Experiencing it FIRST

Both of the articles I read share the same idea of trying to see the culture from different perspectives instead of just preserving the conventional thinking.

The article China in Africa started with the author Tao was not expecting to find an authentic Chinese restaurant in Accra, Ghana, whereas it turned out that his family had a truly authentic dinner and he even went back again before he departed Tema. Through talking to the Chinese people who were also dining in that restaurant, he was impressed by the fact that there were currently 70,000 Chinese people in Ghana without any safety issues. However, after talking to a Ghanaian taxi driver, he found out that there were more and more Ghanaians have bad conceptions towards all of the Chinese people, because there many Chinese gold miners do illegal poaching and they were detained by the Ghanaian government. However, Tao wants to argue that these negative perceptions can only be attributed to those Chinese gold miners who conducted illegal poaching, most Chinese people and especially Chinese government are friendly even generous to African countries. For example, many Africans have undoubtedly benefited from more than 20 billion dollars of aid provided by Chinese government. In addition, “China has established 48 Confucius Institutes in 38 African countries and 27 Confucius Classrooms in 15 countries” and there are about 60,000 African students in China.

Based on my interpretation of those misconceptions of Ghanaians have towards Chinese, I think it is not Ghanaians’ faults to magnify their misunderstandings towards all the Chinese after their homeland receive threats from Chinese people, after all some Chinese people did betray the law. Yet, in my opinion, those misconceptions cannot represent the credibility of all-Chinese, because the majority of Chinese are nice and supportive when it comes to the establishing China – Africa economic ties. Furthermore, I am a Chinese student came to Ghana to have a May – experience course with my college. As a tourist and student, my goal is about gaining the culture experience while acquiring more understanding about the connection between culture and media. Instead of doing harmful things to Ghanaians, I contributed auspicious effects to the Ghanaian society. For example, I went to Krofu village with the students and faculty members from my school to help out with construction work and played with African children. Moreover, I brought positive cultural images of Chinese people to my host families, even the Ghanaians friends I made during this trip. While I am living with my Ghanaian host family, I not only gain some Ghanaian culture, but also give my host family some Chinese thinking.

For the article The Case of Contamination, the author Appiah evokes readers to think about that mixing of different cultures is sound to achieve globalization and cosmopolitan. For example, Appiah uses Kumasi as an example to exert reemphasize this idea that without immersing in different cultures, Kumasi may not be able to help Africans fight against racial discrimination. Instead of considering incorporating a variety of cultures as homogeneity, Appiah reckons these associating features more as integration, that different people from different cultures adopting ideas which can have contributing effects to their own societies. Furthermore, by promoting this idea, Appiah also suggests that stagnant cultures cannot make themselves being thrive all the time, because no continuities and changes are applied on them. The preservation of traditions of a culture is crucial to perpetuate its distinct identity, but it is meaningful to select the good features from other cultures and dispel the features, which would not be beneficial to itself. I might use myself as an example to reflect my agreement with Appiah. So far I’ve gained a lot of cultural experiences after I came to Ghana, and there are pros and cons. For example, I really enjoyed the hospitality of all the Ghanaians so far I’ve met. They are all so nice and kind. Every single day the cook in our host family asks us what do we want to have for dinner before she prepares it for us. In addition, my host brother offers me rides to go to different places and tries to hangout with us just in case we might feel lonely. And those precious identities from nice Ghanaians I’ve met so far really impress me and make me appreciate them. However, Ghanaians are very not punctual, and I’ve already had so many experiences of endlessly waiting. Moreover, most Ghanaians think that our dresses and shorts are too shorts and suggest us to change them into longer ones. I really respect their ideas of being conservative about clothing, but I think I will preserve 18581983_770831996424328_3369425281488712057_n.jpgmy own dressing style as long as my outfit does not have a bad influence to the society.

