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happy re-birth day, ghana

In Notes on 6 March, 2012 at 8:58 pm

6 march 1957: independence day

on this day 55 years ago, ghana was liberated from colonial rule. dr. kwame nkrumah began his speech on 6 march 1957, “at long last, the battle has ended! and thus, ghana, your beloved country is free forever!” more than half a century later, i am moved by his words.

on the 50th anniversary of ghana’s independence day, zapiro, a political cartoonist, created an image that spoke to my heart:

circa 2007

i love that zapiro drew on the concept of mother africa nurturing a child of her continent. a week before independence day, i was thinking about this cartoon while i was visiting a family in sorugu, a community a little outside tamale, northern ghana.

a sign along the road to sorugu

i was watching a young mother lie on the concrete floor of a hut, feeding her baby. in that moment, i was wondering what choices this woman had had in her life. here she was, nourishing a baby with a tired breast and weathered hands. it was a beautiful moment but all i could think was, “what could have been? what could she have done with her life if she had had more choices? if she had an education?” i stopped myself going down that thought path because it is laden with value judgements and i focused my attention on her child.

by this time, the little boy was lying, face up, on a colourful cloth his mother had previously wrapped around her waist. his eyes searched the thatch of the ceiling, his little legs kicked in the air, his arms fidgeted with untapped energy. i was mesmerised by his movements because in them, i saw so much hope and exploration.

many people i have spoken to – call them realists or cynics, you choose – didn’t celebrate independence day today. one of my colleagues asked, “in 55 years, how far have we come? 55 years and we’re still relying on donor funding.” he has a point. but zapiro’s image of ghana provides an opening to think a little differently about ghana as an independent state.

in historical years (rather than human years), 55 is young. 55 years in history may be a child who has just learnt to ride a bike or a youth trying to figure out his or her place in the world. today, i see ghana as mother africa’s growing son/daughter. not because i don’t think ghana has come far – but because it means that there is so much more growth and hope for the country and its people.

in the words of nkrumah, “we have awakened. we will not sleep anymore. today, from now one, there is a new african in the world!”

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