You are on page 1of 19

From Kumasi to Vilafranca

A project based on an interview with Michael Boateng

El mn postcolonial anglfon
Carolina Ortega Palomo
Gemma Montaner Soler
Carmina Morejudo Ortega
Universitat de Barcelona, 2015

1. Introduction
1.1 Ghana
To begin with, due to the fact that not only our project but our main protagonist of our project is
native to Ghana Moreover, some of the articles we used in order to work on our project also
deal with Ghana and the African migratory movement towards Catalonia we agreed that it
would be useful and enriching to do a brief research about Ghana.
Ghana is considered to be a democratic republic located on the Gulf of Guinea, West Africa. It
has over 27 million inhabitants, all of them belonging to different ethnic, linguistic and religious
groups. It is one of the major petroleum, natural gas, gold and diamond producers.
1.1.2 Black African migration in Catalonia (Europe)
Nowadays, the plentiful arrival of black immigrants coming from Africa is known as black
African immigration. This phenomenon towards both Europe and Catalonia is commonly
considered to be something new and recent in these past decades. However, we consider this
premise to be inaccurate. As a matter of fact, the black African presence in Catalonia has its
origins in 1885 when the African distribution took place and it is clearly seen as a
consequence of colonization, theory that Edmundo Sepa Bonaba highly highlights in his article
La immigraci negreafricana a Catalunya i Europa: visi socio-histrica.
This misunderstanding leads to a situation of disruption and social conflict which, influenced by
the previously mentioned colonial discourse, creates in black Africans a feeling of dependence
towards Europe. According to Bonaba, Western habits and costumes are usually unknown for
black African immigrants who immediately get fascinated by this new lifestyle. As a
1

consequence, Europe or in this case, Catalonia ends up being seen as an idealised land which
is considered the standard and not the option. Hence, this emphasizes the existing colonial
dichotomies such as: us vs. the other and white vs. black.
To conclude, this confusing social situation creates an addiction towards the European lifestyle
which needs to end. It is important to stop considering black immigration as something that
needs to be blocked but as something to be understood. By accepting this reality we would be
able to start working on fulfilling the total social, economic and cultural insertion, avoiding
trauma as much as possible.
1.2 Aims
Therefore, bearing in mind what we commented in the previous section, the main aims for our
project are, on the one hand, to discuss if the young immigrants origin affects his daily life and
leisure; on the other hand, to explore possible identity issues caused by this mixture of cultures to
which he is exposed.

2. About the interview


2.1 Our choice on the participant
Michael Boateng was our final choice because of several reasons. First, we were interested in
getting to know about Ghana, since we had not had the opportunity of learning about this country
at University. Second, we thought that, since he is a teenager, his experience as an immigrant
would be interesting, especially, regarding how his integration in the school took place, the
process of making new friends, etc. Third, we thought the fact that he came to Spain as a little
child to be of special relevance considering that the migratory experience is highly different as an
adult than as a child, we believed that a youngs person perspective could teach us different ways
of understanding migration.
2.2 The process of creating the interview
In order to successfully learn about African migration, we consulted three main articles:
Edmundo Sepas La imigraci negreafricana a Catalunya i Europa: visi sociohistrica; Papa
Sows Aproximaci a la immigraci Africana a Catalunya; and Claudia Pedones Lo de
migrar me lo tomara con calma representaciones sociales de jvenes en torno al proyecto
migratorio familiar. Once we thoroughly read and understood them, we highlighted the
information which was useful in order to create the interview.
Afterwards, once we had the knowledge about the migrating process, we determined the
direction in which we would approach the interview questions. Due to the fact that he is a
teenage boy, we decided to first ask him simple questions about himself so that he did not feel
overwhelmed and intimidated. Then, after the warm up questions, we included more thoughtful
3

