What do you do when you see god? Urinate on him.
At least this seems to be the Ghanaian response. Andres Serrano’s photograph, “Piss Christ”, has Jesus on the crucifix submerged in urine. Although it may offend its harm is limited to intellectual debate and outrage. It is art. On the other hand, the Ghanaian literal pissing on a metaphorical god is more serious. It is desecration.
From primary school level in Ghana, everyone is taught that you cannot see god but you can see His creations and his works. This means other humans beings, the animals the trees and flowers and all aspects of nature including…the streams and rivers. Yet the disrespect vested to the natural world indicates that people either do not really believe their religious instruction; they don’t care (they’re not as ‘god fearing’ as they like to pretend); or they have just never made the connection between their actions and the words they have been coerced into accepting. People urinate, shit and dump their waste wherever they want – and on this earth they claim is god’s gift to them! The beautiful streams and rivers that make their way through the city are desecrated on an daily basis. People claim they can see god in his works, in the rivers, but when I look at the rivers I see urine. Our view of god has become mediated through urine – just like Piss Christ.
This lack of respect and compassion is a result of the destruction of the sacred. The notion that
our world is a precious place, a holy, sacred place, is fast becoming lost. The mythical Eve from Genesis means Life in the Hebrew language. Water is Life except in this instance it is the victim of sin not the perpetrator.
In spite of all the religiosity, the gods do appear to be entirely absent from Ghana. I suspect the gods left when colonialists imported foreign religions particularly the God of Israel. This jealous god may well have chased all the others away. So where the gods were present in the water (e.g. Maame Water), now people actively want to prove their new religion by denigrating the old. Showing respect to the water is perhaps now mistaken for worshiping the water gods. So a healthy piss in the river shows that you worship the ‘true’ god, the One who is not pantheistic, the distant One who is not present in this land, the One who came from Israel.
The non-African’s romantic myth that Africans are closer and more respecting to the earth serves a useful purpose in helping us envisage a better way of relating to our planet. The unfortunate truth should not displace this vision. The challenge is for us all to embrace this vision, to allow the gods to return and bring back with them a sense of the sacredness of our beautiful, awe inspiring earth and respect for the life giving water she offers to us.