China in Africa: What’s the Real Story? By Xie Tao

The Case for Contamination by Kwame Anthony Appiah

The Proper Way to Tell a Story

As I have witnessed during my stay in Ghana, as well as my home country, stories in the media are often presented the wrong way. Although there is technically no right way to tell a story, there are some guidelines that one needs to take in order to display the topic in a way that does not offend anyone. Ed Madison’s “Media and Social Change. Student Guidebook” and Binyavanga Wainaina’s “How to Write about Africa” explain, in different ways, how to tell a story, and are readings that prove that people depict Africa in such a way that does not match up with how it actually is. It is clear that there needs to be a line between morally right and morally wrong when constructing a story.

I did not know what to expect prior to arriving in Ghana, mainly because my only exposure to what it was like was from movies, TV shows, documentaries, and the news. When I got here, my head was spinning with confusion. I never once had seen Africa in this way, mainly because it was not what was televised or portrayed through the media. For my group’s multimedia project, we chose to write a story on how Ghanaian’s perceive the U.S., and through interviews I found that they were getting their knowledge about my country the same way I was getting information about theirs: through the media.

“How to Write about Africa” is a satirical article and should not be taken literally. However, the sad part is that many people do believe these things. The author does a good job using satire to show the many stereotypes that exist when talking about the continent of Africa. The beginning mentions to “never have a picture of a well-adjusted African on the cover of your book, or in it, unless that African has won a Nobel Prize. An Ak-47, prominent ribs, naked breasts: use these. If you must include an African, make sure you get one in Masai or Zulu or Dogon dress.” This excerpt shows that people out in the world can be hatful, however by displaying these crazy viewpoints it can help us change the reader’s perceptions of Africa.

Social Media: The Good and the Bad

Social media also plays a huge role, as people my age are constantly posting pictures and videos when they visit foreign countries, and many times they are posting pictures without the consent of the person in the photo. I am not saying that you should not have the right to post content from your experiences abroad, however there needs to be a common courtesy between the two subjects. Thus, if you do decide to take a picture or video of someone, make sure to ask them first, and then show them your content afterwards.

I am guilty of taking open pictures of people during the beginning of the trip, and although I was trying to take pictures of the scene rather than just one individual, the people in Ghana do not know that. Through my time here, my storytelling and process of getting content has evolved, and I think that lot of it comes from understanding my surroundings and being here for almost a month.

“Media and Social Change. Student Guidebook” states that, ”passive activities, stories about the past, stories that present issues of access (such as stories that involve young children or stories that might jeopardize one’s personal safety) are all bad places to start when you’re looking for a video story.” This shows that before going off to get content, you need to either think about how this will portray that country, or if you are writing a story it is better to begin brainstorming ideas for contextual analysis.

Sources:

Madison, Ed (2016, 2017). Media and Social Change. Student Guidebook.

Wainaina, Binyavanga. “How to Write about Africa,” by Wainaina. See: http://www.granta.com/Archive/92/How-to-Write-about-Africa/Page-1.

African Influence

The many connections of Ghanaians between each other and outsiders has many influences. The first of which, is media. The way Ghanaians perceive themselves, other Africans, and African Americans reflects how those groups are portrayed in the press.

“Ghana: Soft Control of the Press”

The relationship between the media and the government in Ghana has an interesting and complicated history. According to Jo Ellen Fair in her article “Ghana: Soft Control of the Press,” it all began in 1992 when the media was liberalized.

Since the media’s liberalization, journalism boomed in Ghana. Publications and broadcasts were everywhere and were commenting on everything. Since media was privatized, they could talk about whatever they wanted. The government, on the other hand, was used to controlling the media openly and found their new freedoms distasteful.

Fair describes how the government had to adjust their methods to softly control the media, rather than openly and aggressively controlling them. One of the biggest examples of this is called “soli.”

Soli is a Ghanaian word meaning gifts. Mainly in the form of money, soli is given to journalists by officials or businesspeople to ensure the press covers the material they want them to. In addition to cash, promotions are also handed out as incentive by influential people in the government.

