So I am an Aussie with a heart for Africa, specifically Ghana and particularly Bolgatanga. My heart lies there just as my daughters umbilical cord is buried there, although I cannot tell you where in case you dig it up and perform juju.
I am an Australian-African and my daughter is an African-Australian. What does this mean? Perhaps it means my hair is naturally straight or wavy, depending on the weather, and hers sticks up in a mousy-brown, wiry, birdsnest that sucks in moisture yet still remains rough to the touch no matter what we do. Four and a half years in the making, 3 times trimmed at the ends, never cut – still it keeps going up.
In our town there is lot of Africans and it used to be that we met often. We had parties at our house. My sweet, sistah, Eve – the first woman on the earth – and her husband, Mxolisi, originally from Zimbabwe, would bring everyone together with their connectedness, friendliness, open-hearts, gentle, intelligent manners. I always knew people came because of them, not because of my family. Amongst African families I am somewhat of a novelty, a curious object that they don’t understand but they tolerate for a little light humour. I speak like them, I dance like them, I joke like them, yet I do not look like them and every bone in their body tells them it should be otherwise. My skin should be black.
There were several families in town that we used to meet. Now Eve and Mxolisi have moved on. Eve and I talk every week. She teases me about my tea drinking and my British heritage and I give it back good by telling her that her poor African upbringing means she only wishes she could drink tea like me, and don’t forget your little pinkie in the air, I admonish as we continue our laughter. She said knowing me opened her eyes. That sisterhood and connectedness was increased for opening herself up to me and our friendship. She had never met a woman who embraced two cultures so wholeheartedly before. I in turn have never met such an open, intellectual who is willing to continue learning and growing to understand her sense of place.
Sometimes I wonder if I do truly embrace two cultures wholeheartedly as I lecture my colleagues on the true democracy of Ghana, as opposed to the ladened politics and lack of choice for Australians to vote for a decent leader and a leader they want. We are forced to choose because a party decides it that way. In Ghana I can choose my leader and my party. I wonder all this as I point out the shining star of Ghana amongst other African nations. I wonder as I say I prefer a society that is open about its corruption and does not deny it’s existence like Australia does.
I joke to the gatherings sometimes that when I see a new African face in town it is very difficult to go up and greet them excitedly asking them where they are from, what they are doing here and connecting with them on our Africanness. They would look at me with confusion and concern, I say.
So Eve, my dear sistah is now no longer near me physically so I cannot drop by her house every few days to discuss this and that. What I find most curious in this is my other other sistahs in town no longer visit. Our children no longer meet up to play together. We no longer chat in Supermarkets. We no longer call. They are back in the group that makes most sense to them and my husband and I do not fit that group. I do not speak Xhosa, Ndebele or Zulu. I no longer have to be an enigma to them. Because Eve is no longer here they can conveniently ignore me and go back to what suits them best.
It’s a shame. I have made my efforts but now it is up to them. It is their turn to call back. I can’t keep turning up unannounced like an African would because their silence is obvious. They don’t really want to know about me.