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Ekow Eshun, journalist and author
Find out how the Ghanian community from one of the oldest West African nations came to the capital. Music, sport and fashion in London are just some of the cultural forms that owe much to Ghanaian Londoners.
Ghanaians in London represent one of the largest and oldest West African communities in the capital. The vibrancy of its culture means that for many Londoners their very conception of what is African derives from Ghanaian culture.
Britain’s role in the colonisation of Africa and the slave trade meant that Ghanaians, either by force or, in time, through trade, have found themselves living and partaking in London life from the seventeenth century onwards. At first most Ghanaians where part of the transient community of sailors around London’s Docklands. Today, Ghanaians live across London but are concentrated around Dalston, Brixton and Lewisham.
The Ghanaian community is one of the oldest West African communities in London.
The pull of employment and education opportunities and, in turn, the love of their homeland has insured a steady flow of Ghanaians to and from London over the last hundred years or more. Some Ghanaians in London fled political oppression and turmoil but in the last decade there has been political stability in Ghana making return possible for political refugees.
Ghana gained independence ahead of many of it’s neighbours in West Africa. Unfortunately, in the latter half of the last century the country was plagued by political turmoil and violence. But in 1992, after eleven years of military rule, President Jerry John Rawlings took over the presidency and after his constitutional limit of two terms in office, he stepped down. The 2000 elections saw John Agyekum Kufour win office. Kufour's tenure has seen a stabilising of Ghana's political and economic life.
Life for some Ghanaian emigres to London was a struggle. Many Ghanaians that arrived in London in the 50s, 60s and 70’s had professional qualifications but access to their professions was more often then not impossible. Also many first generation Ghanaians much like other ethnic communities in London kept the expectation that they would return to their homeland close to their hearts.
Rolf Harris discovers Ghanian art
Surviving in London meant working in manual jobs. This experience has meant that second and third generation Ghanaians now seek to realize their abilities and professional ambitions in a way that was not possible for their parents. Education and qualifications are very important to young Ghanaians.
This in turn has given a new and growing confidence to Ghanaian Londoners. This confidence is built not only on developments in their homeland but also on the Ghanaian contribution to London. Music, sport and fashion in London are just some of the cultural forms that owe much to Ghanaian Londoners.
June Sarpong, media personality
Well-known Londoners of Ghanaian descent include the first Black cabinet minister Paul Boateng, fashion designer Joe Casely-Hayford and Ekow Eshun, journalist, author, broadcaster and current Director of the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London.
Ghanaian women have also made a remarkable contribution in London and nationally such as June Sarpong. She is one of the most successful and recognisable faces in British media. As the female face of Channel 4’s T4, June interviewed Tony Blair in a T4 special, “When Tony met June”.
last updated: 16/06/2008 at 18:23