This happened to be on my living room table a few days ago. I'll reserve comment until after the Ghana USA match.
Our national anthem is playing. No more blogging...
There is probably a parable to be made about a stick figure made out of spark plugs and improvised bent wire pointing a bow and arrow standing on top of Uncle Sam (a faceless Sam at that albeit with slick production values and glossy magazine accoutrements) but that would be reading far too much into an image...
[Ghana beat the USA 2-1]
Also, in case this was missed in the preceding posts, this was my mother's toli on the previous matches (To The Shout Of "Ghana", You Respond "Respect" and Firmly On The Map). She's heading our eight person family delegation to the World Cup.
The African Nation and The American Dream
I was going to save this photo for a piece I've been working on about immigrants and the diaspora but it seems strangely appropriate here. You can blame this juxtaposition on the journalistic impulse.
The American Dream!
"You've got big dreams, we've got the big money!"The exclamation point is of typographical importance. This is an advert for a mortgage company on the back page of the March 2006 issue of The African Nation, a free monthly newspaper for immigrants in the US that is often found wherever there's an "ethnic" grocery shop. Published mostly by Nigerians and Camerounians in Silver Spring, Maryland, it features the typical optimism and entrepreneurial spirit of the most vigourous of our West African brethren. The newspaper is billed as
"A success guide for Smart African-Americans, West Indians & Africans in the diaspora".In short, it's an all-inclusive and expansive production. I will return later to dispense a critique of some of the paper's content (the articles on Nollywood, Green Cards, Obasanjo, corruption, Sudan, Frantz Fanon, the latest society weddings in DC, the latest immigration news, advertisements for lawyers, disquisitions on where we can get authentic comfort food, travel agencies that claim to find the cheapest rate for you to head home etc.). It is worthy of some focused commentary.
The Color of Memory
I first watched the World Cup in 1978 during a trip my mum and I made to Senegal to visit some family friends. It was my first trip outside Ghana and my first time on a plane. My only memories are of the color red in the marketplaces, a vivid red that I haven't seen since, the shimmering cloths the Senegalese wore (they pay attention to their looks to an extent that puts most Ghanaians to shame), the excitement about the Dutch team who played the most beautiful game, and the disappointment at their fate at the hands of Argentina. We watched all the matches on black and white TVs except for the final, and therein lies my other memory: the orange of the Dutch team and their fans. I'm still gutted about that match.
I have been waiting ever since for my team to be at the World Cup. This is something deep inside of me.
And it has been a long wait. Watching my favourite teams disappoint time and again: the Brazilians in 82 (Zico and Socrates slain by a baby-faced assassin named Paolo Rossi), Platini, Tigana and co in 82 and 86 (there was that perfidious Schumacher guy), Hoddle, Waddle, John Barnes and the like (the Hand of God) (and wherefore Gazza and Shearer?), Roger Milla and Cameroon, Gullit and Rijkaard, Nigeria causing ulcers and palpitations to everyone, Senegal exhilarating the last time around... The teams that Abedi Pele and Tony Yeboah led in the 1990s were arguably more talented than our current heroes but they proved incapable of qualifying for the world cup. Thus we had only the memories of Polo and Razak, the legendary Black Stars of the past, glorious in the African Cup of Nations or, of late, our success at the junior level or at the Olympics.
It is a good day to be a Ghanaian, but it has been a long wait.
Identity and Allegiance
I recently calculated that I have now spent more time in Cambridge than anywhere else, what with the university years and the Lotus/IBM years. This beats my stints in Ghana, France or England. Thus I am quite the conflicted soul about who to support and am typically mid-Atlantic in my sensibilities. The Brits have the "cricket match test' to sort out the "good" immigrants from the chaff and I wonder where I lie and whether I'll pass. This is a very difficult test when it comes to football, and especially the World Cup, because any fan of the game (and I am a great football fan) will find some tribal aspect to latch onto in every team.
Until their last match, I thought Ecuador were the best team from Latin America; they were my pick for the tournament since they seemed more "ready" than Brazil or Argentina. They still might come through and I hope they do. Of course I've rooted for all the African teams and, even if the Ivoriens are out of the tournament with the label of the best team not to progress, I can still find favour in those who beat them. I apparently have Dutch ancestry and the good Captain John Vanderpuje (or Vanderpoy as we pronounce it in Ghana) was surely smiling as that free kick rocketed into the Ivorien net and also at the way Arjen Robben played in Holland's demolition of Serbia and Montenegro. When I mentioned my Dutch connection to a friend yesterday, he noted that my allegiance would likely depend on my family history. My reply was that in the mist of the centuries that have passed, it is unclear whether said ancestor was a benign adventurer or a rapacious colonist. Identity is identity and many tribes can claim me. I, in turn, claim all those tribes through victory and defeat.
Note well the use of the deflating passive tense in the headlines that followed in the US, it isn't David beats Goliath, or even Ghana Through... Brazil next, it's rather US eliminated by Ghana. The frame is typical of the big media companies and their prevailing script: the US were the actors, the Ghanaians were the sideshow. This of course would be news to anyone who watched the match, but such is the Great Game of life. How does the song go again?
They're all political actors... 'Don't worry'. He says 'Don't worry.'The only team that leaves me cold in the tournament is Switzerland. I can't figure out the reason for this since they are just as talented as any of the other teams and play fluent European-style football. Whither neutrality? I was hoping Togo would beat them yesterday if only because of the amount of money Eyadema père had stashed in those well-run banks. But it wasn't to be, and such is life. Hopefully Eyadema fils will repatriate some of that loot to Togo. There is a startling statistic about the number of public schools constructed in Togo since independence (less than five in almost 50 years, if my memory serves me right). That is worth pondering at the same time as matters of elation are considered. But that's also for later toli... In any case South Korea might oblige tomorrow and deal with the Swiss tribe.
Hearts of Oak
The Wife called the following photo "working from home" for some reason. I was a little surprised. I didn't pretend to be working for those two glorious hours, and Big Blue couldn't have made me work at such a time. In reality there was no dilemma, there was only ecstasy.
I had dug up my Accra Hearts of Oak shirts since the World Cup is all about tribes and belonging. A good friend was good-natured enough to wear one even though his allegiances were more in line with Uncle Sam. There is no tribe more loyal than the "Phobians", the Hearts of Oak fans. Really. Truly. We dig deep. You Red Sox or Arsenal fans have nothing on us.
There's nothing like a football match to bring out the drama of life, and we see shattered dreams for some, and bite-sized triumphs for others. Michael Essien's second yellow card is the most painful thing he will endure in his life as he'll miss the choicest game we'll face, and it tempers the Ghanaian jubilation somewhat. My American friends might be hurting right now, but rather than devolving into recriminations (as it appeared would be the case judging by the later coverage on ESPN), this Phobian will suggest instead a transfer of allegiance to the Black Stars. I've been told that the latest hiplife rhyme back home is
Black Stars checked the Czechs and cleared the bush.We play to a different drumbeat and with our own musicality. I'll conclude with the Hearts of Oak motto
Never say die until the bones are rotten.Next step Brazil.
I nominate this note for the Things Fall Apart series, under the banner of Social Living.
Next: Friends Today, Enemies Tomorrow
See also: On IBM and Africa
File under: Ghana, USA, Africa, America, world cup, collage, art, serendipity, humour, sculpture, juxtaposition, competition, Strange Bedfellows, Things Fall Apart, Social Living, football, soccer, sports, fever, obsession, memory, ingenuity, identity, communities, fun, tribes, allegiance, Holland, funny, history, cambridge, diaspora, immigrant, life, memory, family, humour, toli