Accra- the modern day coffeehouse!
When I told my friends about my planned trip to Ghana I had 3 responses. The first was “why? what are you going to do in Ghana?” The second was sheer silence and the third was “awesome, bring back some beautiful material and gifts from West Africa”.
As much as I think the first response speaks to ignorance and a lack of knowledge, I don’t necessarily blame my friends for having this way of thinking. When society has perfectly curated and presented what it considers pure, worthy, worthwhile and desirable it’s no surprise that we would have these reactions.
When I went to Ghana, I had some idea of what to expect (or at least I thought I did), I had my own preconceived ideas about what the people, the culture and what life in Accra would be like. I mean, I knew to expect friendly, warm people and beautiful, picturesque landscapes (this is Africa after all) but I did not know to expect a city humming and buzzing with insanely beautiful yet uncomfortable and thought-provoking street art, innovation, sick beats, intellectual stimulation and basically all things cool. My one week in Accra was reminiscent of "the modern day coffeehouse” (think enlightenment period). This is because of the great thinkers I met and had the opportunity to engage with throughout the trip. I met entrepreneurs, creatives, lecturers as well as students and each interaction left me energetic, hopeful and in awe.
I have always loved Africa, or at least I thought I did. But how can you love something that you don’t know? This recent trip to Ghana has left me asking myself a lot of questions about my relationship with Africa and my identity as an African. I’m not so naive as to think that one 7 day trip is enough to remove 2 decades worth of ignorance and general lack of care, disinterest and disengagement. I do think it’s a start though! When you get to that point where you become aware of your prejudice and your long held beliefs - this is when you know that there’s hope.
You don’t need to travel all the way to Ghana to challenge your assumptions (although you should if you can). Here’s an easy way to start:
- Pick up a history book and learn about how the past connects to the present. Do you know enough about the history behind the atlantic slave trade? Do you know enough about political leaders who fought for the freedom you live and breath today (Steve Bantu Biko, Kwame Nkrumah, Seretse Khama, even those who have have been vilified; i.e Robert Mugabe, Muammar Gaddafi.....their stories are just as important). Do you know the story behind their ideas? How have these ideas manifest themselves in the present?
- Check your consumption! Be more aware of the media you consume, I hate to use cliches (who am I kidding we all love cliches) but you are what you eat! Actually, stop consuming media and news altogether, rather engage with it; question, critique, analyse and pursue the truth.
- Reclaim the narrative. Don’t allow stereotypes to be the sole narratives which define your reality. Yes, some stereotypes are true, that’s how they stick but don’t allow these chains to limit the beauty of a much fuller, more intricate and more beautiful truth.
Pick up a book, check your consumption, reclaim the narrative….now go forth and be awesome!