So as some of you may know by now, I am a first generation Ghanaian Brit, born and bred in London. This has meant different things to me at different stages in my life, but it’s only in adulthood that I began to learn more about where I came from, the pride that comes with being West African, the nuances and in-jokes that I share with my Ghanaian and other African friends, as well as the annoyances and perceived obligations that come with any cultural heritage.
I talk a bit more about growing up black in London in another blog post, but being a Brit, and Ghanaian and a black woman in Australia feels like an entirely different experience. Nevertheless, as in London and pretty much every other city in the world that I have visited, we Africans always seem to find each other.
More specifically, I think I found a good chunk of the African continent when I went to church last week in Dandenong. I grew up in the church, and although I’m not a church goer anymore, I am staying with family who is, so I thought I’d go along with them, try to be respectful of their routines (they were surprised I was going too). What I found was a congregation filled with people from Sudan, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Nigeria, Libya and probably a few other African countries I didn’t catch.
Perhaps it’s unsurprising that religion is the thing that brought all these nations together in a foreign land; *cough the continent was colonised by “Christians” cough* and it’s not much different in London, except that each nation has their own church more often than not. And true to form, there was a Sunday school for the 80 kids in the church (not including the “youth”), food for everyone after the service (this is mostly just two hours of standing around with a Styrofoam plate whilst people chat and feel a bit cold because it’s always a bit cold), and a praise and worship team who make up for some off key notes with energetic and soulful dancing.
Plus, this was a very organised church in a lot of respects; when collection time came around, they had a card machine ready to take payments. A CARD MACHINE. My disinterest in religion flared up at that point, the hypocrisy is a bit much for me, but I can appreciate what it does for other people.
Anyway, it reminded me of one of the things I used to love about London, that got lost in the fog of Brexit and prejudice. The freedom people had to find their own cultures, reconnect with their nation brethren, and still feel a part of the big blue British story. It was a tapestry, a nuanced one. I’ve seen glimpses of it here in Melbourne; fostering the idea that wherever you go in the world, some things can stay the same.