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Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Unspoken Beauty Of Ghana


When I say Africa, what image springs to mind? Almost definitely one of starving children and desperate-looking women, looking up at you with big pleading eyes and some monthly monetary value plastered across their forehead. And this, of course, is not the individual’s fault. All the images of Africa that the West sees are ones of such sad stories. The beliefs, perceptions, ideas of an entire continent are reduced to one single image. The only stories we hear of Africa are nearly always negative – poverty, corruption, war. Of course these are serious issues, not to be dismissed, but we forget that they occur all over the world. Instead we categorise an entire continent by these few, and nearly always negative, attributes. 
 
Before coming to Ghana, I was very aware of this homogenised image that exists in the West. I knew, of course, that there is so much more to the countries, people and cultures of Africa, but I really had no idea what this ‘more’ would be. The main thing that has struck me since being in Ghana is how beautiful the natural surroundings are. We are surrounded by trees, grasses, ancient rocks and amazing sunsets. Anyone on this trip can vouch for my obsession with trees and nature – constant exclamations of how green everything is, or pointing out trees I particularly like every few minutes. During the evenings, I often marvel at how amazing the sky looks, much to the amusement of my host family, who witness beautiful sunsets often.
 

 
FULLER FALLS
TONGO HILLS



















Once a year we watch clips of celebrities visiting a struggling hospital, or meeting children who forage in rubbish dumps. Or we see images of war and corruption and violence. Yes, these are serious problems, and I am by no means denying the importance of tackling issues such as these. But never are we shown the beautiful rocks of Tongo Hills, piled up high, with a view from the top of trees, grass and just green-ness reaching out for as far as the eye can see. And everything that is green is so green. We do not see the cascading waters of Fuller Falls, hidden amongst ferns, trees and flowers, nor do we experience the powerful presence of the elephants that wildly roam Mole National Park. Never are the sunsets that create a sky of pink shown on our televisions
 


ELEPHANTS AT MOLE NATIONAL PARK

SUNSET OUTSIDE MY HOST HOME



 Again, these are not images that refer to the whole of Africa, but simply to my experience of Ghana. We need to break through our homogenised, patronising image of ‘Africa’. This is not to say we should erase issues such as poverty or war from international discourse, because they are issues that are evident and serious. Nor it is an easy feat to just ignore Western media, or suddenly learn all the intricate differences of every culture in the world. And by no means have I learnt all I could have of the culture I am currently in. All I can say is, be aware of the images we are fed, and the connotations and ideas that come attached to them. Do what you can to burst the Western bubble we live in, and push to learn what is beyond the perceptions we hold – because there will always be so much more, and it is so worth finding out what that ‘more’ is. Seeing and experiencing the beauty of Ghana has been my highlight, because it was jointly unexpected and incredible. 


Your Blogger for today has been Iona Wainwright.








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