You might have heard of “Bonsam gyaem” or “Hell” or read about in the Holy Bible. But the Bible is silent on its location.
However, these days, some believers assert they have found “Bonsam gyaem” right in the Eastern Region of Ghana.
“Bonsam gyaem” is an Akan phrase, which refers to “the devil’s fire”. It is a dreaded place for many a Christian or Muslim who do not want to be sentenced there after the ‘Judgement Day.’
Hell is a lake of fire, which according to the Holy Bible, persons whose lifestyles do not please God, would after Armageddon be cast to burn eternally.
So you can imagine my shock when a friend recently called me on phone declared: “Eeii, I hear “Bonsam gyaem” has been located in your region.” So, after battling him in a short engagement, I resolved to locate the so-called hell in the Eastern Region.
Eventually, my search engines landed me at Akropong-Akuapem in the Akuapem North Municipality, some five minutes drive from the Mamfe roundabout. Right there, at the heart of the town, is the purported “Bonsam gyaem.”
Ironically, this Bonsam gyaem happens to be a sort of street carnival where drinking bars are clustered on both sides of the main Akropong Town Street, about 50 yards to the Chief’s palace.
The drinking bars have interesting business names like Fisils, Ofie, Chicago Stand, Adikanfo and Level 400.
These bars apparently hire the services of spinners who entertain their clientele with carefully selected hip-life and hip-pop songs to support the sale of their drinks. The clients appreciate this gesture with non-stop dancing on the street.
The clientele, mostly young people, dance with their bottles and glasses of liquor in their hands, while others smoke alongside.
When the revellers have had enough of one bar, they move to another where they hope to find more captivating music and fun.
Indeed, the mission is to tour all the bars before retiring.
During the day, Bonsam gyaem is a normal, silent street where people and vehicles go about their socio-economic activities without any hindrances.
But at night, it becomes a real ‘hell’ or Bonsam Gyaem for residents and commuters who cannot not stand the noise; and for asthmatics or those with respiratory difficulties because of the heavy cigarette smoke that fill the air.
When revellers at Bonsam Gyaem are in their elements, they jump onto the bonnets of passing vehicles and puff smoke on drivers and passengers.
Not even my covert moves could save me during my research, as I was identified as a stranger. So my phone was taken from me and a thug almost beat me up because they caught me taking pictures of a fight between two groups.
As there is no car park for patrons, they park their cars along the streets near the action spots so the place always becomes congested.
Motorists, therefore, endure a heavy traffic on the Bonsam Gyaem Street because they ought to drive cautiously to avoid knocking down someone.
Interesting, nobody seems to know how the name came about but some patrons believe choice might have been influenced by the immoral activities of smoking, bingeing, the public display of romance and the like.
Young ladies who patronize “Bonsam gyaem” are spotted in their mini-skirts, with tops that leave little for the imagination.
In fact, some of the skirts are too tight and too short that they expose the panties and the groins of their wearers. And of course, most guys wear their trousers in the dropped fashion to complement them.
Away from the street, the alleys between the buildings around “Bonsam gyaem”, often serve as havens for lovers.
During festivals, the enjoyment is said to heighten as people from all walks of life patronize the place.
It is reported that the alleys become hosts for free style sex on those occasions.
Actually, the drinking bars at “Bonsam Gyaem” are said to have been operating for over a decade now but the place recently became known called as Bonsam Gyaem.
Some traditional leaders in the area are worried about this development and also concerned that some of those young ladies who patronize Bonsam gyaem are students of some Senior High Schools (SHS) in and outside the Akuapem area.
They are reported to be jumping their school fences or sneaking out of their campuses to entertain themselves there to return at dawn.
A final year SHS student in Central Region I chatted with said she was there with friends for entertainment.
The students disguise themselves by wearing wigs to look like adults so that they would not to be identified.
A male student, who claims to be a day student, disclosed that many students sneak out of school to be at Bonsam Gyaem.
On the flip side, the activities at Bonsam gyaem have encouraged a brisk night market at Akropong as provision stores, pharmacy shops, fruit sellers and food joints do active business between 1200 AM and 2.00AM.
According to Amo Yaw, a bar attendant, he does not think the loud music from the bars is a nuisance to residents.
To him, the sound stays only on the street and does not go beyond it. “The sound and the enjoyment are right on the street,” he insists.
Alice Badu, a resident says she could accommodate the activities “once they have not attracted burglars to the area.”
“All we want is for us as residents to sleep and live in peace amidst their enjoyment,” she said.
However, she thinks that the activities of Bonsam gyaem are corrupting the lifestyles of many of the youth at Akropong.
“Students leave home and return at daybreak,” she complains. “They will do not study but rather learn how to rap and sing hip-life songs. Most girls have adopted the style of wearing dresses that expose their bodies to the public to attract men.”
Alice, like some of her chiefs, does not know that she lives near Bonsam gyaem but when she was told the name, she protested and asked for a better name.
Irrespective of one’s faith, “Bonsam gyaem” will definitely not be a place of deliberate choice for the godly, but for now, some people have chosen to spend their night life in this place at Akropong, where some liken to hell.