Anowa opens with the entrance of the Old Man and Old Woman (collectively known as The-Mouth-That-Eats-Salt-and-Pepper). They set up the action of the play, focusing on the oddness of a girl called Anowa. Anowa has refused to marry any of the men who asked for her hand for several years. They say that many believe Badua has spoiled her daughter, which would account for her behavior. The Old Woman thinks that Anowa is a born priestess, and Badua has denied her daughter's destiny.
In the village of Yebi in Ghana, some time in the 1870s, Anowa is fetching water for her mother when she sees Kofi Ako. They smile at each other. Their moment together is witnessed by a woman and her husband. As the woman stares at them, she drops her tray. Anowa and Kofi laugh.
Inside the cottage of Anowa's parents, Badua is cooking, worrying aloud about her daughter's refusal to get married. Her husband, Osam, enters, and tells her she complains too much. He is not concerned about Anowa's situation, and reminds his wife that he wanted to apprentice her to a priestess. Badua is horrified at the suggestion. She will not let her only surviving child become a priestess because they are not people. Osam points out that Anowa is not a normal person, so that might not be such a bad thing.
Anowa returns and informs them that she has agreed to be married to Kofi Ako. Badua becomes angry. She believes that Kofi Ako is a good-for-nothing man, though admittedly handsome. Badua tries to draw Osam into the conversation, but he will not take sides.
Sometime later, Anowa is packing her belongings. She and her mother argue about her marriage. Anowa insists she likes him, while Badua insults the family he comes from. Osam contradicts his wife, insisting that they have made good husbands. Anowa pledges not to return to Yebi for a long time, and that she will help her husband make something of his life. Badua points out Kofi Ako's every failure, and she and her daughter almost come to blows.
At the end of the phase, the Old Man and Old Woman return. The Old Woman believes children have become more disobedient, while the Old Man says that Badua should be happy that Anowa has married at all.
A few years later, Kofi and Anowa are on the highway to the coast, carrying skins to sell. They seek shelter from the rain in a thicket. Kofi Ako worries that the work might be too harsh for her. She insists that she is strong. Anowa suggests that he marry another wife who could help them out. Kofi Ako is upset by this suggestion. As the conversation continues, it becomes clear that the two have not yet had a child, a distressing fact for both of them. They do not know why. Anowa nods off to sleep, and Kofi Ako reveals that his wife is often mistaken for his sister because she works so hard with him. He believes she will settle down and act more like a proper wife.
The next day, the pair dry their skins in the sun. Kofi Ako still does not understand why his wife likes to work, and suggests they buy slaves to make their life easier. Anowa is horrified by the idea, and will not allow him to consider it. Kofi Ako does not understand his wife's position. He insists that they will do it because everyone else does it, among other reasons.
Back at the cottage of Anowa's parents, Badua and Osam discuss their daughter. Osam admits he always feared Anowa and her strangeness. He is worried that she will never come back, and that they will never know her children. Badua tells him that Anowa has not had children. They speculate on the reasons why. Badua wants to go and find her, but Osam tells her Anowa is not lost. Badua and Osam reveal that Anowa and Kofi Ako are rich because their trade has increased due to their growing number of slaves. While Osam also knows that Anowa is unhappy about their owning slaves, Badua thinks her problems with it are foolish.
Back on the highway some time later, a better-dressed Kofi Ako leads several slaves carrying loads of skins. Anowa calls for him....
(The entire section is 1,292 words.)