Thursday, October 02, 2008

The Rasta Man in Ghana

In my very first blog entry entitled "Getting back on the road", I mentioned my brush with Rastafarian culture in Ghana. It’s an underground, non-conformist, alternative sub-culture. They’re almost all unwed men, and they look like demi-gods. Kinda like what one would get if Yaa Asantewa ( a Ghanaian heroine) had a baby with Nana Bosompo (the sea god). Several weeks ago when I went to the Accra cultural centre to meet my friend Liz, a host of them swooped on me. Then I started speaking twi, and they realized I wasn’t an african-american chick, but still they were interested in talking. A decade or so prior when I was growing up in Ghana, I’d internalized the popular view of rasta men as nothing more than weed-smoking, strange-mannered recalcitrants bound for psychiatric institutions. But for the first time ever, I didn’t see the Ghana man with loc-ed hair as the other; Being the true daughter of Asaase Yaa (Earth God) with baby locs that I am now, I was right at home with them.

I was also mighty curious. I told one of the guys that I liked his hair, and while we were exchanging hair regimens, a grungy-headed rasta man joined us. Soon afterwards, a bald-headed fellow started to ridicule our newcomer in taunting shouts of "kwasia, EnE wo so wo se woYE rasta (tr: foolish man, today you too claim to be a rasta). He jeeringly indicated that he never dreamt that our dreadloced newcomer would go that way, and called him a hypocrite. I asked why and he continued that some time in the past when others had worn their hair longer, our rasta man, who was then bald-headed had called them names, said they were weed-smokers, and been generally antagonistic. But now that he had seen that many of the guys who loc-ed their hair had managed to leave the country, he too had loc-ed his hair. At hearing this, my ears perked up and I prodded my new friend for more details. He called our rasta man a phony saying that he was wearing his hair that way to attract white girls and foreigners. I was rather disappointed to learn that what I’d initially thought to be a cool counter-culture; a rare oasis of non-conformist creative folk was merely a breeding ground for ordinary Ghanaian men aspiring to leave the land of their birth by any means necessary, in this case by wooing a gullible foreigner.

When the excitement had waned, one rasta man with a winning smile invited me to see his shack/store where he made drums, I obliged since Liz was still nowhere to be found and all attempts to reach her by phone had proved futile. On the way, many of the rastas called out greetings which made me feel a sense of belonging. When we got “home”, I pointedly asked them if they were just doing this to get out of the country, but they denied and assured me that they were true rastas who believed that their hair was their glory which is why they kept it that way. They heartily welcomed me and showed me their posters of Emperor Haile Selassie and his wife empress Wayzaro Menen, telling me that just like his majesty the emperor’s wife, I too am a queen. Now that felt good. I don’t remember the last time a regular Ghana man called me a queen. They were buttering me up, and I was sizing them up. Then one of them asked me to go buy weed so we could smoke it as a way to initiate me into the family. I was alert, and saw this as a form of extortion, and their messed up way of getting me to purchase free weed for them. I declined and testily questioned why I had to be the one to buy the weed that we were all going to smoke for my initiation ceremony, adding that I’d not asked to become part of their little family. They let that alone, switched tactics and tried to entice me into buying their patchwork skirt. The idea was original and the pieces of fabric used were very beautiful, but the skirt's finishing was poor. I tried it on anyway, and though it was ill-fitting,my new friends all claimed I was a delightful sight to behold. Yeah right! Thankfully my friend Liz called me right about when I needed an excuse to leave and I escaped to meet her.

I’ve thought about these rasta people since then, and I’ve wondered if they’re really just doing this to get out of Ghana. The bible says whatever fills a man’s heart so he speaketh. Well, don’t quote me on that, but you get the drift. haha. After cogitating on this for a while, I couldn’t help mentioning it at work this week, and asking why a white girl or foreigner would be more likely to be attracted to a rasta man than a bald-head. One of my colleagues said it is because they look more indigenous. hmm. Another said that the rasta men tended to have more time for women because they did not have regular 9-5 job so they could travel around the country with the girls and see them whenever they wished. I, in typical pedantic, not true to Ghanaian style said that perhaps it is because they have an air of mystery about them, and they seem to own their blackness and that kind of confidence and self-acceptance is attractive -all bullshit I picked up from the US maybe, but still a plausible reason.

