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Black Gold of the Sun by Ekow Eshun

Searching for Home in England and Africa

2005, Penguin


Brought up in Britain as the son of an expatriate Ghanaian dignitary, Ekow Eshun saw his life of relative luxury change when the 1979 military coup and regime change in Ghana resulted in his father losing his job and thus becoming just another black immigrant. In the book, Eshun explores his experience of growing up African in Britain, then the disappointment and disillusionment of going back to Ghana where he learns that one of his ancestors, a mulatto, was a slave trader. He asks himself if Ghana was built on the riches brought by the slave trade, and ends up feeling he no longer even knows who he is.


He is further dismayed when he sees other evidence that Ghana is not the perfect place he was hoping; in one example he visits The Holy Power Faith Chapel, whose "flashy showman preacher" enriches himself through donations he wheedles from his poor congregation.


Eshun compares his experience to that of the author Richard Wright (1908-1960) who, traumatized by the racism he'd encountered in the United States, moved to Africa hoping to find a society without prejudice. Like Wright in the USA, Eshun suffered from racism growing up in Britain; he was so disturbed by it he tried to erase his childhood from his mind. He reflects on the possible link between racism and psychosis, citing the statistic that in Britain, blacks are six times more likely than whites to be diagnosed as schizophrenic; since there is no biological explanation, he says, it could be the experience of racism growing up in the West. Both Eshun and Wright thought maybe Ghana would be the answer; both were sorely disappointed. (p 176)


Eshun comes to face the fact that he is from a different culture than Ghanaians, who see him as different. In one example, when he gets upset at not being able to get a taxi and having to walk for miles, he realizes that the locals, who don't have the same expectations, perceive his reaction as condescending.


He concludes that "you can't escape your past. It stays with you however far you run," (p 177), and, "I'd crossed the whole of Ghana and I still couldn't say where I was from." (205)




Some other Americans who visited or lived in Ghana:


Louis Armstrong

Malcolm X

Muhammad Ali

Maya Angelou

W.E.B. Dubois (renounced his US passport at the age of 93 to become a Ghanaian citizen)


Did you know?:


Ghana gained independence from the British in 1957.



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