Your Name

When in Ghana, they will ask who you are.

“What is your name?”

And you will respond in English, in your bastard British accent.

“Korkor.”

And they will pronounce it properly: “Koh-koh.”

And you will grimace, for you do not know how to curl your tongue and say it as they do. Then they will say.

“You are Ga.”

And you will shake your head and say. “I’m from Ada, it’s near the coast.”

And they will say: “Aaaah,” because that means Yes. Then they will ask if you speak Twi.

You will shake your head and say no, that you are Fante, your great-grandma is Nzema like Kwame Nkrumah.

And they will ask: “So do you speak it?”

And in shame, you will decline.

“Obronifuo” and “abrokyere” are the next names they will call you. Simple words that  always sound like slurs in the mouths of elders. You are not from here.

When in England:

The whites will ask what is your name and you will hesitate before spitting it out.

“Kohr-kohr.”

They will frown, it is not a real name, surely it is shorthand.

“I’ve never heard that before.”

They are afraid to say it and so will say nothing – will tap your skin for your attention for the rest of your life. Maybe even ignore you.

When in London:

The Ghanaians will ask your name and you will pause.

“Kohr-kohr.”

And they will correct you: “Koh-koh.” And you will nod, then they will say: “Doesn’t that mean plantain?”

Sometimes you will laugh, other times you will shrug, you may roll your eyes. Denial comes to mind before acceptance takes its place and you will give them the alternative they are looking for.

“Just call me Maame.”

“Don’t you have an English name?”

You will tell them no but your family does.

“No. My sister’s name is Stacey, brother’s name Kingsley, mother’s name Vera, father’s name Kingsley, grandmothers: Comfort and Elizabeth, but no, no English name for me.”

Astonishment.

But why?

If Gwyneth Paltrow can name her daughter Apple then surely I can be called Plantain (thought that was not my father’s intention when he named me after his paternal grandmother). Berry, Olive and Cherry (Cerise in French) are all viable names. Clementine is not far-fetched and you found kinship in her character from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Thanks to Pope Alexander and Charlie Kaufman)

Plantain is brown and sweet, just like me.

And so to myself I say.

My mother knows me Maame (Maah-meh).

My father knows me as Maame Korkor (Maah-meh Koh-koh)

My siblings and cousins know me as Maame Korkor (Ma-ma Koh-koh)

Acquaintances knew me as Maame (Maym)

School mates and neighbours from my first primary school know me as Maame (Mam-mee/Mammy)

Friends from my second primary school know me as Maame (Maar-may)

Those who knew me after the age of 11 after secondary school know me as Korkor (Kohr-kohr), Korkz, KK or Coco for short.

And me?

I don’t know what to call myself.

I am my great-grandmother and myself and a mother, I am sweet and brown, I am pain and pleasure, I am more than my name and fundamentally beyond measure.

Treasure.

 

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