Everyone, even those that frequently travel, become trapped in beliefs that the way they live is the way the rest of the world lives. It is understood, of course, that there are small differences – like how you get to work in the morning or even the amount of unemployment a country regularly experiences. But, in the midst of this, it is easy to believe that the similarities far outweigh the differences.
In that light, it’s not surprising that a New Zealander in rural Ghana looked for all the things that made his students there similar to the ones he taught in New York. But, as his article on the Stuff New Zealand website points out – life in Ghana really is different. What Ghanaians believe to be ubiquitous and perhaps even prosaic is not necessarily universally shared.
Take highlife music as an example. Any Ghanaian can tell you all about it. Highlife is a unique blend of sounds that incorporates local rhythms with popular Western styles – and it’s been big since the 1950s. But just because any Ghanaian could point it out, it’s not hit worldwide stages. Well, not until recently that is. A couple of English musicians and producers discovered a wonderful power in the local Ghanaian music scene and they’re bringing these sounds to a new audience – one that extends far from West African beaches. In England, and elsewhere, highlife is still a novelty even though this style developed through interactions with their expats during colonial times.
Think also about fabric and clothing in Ghana. The bright patterns of kente cloth can be seen anywhere and everywhere in the country. And, rather than fading into the background of culture, it is becoming even more prevalent. The culture of uniforms for every job, every political rally and every occasion is growing. No matter how many different ceremonial clothes you have – you will still need to get more to fit the culture. And this is incredibly unique from the perspective of just about everywhere else in the world where uniforms are falling out of fashion.
But, that doesn’t mean that Ghanaian textiles aren’t an opportunity. The culture may not translate well, but the fabrics are doing more than brightening the streets of Sydney and London; they’re developing the local economies in Ghana.
Even as Ghana welcomes more Woolworths stores to the country, transforming the market domestically – sweetly unique aspects of Ghanaian culture are spreading to other parts of the world. Still, no matter how much exposure there is between cultures, Ghana will always be unique – just like every other county.