Last week, Ghanaians had another debate.
The silent question most people were asking is who are we and how to move ahead.
The refusal of Achimota school to grant admission to two students because they had dreadlocks sparked a fierce debate online.
While some supported the school for implementing its rules others were of the opinion that the rule was outdated and that Achimota should not deny the students admission just because of their hair.
This brought about Ghana’s current identity crisis.
Who are we?
What do we stand for?
It also brought about the cultural clash with most of the colonial-era laws that were migrated wholesale into the new Ghana even after our “foreparents” have fought and shed blood to do away with colonialism.
64 years after independence, the country and its institutions that existed before independence are still keeping some of the colonial-era laws on their books.
Colonial-era laws were made to keep the white man’s rule, create an African community that is beneficial for the European, strip the African of their identity and sure that they are modelled after heteronormative European standards of what is right and wrong. What is acceptable by society and what isn’t.
One other underlying feature of these European cultural standards is Christianity and the equation of everything authentically African to negative ideologies while everything European is good and positive.
After decades of these repressive laws and cultural cleansing, the African believed that what is African is bad and what is European is good.
That is why in professional settings in Africa the standard acceptable culture is European.
We wear their cloths, eat their food, talk like them and behave like them.
Even what is African, is called contemporary the moment a Western twist is put on them. The connotative idea of calling it contemporary is to imply that it has been made better, modern and current thereby equating European culture to modernity, current and better than “backwards” African culture.
The dominance of Christianity and Islamic religions have not helped most African countries such as Ghana to regain their African identity despite gaining independence 64 years ago.
That is why the people who practice African traditional religion are often not accepted into African institutions when they are openly expressive about their religion as opposed to Christians or Muslims.
That is why the African must wear a contemporary version of their clothing style in order to be considered as part of “modern society.”
It’s been centuries of being told the African is bad and that anything and anyone who looks too African, is too African is bad and that the African must take on European identities or live up to acceptable behaviour dictated by the European before even African institutions or individuals would become comfortable to welcome you among them.
The hope here is that people and some institutions are beginning to questions these archaic colonial rules and social engineering mechanisms that have become entrenched in African societies.
As a millennial, my bias is to credit Millennials and the GEN Z for their growing commitment to call out some these out of place rules and regulations that the white man instituted to control the black man and decades after they are gone, those rules are still doing their job. Another bias, of course, is my choice of language for this post.
I work in a forward-looking institution that is often challenging some of these rules and allowing its staff more freedoms the white man never wanted to grant the African.
Though the agency often interacts with business executives in some of the most powerful boardrooms in the country, staff are not forced to adhere to European standards of beauty.
Either long, short, natural, permed, dreadlocks, or beard it is left to the individual and their fashion choice.
However, similar agencies would not allow their staff to wear their hair like this.
Businesses and most government institutions would demand their staff to cut their hair and urge women to adapt to western beauty standards.
The conversation about hair is opening up a lot of discussions about Ghana finding its identity post-colonialism.
It has been 64 years and it’s time to break the shackles of colonialism in all spheres of the African life.
That is why Bob Marley’s words still ring true even today. “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery.
None but ourselves can free our minds,” he said in the song called “Redemption Song.”
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