Only a few years ago in 2014, I looked with disgust at the wrist beads of a Ghanaian colleague. We were both newly accepted graduate students at Michigan Technological University. The traditional wrist beads he wore, generally associated with fetish idol worship, evoked in me that sense of superiority many anglicized and Christianized Africans had towards any remnant of their ancestral ways. I was even almost disappointed: "Why would you carry this evil and backward item all the way from home here?" Throughout my education, not enough dichotomy has been made between cultural artifacts, traditional norms, and religious beliefs, so this action by my colleague made him appear both "backward" and "evil" in my eyes.
Fast forward to now: this is an image of me in a traditional Ghanaian/Akan Adowa dance costume. It was taken some few months ago after I paid for and took dance lessons in this particular ancient artistic expression. On the surface, I am generally clad in authentic hand-woven Ghanaian Kente cloth. Kente is widely known for its bright and bold colors, worn by important people on special occasions. In addition to the cloth, I have on authentic traditional hand-made beads, specifically adorned to accentuate the beauty specs of the Akan culture where I come from: round calves, round arms, and neck folds.
This personal initiative I took upon my last visit home are ripple effects of the mental, ideological, and intellectual transformation I experienced during my first graduate school experience. My course modules, assignments, and in-class discussions with my peers took me on a journey to learn more about my history and develop great pride and interest in my identity. In a span of five short years, I've gone from being embarrassed and disgusted with my history and identity to fully embracing it and currently using my social media to inspire others in my cultural context to do the same. I am driven by a basic traditional principle: Sankofa ”a philosophy charging us to learn from history in order to direct our future."
What Drives You to #AchieveMore?