Relations between the media and the government in Ghana are similar to those in the United States and many other countries. It seems like a more extreme case because of the accelerated rate at which the government and media in GhIMG_5180
ana have developed after Africa’s decolonization.

The media are the agenda-setters for what the country will discuss, what it will care about, and what will shape it. The government cares about what is discussed, what is cared about and what shapes the country. Therefore, it makes sense for the government to want a hand in the agenda-setting.

 

“Pan-Africanism as a resource: the W.E.B. DuBois Memorial Centre for Pan-African Culture in Ghana”

Pan means all. African, of course, refers to people from the continent of Africa. Pan-Africanism is a movement to unite all Africans, whether they live in Africa or are distant descendants of Africans.

In her writings on “Pan-Africanism as a resource: the W.E.B. DuBois Memorial Centre for Pan-African Culture in Ghana,” Katharina Schramm analyzes Pan-Africanism as a movement and how W.E.B. DuBois played a major role.

According to Schramm, W.E.B DuBois was an advocate for, and even the father of, Pan-Africanism and played a large part in the establishment of the first four Pan-African conferences. Their purpose was to promote racial equality and unity of the continent of Africa.

Unifying the continent of Africa into a United States of Africa is one aim of Pan-Africanism. Another aim is for all Africans to unite and follow their ancestry back to Africa from where they and their families ended up scattered around the world.

The idea of a Pan-Africanism is admirable and it would be beneficial for people of African decent to learn more about their lineages and histories. However, if all those people of African decent returned to Africa, their presence and culture would be sorely missed in the rest of the world.

The Portrayal of African-Americans: Then and Now

There has been a great shift in the perception of African-Americans from the Colonial Era to present day. Olaudah Equiano’s “The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Quiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African” and Lydia Polgreen’s “Ghana’s Uneasy Embrace of Slavery’s Diaspora” both display portrayals of African-Americans, one of which takes place during the time of slavery and the other during present day tourism in Africa. Much of the ancestry of Africans who came to the Americas was lost when families and relatives were separated through the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade; thus, many African-Americans today are visiting their African countries in hopes of tracing back their roots. They have found, however, that people in African countries are referring to them as Americans, rather than relatives of African ancestors. This has led to a growing controversy on the “correct way” to refer to those with a dark skin color when coming to the continent of Africa.

Evidence of this separation in African heritage came from the end of Chapter II in Olaudah Equiano’s “The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Quiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African,” when Equiano says, “This report eased us much; and sure enough, soon after we were landed, there came to us Africans of all languages. We were conducted immediately to the merchant’s yard, where we were all pent together like so many sheep in a fold, without regard to sex or age.” This excerpt shows the stereotypical view of African slaves that the Europeans kept for centuries, which resulted in a forceful melting pot of African cultures and traditions in the Americas.

During this trip, my group and I had made numerous visits to markets in Accra, Kumasi, and Cape Coast, and on each of those visits our group as a whole was referred to as “obroni” or “American” by Ghanaian storeowners and shoppers. Even African-Americans in our group were referred to in the same manner, and I did not know what to think of it. In the United States, there is a wide spectrum of ways in which African-Americans are represented, and some call them “African-American” and others neglect the race factor. In Ghana, I have noticed that for Ghanaians, it is very easy to distinguish between an African-American and a Ghanaian. It seems to be through the way they dress, as well as a difference in accent.

Although Ghanaians and people in other African countries mean no harm when talking to African-Americans in this way, African-Americans deserve the right to be welcomed by Africans in a way that connects them to their heritage. The beginning of “Ghana’s Uneasy Embrace of Slavery’s Diaspora” mentions that Ghana hopes to “persuade the descendants of enslaved Africans to think of Africa as their homeland — to visit, invest, send their children to be educated and even retire here.” It is certainly a hard goal to obtain, considering that not everyone will be able to make the trip to Africa. Some people also would rather be considered American than descendants of African slaves.

