I remember as s boy, growing up in America, watching Tarzan movies. Movies about this white guy, raised in the wilds of Africa by apes, who somehow developed into this wise fellow. A fellow, who had smarts beyond those of all the dark-skinned natives who occupied the land with civilizations going back for millennia. Africa, as presented by Hollywood back then was this dark, uncivilized place with no demarcation anywhere; it was just Africa. There were wild animals everywhere. As white people on safari meandered through the bush, you would hear exotic birds making noises that would challenge those on safari to even hear each other.
Well, I just made my first trip to Africa, Ghana, West Africa to be specific. Having a keen interest in my ancestral home, I knew that even today the media doesn’t portray the continent of Africa in her finest. We often see images of animals in their habitats running freely. We also see people on safari experiencing the wonders of viewing animals that they might have seen before in zoos. Occasionally, we’ll see some image on the internet of some rich guy from somewhere in the West standing over the carcass of an elephant or some other precious large beast that had no chance of escaping the high-powered projectile from a high-tech weapon deployed to kill it. Images of Africa, so many images are yet distorted even today as they were during the 40s and 50s of the last century by Hollywood.
While visiting Ghana for ten days, I toured urban areas, traveled over long distances in rural areas. Guess what? The only wild animals I saw were birds. Of course, when it came to animals, I saw countless numbers of stray dogs, cats and many goats roaming freely. However, big game wasn’t even observable from the highways as we traversed miles and miles of rural Ghana. I think I’ve already mentioned in one post that even my tour groups trek through the Kakum National Park to access the canopy walk produced no sight of wild animals. We were told before we arrived at the park that there were elephants and other animals in the park; however, they stayed away from the view of visitors to the park. Walking up the trail to reach the canopy walk was deafly quiet to the point that effectual meditation could be had at any point along the way. No. There weren’t this chorus of bird sounds as heard on old Tarzan movies.
I have a friend from Ghana, who has become a naturalized American citizen. She mentioned to me some time ago, as we were having a conversation about countless misrepresentation the western media presents about Africa, that her only chance, as a child to see elephants, lions and other large animals was for her family to take her to the Accra zoo. Unfortunately, my ten-day tour of Ghana didn’t include visiting any municipal zoos, so I missed seeing any elephants, lions or other large beasts in Africa. I did see lots of people; people who were actively involved in the day-to-day challenge of working hard to provide for their families in much the same way as we do in America every day. So much for Tarzan.
I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.
Yes, the misrepresentation of Africa is prevalent and just another example of the racism in our country. While I never have been to Africa (or the Antarctica), I have traveled enough to know most Americans have a very erroneous impression of other parts of the world. They refuse to believe other places are just as advanced — or even more so — as here.
It sounds as if you had a great trip. I’m really glad you were able to go.
Even as a kid I never could understand or get excited about those Tarzan movies. They looked as phony as Roy Rogers.
That said, I surely did love my visit to Mozambique and S. Africa in 2019. The express purpose of the visit was to see birds and mammals and we did see a LOT of both. However, that visit was lacking in the cultural lessons to be learned from mingling with the people. it’s hard to pack everything in to one visit of limited time.
It’s true a 10-day tour can only give you a shallow view of the culture of a country. However, we were fortunate to have several tour guides who were natives and very versed in history and how people from the diaspora (us) fit into the whole picture of West Africa. Our tour also included more than just the regular tourist sites. I think one thing the tour did do for me is let me see just how culturally disconnected I am from a people who may look like me, but are disconnected in many ways. There are some 6,000 descendants of African ancestry now living in Ghana, who have made the trip home and are making every effort to connect.
It must have been a very moving experience to be, at last, in your country of origin, even though you were there as an outsider.
I remember years ago a Japanese American friend accompanied her mother to Japan for the first time. She told of how strange and alienated she felt when she realized that she was as different from Japanese people as she was from Caucasian Americans. She would walk into a store and despite her Japanese appearance the locals would instantly address her in English, recognizing her as an American tourist. I’ve never forgotten that.