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SO WHAT ARE YOU!

Recently I watched the movie “From Prada to Nada”. It’s a movie based on Jane Austen’s novel “Sense and Sensibility”, but with a Latin twist on the story.

One part of the movie had me thinking a lot about who I am, and what I consider to be my culture/heritage. In one scene the character Mary was asked about her love interest if she was Mexican and she replies by saying “No my parents are”, which leads her love interest asks her “so what are you?”

So what are you? That is a question many of us have been asked at least once in our lives. Being born outside of Ghana can make it difficult to answer that question. Trust me I use to struggle with the answer to give to that question. I use to have a hard time explaining myself as I was born in Europe, raised in Canada and have parents who are from Ghana.

Sometimes you don’t know exactly who you are. You fit in with the culture of the land you live in but also have traits that stand out from others and show that you are very much African.

Growing up in Canada was not always easy. At school and in the neighbourhood there were times when other kids would make fun of me for being African. Horrible names would be used to hurt my feelings, names that even at my age I still remember like it were yesterday. The name I hated the most was African Bum Cleaner. To this day I have no idea what that was suppose to mean, but as a young child it just hurt to be taunted or mocked.  Another thing that hurt was to be told lies about your culture and country. Kids would say things about Africans living with lions, riding elephants and sleeping in trees.  And I would just be hurt. I have no other word to explain it except hurt, deeply hurt.

Let’s face it kids can be mean and cruel. The taunts would be too much sometimes that I would go home in tears and tell my mother about what the kids were saying about me being African. She of course would get mad and tell me the kids were stupid and that I should ignore them. She would tell me that Ghana was not like what they were saying. My mother would tell me the beauty of Ghana and her people and that I should never be ashamed but proud that I was Ghanaian.

So I decided to take my mother’s advice and embrace my culture and the beauty of Ghana. Some African kids couldn’t handle the taunts and decided to not embrace being Ghanaian. When asked where they were from they would say Canada (which wasn’t a lie since lots of them were born here). Yet when asked where their parents were from I saw many kids lie and say other countries like Barbados or Jamaica.

Being African just wasn’t acceptable to them. Being African meant you had to deal with taunts and stupid remarks about not having clothes to wear and have monkeys for pets. Therefore lying about their background/heritage was the only option they felt they had.

I recently came across a short film that dealt with the issue of struggling between two identities titled “Africa Booty Scratcher” .

I loved watching this short film. It brought back memories of struggling with both identities and how to embrace them both.

As the years have gone by I no longer have a problem embracing both my Canadian and Ghanaian cultures, although if you ask some people I’m more Ghanaian than I am Canadian.  I decided that there are many parts to my life that make me a whole person. If I had decided long ago to hide one part of myself I would never be as satisfied as I am right now with myself.  Some days I’m very Canadian in my thinking and behaviour but on other days I’m very Ghanaian in my beliefs, but I never let one hinder the other from existing.

Let us know if  you’ve had any similar experiences at www.mefirighana.com/blog and share your thoughts.

Daniela Domfeh