Reading people’s comments on twitter about whether Johanna Konta should be considered British set me thinking about how I as the daughter of immigrants feel as someone who is torn between two countries. Questioning what it means to be British. Am I British Ghanaian or am I just British? Well I would say that I am a British Ghanaian, a title encompassing the cultures and traditions I have been surrounded by since birth. I can’t say I identify with one more than the other as my upbringing is the result of the mixture of two cultures but often I’m left thinking about whether this is the right conclusion for me to reach.
As a young girl I wasn’t particularly aware of the fact that I had a unique identity as those I was surrounded by came from all kinds of ethnic backgrounds and cultures. I guess it wasn’t something I had to think about or confront, but living in a multicultural society that pretends to have no problems can be challenging, especially if you as an individual call more than one place ‘home’. When I went to Morocco to volunteer in 2014 I was confronted with the fact that my ‘blackness‘ gave out a particular perception. I felt this from the teacher I was with and the children I was surrounded by. This lingering feeling that as a black person who do I think I am to be in a position to help them? After all I’m black and African surely I’m the one who needs help. I guess for a while this made me rethink the concept of charity, not from a moral stance but from a historical and cultural one. I feel that ‘Charity’ is a notion deeply embedded in the British identity and is something to be proud of. Yet when I consider the legacy of colonisation I can’t help but wonder if charity has been romanticized as something expected only from those with a European background. Though charity is also an integral part of Ghanaian culture. It’s also important to note that Charity transcends all cultures and seems to be a universal human ideal.
‘While the rest of the world has been improving technology, Ghana has been improving the quality of man’s humanity to man.’ Maya Angelou
Ghanaians often use the term ‘Obroni‘ to describe people who are from or grew up in Western countries. Though it’s often used in jest it serves as a painful reminder that in some ways i am not considered a fully fledged Ghanaian, through no fault of my own. Marrying this with the complexities of growing up Black and African in a Western society affects how you see and perceive the world. How do you reconcile your family being from both the first world and the third world? This idea that you don’t fully belong to either society. Often I have escaped this by thinking about the attainments my family members have achieved and the lifestyles they have in both the first and third world. I have often wondered why immigrants in the West are often put in the same bracket as the lower classes. To me this serves as a reminder that in the west people aren’t just people, everyone is designated a certain box or title.
Though increasingly this can also be seen in African countries. I recall a time when I was in Ghana flying from the capital to a smaller city. I was behind a European family who were greeted with an overly attentive flight attendant who allowed them to sit wherever they wanted to, when it came to me I was immediately directed towards the back of the aircraft. I didn’t necessarily mind but it bothered me that I was in Ghana and a Ghanaian flight attendant had treated the European family better than me.
In many ways my family defy the norm as a result, I have been raised to have and understand social etiquette but also to seek knowledge, which I believe has helped me navigate my cultural identity.
‘I grew up as a British kid – I went to school in London, roamed the streets of London – but having these interactions with my roots and going back to Ghana, I’m like, ‘Yeah this is sick.’ I love my country and my people, and the energy and vibes that they bring back. So I want to rep that and be a part of it.’ Stormzy
My most recent trip to Ghana.
All things considered I believe that as a British Ghanaian I am in a privileged position, equipped with the best of both worlds meaning in my own unique way I am able to affect change in both countries I call home.