Let’s get together and feel all right

2009-09-25 13:17

I JUST love Labadi beach on a Friday afternoon: beach bums, yuppies, flirtatious schoolboys, drummers and Le Burkinabe, the Burkinabe mime artist. He dresses in very short white pants that cling to his thin frame and tight ass, a matching shirt, a tie that looks like a rainbow wrapped around his neck and a smile so wide you would be cruel to ignore him as you do the ­resident hustlers.

I love Labadi beach for the tall and lean Rastas who strum Bob Marley on their not-so top-notch guitars, while yours truly dips it low. It is a sweltering day, someone is blasting reggae music and I am sipping on fresh coconut juice when the man with the python walks past.

I decide there and then to have a picture taken with the snake wrapped around my neck – never mind the time end effort it would take for ­hysterics and just proceed straight to the deed. But that’s Labadi for you, it makes you do on-the-spot crazy things. Good crazy things, like when I moved to Ghana after visiting ­the beach for a fashion event back in 2006.

It was a happy and eventful four days spent trawling the market, and working the stripper’s pole at Boomerang nightclub after nightfall. It was my first taste of the region. I was ­obsessed. The chaos, the colour, the ­beauty, the quintessential Ghanaian friendliness. The wonder that is beholding old men who look commanding in their ­togas.

I knew I would be back on Labadi beach: packed, rousing and ­Bohemian. Life here tasted too sweet to never taste again.

Then the DJ played Lucky Dube’s version of I’ve Got You, Babe. Everyone started dancing – yet another reason for my ­obsession with Accra.

I am in the city now. My third trip here since 2006 and I have never loved Accra and Ghana more. It is everything.

To be specific, it is the feeling in my heart. I am at peace. I feel perfectly happy. I feel like I belong here.

If it is true that every black American, Brazilian and Jamaican needs to travel to Africa so that their connection with their heritage does not end with their ancestors leaving as slaves, then it is true that every able southern African needs to taste West Africa because there is a difference between ­people who have been free for generations and the recently freed.

To my mind, in South Africa that difference is that we still don’t know how to relate to each other without suspicion, without losing that apartheid-inspired fear and hatred of each other.

For instance, a mosque in Potchefstroom gets desecrated whereas the Bolgatanga region of Ghana has a church right next to a mosque – perfect ­unity and an understanding that our race, class and such ­differences need not divide us.

Three years ago Ghana gave me Africa. It was the first time this thing called life as a black person did not carry hang-ups for me as it does when I’m in South Africa. These hang ups include unforgettable things like being mistaken for a maid to a white flatmate.

Accra’s eclectic mix of European, African and ­Diaspora expats are gathered among the locals at Kwame Nkrumah Circle for the ­opening celebrations marking the nation’s ultimate ­hero’s centenary. So is Rita Marley, who offers a word.

There are also poets and musicians, among them a rasta group welcomed by the emcee with a cry of “Jah!” while the mostly Christian crowd responds, “Rastafari!”

The widow of the man who took a bullet aimed at Nkrumah is also here. She says “As-Salamu `Alaykum”. We respond accordingly.

Ramadan ends the next day. Of course, Labadi turns into mayhem.

Meanwhile, everyone with an audience wishes “our Muslim brothers and sisters” a happy ­ending to Ramadan.

This is why I love Ghana. Here, we are truly one people.

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