Visitors to Ghana during the second half of the 20th century may have been surprised to discover that road traffic was dominated by two categories of public transport vehicles: bright yellow painted winged taxis and trotros, old Bedford trucks with wooden bodies built locally traditional in style and distinctive design. However, a common feature of both categories was that the vehicles bore clearly painted mottos or slogans, in English and vernacular languages, reflecting the owner/driver’s hopes, fears or guiding principles. A study of these slogans is a microcosm survey of the philosophical and aspirational life of the community.

In advertising bets, trotros have the great advantage of incorporating large wooden headboards and backs on which they can paint their slogans in large, bright letters. Consequently, each trotro carries two mottos, front and back. The two lemmas are usually quite different, but since you can’t see both at the same time, confusion doesn’t occur. Taxis, however, carry their mottos on the rear of the vehicle, usually on the vertical surface of the trunk lid. Often only one motto is featured, but sometimes a second is painted on the rear window, giving the observer an opportunity to read both together. Needless to say, they are often conflicting and sometimes contradictory in a strong neo-Hegelian philosophical tradition.

Slogans and slogans taken from the Bible are very popular. Often, only the name of the book and the chapter and verse numbers are given, leaving the task of looking up the reference to the reader. One of the most common ones that is fully expressed is, ‘Look what God has done!’ these are said to have been the first words uttered by Samuel Morse when demonstrating his new invention of the electric telegraph, but are generally translated in the Twi vernacular as ‘Hwe Nea Onyame aye’.

The two most popular topics are God and money, with devotees proclaiming in the vernacular that “God is King” and “Money is King,” in roughly equal numbers. However, many vehicles carry the word ‘Awurade’, another popular name for God often used to express surprise or amazement. In many cases, the amazement can be related to the unexpected opportunity to earn a living.

Many drivers use slogans on their trotros and taxis to express their appreciation for the help in acquiring their vehicles, with expressions like ‘Good father’ or ‘Good uncle’ or ‘Boafo ye’, it’s good to have a helper. . Others ruefully proclaim how long it took them to get to this point with slogans like ‘Boafo ye na’ or ‘Helpers are scarce’. Many others complain bitterly in English of life’s difficulties with “Poor man no chop” or “There is no brother in the army” or “There is no time to die” taken as the title of Hannah’s illustrated book of trotro slogans. Schreckenbach to which the reader is referred for a fuller exploration of this topic.

Since the majority of professional drivers are men, it is not surprising that another set of popular slogans express relationships with women. ‘Fear Woman’ is often seen in English, perhaps a reflection on the former employment of one of the wealthy merchants who own fleets of public transport vehicles. Some drivers like to display the names of their wives or girlfriends with ‘Vida’, which is especially popular in Tema. ‘Awoa ye’ or ‘It’s good to give birth’ is often seen, as is the most direct, ‘Love pee’.

Finally, there is a category of popular slogans of a more philosophical nature, some expressing the hope that things will improve. There is the agnostic motto, ‘Who knows?’ and another is, ‘No condition permanent’, used by Ian Smillie as the title of his book on the Technology Consultancy Center (TCC) at Kumasi University. Another is the wordier, ‘May my enemies live long to see what I will become in the future’, apparently favored especially by taxi drivers. Even more commonly seen is ‘Nyame bekyere’ or ‘God will provide’, giving God the last word in his contest with the monetarists.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *