Saturday, December 28, 2013
When I stepped off of the plane in Accra, Ghana I thought I knew what to expect. I had a picture in my mind of what Africa would look like, how the people would act, and what we would do. I quickly came to find that I was completely wrong.
I thought I was a little more prepared than most people who have never been to the continent of Africa. I didn’t come dreaming of riding lions, hiking through jungles, or making friends with people who live in huts. I thought I knew exactly what Africa had to offer.
Our first day in Ghana we traveled to AUCC, a Ghanaian communications college, and sat in on an Africana Studies class. The topic of the day: Pan-Africanism.
As I understood, Pan-Africanism is the creation of an overarching national identity between all African countries despite their differences. The class structure was much different than ours, and students were very expressive and passionate about their opinions. We made friends and talked with AUCC students about their culture and specifically the pride that they have in being Ghanaian.
Despite the fact that some want a communal identity (kind of like a United States of Africa) there are many individual qualities about this country to be accounted for. I have learned so much since I have been here but one thing stands out the most—Africa is not one homogenous place.
When most people think of the United States they take the time to understand the differences between the north and the south, or places like New York and places like North Dakota. No one that has ever been to the U.S. would imply that all of its states are the same. People relish in the cultural and historical differences between Spain, Italy, or Poland.
Yet when people look at Africa some see one big place, one culture, and one people instead of the extremely different countries that make up the continent. I never realized how unfair this was, and how it strips people of the pride they have in their nationality.
Ghana, I have learned, is very different than Nigeria, Togo, and the other West African countries that surround it. No one here is the same. They have Christians and Muslim religions, eat different food, speak over 40 dialects, and have very different approaches to family and education.
Some members of the Ghanaian community that I have spoken with realize that Americans make these types of generalizations. I was asked the same question at least 50 times in the first week—
“What does American media say about Africa?”
After explaining that this new land was one very different from my expectations, those that I spoke with explained to me how people are given a false view of Africa.
We have now been in Ghana for two weeks, and it has been an eye-opening experience. I now see more positive things about Africa, Ghana, and the people that live here than I ever have watching traditional media (which focuses so heavily on negative events and communities here).
I look forward to the rest of the trip!