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Fertility Dolls and Cocaine

by John Powell

posted in Reference and Education

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The wood carvers of Ashanti Region, Ghana, produce a range of attractive traditional products that are sold to tourists and exported to craft shops in Europe and America. Some of the most popular are elephants, produced in a wide range of sizes, the hand holding an egg, a symbol of good governance, and most popular of all, the fertility doll with a large flat disc head and tiny body. All these artefacts are routinely exported to the UK, but so is cocaine from South America, and sometimes the drug is concealed within a hollow space inside the wood.
Drug smugglers use a host of methods in their attempts to get their product past the customs agencies, and concealment inside woodcarvings is just one of them. The method may well have been abandoned long ago, but in the 1990s it was still in vogue. The obvious first choice was the elephant because its big round body could contain the largest quantity of contraband, but for the same reason it was also the first to be suspected by the authorities. The fertility doll has a much lower capacity but this raised less suspicion and was slower to be detected. The problem with fertility dolls was that they were designed to serve a purpose.
Nelson Evans-Adgei (not his real name), a young lecturer in engineering at Kumasi University, had been persuaded by the drug smugglers to carry some wood carvings to the UK when he travelled to attend a training programme at Warwick University in Coventry. Included in the consignment was an elephant and two fertility dolls. On arrival in Coventry he became nervous of being caught with the contraband and gave the elephant to his girlfriend, Sandra Garg (not her real name), who had returned with him from Ghana, asking her to hide it for him but not telling her its contents. He did not give her the fertility dolls for obvious reasons.
When the elephant Sandra had hidden was found in a filing cabinet in her office, the cocaine was discovered and Nelson was arrested. Then a technician found one of the fertility dolls hidden in a storeroom at the engineering laboratory. In spite of Nelson's precautions, Sandra was found to be pregnant and was given maternity leave from her duties at the university. Eventually, the second maternity doll also came to light. From her father's home where she was resting, Sandra sent a note to her manager to explain her sudden departure, and in a footnote added the date when she expected to be delivered of twins.
About the Author: John Powell weaves a tale of tension and intrigue into the lives and loves of the Mainu family and their friends, against the rich social, cultural, economic and political background of the first four decades of Ghana's independence, in his two Novels: The Colonial Gentleman's Son and Return to the Garden City.
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