Despite this, we as citizens should support this change, and encourage visits to make it easier for people to come to the place that their relatives grew up in. Polgreen says that, “Ghana plans to offer a special lifetime visa for members of the diaspora and will relax citizenship requirements so that descendants of slaves can receive Ghanaian passports.” Advertising campaigns have also been started to persuade Ghanaians to treat African-Americans more like “long-lost-relatives” than as “rich tourists.”

Sources:

Olaudah Equiano The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African, Ch 2

Polgreen, Lydia. (2005, Dec. 27). “Ghana’s Uneasy Embrace of Slavery’s Diaspora,” by Lydia Polgreen. New York Times.

Culture and Authenticity

Both “China in Africa” and “The Case for Contamination” reflect on the changes that societies undergo. Change is not always bad, and often the bad, even when it’s minute, overshadows the good. The first article follows the writer’s discovery of the multitude of Chinese in Ghana and some of the views Ghanaians have towards them. The second article argues that contamination of culture has always existed, is inevitable, and is necessary. It questions what is meant by cultural authenticity and rebuts the arguments against globalization.

“China in Africa” points out the large, and growing, population of Chinese immigrants living in Ghana. The article examines China’s role in Ghana, mostly pointing out the reporter’s discovery of the negative influences of the Chinese, but also pointing out some of the positive support from China. There are about 70,000 Chinese in Ghana, most of who manage or work for companies that export Ghana’s resources. The reporter, a Chinese citizen, was surprised at the news of illegal Chinese gold miners. The vibe that he got from the Ghanaians he met was negative towards China. However, some of Ghana’s financial and business newspapers have suggested, “enhancing its yuan trading capacity to provide an alternative to the dollar to importers who do business in China.” There are some positive benefits to the Chinese influence in Ghana. Beijing has provided many business opportunities and public aid to Ghana. The article claims that, “When a dog bites a man, that is not news, but if a man bites a dog, that is news.” This is a reminder that no matter how many good things China does for Ghana, the bad will always over shadow it. This article addresses the illegal mining and allocation of resources in Ghana by the Chinese, but it also reminds people of the good projects and business opportunities between the two countries.

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Arrested for Illegal Mining in Ghana

This article reminds me of America in some ways. I have always been critical of the international aid that the US prides itself on. I think that the government and the media try to cover up our flaws, so much so that we forget we have any. We are very nationalistic and unapologetic for who we are. As a kid, I always believed that America was the world’s savior; we were the measure of perfection. Of course, this is untrue. America’s entire history of success is only in existence because of the downfall of many other peoples. America, like China, likes to see the good they do, the help they provide for their allies, but other countries are quick to see our flaws. I used to never understand why other countries would dislike America, but it is because the bad always over shadows the good, no matter how much good there is.

for_blog_ghana_cell.jpg“The Case for Contamination” is an article that was written by a Ghanaian professor at Princeton University. He argues against those who think that “contamination” of culture is a problem. He explains how many Westerners think that people in less developed countries are loosing their authenticity by adapting to modernity. The article satirically explains that, “they act like the assistant on the film set who’s supposed to check that the extras in a sword-and-sandal movie aren’t wearing wristwatches.” These people think that globalization challenges cultural diversity. While the article sympathizes with the cultural change that occurs, it argues that we cannot force the people of those cultures to not adapt in the name of authenticity. Progress is inevitable anywhere. He explains that you can preserve cultural artifacts and even traditions, but you cannot force people to preserve their culture. Culture, by nature, changes as the people and time changes. “Societies without change aren’t authentic; they’re just dead.” Innovations always happen. Every society has taken parts of other societies and made it their own. All traditions were once innovations, and current societal worldviews were once taboo. These are the reasons for the case for contamination. Contamination has always existed and no one has the right to try and make people remain “authentic” because every tradition has been invented.

