maa Tsuru winced. She attempted to say something but her voice failed her. She forced, swallows saliva and tried again.
“He left,” she said simply.
“He left?” It was a wail of pain. “After all that he did to Baby T? To us all? He left? And you stood by and just allowed this smallish man to leave? Just like that?”
Tears welled up in Maa Tsuru’s eyes. She did not speak. She couldn’t.
“What made him leave, mother?” Fofo howled on, “and before he left, did you remind him of what you did for his sake? What you sacrificed, did you?”
Maa Tsuru began to weep.
“ I asked you, mother. Did you?”
Maa Tsuru began to cry. “Go away, Fofo,” she managed between tears. “Go!”
Fofo’s face clouded fiercely. “Is history repeating itself here? Are you sacking me, mother? Because of him?”
The above exchanges occur in an incident where Fofo goes to see Maa Tsuru for clarification regarding Poison’s unsuccessful attempt to rape her at the Agbogbloshie market.
The war of words between mother and daughter highlights the extent to which their relationship has soured. Fofo hates the very guts of Nii Kpakpo. She has absolutely no respect for her stepfather. As for Maa Tsuru, Fofo seems to wield a substantial moral authority over her mother. She can talk to Maa Tsuru as if she were the older of the two and Maa Tsuru the younger. We are likely to see a reversal of roles between the two anytime they interact.
“So you will do it again, won’t you? she wailed at her mother. “If he returned today you would let him in and probably get yourself pregnant by him again, won’t you? Why? Mother, why? What life have you been able to give those of us you already have? Look at the boys here. Look at me. We have no idea where the two older boys are. Are they dead? I often wonder. Are they alive? Are they in prison? Are they killing people t o survive? You don’t even know. And Baby T? You offered us all generously to the streets, mother. You made the streets claim and own us. These two at your feet are already going hours without food. Only time, and they will also be venturing out into the streets to fend for themselves. You grew too used to living off the sweat of your children, especially Baby T, whom you …”
“Fofo!” Maa Tsuru cut in sharply.
Fofo ignored her mother.
Fofo feels withdrawn from her own mother. Her attitude toward her mother is one of detachment. To her two half brothers, Fofo is indifferent. She pays little attention to the two young boys. It is as if she holds Kpakpo’s children equally responsible for her problems and those of her mother and other siblings. She wouldn’t sit close to Maa Tsuru on her bed and she wouldn’t allow her to embrace her.
“Maa Tsuru made to embrace Fofo. Fofo went rigid. Maa Tsuru’s face fell. She withdrew slowly from her daughter. There was pain in her eyes.”
In fact, when Kabria asks Fofo if she will consider living with Maa Tsuru ever again her terse response is “Never”.
It is no wonder then that Fofo hardly visits her mother ever since she was forced by circumstances to leave home and make the streets her new home. She had been to see her mother on only two occasions within the previous year. And the day she calls in the company of her bosom friend, Odarley, is the first time, five months into the current year.
Fofo tells Maa Tsuru plainly that she doesn’t like coming to see her because she hates what she will see, hear and feel whenever she comes.
Both Fofo and Maa Tsuru experience emotional pain each time the two meet. Maa Tsuru cries more often during those encounters. Fofo is the more relaxed of the two anytime they exchange words. But on the day Maa Tsuru shows that she still wants Kpakpo back, Fofo cannot control herself anymore.
“Baby T is gone, mother!” The tears began to flow freely. “You couldn’t even mourn her openly. You couldn’t bury her decently. You couldn’t even talk about her death. What is it you are looking for, mother, tell me. You said you were going to open up completely to us in a way you had never done before, to enable us maybe understand you. So let me understand you, mother. What is it you want?” Fofo collapsed in more tears into Kabria’s hands. Kabria held her close. The tears flowed in torrents. They were suppressed for too long: tears that could not be shed out there on the streets where toughness was the prescription for survival and tears were a sign of weakness; tears held back lest they reveal her fourteen years. She let it all out.”
Is Fofo justified?
But is Fofo justified in her often hostile attitude toward her mother? That is difficult to say. We must remember that so many factors, many of them beyond her control, lie behind the sometimes undignified decisions that Maa Tsuru makes. Let’s take a look at some examples.
- From what we hear Naa Yomo tell Kabria and Vickie, two staff of the NGO MUTE, Maa Tsuru appears to be destined to suffer social stigma and its dire consequences. At her birth, her dying mother said things that would come to be regarded as a curse on her – a superstitious belief that will haunt her for the 38 years since she was born.
- Fofo’s father, Kwei, is forced by his mother to abandon Maa Tsuru and their children not because of Maa Tsuru’s bad character but just because of that “curse” everyone has come to associate her with.
- Life for a mother of four like Maa Tsuru, without the support of a man, is not an easy one; especially when that woman does not have a job or earn any regular income. That is why Nii Kpakpo, though a jobless loafer, is able to use deception to come into Maa Tsuru’s life.
- The fact that most men will not dare have anything to do with a supposedly cursed woman like Maa Tsuru compels her to continue to tolerate Kpakpo in spite of his abominable acts. Her sending of Baby T out of the house, on Kpakpo’s prompting, is her way of protecting her vulnerable child from lewd men like Onko and Kpakpo himself.
- And then, Maa Tsuru, in her desperation and naivety, goes ahead to have two sons with Kpakpo. The very sight of these boys is a source of pain for Fofo.
Fofo may be an experienced street girl but that will never take away the fact that she is still too young to understand the forces that will force a mother like Maa Tsuru to do the kind of things she does.
Maa Tsuru may not have done well by her children but the question remains as to whether that is enough to sour the relationship between her and her children. The needless death and pain her decisions have brought on her and her children can never go unnoticed. But the fact also remains that, hapless as she is under the social forces that dictate her life, Maa Tsuru still loves Fofo and her other children and wishes Fofo could treat her more like her mother in spite of her faults.
And Fofo, even in moments of intense anger, appears to agree. Somewhere inside her, she bleeds for her suffering mother, though she hates her disastrous choices.