I have been looking forward to my Ghanaian Friend returning from her trip to her homeland. We have been discussing a guest blog for months and her trip home seemed like the perfect opportunity to put this to the test. And she did not disappoint! I hope you enjoy her blog. It is a rich and vibrant offering, highlighting some of the issues from my previous blog posts; mainly identity as a African born in the diaspora and the impact when one returns home. I’d like to thank Ghanaian Friend and say that she will definitely be invited to come back!
I was actually introduced to the YouTube show ‘An African City’ by the ‘Diasporan Newbie’ herself some months back. I knew instantly after my first viewing of the 15 minute first episode, that I would have a field day discussing this with her as soon as we next met. Cue the excitable chinwag that followed: “But is this REALLY Africa?”, “Are these ‘bougie’ girls meant to represent today’s African woman?”, “Seriously? An episode that centers on retrieving a vibrator from customs?” And of course: “Oooh the fashion is outta this world! Carrie Bradshaw – eat your heart out!!”
Yet for all my conflicted and indecisive opinion on Nicole Amarteifio’s
YouTube hit, when I finally touched down in Accra, Ghana a few weeks ago, this is strangely what I had in the back of mind. In my defense, I hadn’t been back to Ghana since 1995 when I performed the Krobo tradition of dipo in respect of my mother’s tribe. Hence my vision of the county now as a 29 year old woman had been moderately shaped by friends and colleagues who were born there but now lived in the UK, and travelled back frequently, or family members who had disturbingly polarized views on the former ‘Gold Coast’ – ranging from charming Utopia where one might find the sweetest pineapple and mangoes to enjoy all day, to a deep societal inertia that continued to be glossed over by the Wests’ obsession with labeling Ghana’s relatively stable economic and political governance as West Africa’s ‘beacon of hope’.
I wouldn’t exactly say that I was on a mission to penetrate these opinions or theories. I was, lest not I forget there to unwind, further discover my roots and heritage, and enjoy myself! Incidentally, I had the time of my life, seeing parts of the country I had never experienced before and adopting ‘YO-LO’ (‘you only live once’ for those who haven’t watch enough episodes of KUWTK!) as the official holiday mantra – an indication it’s going to be a crazy one!
But I’m not writing to give a blow-by-blow account of my phenomenal experiences (which by the way included riding horseback across the sandy white beaches of Labadi, climbing 40 metres high to cross less than sturdy planks in the rainforest (YO-LO!!), and surviving two marriage proposals in 2 weeks!). I’m writing because I want to salute the Ghana I met for teaching me an important lesson about identity. There were a million and one observations that I made about Ghana (or more accurately the snapshot that I saw), but Ill keep to identity for now (and maybe chip in on another blog about other stimulating and provocative topics).
Identity is was and is extremely real for me in Ghana, particularly as I was conscious that I might be received as a foreigner or that they would call me ‘obroni’ meaning white person. Surprisingly, that never happened. Perhaps it was my insistence on speaking ‘Twi’ as much as possible and being quite clear that I was a Ghanaian who just happened to be born and raised in the UK. Instead I was accepted and ushered in a way that I have never felt in my 29 years in good ole’ Great Britain. Instead what I heard was;
“Sister/Maame, you must come back soon, this is your home”.
I couldn’t help but compare, but what I noted was, from the Ghanaians that I met (some “bougies” that could have stepped right out of an episode of ‘An African City’, some extremely wealthy, and others leading a very humble lifestyle indeed)
Nobody merely exists in the way that I see Brits bitterly do. Ghanaians are so proud of their cultures, they love their country (many still acknowledging deep social, economic, and political blockages) and as one Ghanaian friend said: “we don’t envy the white man!”
I couldn’t help but feel that I and my fellow inspired Ghanaians, with our strong (and in my case renewed) sense of identity could be part of the solution to shaking up the inertia I mentioned. So what started out with an interest in ‘An African City’ and its ability to ‘keep it real’ ended with a truly amazing experience of my own African City. On both fronts, I have no doubt there is plenty more to come.