I have always been curious about what the Americas, Africa, or Asia would be like without Europe’s influence. I have always wanted to know what “authentic” culture would look like. This article was extremely convicting because it explains that no culture is authentic. No culture is completely their own. All culture, at some point, began and has progressed since then. It is quite interesting to think about. Even Europe has advanced by way of taking things from other cultures. We all learn from each other, thus it is irrational to try to force societies to not adapt.

Ghanaian Perspectives towards Foreign Non-Whites

As a white foreigner in Ghana, I have been able to learn a lot about how Ghanaians perceive me. Many assume I am very wealthy. They call me an obroni, make America out to be a wondrous and prosperous land of great opportunity, and assume I am part of a mission trip. It is the perspectives toward non-white foreigners that I have not been able to get so much of a read on. The complex views of Ghanaians towards African Americans discussed in “Ghana’s Uneasy Embrace of Slavery’s Diaspora”, as well as the stereotypes developed toward the Chinese in Ghana in “China in Africa: What’s the Real Story”, have intrigued me and have led to my realization that it is not only white foreigners that are facing the negatives of preconceived notions.

African Americans

When passing through the streets of the central market, some of the African American members of our group were also called “obroni” or “black Americans.” This is a very complex topic, as it brings into question why Africans consider African Americans to be different from them, when they could be embraced for their ancestral ties and common suffering. Lydia Polgreen notes that “the struggle for civil rights in the diaspora and the struggles for independence from colonial rule in Africa were inextricably linked, both being expressions of the desire of black people everywhere to regain their freedom.” This is difficult for many African Americans attempting to trace their roots in the homeland of their ancestors which were brought to America as slaves. Polgreen cites an example of an African American taking the “emotionally charged step through the door of no return, only to be greeted by a pair of toddlers playing in a fishing boat on the other side, pointing and shouting, “obruni, obruni!” This must have been so difficult to try to embrace your past and not be accepted. This must be especially painful due to the struggles African Americans still face in America, as they are not accepted in their homeland either. Complexity is added in that many Ghanaians want to go to America due to their perceptions of the country, and they do not understand why anyone would leave. I am glad to know that Ghana is encouraging African Americans to come back to stay or visit Ghana and that they are to be accepted in this quest. I cannot imagine how hard it must be to go somewhere in order to acknowledge the atrocities suffered by Africans and to have this experience dampened by perceptions that they are not “like” the Ghanaians.

Chinese Influence in Africa

This example of stereotyping African Americans as being so different from their ancestral relatives is very similar to that of stereotyping the multitude of Chinese people moving to Africa, resulting in Chinese being seen throughout the country. Despite the mass benefits the Chinese have provided Africa in the form of “more than 20$ billion of aid Beijing has provided over the years: roads, railways, hospitals, stadiums, plus medical staff, engineers, and other professional personnel,” and their importance in economic growth, they are all seen as those hurting the economy through illegal activity. Xie Tao points out his taxi driver saying, “Many Chinese do illegal poaching, you know, ivory, rhino. When they [government officials] see you at a place out of the sight of tourist attractions, they suspect you are poaching or looking for poached animals.” Tao does not deny the fact that this may be the case some of the time, but points out that it is these negative perspectives that take the foreground in media and discussion, as the beneficiaries of China “are ignored or dismissed.” In this case, just as in the African American case, the full picture of the intentions and history of foreigners to Ghana are oftentimes falsely construed.

To the casual observer, African Americans and Chinese people would seemingly be treated much differently when in Ghana. Based on my experiences and readings, I have discovered that this is not the case; in fact, they are treated quite similarly. Although their intentions are often good and they are building on the cultural and economic aspects of the country, stereotypical views cause misconstrued perceptions. Through built awareness and efforts by Ghanaians to promote unity of all people and acknowledgment of history, this trend can begin to see mass improvements.

