Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Invasion of the Cross-Cultural Ghanaians

Christmas is always a fascinating time of the year in Ghana. Mainly because a lot of the Ghanaian people resident outside of our fair nation tend to come down to spend time with friends and family.
There are the Londoners, New Yorkers, Canadians all of whom are Ghanaian. Occassionally there are the German burghers, Italian burghers, Amsterdam burghers...all illustrious countrymen and women living in that fabled place called "abroad". You can always tell the Ghanaians coming in from "abroad" at this time of the year. As the plane touches down at Kotoka International Airport, they emerge usually clad in a winter jacket and can be often heard lamenting about the shocking levels of heat being emitted by the Ghanaian motherland.
However, there is a small but undocumented breed of Ghanaians who are often overlooked; they are the Southern African Ghanaians (SAGs). SAGs are individuals who have spent most of their lives outside of Ghana living specifically in various countries in Southern Africa. You would be surprised at how many SAGs there are out there. Some grew up in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana, some in Namibia, others were born in Lesotho or even Swaziland. This group remains widely unknown in Ghana because they tend to either live in Southern African or migrate to the US or Europe completely bypassing Ghana! These are my peoples! Well, this particular end of the year I'm excited because suddenly, it seems we' re invading Ghana en masse.

It all started with my big sis. announcing last week that she would be coming into Accra from South Africa for some high-brow work meetings. On her flight, she found she was travelling with Uncle B and two of his sons. Uncle B. was my late Dad's really good friend from the days when bell-bottoms and platform shoes were a la mode. My big sis, big bruv and I all grew up together in Southern Africa with Uncle B's kids who we dubbed "our cousins in Lesotho". Unfortunately, I had not seen them since afros were still in fashion back in 1988. Although Uncle B.'s sons are well into their 30s, this was actually their first visit to Ghana! So last night was the surreal reunion. Uncle B. and my mum shared embarrassing childhood tales about who used to cry the most. In the meantime, I admired my cousins' heavily tattooed bodies and their fascinating "Suuth Eferican" accents. One of the cousins had some Adinkra symbols (similar to the picture above) tattooed into his forearm. At some point the big sis declared that there was not much to do in the fair city of Accra. Of course, at that point I slipped into defender of my city mode and alas, the dreadful onus is now on me to prove just how hip Accra is....*Yikes*

I'm currently racking my brain and compiling a list of cool places to hang out at that may impress these Johannesburg-esque hip types...*Alas* the list is looking pretty sparse: Honeysuckle, Monsoon, Aphrodisiac, Bywells, Tribes, Rhapsody's, ...oh dear I could not possibly take'em to Accra Mall could I?!

The SAG invasion continues; my buddy S. is also in town from the US. She is Ghanaian but grew up in Sierra Leone and we lived very close to each other in Swaziland for some years. We often lament that our Southern African language skills should really not be this appalling..How come my big sis could win any argument in Zulu or Setswana when I can barely remember how to say hello....*sigh*. S. has the most Ghanaian credibility. After all, she went to school and university here.

Just when I was realising that we could really start a small army of SAG invaders. My friend N. calls to say she is in town! She grew up in the US and Botswana and we both went to college very close to each other in Western Massachusetts. Her big brother Y. is another Christmas returnee based in South Africa. So forget Christmas Election blues, my peoples are here! Now, back to entertainment ideas....anyone got any? Even one? Half an idea would do!


Nana Yaw Asiedu said...

Brilliant 'revelation'. But I always knew there was a SAG community somewhere. Just didn't know where they were. If I think up anything, I will suggest. I suspect Maya will give you more than you require.

Abena said...

Thanks Nana Yaw! Yes, indeed SAGs are everywhere but in Ghana it seems...

patrick said...

Abena,after readin your blog i wish i could make it back to ghana for the holidays ,but the recession,depression and credit crunch has me by the you know what...So i am stuck in sunny hoo no rainy los angeles...peace my people..

