Sunday, 20 April 2008

Whose country is it anyway?

We sometimes forget that people have been travelling round for centuries, it wasn’t in the 20th century that we humans became globetrotters. This realisation came to me yesterday as I was enjoying my fufu and groundnut soup (aaah, memories!).

Ghanaians, well those of a similar background to me, feel (yes, admit it, you do) a certain resentment or irritation towards the foreigners who come and settle in Ghana. I think it’s a combination of being colonised and having our most valuable natural resources stolen from us and the treatment we receive in Western countries that make us feel like, well, I’ve gone back to my country like you wanted, so why don’t you stay in yours.

Of course it doesn’t come out in every day life, we all have our friends from all the corners of the world but there’s a certain possessiveness over mother Ghana, like, I’m in my country now.

So imagine my surprise when speaking to Virgo’s Lebanese friend only to hear him say his father and grandfather were born in Jamestown (Accra) after his great grandfather came to Ghana in the 1850s. I can only describe my reaction as snopen (will try to think of an English word, but I’m sure you’ll get me) when I realised his family came to Ghana 30 years before my maternal grandmother’s family did.

It really made me think, what makes a country ours? How long we’ve been there, what we’ve done to help develop it, or whether some of our DNA comes from its people?

If I were to have a sexual encounter with a Vietnamese man and have a child by him, and I never speak to that man again and never visit the country, how Vietnamese is that child?

For me it has always been so easy to be Ghanaian, as being a foreigner in Sweden, you will never be allowed to feel Swedish, believe me the passport checks at the airport when you are coming “home” will always remind you that you are not a real Swede.

Also, my parents have always talked so much about Ghana and taken us to Ghana so many times. However, in Ghana, I’m not considered Ghanaian at all, and why should I be, I don’t speak the languages, can hardly cook the traditional dishes and have spent less than three years living here? So how dare I of all people feel any possessory rights over a country I have only recently adopted as my home land?

Until I realise what makes a country mine more than anyone else’s, I will avoid saying that any country is mine to claim against another, whether Ghana, Sweden or any other country I adopt. I hope you join me in acknowledging the global village we live in.


Nana Yaw Asiedu said...

Maya, this is a very complex post. Went in three or so directions at the same time. I do not know what to say. I can venture that you 'own' the country in which you are most comfortable. And comfort comes both from inside you, and from how the society reacts to you. Having said that, I probably do not have a home, yet. Do you?

Maya said...

No, I don't, rather I have, and I think you do too, a few temporary homes. Homes where we're comfortable enough, but those homes are still not the homes we've created for ourselves.

Obibini Bruni said...

I am white, born in Canada, yet I can interestingly relate. For me it is because I can’t help but assume that most obrunis do not understand their positions as foreigners in the country and are far too judgmental. It is so easy to find obruni blogs that continue the colonial legacy of travel literature.

I do not see any country as mine, being a descendant of settlers and an obruni who feels an attachment to Ghana. My family is from Eastern Canada, so growing up in Central Canada, I was the outsider. When we returned to the East to be with family, I was the one from Central Canada, within both my family and social circles. Going to Ghana, I have never felt more at home, yet I will always be the obruni. A friend of mine is a Canadian born to Ghanaian parents and he has told me more than once that I am the epitome of the third culture child. This could easily be debated by many, but his reasoning definitely resonates with me.


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