Still underrepresented

The article “The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African” Chapter II is written by Olaudah Equiano shares some common ideas with the article “Ghana: Soft Control of the Press” by Jo Ellen. Although Olaudah Equiano depicts a story about previous African slave history and Jo Ellen Fair expresses his comments about African modern society, they both share the same idea that Africans are still controlled by external forces both in the past and in more contemporary times.

From the historical aspect, Olaudah Equiano uses really animated language to describe how Africans receive harsh treatment from white people. By using descriptive words to describe how Africans were treated inhumanly, and how Africans yearn for and jealous of white people’s lives. Equiano arouses compassion from readers by depicting those striking images. For example, on the page 79, “the whole ship’s cargo were confined together, it became absolutely pestilential. The closeness of the place, and the heat of the climate, added to the number in the ship, which was so crowded that each scarcely had room to turn himself, almost suffocated us.” This vividly demonstrates the unfair treatment of African slaves.

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Through discussing the ongoing issues, in “Ghana: Soft Control of the Press,” Fair expresses the idea that, although government has already abolished the hard control in order to elevate journalists’ societal status in Africa, most of the times it still dominates journalists with subtle power. Even now, though journalists are getting better conditions and fewer restrictions, their rights of talking are still threating by potential limitations from the governments. According to the article, sometimes governments even pay for some journalists to write journals, which means that journalists are circumvented in talking about things that would not beneficial to the government.

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These two articles give me insights into thinking of both the control exerted on Africans both in the past and present. Elmina Castle in Cape Coast realistically represents the predicament of Africans encountering during Colonialism. Visiting Elmina Castle gave me a bloody image of how Africans suffering and struggling with their desperate living conditions. The most unforgettable experience I’ve had in the castle was experiencing the feeling of imprisoned in the dark and moist cellar, which is used for caging those African slaves in the past. It was even hard for 13 of us to breathe normally when we were there for only about 30 seconds, so I even cannot imagine about how more than 50 people squeezed in such a small space and lived hopelessly. Furthermore, I cannot help myself feel sorry for those slaves that they were even not allowed to use bathrooms: urine and excrement were everywhere. It is not hard to imagine how easy it was for diseases to develop, especially when their foods were thrown in to the prison at the same time. Speaking from the contemporarily part, the last media house we visited was Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, which is an obvious example, which represents that GBS is state-controlled. This directly shows that the government has a forthright force to control even determine the scope even the material of what the journalists work there can report.

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“The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African” chapter II and “Ghana: Soft Control of the Press”

Disconnects Between Government and People

“Ghana’s uneasy embrace of Slavery’s Diaspora” and “Ghana: Soft Control of the Press” both speak about some of the disconnects between law and reality. There are bound to be differences between the government and people because what is written might not always be what is thought, and what is politically beneficial might not be what the people agree with. The first article explains the discrepancies between Ghanaian government and its population in respect to the feelings towards the diaspora. The second article articulates the control the government still holds over the press even though the law gives them no official power.

“Ghana’s uneasy embrace of Slavery’s Diaspora” talks about the perceptions that Ghanaians have towards African Americans and people of the diaspora. Ghana has been trying to be the “door of return” for those people who were sold into slavery. Ghana is planning on offering lifetime visas for diaspora members so as to welcome them to Ghana. However, this is the Ghanaian state and its political goals. It does not necessarily match up with the views of the people. The article continues to explain that many Ghanaians still view diaspora members as foreigners and refer to the as “obruni” or “white foreigner.” Ghanaians find it hard to see them as family members because they come from a different culture, which is so important to them. In addition, Ghanaians don’t understand why African Americans would want to return to Ghana. While they think that slavery was painful, some may believe that it was worth it and better than having remained in Ghana because they get to live in America.

