I left Ghana at the age of 8 and little I knew about the world out there. Now I’m almost 22. I’ve longed to return to Ghana for the longest time, but the thought was never strong enough. But great friends came my way, maturity did its part and I finally took the step to come to Ghana. It’s Friday afternoon, and I’m sitting right here, in Ghana; I’m in my mother’s ancestral hometown, ready to celebrate the life of my aunt, Margaret, who passed two months ago. Aunt Maggie raise me between the ages of 2 and 8, and the last time I saw her I was 8, on 14th August 2002. I should have been here earlier.
When I left my ancestral hometown of Dunkwa-on-Offin I was 8, aware of my being but not of the world around me. I grew up under the protection of strong and loving matriarchs, and my household was (is) known by people who were near and far. I played with every child in this town and every mother and father knew me.
When I moved to Italy I entered a new space, a place where new memories, languages and traditions were formed. I did not let go the memories I had from my hometown, but they faded slowly, leaving fragments of stories. My parents held the fragments together.
On Wednesday I made my return to Dunkwa, where I grew up. I don’t hold memories of people, just some few uncles who I’ve been talking to all this while. I’ve been to the market several times, I’ve been walking through the streets of downtown Dunkwa and people never fail to recognise me and say my full name. Yesterday I was stopped by some elders who told me the jokes I would share with them when I was a little girl; I told them I don’t remember, and they proceeded to lament how time flies and changes people. They told me not to worry, that I’m home now and that’s all that matters.
These days I’m reminded of Taiye Selasi’s “Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From, Ask Me Where I’m Local” through my story of encountering my hometown after 14 years. Thinking about the place of origin of a person, one can have two notions -whether by choice or by circumstances, of locality. I’m local (1) where I am recognised as such, (2) where I recognise the place as such. I’m reminded that it’s not where one is born nor where one lives that gives one locality and a sense of belonging, but a shared system of memories from the person toward the place and/or viceversa.