American rapper Cardi B was in Ghana for about 24 hours and in that short time, she brought to life all the warnings I have been writing and talking about since I returned to Ghana from the UK in 1995.
Back in 1995 when I returned to Ghana, there was no social media or MTV. And coming from the UK where people are judged on the type of trainers and labels they wear, I found Ghana refreshing.
Ghanaians were not pre-occupied with the type of clothes you wore or the trendy clubs in which you hang out. Ghanaian women were not obsessed with wearing fake hair, fake eyelashes, fake nails or living the fake bling bling lifestyle. As a trendy young woman in London, I was into the right scene and hang out at top clubs such as the Wag, Subterania, China Whites and Ten Rooms. When the fashion was torn Levis 501, with cowboy boots, I had it. When the trend was colourful jeans, I had jeans in red, blue, green, purple, orange, yellow, you name it, I had it. When the look of the day was the ra-ra skirt, I had several ra-ra skirts. No matter the trend of the day, I would buy into it and look the part. Then somewhere in the early 90s’ MTV took over our airwaves and all of a sudden, fake hair was the ish. Slowly but surely, trends such as the jerry curl, relaxed hair and the natural look all gave way to straight Caucasian type wigs and weave.
At age 18, I had a Janet Jackson style weave. When I removed the weave, the amount of dirt that had built up, plus the fact that I could not touch my scalp made me vow never to wear a weave again. And from that time, I never have. Yep, at age 18, I had my first and last ever weave. But during my early 20s, I sometimes wore straight wigs or braids.
By age 23 and by the time I arrived in Ghana at age 25, my relationship with fake hair was over. I had come into my own as an African woman and did not buy into the myth that I needed the Caucasian type of hair to make me beautiful or successful. Also by time I returned to Ghana, I was fed up with the shallow world of MTV and following the latest trend. Thus, seeing a country where people were not obsessed by such shallow and materialist values, I fell in love with Ghana and decided to stay. It may interest you to know that I had originally planned to stay for only two weeks for my grandmother’s funeral but I ended up staying for 9 straight years.
What I saw in Ghana was the opportunity to start afresh, in a land where people were not judged by following the latest trends. Ghanaians had not heard of being a fashionista. And this I found extremely welcoming and warming to my soul. Ghana just 25 years ago was a place where being a good and moral person mattered more than being popular. In real life, in my writings and on TV and radio, I was the first to start promoting wear Ghana, visit Ghana, eat Ghana, love and maintain Ghanaian culture. I would talk and talk and talk about how rotten the Western world is and the importance of us maintaining Ghanaian culture.
At times, I would do certain things and be told: “This is Ghana, you can’t do that here”. And I had two choices, respect the culture I was now living in or say hey, I am going to do what I do and stuff Ghana and her culture. In most instances, I chose to respect the culture in which I now found myself. Not only that, I went around promoting love and maintenance of the culture.
Fast forward to 25 years later and Cardi B’s visit to Ghana takes me back to my earlier love your culture messages. What is culture? Culture encompasses a common belief of a people, their way of doing things, their clothes, way they speak, the accepted social behaviour and taboos to name a few. Today, I find it hard to define the Ghanaian culture. Apart from traditions such as Dipo rite of passage, naming ceremonies, durbar of chiefs and the Ghanaian wedding (which has now been downgraded to a mere engagement because apparently if you do not do the Western White wedding, in a church, you’re not considered married), I don’t know how to define what is Ghanaian culture anymore. Because over the last 25 years, Ghana has changed so much.
And sadly, it has gone the way I have been telling Ghanaians not to go. Thanks to social media, MTV and the easier ability to travel, Ghanaians now have direct access to all the things I ran away from in the Western world and kept preaching to Ghanaians against. 25 years ago, no self-respecting Ghanaian female would think it acceptable to leave her house in nothing short of her pants and bra to attend a show. Today, that is not only acceptable, but the woman who does that is hailed as a Queen.
Cardi B came to town and with her came the American culture of swearing and dressing like a prostitute. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to be a hypocrite and say I don’t swear or wear short, sexy clothes. I do. When I am extremely furious, I swear a lot. But unlike Cardi B, I don’t use swear words as part of my everyday language. Neither do Ghanaians. Yet Ghanaians waited for over 7 hours and sat in a room, to listen to Card B talking to them as if they were in a ghetto in America. There is nothing beautiful or respectful about being called “bitches”. Having a conversation with someone who’s every other word is “shit” and “fuck” does not make you a cool dude. Nor does it make you an empowered woman. Walking around half-naked and parading your nudity or over-sized bum on social media does not make you any more freer than the woman who covers up her body and only shows a bit of cleavage and legs.
Just 25 years ago, the likes of Cardi B would not be welcome in Ghana (I believe Shabba Ranks was banned some time in the mid ‘90s because of the way his female dancers dressed and danced on stage). Today, they are not only welcome but receive the full VIP treatment. And Ghana’s “top” celebrities, all looking like wannabe Cardi B, Nicky Minaj, Beyonce and Kim K had nothing to do but wait for over 7 hours just to be in the same room as Cardi B. In fact, watching the video of my daughters and sisters in the media, en route to the meet & greet, it felt like I was watching a round-up of call girls being paraded! I’m sorry if this sounds harsh, but the dressing of women of modern Ghana can easily be confused with prostitutes who parade the streets for business.
Do you think Cardi B can go to India or Saudi and behave as she does in America? You see, those people respect their culture. But in Ghana, we no longer know who we are and have lost so many aspects of our culture that kept society in order. In the Ghana of today, lack of leadership and love of the materialistic life has led to the growth of a sub-culture that had led to the loss of real, authentic Ghanaian culture. People will cry “freedom”, “rights”, “feminism” but all I see is a loss of self. I look at Ghana today and indeed, it is an eyesore and deeply disturbing that the very things I ran away from in the Western world 25 years ago have caught up with me. Some will call it progress and development… I beg to differ.
As Ghanaians, we have lost a huge part of our culture. And with each new day that we encourage people to relocate to Ghana, without enforcing our beliefs, we’ll continue to lose the very essence of what being an authentic Ghanaian is. Because right now, anybody can come and do anything, exactly as they please because “This is Ghana” has gone from hey, you can’t behave in a certain way to hey, do as you please, Ghana is free. 25 years ago, I saw where the Western world was heading, I warned Ghanaians against blindly copying. Nobody understood me then. Look at Ghana today. Have I not been proved right? Personally, I believe it is over for Ghana.
But hey, these are just the reflections of an ordinary African woman.
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