“Ghana: Soft Control of the Press” discusses the current ways in which the press is controlled in Ghana. Since independence, Ghana has liberalized its media. Before, there had been many laws and little freedom for the press. People have romanticized the idea of their freedom of speech because there is still control over the press; it is just soft control. Soft control is when the system favors certain types of journaling and hands out unofficial rewards for it, while the system punishes the journaling that criticizes the system by making it difficult to do so. Journalists’ success is based off of who they know and keeping those people happy. If you anger the wrong people, you can be fired in an instant. Whereas, if you write the things the state favors, you can be promoted just as fast. This is soft control because it is unofficial, yet everyone knows it exists. It is not law, but people live by it. The article explains that, “Ghana’s press is like an old man. We gum the government but never bite it.” They allude to the big questions and avoid the smaller, specific ones, ones that can get them into trouble if they dig too deep.

images.jpegThis can be seen anywhere. In any democracy there will be censorship and some sort of restrictions on what you can say. Even if you are a private institution, to be successful you must please the masses and not get backlash from people in power. Soft control of the press is not exclusive to Ghana; it is the US as well, and I am not surprised by it.
images.jpegI found the first article extremely intriguing. The part where it said that some Ghanaians might feel that they got the short end of the stick when compared to African Americans even though they did not have to endure slavery really shocked me. It made me think about the ways in which the slave trade affected Ghana specifically. Colonization and slave exportation caused Ghana to not develop at the same rate as other nations. Ghana has only been a country for 60 years, and during that time there have been numerous coups and government unrest. Ghana has not had a chance to fully develop or industrialize because of colonization. Yes, slavery was horrific in the states, but to Ghanaians, America is now the land of opportunity for everyone no matter what skin color. They fail to realize that lack of reparations African Americans received and the block busting and redlining that still shapes the ways in which neighborhoods and school districts are set up. They don’t recognize the racism and unfairness that blacks have to continually face even though segregation has “technically” been abolished. It is similar to the soft control of the press in Ghana. The law has made all men equal and banned slavery and segregation, but there is sometimes a disconnect with the people. Just because a law changes does not mean that people automatically shift their views and actions to match it. People in both America and Ghana suffer in some way due to the slave trade, but both think the grass is greener on the other side.

The second article did not surprise me. I feel like no matter how much freedom of speech a country claims to allow, there will always be people in power that others have to please. Someone is always in charge, and that someone never likes to be angered. He or she might allow people to anger him or her, but that does not mean that people will do it. Even in America there is soft control. The media is only as successful as the people make it. They appeal to the masses and tell them what they want to hear even if it’s fake news. Media needs backup from the government and the people to stay successful. Success is always based off of pleasing others. Often times reporting certain things is made less appealing so people don’t do it. Soft control is everywhere when there is a lack of hard control. It does not surprise me that it exists in Ghana too, especially since the country is so young.

Importance of Traditions

Across the globe, countries continue to pass down traditions from generation to generation. We tend to overlook how significant it is that countries choose to stick to their roots. After arriving in Ghana, I have seen a country that puts tradition as a top priority. What makes the country unique is that it is a very new country that is composed of over fifty ethnic groups, each made up of different languages and customs. These people have been carrying on traditions for centuries, and they have been able to sustain their communities and live enjoyable and successful lives.

After traveling to a few regions in Ghana, I have seen numerous palaces and villages within certain tribes, and I have absorbed an endless amount of information. Although there is a president and central bureaucracy, tribes such as the Asantes have more respect for their chief. Unlike groups like the Asantes, other ethnic groups, especially in urban centers are leaning towards a more contemporary way of life.

In Irene Odotei’s “History of Ghana,” she says that during the Colonial Era, “traditional rulers of the people were allowed to rule their people under the direction and control of the British officials.” This quote shows that although European countries such as Great Britain disturbed the lives of many Ghanaians, those that were able to stay in Africa were able to keep much of their culture intact. This has also played a role in a less modernized civilization of people, particularly in rural areas.

