Thursday, February 18, 2010

30 Days of Recommendations: Black Gold of the Sun

Black Gold of the Sun

by Ekow Eshun

What’s it about: London born, Ghanaian raised Eshun returns to his African homeland in search of his roots and his identity.

Why you should read it: because it’s a compellingly written personal account of a person caught between the worlds of the immigrant and the assimilated, history and the future, innocence and corruption. Eshun discovers a Ghana unchanged in centuries in some places and modern in others, and a disturbing fact that some of his ancestors were themselves slave traders. An intriguing read about personal identity and cultural politcs.


“My name is Ekow Eshun. That's a story in itself. Ekow means 'born on a Thursday'. The Ghanaian pronunciation of it is Eh-kor and that would be fine if I'd grown up there instead of London where, to the ears of friends, Ehkor became Echo. Throughout my childhood I was pestered by schoolyard wags who thought it hilarious to call after me in descending volume: 'Echo, echo, echo.' It was my first lesson in duality. Who you are is determined by where you are.

My parents arrived in London from Ghana in 1963. They never meant to stay. And even though they have spent most of the past forty years in Britain, Ghana is still their home. When I was a child growing up in London, its sounds and smells pervaded our house. Ghana was there in the hot pepper scent of palm nut soup tickling your nostrils as you entered the house; the highlife songs rising from the stereo; the sound of my mother shouting down a capricious telephone line to her sister in Accra.

But Ghana was their home, not mine. I knew this from experience. I was born in 1968 in a red-brick terraced house in Wembley, north London. I was the youngest of four children. When I was two my parents moved the family to Ghana. We lived in Accra for three years. In 1974, we returned to London. I was five years old. I didn't plan to go back.

My last sight of the place was a country in meltdown. A military junta had taken power shortly before we left. I remembered long speeches by generals on a black-and white television. The hourly price rises for a bag of rice. Strikes and shortages and demonstrations. What was there to return to?”