Anonymous said...

If you are on facebook, you can get a list of "hip" venues and events through these groups:

Soul n Motion
First Fridays Accra
Rhapsody's Accra
Dj.Black 's shows

There is this event going on: Accra Fancy Dress party Dec 26 @ La Palm Royal Beach Hotel

Seems like I don't a lot of what's happening, but then again, I'm not in Accra...but it seems facebook might be your best bet.

patrick said...

When did this immigration of ghanaians to southern africa start? that very interestin cos as a kid growin in the 60's in the kanda estates projects lot of my friends were exiled south africans..i think they were taken care by the govt of ghana for very long time, schoolin days..two yrs ago was in the philippines for work and came across some ghanaians i was very shocked cos this is very poor country and the conditions they lived was worst than ghana..shockin..anyway..peace my people..

Abena said...

Patrick; Thanks for the compliment. Hopefully the credit crunch will pass....Don't worry you are not missing much Ghana-side. Isn't LA like the hippest place to be? Well, besides the rain that is?!

Anonymous; thanks for the facebook list...I think I checked out the First Fridays group sometime back and it did not seemed to be updated that regularly. Will check back.

Abena said...

Patrick, very interesting piece of history; I had never heard about South Africans in Ghana in the 1960s..The wave of Ghanaians to Southern Africa I think started in the late 1960s right thru to the 80s and really peaked around the 90s. When my parents moved there in the early 70s, there were very few Ghanaian families across the whole of Southern Africa and they basically all seemed to know each other..
Fascinating about the Philipines, I remember reading about the only black person in Northern Burma back in the 1990s. He was a Ghanaian solider who had been there since World War 2!

Maya said...

Hi Abena,

I hadn't heard of the SAGs at all, very interesting! Have been trying to think of fun places for you to take them to, but my mind is blank...the only 'new' places I could remember were Sweetie's at East AIrport (turning off flower pot junction on the Spintex). Of course now's your chance to try Melting Moments for daytime hanging out (but again, 'bagels' and 'paninis' are made with butter bread and nothing else!).

Maybe karaoke at Champs on a Friday, a night at the relocated Jazztone (when I was there they had just moved and people were only just finding their way), and one day start the evening with dinner or drinks at the bar at Old Bob's Place.

If I think of anything else, I'lllet you know, but really I think you've covered our top spots!

Abena said...

Hi Maya, thanks for the great suggestions!I forgot about Champs...that may be good fun.I think my sister would love the whole Jazztone vibe.
Aside from SAGs, there are also quite a few EAGs (East African Ghanaians) many of whom grew up in Kenya. The whole Ghanaian cross-cultural exchange really fascinates me.

Here, There, Elsewhere... and more said...

Wish i was coming back to Ghana for Christmas too - it's freezing here..!
Have fun partying..:)

Abena said...

Thanks, Will try and party hard! Unfortunately, we still have the elections looming over our heads this year..

posekyere said...

Hi Abena,

An interesting piece on the history of migration of Ghanaians into Southern Africa.
I know there is a good number of Ghanaians in South Africa, unfortunately, I have never really bothered to find out the history behind the faces. I suppose, of course, that every one of the Ghanaians around has a fascinating story to tell.
Your post gives a fresh impetus to learn a little bit more about the Ghanaian story in these parts of the globe.

Thanks for this informative piece.

Abena said...

Thanks Posekyere, somehow I feel that I may have made some suppositions here but if I had time I would do a real study to explore these migratory movements and their history in detail!

The Evangelist said...

Hello there!

I will be moving to Accra in the next three months and my trip was initially postponed because I was planning to be there by this time of year.

I am glad that you mentioned that there are some things to do in Accra because when I arrive, I would like to connect with some of the other Americans who are familiar with the area and the lifestyle.


Abena said...

Hi Paul, all the best with making the move to Accra. There are indeed some things to do even though it does not seem like quite the exciting place all the time!