Keeping Tradition with Adinkra and Kente Craft

Nevertheless, sticking to the same values can often work better than deciding to change things up, maybe because officials such as chiefs are afraid of losing their sacred traditions. One component of traditional Ghanaian culture that has a positive impact on the country as a whole takes place in the Ashanti region, where they make cloth out of Kente and Adinkra. In the United States, there is a surplus of clothing, and there are a variety of monopolies that mass produce clothes. In Ghana, the people seem to care more about the craft and the quality of the clothes, and continue to make these creations using Kente and Adinkra weaving machines, as compared to the commercialized mass production of clothing. Every worker that I saw displayed a unique sense of artisanship and creativity.

Kente weaving at Bonwire
Kente weaving continues to be a traditional form of clothing in the Ashanti [Asante] region.
In addition, I have observed that religion is a major part of every group’s composition. Relating to my experience so far, I have seen a scene of energy and passion that I had never once experienced in the States. To them, religion is I really enjoyed my time at the Sunday service, and as much as I wanted to learn about their culture, the people within the church were eager to learn about our culture.

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We visited The Church of Pentecost in East Legon, where we were welcomed with hospitality by the local community.

Today, there is less of a boundary between each tribe’s values, which leaves things more open-ended for people to appreciate others’ belief system. Many languages will be spoken in the same region, once occupied by only one language. Referring to the first chapter of “Ghana: Culture Smart: The Essential Guide to Customs and Culture,” “you can hear Gonja and Hausa being spoken in the south, and Twi and Ewe in the north.” One other piece of information to note is that “mixed marriages are common.” So, you will see Christians and Muslims in the same church getting married, and there will be a priest and a Rabi who will each wed the couple.

I believe that we as outsiders need to be respectful to the traditions that the people within Ghana continue to carry out. This will broaden our perspective on the world, and help us remember the past and improve the future.

Sources:

Assigned chapters in Utley Ian (2016) “Ghana – Culture Smart!: The Essential Guide to Customs & Culture”

Odotei, Irene (n.d.). History of Ghana.

Stereotypical thoughts of Africans VS realities

Howard French’s “The worst of journalism’: 200 writers and academics slam CBS coverage of Africa” and Binyavanga Waniaina’s “How to Write about Africa” mainly talks about that American broadcasters and writers did not reflect the voices of Africans. Instead, they focus on how white people “save” Africans and wildlife in Africa. Based on my interpretation both authors did not deny the reality of Africa. However, the framing of Africa is incomplete images as do not depict other aspects that fully represented the diversity of life, people and culture in Africa.

According to French, “the voices and thoughts of Africans themselves are chronically and woefully underrepresented.” We can see that this article strongly suggests that people should reconsider African culture. In addition, French urges people to consider the thoughts of Africans themselves, instead of staying with their stereotypical and antediluvian images.

Wainaina’s “How to Write about Africa” encourages readers to rethink images and representations of Africans. Instead of directly suggesting that people should reevaluate Africans, Wainaina uses satire to emphasize what not to do when writing about Africa by listing a myriad of tongue-in-cheek examples of “make sure you show” in response to people’s misrepresentation of Africa. Although Wainana does not mention anything about prejudice and discrimination against Africa in this article, his metaphors and hearty antithesis about all the misjudgments towards Africa and Africans makes his criticisms clear.

Both articles made me aware of my own misconceptions about Africa. So did my friends as many discouraged me from coming. On this trip I have experienced Ghana and Ghanaian culture for myself. I was used to being told by many people that Africans were not very friendly to other races and people, and that Africans were secular. In addition, almost all of my friends believe that Africa always are criminals because they are not educated enough. However, those descriptions do not match with my observations in Ghana at all. The first Ghanian we got to know is Winnie, and her words deeply impressed me during her introduction of Ghana: “Ghanaians are very friendly to everyone. We accept everybody no matter what race you are and which country you come from, because we are black.” In addition, all the Africans I met so far are fine with my existence. Moreover, some of them are also curious of what culture do I have, what experiences have I encountered, and how do I see African culture.

 

Sources:

“How to Write about Africa” and “The worst of journalism’: 200 writers and academics slam CBS coverage of Africa”