Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Ghana-man. Where is your pride??

Warning: Objects in this article may appear farther than they really are!

I overhead my friend’s mother telling her husby, his proposal to her wasn’t romantic because he, unlike the westernized folks, didn’t get on one knee to ask her to marry him! What she probably has forgotten or failed to appreciate because of unnecessary imitation (or better yet, copy-catting) of the white man’s culture, is the nice traditional marriage I gave her: What is more romantic and more elegant than the Ghanaian marriage ceremony. Firstly, the man’s family goes to the woman’s family to seek her hand in marriage. “Our son would like to pluck a beautiful flower nurtured in this house”, the spokesperson of man’s family craftily says.

After the woman’s family concedes to the marriage, the man’s family organizes an elegant ceremony where they display and offer an array of beautiful cultural items like pure gold, colorful kente cloths and a heavy dowry to the female’s family as a token of their great appreciation. The display of both culture and items, the choice of words of the ceremonial spokesmen, and the evolution of the Ghanaian way of marriage, in my eyes, carry lots of not only romanticism but also meaning and symbolism.

Aside: There are mixed feelings about whether or not the displays of these elegant but expensive cultural items are worthwhile. In my opinion, our ancestors, being great thinkers, envisioned marriage as a serious event and thus required men to show their seriousness about their decision to marry by incurring such huge but well-intended costs. This could be an explanation to the extremely low divorce rates in the past: Any man, knowing the humongous fore-costs of marriage, would not even think about marrying if all he wanted to do is to “hit and then run (i.e. only having sex)”.

It was also appropriate that culture required the man to incur the costs of marriage since men, in the past, had more authority on divorce decisions. In our modern world where divorce could be initiated by either party, however, I think culture should require both parties to incur marriage costs so that neither party would find an incentive to marry unless he/she is serious about it. This would help curb the rampant divorce rates in our modern times.

Unfortunately, my friend’s mother is not the only person suffering from “Westernized Mentality Syndrome (WMS)”. My friend almost labeled me “NOT GENTLE” to say the least (the actual adjective my friend used was even harsher—UNCOUTHED) for having not developed the habit of opening car doors for ladies. However, this is the same guy who laughed at me when I took off my hat when greeting my grandfather’s friend. When did it become cool to adore someone’s culture but ignore our own (which should rather be more superior at least in our eyes). If pressed to rate these two events (i.e. respect for the elderly and opening doors for women), I would say respect for the elderly is more important by any standards than the western courtesy of opening doors for females.

Personally (and the reader can feel free to disagree), opening doors is just an unnecessary burden anyone should incur as this is huge waste of time especially if it’s done on a daily basis. We could save substantial amount of precious time if each party opens his/her own door!

To be clear, so I am not misinterpreted, it’s inevitable for a man to help a woman when, say, she is carrying a huge load of goods as women are physically not as strong as men; however, constantly doing things that a toddler easily does for him (her)-self with no assistance, in the name of so-called courtesy, is a complete waste of time. Despite the lack of meaning and value of most western culture, it remains a puzzle why Ghanaians strive to be like the west, and in the process and rather unfortunately, lose their own identity: I can’t count the number of times I have come across Ghanaians who look like Ghanaians but strives desperately to act like Americans or British.

They always try to put up a fake accent and more. {Aside: A friend of mine observed that hiding one’s identity is negatively correlated with one’s education. In other words, less educated Ghanaians are more likely to act westernized!)

WMS is spreading more rapidly than the HIV syndrome. Very unfortunately, WMS is giving rise to the proliferation of symptoms worse than the above mentioned: It’s definitely not by coincidence why the typical so-called civilized (westernized) Ghanaian woman doesn’t know how to cook even the simplest Ghanaian dishes.

I was unfortunate to be a part of a group of Ghanaian boys who happened to taste the jollof rice of a Ghanaian lady who volunteered to cook for us; I never knew Jollof could be as bitter as paracetamol (and this is no exaggeration). Trust me, my brotha; Dave is the best Jollof Chef in town. If you looking to eat some delicious-aromacious jollof, hola at me.

Because most Ghanaian wives in our recent world don’t know how to cook, most families are at the mercy of their maidservants (imported from the village) or the outside restaurants. Quite paradoxically, instead of feeling ashamed of their cooking skills, the so-called civilized Ghanaian ridicules the ethically trained Ghanaian woman, whose cooking skills are inferred just from the aroma of her dishes, for being “kolo” colloquial, that is belonging to the 17th century.

Cooking is just a tiny bit of the imminent threat of the loss of our Ghanaian pride and identity. Most Ghanaian men can gracefully put on flying ties within a twinkle of the eye but it remains a mystery how they tend to look like caricatures when they try hard to put on traditional clothes; we rattle English but stammer at our own language; worse of all, we laugh at the guy who speaks his language with uttermost dexterity and prowess.

Instead of the fellow being an idol, he becomes a comedic entity showered with all sorts of belittling names like “Green”, “Kumasiano”, “local”, etc. Agyaa Koo is a typical example and I do find his acting skills very interesting. Our voting pattern reveals tremendous favor shown toward the folk who is able to speak both English and Twi like the white man. When did it become a big deal to not “know English” but no deal to be ignorant of one’s own language? If we don’t do something now, our children and grandchildren would be more cultureless and would have no identity.

Our culture and traditions are what make us Ghanaians and not Americans. Just as Toyota strives to distinguish itself from the other car manufacturing companies, we ought to not feel shy promoting our own. Democrats are known by their beliefs and practices and they accentuate these features so they are not mistaken for Republicans.

I understand comprehensively that, we should weed out the unhealthy Ghanaian practices like Trokoshi (the vestal virgin), female genital mutilation, and the others, that are rather detrimental to societal growth; however, there are other distinguishing aspects of our culture that need to be proudly promoted and accentuated anytime everywhere.

These include but not limited to Respect for the old age, Admiration of the Ghanaian values and culture, the Ghanaian Dance, our language, our way of organizing ceremonies like marriage, naming, and funeral, to mention a handful. These are what make us unique and there are no better substitutes for them.

Let’s remember that, the bad doctor who took care of the sick until the good doctor came to take over need not be betrayed! Saying the same in our ancestors words, “Okomfo bone a, woatena oyarefoo ho ama okomfo pa abe to no no, yennyi ne mma”


Kajsa Hallberg Adu said...

I havent seen this post until now, and I agree, it is not cool to be ignorant about one's own culture. But I think you also mention the remedy in there...education.

And and example of that this is not unique for Ghana: In Sweden, wedding ceremonies are getting more and more influenced by...thats right: Amrican movies. In our wedding tradition the couple walk in together, to show their free will, now some women want the fathers to "give them away". Only by education ourselves about our ways we can stop the destructive development.

Barefoot in Blue said...

You do not take a woman on a date to a restaurant because she has no food in her house. You do not present a dowry for a bride because the bride's family has nothing of their own. Courtesy IS doing things for the pure sake of providing enjoyment for the opposing party, showing appreciation. You do not open the door for a woman because she cannot do it herself, you do it because women enjoy it. A man does not wear cologne because he stinks, he wears it because a woman will like it. It may seem trivial but that is the way it is...hate the game, not the players =)

Loving the blog!

Anonymous said...

great article (i bristled a bit at the cooking bit as I don't like to cook, but at least i know how so.....)

but i just wanted to say that 'kolo' (or colo is short for colonial, not colloquial