Tag Archives: African culture

The Cousin.

You know that cousin who isn’t really your blood cousin but rather an “honorary cousin” or “cousin by merit”? It’s a really cool feature we had (and still have) , growing up in my amazingly unique country – Ghana. This country is having her challenges, but the social scope has always been beautiful. Growing up, in our social circles we were all “cousins”.  If someone said to any of us , “who is this you are with?” We would say, “this is my cousin.” Yes. We felt that close and connected. Our parents (even if just friends), to us were nothing less than brothers or sisters so if you are not my brother or sister, then you must be my cousin! 🙂

I can’t even begin to list the names of all the people I have once called “cousin”. They are many and most of them know themselves because they see me as their cousin too. Whether we are apart for one day or ten years, reunions are always like we never left or parted ways. In the Western world, it is only the offspring of your aunt or uncle who qualifies to be called your cousin. But here in Ghana, we have various types of cousins. Blood cousin – second and third included. “Family friend cousin”. “Our parents are best buddies” cousin. And “I love you, I hang with you all the time, and you look like you could be my” cousin.

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Jehad Ashkar (1981 - 2016)

Tomorrow I will be witnessing the burial of such a well known and celebrated cousin. There are many of us who have had very little sleep since the tragic
news broke a few days ago. Social media is still ablaze with thoughts and memories of Jehad. Anxiety presents itself as we prepare ourselves for tomorrow and the inevitable.

Take a peek into my half-caste world.

I’ve always been the “different one” growing up in Ghana (West Africa), where being a Ghanaian means having black skin and kinky hair. I have always been referred to as “obroni” or “blofonyo” meaning “white person”. My father of Lebanese origin felt, lived, and insisted on his “Ghanaian-ness” until the moment he died. He never enjoyed the satisfaction of complete acceptance by his beloved Ghanaian people and he knew it.

There are so many others like me who live the daily struggle of trying to fit in yet being constantly reminded that we are “half-caste”, we are “obronis” and no matter what we do or say, no matter how we speak or act, we are looked at differently. I feel it every time I take a walk down the street or drive in my car. I feel it when I go to vote and the official looks up at me and says mockingly, “Ei, you too are you a Ghanaian?” I feel it when sellers who assume I don’t speak the local languages discuss in those very same languages whether to charge me the regular price or the “obroni” price.  I used to get angry and indignant. Sometimes I would bark back in the local language to the shock and dismay of those who thought I couldn’t understand what they were saying. But eventually, as I upgraded myself in spirit and moved into a more positive frequency, I began to realize that most of these people who made sure they pointed out how different I am, are themselves caught up in their own dark, ignorant world of insecurity and sometimes even self – hatred. Those people can’t see or express their inner beauty, and they definitely don’t look like this:

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This photo,  by the way, represents my loyalty to country and solidarity with nature, depicted by red, gold, and green.

Things may not change significantly in my lifetime,  although I have noticed some change no matter how gradual and how small. The first “rebel” who paved the way for mixed race Ghanaians to come into prominent view is the former president of Ghana flt. Lt. Rtd. Jerry John Rawlings. Over the years we have overcome many obstacles. Our national soccer team finally included the likes of Kevin Prince Boateng and now Akwasi Appiah, not to mention the movie, arts and entertainment industry where many mixed race Ghanaians are finding some joy.

Will we ever be considered just Ghanaians and not “that different breed of Ghanaians”? How long will it be before a mixed race person can walk down the street in Osu town, Labadi or Nungua township without kids skipping behind them and singing, “blofonyo! How are you! I am fine thank you!” This, by the way, happened to my 2 year old and I just recently in Nungua. I watched him as he stopped walking, turned around and looked at them quite curiously, as if wondering why the heck these people were following us and singing. Then my mind went back to my childhood in Osu,  and how I used to get that almost every time I walked down the street. Poor Nolly is yet to understand how different he is and how much he will be made to feel like he doesn’t belong here even though this is all he has known since the day he was born.

The struggle continues…. But someday, I believe that a very large fraction of the world’s population will look like this:

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One love 💚