African? Some random thoughts


On Wednesday as I watched “Good Morning Ghana” I couldn’t help thinking that it was one of the best I have seen in the series. For one thing, the speakers did not take their usual partisan stances in the discussion, and they raised issues that ought to have been openly debated long ago. The discussion was about ‘half-caste’ (we use this term in Ghana instead of ‘mixed race’ and many do not know that it is actually a derogatory term, seen as politically incorrect elsewhere). Anyway, it seems there is a high demand in this country for mixed race babies. People now resort to a sperm bank (newly established) and get such babies through artificial insemination. The clinic is located in Madina, a suburb of Accra.

The discussion moved on  to the inferiority complex of Africans and our love for light skin, straight hair and ‘white’ features. ‘Bravo’ I thought. Finally we get to talk about this phenomenon that is literally killing us. So many young women wear weaves. They are either synthetic, or Brazilian, Indian, Cambodian or Chinese hair. Young women do not realize that such hairstyles often make them look older. Nothing like sporting your own hair! We need to openly analyse and discuss what we do to ourselves in the name of beauty. Who controls the images that get to us and why do we follow fads and fashion so blindly? The colonial process did not help us in all this, and we have also become slaves to the global beauty industry and media messages. We are not proud of who we are. Men and women bleach their skins, wanting to look lighter, in order get closer to the global ideals of beauty. And so Lupita N’yongo, that new darling of Hollywood, was photoshopped to look lighter than she actually is for a feature in “Vanity Fair” magazine.

The newly launched ‘Ebony Life’ channel on DSTV is great. I love it. A couple of days ago they had an interesting feature on sexual harassment in Africa. Its mission is to portray Africa for Africans. But why are the presenters all speaking with locally acquired foreign accents (LAFAC) and looking so, well, processed? Is that what being African is about?  I guess this is all about the middle and upper classes in Africa and their values. We need to think these things out.

And now on a different note. Can one sue the state for causing unnecessary stress to its citizens? It is 31st January 2014. Staff of a certain public university have not been paid. Salaries for November 2013 came in the middle of December 2013. I have worked at this university for 28 years. Such a situation is new. Why must we be stressed in this way? Public funding for state universities is drying up. We need to sit up and question such issues, too. Where are we going to? To quote the writer Ama Atta Aidoo, “Did we go, or did we come?”




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