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Who is a Ghanaian?

My BFFFL, Nana Darkoa, though young is very wise. While we were collaborating on a would-be project a little over a year ago that was meant to be very “Ghana-centric”, I voiced a concern that was itching my conscience.

“How well would this be received from us?” I asked. “You know we’re not ‘real’ Ghanaians. You were born in the UK, and I’m a hybrid.”

Her rebuke was swift, but gentle.

“It’s not for others to judge if we’re Ghanaian or not,” she replied. “It is up to us to make that determination. We must decide what makes us Ghanaian… have you seen?”

She was right; and I’ve carried that with me for over a year now. But silly me! Apparently, there is a committee in Ghana the gets to decide who is a Ghanaian and who is not – so when I got to home two months ago, my feathers were rightly ruffled when 3 people (arrogantly, mockingly and ignorantly) informed me that I was not a ‘true Ghanaian’. One was a friend, one was a taxi driver and one was a total stranger – whom I hope remains such. Their reasons were varied:

Because I have natural hair.

Because I have an accent.

Because I’m not dark enough.

Because I didn’t go to the market to shop for groceries.

Because I went to HGIC for secondary school.

Because I didn’t hire a taxi to ferry me around the city for (the assumed 3 weeks) duration that I was in the country.

Because, because, be-frikkin’-cause!

There is a saying in Black America that ‘all our skin folk ain’t all our kin folk’. The insinuation is that there are certain elements and affects one must adopt to be considered ‘Black’. Those typically being that you are a Democrat who loves hip hop and blindly supports Obama while you languish in the ‘hood unable to hold a semi-intelligent conversation, let alone read a book. Oh, and if you do read, you MUST consume Vibe magazine, never Shakespeare’s greatest works.

So clearly, I’m not considered ‘Black enough’ in America. I can live with that.

But I am NOT prepared to let random strangers and certain friends define for me what makes ME a Ghanaian. The chick who arrogantly informed me that I was unable to live “more like a Ghanaian” while I was home proudly informed me that she spoke Twi fluently. Bravo for her. But speaking Twi does not make you any more of a Ghanaian than eating a baguette makes me a Frenchman. And what on earth does that mean: ‘To live like a Ghanaian?’ Whether a person lives in a Vodafone painted container, or lives in a mansion like the Jonahs, there are certain things that will always identify them as a Ghanaian.

Let me tell you what makes me a Ghanaba.

I have the blood of my grandmother, Emma Abena Owusua Acheampong, next in line to the throne at Larteh Kubase flowing through my veins.

I can point to a family house behind the palace and tell you which room my father and his brothers were born in.

I have walked to school more days than I can count.

I have been sacked for school fees.

I am always mother of okonto.

I have stroffed for a bio exam, and believed with all my heart that if I put the text book under my pillow, the info would enter my head by osmosis.

I have jumped a wall to “tear ghost” on a taxi driver when I didn’t have the money to pay him.

I have been chased by a mad man.

I can prepare kontomere better than your modda.

I have watched Osheen with great interest and come back to school the following day to discuss it with my friends.

I have been chased by a watch man for eating all of the blofo nkati3 from our neighbor’s tree.

I have  yobbed about going to Yankee for the long vac.

I can finish my fufu faster than you.

I have been mocked for pronouncing “metabolism” as META-bo-lism.

I can slang you with obroni slangs and then insult you well-well in pidgin.

We don’t go to sea on Tuesday’s.

I will always believe carrying your baby on your back is the best way to ferry your kids around.

I too wept when Suarez ousted us from the World Cup.

I have prayed for Ghana, wept for Ghana and laughed at Ghana.

My hair is of my people. My skin is of my people. My shape is of my people. I am as much an American as I am an African because I was born of Sharon Davis and Kwasi Gyekye. I get to decide.

So what am I? A Ghanaian. A Ghanaian by birth, and sometimes by choice. And if I hear one more person attempt to define what I am or am not, they must be prepared for a wicked slap, because I go tow am.


So you can run and tell that.


This article has 22 comments

  1. sangima

    Preach sista

  2. sangima

    Tell em ” you don’t know me like dat”

  3. Ekua

    Your my hero!!

  4. Ekua

    sorry…..misspelled you are….lol

  5. A-dub

    You are not Ghanaian because you don’t know that it is OSHIN and not OSHEEN!!!! Ahhhhh!

  6. Khadija

    I heard that! Tell em girl!

