Oral History Excerpts

Papa Mantey
Ghana

Introduction

The Oral History Project

Recovering Voices From
the Distant Past

Oral History Excerpts

Oral History Collections

Stigma, Identity and Human Rights
Conference on Robben Island

Oral History Guidelines

Terminology

Books Written by People Who
Have Had Leprosy

Contact Information

Papa Mantey (left) with Kofi Nyarko. Photo courtesy IDEA Ghana
Today I am fully ready to tell the whole world my story beginning with when I found out I had leprosy. My father and mother were all cocoa farmers in a small town called Waja. I can’t remember my date of birth, but I can say I am about 67 years now. I contracted leprosy when I was about 9 years old. No, no! Don’t tell me to use the word Hansen’s disease. I do not feel shy to say leprosy, because it did not feel shy to attack me and destroy part of my life. I also will not feel shy to mention its name.

When my father saw that I had contracted a disease which he did not know of, he took me to the next town in our area. There he gave me to an old man called Nana Gyasi, who started treating me with some local herbs the following day. That man told my father that when you have the type of disease I had contracted you are not allowed to eat eggs, okras, salt, oranges, or apples, so I stopped.

The old man called my father one Sunday afternoon and told him that he had tried all his herbs on me, but there was no improvement so he wanted to try kerosene. He hoped that this would cure me, so I started taking it as my treatment. It is only God that helped me to live up to this time. I used kerosene for nine months and drank it every week as treatment for leprosy. There came a time that I couldn’t even sit, when I went to the toilet what came out was kerosene.

My father went and sold his cocoa farm and came for me three days later. The old man, my father and I spent thirteen days before we got to the Mankesimu hospital. There they told me that I had contracted leprosy so they had to take me to Kokofu Camp. My father said he would come back in a month. That was the last time I saw my father. Now I am 67 years and I have never seen my parents or brothers and sisters all these years. They all neglected me so long ago.

It was in this camp that I learned how to make baskets. I have been using basket weaving to feed myself and buy clothes. I sometimes use some of the money I make from basket weaving to help those who are very old in our camp. I have trained about 17 people on how to weave and I am very proud of myself. Though I have lost both my legs I am still a happy man. I do not think about my parents anymore, because I don’t think they are alive. For me I did not face much discrimination since I came here. I have spent almost all my life here in the camp. Now my dream is to get money to buy land outside this camp and build my own house and move from here.

-- Excerpts from oral history interview with Papa Mantey conducted by Kofi Nyarko, IDEA Ghana.