I’ve named this page ‘My Other Love’ because it concerns something that is very close to my heart. My home country.
I grew in in Ghana, in West Africa. My family were of very modest wealth, but nothing in comparison to what a large majority of other Ghanaians experience. On the outskirts of Accra, the capital city, you get a big divide between rich and poor, but we were always somewhere in the middle. Five minutes walk from our home you could find grand mansions with high reaching walls and grand gates, while five minutes in the other direction would take you to shanty towns and heartbreaking poverty.
It was a difficult situation to grow up in, knowing that I was ‘in’ with the rich kids, but never had enough myself to help the ‘poor’ kids. Despite all of this, I never met a person that lived life with a chip on their shoulder and the people of Ghana are a testament to the strength and overall upbeat attitude of West Africa.
That is just one of the many reasons I love my country. It is a beautiful place and one of the most modern and thriving societies in the continent. Too often, people in the Western world have a sympathetic view of Africa and its countries. We do not need your sympathy! I see and hear it all the time since moving to the UK, “England must be a much better place to raise your children”, “what was it like growing up surrounded by famine?”. That is not today’s Africa. Today’s Africa is thriving and beautiful and strong, we are not famished children and lack of water. We are creative geniuses, successful business people and modern families.
While the idea of ‘New Africa’ and the philosophies it promotes has been a thing for at least a decade, the solid ‘This Is New Africa’ Movement was cemented by a British-born music artist of Ghanaian descent in 2013. Fuse ODG is an afrobeat artist who knows what it is like to both grow up in the continent and see the continent from an outsider’s eyes, having been educated in London in his teenage years.
Fuse ODG has been a saviour for publicising the growth and regeneration of New Africa and works tirelessly to shake the image that portrays my brothers and sisters as people who require care and sympathy.
There is absolutely still a need in some parts of the continent for drastic change and intervention. But the continent cannot be generalised by some areas of extreme crisis. I have seen many places in Europe that are in a similar, if not worse, situation as some parts of Africa, yet the world does not look upon them with a forlorn eye.
Education is the key to changing perceptions of my land and I’m here to tell you what makes Ghana, and West Africa, so amazing.
If you’ve ever delved into the world of West African food, you know it is a cuisine full of spice and flavour and heartiness. We pride ourselves on cooking for the masses and dinner times are an event, not just a meal. If you’ve ever looked into the food, you will have heard of Jollof. People think of Jollof as just a tomato rice, which, it is, I guess, but it is so much more than that. The name Jollof actually originates from the Wollof people, founded in Senegal.
West African food is delicious and tasty and varied. From Kenkey and fried fish to fried plantain chips, superkanja, fufu and groundnut soup. There is no finer cuisine I’d rather eat.
African art skills are passed down from generation to generation, from clay carving to painting style to the more modern metal sculptures. Ghana is a hub for new age artists and flourishing creativity. We’re loud and proud and we show it through our art. In Accra, and indeed at craft markets across the country, there are offerings of unique and creative art at every turn. Accra even has a gallery with the biggest collection of original African art in the world.
There ain’t no party like a Ghanaian party. When we get together, we go HARD. Dancing and music go hand in hand and no one does beats like us. There is not one single West African tune that doesn’t make you want to jump up and do the Azonto, if you find one, let me know, but it cannot be done.
While Kente cloth was created by the Akan people of Southern Ghana, the pattern has become synonymous with West Africa and (somewhat wrongly) the rest of the continent. It is bright and intricate and tells a story at every turn. The proper Kente cloth is hand woven on huge spinners and can take hours or sometimes days. It is beautiful cloth and unrivalled across the world.