It could also be simply because these men are good-looking. I don’t mean to objectify them(cough). Two years ago, a good friend called me out for doing this by saying that "We both attended splendid liberal arts college that taught us to disclaim our actions while commiting the very actions that we are disclaiming. You are judging me and being critical. There is nothing wrong in doing that". Since then, i've been careful when i'm doing this, but in this case, the feminist in me sees harm in objectifying men but i'm compelled to do so to make my point. Apologies in advance. That done, a look at both men in this photo reveals their gorgeous ebony skin, ribbed abs, and genuine smiles. If you ask me, they look shag-worthy (gulp!). They do not seem to own much, or be well schooled but they tend to speak an average of a quarter-dozen Ghanaian languages and possess multiple talents. For example, the guy who took me to meet his rasta family made and sold drums for a living, did his own hair, could tie a nice african head-gear with dexterity, could sew moderately well, spoke hausa, ewe, ga, twi, english, and God knows which other languages with ease, had this rasta religious thing going on, and was quite physically attractive. As if that were not enough, he also happened to be part of a local band that was good enough to be invited to play at the labadi beach hotel every Wednesday night! Will someone please convince me that such a man is not at least a bit intriguing?

I still don’t know if there is one particular thing about being rasta that gives men the allure but the combination of all their typical characteristics undeniably adds a touch of coolness to a son of Tweadeampong (God). Forget white girls and African-American women. These Ghanaian rasta men are interesting characters. If your kind of guy is the typical bald-headed, clean-shaven middle-aged banker type with a growing belly, flashy car and fat wallet who probably never gets the chance to leave the office long enough to do anything interesting, then clearly the rasta man isn’t it. But if you want someone to relate to you on a soul-to-soul level, in a let’s-just-hang, drink kube (coconut) and learn how to beat drums kind of chilling, then there’s really nowhere else to find ‘em but in rasta-ville at the Accra cultural centre.


  1. very interesting piece-the next time i'm in Ghana, i will check out these rasta guys

  2. I always found the rastas the most irritating people in Ouaga. But then again, I always new they had their own motives for harassing me. I can't hold it against them because I might do the same in their place.

    I'm glad to follow your adventures back to Ghana. Hopefully I can visit you there someday. I would really love that.


  3. Hey there!

    This is interesting!

    As a black woman who is American, I have noticed that many African men do not realize that most black women ARE NOT interested in partnering with African men...I will guess that 2 out of 10 would.

    African men are stereotyped as being chavinistic and polygamous among many U.S. black women. I am not sure why that is though.

    Eddie Murphy used to do a skit about passive African women dominated by their men. That did not help dismantle the stereotype.

    I will be in Accra in November....and I am open to suggestions about which guest houses are the cheapest!!


    ***yes a woman who is nicknamed Paul

  4. Do you ever wonder why the rasta man in Ghana would always call the white man names BUT you always find them walking around town with white women?

  5. yeah drinking kube is kuul like that:)

    i'm feeling all ghana-romantic just reading about these experiences. to speak 4 languages they most definitely didn't pick up at school shows such worldliness i wish i had:) the funny thing i found is when i pressed a kenkey seller on how she could speak twi, ga, ewe and hausa, she was all shy and reticent as if it was nothing worth talking about...

  6. The laid-back lifestyle of the Rastaman is what seems to attract the travelling woman. They have no airs about them and dont need validation from society. And just as you said, they don't have to 9-5 jobs so they can be 24hr tour guides.

    Same thing you see in Ghana is what goes on in Jamaica too except one thing; they have "Rastatutes". I dont think our Ghana Rastas do that on a large scale yet.

  7. Rasta is Iternal Life,Jah sey soh.No one can stop the Rastaman

    Ras Dinghy


  8. bLESSED,
    I CHANT THAT That this I, who lives in montana, is proberly the only true rasta in my town, belonging to the twelve tribes, I wear my dreads(natural)to be sited as rastafari,king of kings, lord of lords....
    Jah Love

  9. I find all of these posts and blogs humorous. I actually am a college student in boulder and I am seeing an African man from Accra Ghana. I was born and raised in colorado, blonde hair and blue eyes! But this man really attracted me. He is a pure Rastafarian. He has dreads, plays in many bands, teaches at my college and also is an incredible drummer. Everything attracted me too him. He was laid back, his accent, his drumming, his ganja love, his looks, his body, and personality. I will be going to Ghana for a month this summer with him and can not wait to experience the culture since I have became an African dancer here! I have never dated an African American, let alone a rasta. There are culture differences but I do not know what to expect. Any advice?

    1. funny thing is... this rasta man i cared so much about ended up having a girlfriend of a year that he hid from me the four months we were together.....

  10. mi jole rastafari

  11. aherey ebaré yé pee