Before I left for Germany, I would not eat fufu, beans, yam and kontomire or any of the Ghanaian foods that take forever to prepare. I was sub-consciously proud to declare that I had not been to my hometown since 2008. There have been countless times when I went into a meeting and the person I was meeting would ask me where I was from and I would cringe because I do not know where exactly ‘Etodome’ is. I was always unable to answer questions about my country because i simply had no interest. I had bigger things to think about. You know, like Brexit!
Sadly,I spoke and still speak better English than I do my mother tongue. One day, I was selling my beads at the Oxford Street Fair when an American woman approached my stall. We started talking about how beads are made and halfway through my pitch, she declared ‘You speak so good English!’ I did not know whether to laugh or cry because even though she meant it as a compliment, I was sad because I knew that I could not have spoken my own language half as well if my life depended on it.
For years, I have been sub-consciously ashamed of being Ewe. Years of hearing how terrible Ewes are made me do everything I could to subtly distance myself from all things Ewe.I chose to be called Afua rather than the Ewe Afi. I could not wait to marry a Yankson or an Agyeman Prempeh so I could get rid of the name no one could ever pronounce.
But then again, if we can all learn to pronounce names like Schweinsteiger, Schwarznegger or Goetze, maybe the rest of the world can pronounce Akua Kuenyahia , Busumuru Kofi Annan or Victoria Afua Agbai’.
I would never have used Shea Butter in Ghana. After all, I was a middle class educated Ghanaian. I would never have used coconut oil or Moringa. I got here to find a that a German professor had spent 17 years doing research on Moringa, which we cut down and burn.
I found out that anything that you put on your skin, you should be able to eat. I found out that nothing regenerates your skin more than cocoa butter. I discovered that Shea butter is the best sunscreen there is in the world. It is the only sun protection which goes under the skin while all others lie on the surface of the skin.
I get amused anytime I hear the indignant complaints of foreigners taking our ideas and making it theirs.
If you will not go to your own ‘jungle’, why do you complain when someone else does?
Have you observed the way we show foreigners all aspects of our local culture? We allow them to take picture after pictures which are used for purposes which we never imagined. I once went to the Accra Arts Centre under the guise of buying some items for my ‘white’ colleagues. With no way of verifying, they allowed me to take pictures of all their wares.I was horrified that they could have been so gullible!
Imagine my chagrin when I walked into H&M and C&A and saw African patterns printed on soft cotton and sold for 12 Euros! I had dreamt of being able to sell my beads here, but to my surprise, they had beadlike bracelets going for 2 Euros! Buei! How was I ever going to be able to compete?
My ears rang when I heard comments like ‘ Bei euch ist alles Bunt’. I found out that you can take the African creativity and create a nuanced form which the European will love, never knowing or caring for the original creation[case in point, chocolate].
So my dear Ghanaian, love your culture. Take what you have and turn it into a product that you are proud to be associated with. while you are at it, it would be good to patent it.
Don’t just complain about the ‘voluntourists’ who are living in the most remote of the villages that you will not go to and are learning the secrets of your forests.
Enough of the talking! Rise up, act! You must work hard and take what belongs to you.
I applaud all the entrepreneurs who are taking the lead in this regard. I applaud people like Narkie, Yaaga, Korkor, Tonyi and all those people whose names i can not mention here.