  7. Kajsa

    Love it! Well said, only you can define your Ghanaianess!

  8. Khadija

    Sometimes folks just get jealous and say you are not a Ghanaian. What is a Ghanaian anyway?…Ghanaians kill me with always declaring that somebody is not a Ghanaian as if they are all authorized to me the Ghana nationality police. I remember my late husband who was born and raised in Ghana (and didn’t travel anywhere outside out Ghana until he was 30 years old) was always told by fellow Ghanaians that he wasn’t or didn’t “look” or “talk” like a Ghanaian. He was often mocked for they way he spoke Twi (all Ghanaians don’t speak Twi).
    No matter what you do Ghanaians will alway have a commentary. Hey I remember even one day at the filling station when two attendants were busily arguing if I was a Ghanaian or not and ended up putting the wrong fuel in my car. I gave them a royal insult. It’s complete nonsense. Foolish men! Now that’s Ghanaian:)

    • Malaka

      Yes! And even some non-Ghanaians try to define how Ghanaian you are or are not! How even more annoying. Nonsense.

      And some Ghanaians speak Hausa, anaa? My people kill me. Yes Khadija. Insult them well-well! They could have spoiled the Pathfinder! 🙂

  9. nana ama

    Sorry but it is not Ghanaian to run away and not pay your taxi fare! That is a personal crime, plain and simple! You are lucky that you are far away in Am’rika, and the legal system does not work in Ghana! If it did, you’d be hauled before the law to answer retrospectively why you high-tailed…!:):) Be careful what you admit publicly:):)

    • Malaka

      Ooooo. That was years ago. Besides, the way I passed after I ran away would make it impossible for him to find me. Perhaps all the cheating the taxi drivers did me this time round was just karma biting me in the butt!

  10. Nana

    Hahahahah…thanks for the ‘wise’ props despite my youth. I am getting to that age where I appreciate being called young. One time I went to the market with my mother (who nobody mistakes for not being Ghanaian) and the market woman asked her “If her daughter was the Obroni behind her”. Clearly being an Obroni has nothing to do with the colour of your skin and more your mannerisms. On that day I was wearing a slightly skimpy sundress that clearly only an obroni or an alele would have worn to the market

    To me being a Ghanaian is a combination of several factors – Self-identification, antecedents, place of birth, marriage, pride and love for Ghana…I could go on and on…so I won’t.

    Love you BFFFL!

  11. Worlase

    Those who said you weren’t Ghanaian were just jealous or thought you were better than to be called Ghanaian. Forget them! It’s who YOU think you are that matters.

  12. Kwesi Afeku

    Why you look like uncle Ruckas in that pic!!

  13. NaijaAmerican

    Cool but you can lose the “certain elements and affects one must adopt to be considered ‘Black’” insinuations…
    i know its just a brief listing of reckless stereotypes, but no need for their presence

    • Malaka


      I can do what I want to do/say. It’s my blog. Go say (or not say) anything you want on yours. Sheesh.

  14. MissCrys

    Loved this! I always felt like I was the only one who was never ‘black’ enough, Ghanaian enough. I don’t like banku or fufu or fante kenkey but does that make me not Ghanaian? I also don’t like custard, or Yorkshire pudding or rhubarb crumble…yet that doesn’t make me not British. It’s just bizarre. When Nigerians hear my name they say “Ah, are you Nigerian?” but Ghanaians…they hear my name and say “Ah, but you are not Ghanaian!” With such ignorance I don’t even know why I would WANT to be Ghanaian. But in any case I don’t feel its a choice. I am what I am. Get over it or shut up.

  15. ghanATLien

    Wow… I just stumbled across your blog. Great, HILARIOUS stuff!

  16. Meah Khrysteana (@meahkhrysteana)

    Stumbled upon your blog and I think a lot of people struggle with this. Myself included. My father is Liberian and all my life I have people asking me where I’m from, as if speaking proper English meant I wasn’t from Detroit, MI; but then I’d always feel out of place when I was with other Africans because I couldn’t speak any native dialect or slang. Although I have never had anyone directly challenge my being African because of my name, I was frequently challenged about not being black enough, but would also indirectly feel as if I wasn’t African enough. It’s very awkward not feeling as though you really mesh totally with one group or the other, so, here I stand, at 27 walking the fine line between both worlds. Either way, I know I’ve paid my dues for being bi-cultural in a sense, both African and African-American. And I guess that’s ok…no, I know it’s ok. I’m ok.

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