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Thread: The Imported Ghanaian

  1. #1
    Bipolar Neo's Avatar
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    Jul 2010

    Default The Imported Ghanaian

    Complex creatures who have survived extinction events that killed the likes of the dinosaur, crocodiles are vaunted in the animal kingdom for their strength and adaptability. Admired for its ability to thrive in the water despite being an air-breather, the croc has inspired a Ghanaian adinkra symbol, denkyem.

    Ghanaian author Alba Kunadu Sumprim says of denkyem, “It encourages us to adapt to changing conditions, particularly those which appear difficult and out of our control.”
    Adapting to changing conditions is the theme of Alba’s book, The Imported Ghanaian, a collection of essays and cartoons about the culture shock she experienced when she relocated to Ghana after being raised abroad. A well-travelled diplomat’s daughter who was born in London, graduated from the Cuban film school Escuela International de Cine y Television, lived in Brazil for two years, and recently vacationed in Afghanistan, Alba confesses that she was not prepared for the culture shock that she experienced when she moved back “home” to Ghana.

    While she knew there would be challenges, she says wryly, “You come back and find that the Akwaaba Welcome Committee has gone on holiday.” She quickly learned that there is a difference between “being Ghanaian” and “being a Ghanaian,” and that her lineage alone was insufficient preparation for life in a country in which she is, in reality, a foreigner.

    A freelance writer, editor and director for the BBC World Services Trust, Alba turned to writing as a way of trying to make sense of her new life. She began writing a column about her observations about life in Ghana for the Ghanaian newspaper, The Daily Dispatch, which eventually formed the basis for her book. Her column gave her an outlet to examine – and fume a bit about – the incongruity of life in Ghana. She says, ‘That column has helped save my sanity!” The first incongruity that Alba confronted was that Ghanaians question whether she is really Ghanaian.

    Because of her natural hair, London-tinged accent, penchant for speaking her mind, and rich dark skin tone in a sea of bleached visages, many Ghanaians refuse to believe that Alba is Ghanaian. Variously accused of being from Mali, Senegal, or different Caribbean Islands, Alba wonders why anyone would think that she would fake being Ghanaian. It is an experience shared by many who are “Ghanaian” but not “from Ghana”. If your accent, style of dress, food preferences and secondary school are not familiar to someone who is actually “from Ghana” doubt about your claimed origins sets in.

    In her book, Alba describes an inexplicably hilarious conversation with a Ghanaian waiter who insisted that she must be Senegalese. Thinking she would be able to prove her Ghanaian-ness by speaking Twi and naming her mother’s small hometown, Alba insists to the man that she is not lying. Still unable to accept a Ghanaian who does not look or sound familiar to him, the man asks, “Are you sure?” Experiences such as this one convinced Alba that she needed to decode the “cultural code” of life in Ghana.

    In The Imported Ghanaian, she has a list of 20 things you need to know to understand the Akwaaba People. They include: “First and foremost, Ghanaians know everything and are always right. If you try to tell or show the Ghanaian something or a better way of doing things, then you are too known, and they are not going to listen to you.” “The proverbial Akwaaba people, Ghanaians are very welcoming and friendly, especially if you are foreign and of the pale variety.

    They will bend over backward to do anything for you – unless you are a Ghanaian.” “Though a peaceful people, it does not take much to offend Ghanaians or for them to be at the ready to ‘show you where power lies’. ‘Do you know who I am?’ Alba’s analysis of Ghanaian culture, while humorous, may cause discomfort to those who believe she is portraying Ghana in a negative light. She says that Ghanaians have told her, “It’s true, oh! But to put it in a book . . . all these white people will hear!” Alba responds, “I wanted to hold a mirror to my people so that they could see themselves as others see them. We’re not bad people but we need to look at ourselves more critically. There’s nothing wrong with having faults. We want to be seen as perfect.”

    Alba insists on forcing Ghanaians to consider their behavior from an external perspective, even at the risk of highlighting the fact that she is an “imported Ghanaian”. One of the “20 things you need to know” listed in the book is, “Ghanaians are very honest. But, Ghanaians rarely say what they mean or mean what they say.” Alba decided to confront this cultural truism at a restaurant where a man had ordered the last portion of her favorite dish.

    Ghanaians value shows of generosity. When the gentleman who was enjoying the ampesi and palaver sauce she’d been craving told her, “You are invited” Alba made ready to take him up on his offer, although she knew that the correct and expected response would have been for her to graciously decline the offer. Holding the mirror up, Alba says, “We say things just to be polite when we don’t really mean it. For someone who doesn’t know the script, it sounds like hypocrisy.” The Imported Ghanaian is a humorous, insightful commentary on life in Ghana today.

    As a testimony to the impact that her work is having, she was invited this year to participate in the prestigious Caine Prize Writer’s Workshop, in which African writers meet to discuss their works in progress, to work on new and existing story ideas, and to benefit from working with other African writers who are the most likely to win the Caine Prize, the leading literary award for African writers. Alba says that writing about Ghana has saved her sanity and allowed her to continue living in Ghana. “I really do love Ghana. I don’t take things too seriously and I don’t expect anything. But I celebrate when something good happens.

  2. #2
    Super Moderator Pope Bitterz D'Alomo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2010


    This will make a good read. I'm definitely getting this book. Thanks for sharing bro and thanks to Alba for telling OUR story.
    Beware lest you lose the substance by grasping at the shadow. ~Aesop

    Ignorance can be educated,drunkenness sobered,craziness medicated but there is no cure for STUPIDITY

  3. #3
    Godfather Fashion Yaa's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    City of Angels, Cali. USA


    I am happy to see this here...I saw this book at a bookstore near Kantamanto(the name escapes me its something like EBT or ??? but its near a travel agency building, i will remember and come back to report)....i laughed so hard reading the first few pages, did you know she published the book herself!

    Sadly I did not buy the book but next time I go back home I will.

    I remember one chapter, her friend(who also happened to have natural hair) from abroad visited in search of his African roots. Well he got tired of the people constantly asking him question about him not cutting his hair that one day him and Alba decided to dress up real disco-like and provide some comic relief in the town by walking with a limp, then they would stop and pose in that robot dancing of the Jackson5, anyway, i thought that was a funny chapter when i read it in the store.....the price of the book was 150GhCedis if i remember correctly and it was about 500pages worth of her many articles

    all go to the same place ;all come from dust and to the dust all return. who knows if the human spirit rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?
    ecclesiastes 3:20-21 :-x

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