Connected

Connected to the computer, but also to each other. On a recent visit to the African side of the family, my son (AM) showed some of his siblings what you can do with basic coding.connected-2015-08-08 15.51.11

What you can’t see in this pic, is AM’s dad (DadaK) on the other side of the table, eating his lunch and listening attentively to AM’s explanation of why coding is important, how fundamental it is to modern society, how it connects people in more ways than we can even imagine.

DadaK was eating traditional Ghanaian food. On this occasion it was a stew (froye), I think made of straw mushrooms, spinach, chili (of course), tinned mackerel and chunks of beef, eaten with kenkey, a ball of fermented, boiled cornmeal. He bought the mushrooms in Chinatown — they’re imported — because they’re more like what you’d get back home.

Those moments around the dining table represented connection in so many ways: within our family, between generations and across continents, time, culture and technology.

I wonder what this picture will look in 30 years, when these children may be parents themselves. Our world is changing rapidly, but I hope they will still feel connected to their African heritage, and to each other.

The challenge of retaining culture is bigger than ever now. Technology may connect and liberate, but it also has the potential to obliterate; to smooth over diversity as we all watch the same news, listen to the same music, use the same social media platforms and operating systems.

The children of migrants walk a sometimes precarious path between the traditions of their parents and the attractions of the society they live in. They eat kenkey and froye now, but will they cook them for their own children? And food is just one aspect of culture. What else might they choose to keep or reject?

aportoyewa-20140831_130253

Making a Ghanaian sauce without a blender, traditional style.

This week a friend tweeted about another group of people in the African Diaspora, the Gullah Geechee people of the sea islands off the south east coast of the US, who have maintained their cultural ties to Africa for hundreds of years.

One of the reasons they’ve remained connected to their roots is because — ironically — the islands they’ve lived on since their ancestors were taken from Africa were not connected to the mainland US. The only way to get anywhere, until recently, was by boat, through the marshy wetlands that separate the islands. Their food (like the okra soup that DadaK also prepares), their language, music, even their name as a people all show links back to the diverse African tribes from which they descend.

But bridges are being built now, to link islands and mainland. In the 21st century the marshes are no longer a barrier. Apparently outsiders are flocking in as the islands gentrify.The elders are worried that as the Gullah people connect to the mainstream, young people will become disconnected from their culture and traditions.

I can’t help but feel hopeful. The Gullah Geechee people were resilient enough to survive slavery, so maybe the core of their culture will also survive the influx of mainstream America.

Never give up the fight to stay connected with what matters.


Check out other responses to the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Connected

 

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10 thoughts on “Connected

  1. Such a creative interpretation of this week’s challenge. It’s an intriguing question you put there: What else might they choose to keep or reject? The world is certainly becoming more diverse, and cultures and communities are evolving as we all converge and collide. Sadly, some aspects of cultures might get lost in translation – think how certain second-third-fourth-and-more generation of migrants to Australia don’t speak their heritage’s language, how some gravitate towards Western culture thinking it is the coolest culture. Certainly racism has a part to play…and perhaps the fact that some parents want their children to assimilate into a certain culture/country/place of residence.

    That is such an interesting meal DadaK was eating at the table. To be honest, I never really knew chilli was a big part of Ghanian cuisine, nor African cuisine. I’ve heard peppers are popular within these communities, but I suppose in some instances they can be the same…

    • Thanks Mabel, I think all the things you mention play a role. I think it’s especially difficult for children to retain their parents and grandparents language in Australia, unless they can go to community language schools, but language is such an important part of understanding culture. There’s a lot stacked up against them.

      Also African Australian kids seem to look a lot towards black America for influence, which not all parents are impressed with – although with the Internet they have more access to the youth culture of their parents countries now.

      Chili is very popular, almost compulsory in Ghanaian cuisine in my experience, but I don’t know if that’s the case all over Africa. I ate very mild food when i was in east africa, but maybe noone thought to offer me the chili sauce 😉

    • Thanks, yes, will be interesting to see how these things change in future. I find that predictive text and spelling is already changing the way I communicate. I usually take the trouble to change things to how I want them to read, I’m sure a lot of people don’t.

  2. Perhaps new technology will help preserve the traditions of the past–because the computer and the internet have the power to keep people connected on a daily basis (even if they have wandered off to the other side of the world).

    • Well that’s true Mary, technology does have power for good as well as ill. It keeps me connected to family and friends overseas, and initiatives like language databases may help keep languages & other aspects of culture alive. Thanks for dropping by 🙂

  3. You snuck some Bob Marley in there, Maamej.

    At the moment, I’m caught up with some Somalian women singers and Maryam Mursal in particular. Initially, caught her on BBCs Outlook.

    Since my pc skills are diminishing at a rapid rate, hit up Maryam Mursal on wicki……..what a life and resilience by the truck load.

    • Heheh, you found me out King Tubby.

      Thanks for the tip about Maryan Mursal, she’s wonderful (of course I checked YouTube before wiki, but I’ll get to that.

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