ones in which we hoped to see his beliefs on the matter. Furthermore, we would record him so
that later we could examine in detail his answers.
After the process of writing the interview was over, we set up a day to meet. One of our group
members asked the questions to Michael, while the others recorded and wrote significant
comments he made. The process of interviewing occurred without any incident. However, it is
relevant to say that Michael asked us to interview him in Catalan, since it was easier for him to
explain what he wanted to say. Thus, after interviewing him, we translated the recorded audio
into English.
Once we had the recorded interview, we met in order to analyse and discuss his answers. At first,
his comments fulfilled our expectations. However, as we asked about identity and cultural issues
we realized he had a different point of view of what we were expecting; however, his opinion
about the topic seemed interesting to us anyway. Thus, we decided that, based on what he had
said, we would change the focus of our project.
Moreover, we also came across other sorts of problems. Sometimes he did not fully understand
the more thoughtful questions and he answered something slightly different of what he was
asked. Also, his shyness was an obstacle somehow, since he would not develop his answers for
too long. Nevertheless, once we gathered the information, we took into account his perspective
and we sorted out what he meant.
2.3 The interview
Finally, after recording, translating and interpreting the interview, we typed it in order to include
it in this dossier.
4

Could you introduce yourself? Say your name, birthplace, where you live, education and
since when you're living in Catalonia.
My name is Michael Boaeteng. I was born in Ghana, in a village called Kumasi. And I've been
living in Catalonia for 10 years now, in Vilafranca del Peneds. I'm doing Batxillerat on
humanities.
Thank you. Our aim is to learn about cultural diversity and immigration. Do you think
you're a good representative of Ghanaian migration to Catalonia? And do you think there
are different reasons for which people migrate from Ghana to here?
Yeah, well... I think this depends on the family because there are economical reasons and family
reasons. For example, my parents had family here, so my father came first and then we did so.
Do you speak any other language apart from Catalan and Spanish? If you do,
where do you speak it?
Yeah, I also speak Ghanaian and a little bit of English. But because it's a co-official language,
they are co-official languages. And I usually speak them with my parents only.
Both of them?
Yes.
Which one do you speak the most: Ghanaian or English?
(Laughs) For me, it's Ghanaian.

Good. Do you think being of specifically Ghanaian origin influences your ways of having
fun? Are there any hobbies or activities that you do because you learnt them in Ghana? For
instance, games, routines, stories...
Not really, because I... When I was little, I loved football; but when I came here I became
interested in basketball and nowadays it's the sport I do more often, and the one I like better.
Do you think belonging to both cultures influences your life? Are you considering going
back to Ghana, maybe for professional reasons?
Well, I don't think it has an influence on me, because it's been so long since I came here, I was a
child, so I hardly remember anything about it. And, honestly, I don't think I'll go back, unless my
parents force me to, because I hardly know my family there, so...
In what senses do you think that being part of both cultures enriches and benefits you?
Hm, yeah, it benefits me because thanks to this fact I know more cultures, more languages, and I
believe this is very useful for everything in life.
Surely. Do you think that your culture at home is more like that of Ghana or that it is
mixed with the Spanish/Catalan one?
It's mixed but my parents' culture is more Ghanaian. But my brother and I have grown up here,
so our lives are settled here.

Do you think belonging to two different cultures gives you identity problems, or the
opposite? Do you think you're defined by both?
No! Problems, none. Because I consider myself just like everyone else, and I have really good
times. I haven't got any kind of problem.
Do you believe you're more rooted in one place than to the other? If so, what do you think
determines it? Maybe friends, family...?
Yeah, I feel more rooted in Catalonia because I have grown up here and everything I know I've
discovered here.
Your family and friends...?
Yes.
Good. This is an empty space for your comments and suggestions. Do you think the
interview was complete? Have we talked about everything you consider is important?
It was really complete, I don't have much to say.
Do you think it is important to work on multiculturality? To learn about what it means,
and to discuss about immigration so as to avoid racism, discrimination...
Yeah, it does help, because knowing about other cultures makes you understand their way of
thinking and acting.

3. Based on the interview: theoretical aspects


Parting from the contents of the interview, we selected the aspects that could be analysed in a
theoretical way. Because of the interviewee's response, and his apparent lack of attachment to the
motherland, we focused our analysis on the process of cultural assimilation he has undergone.
3.1. Cultural assimilation
Parting from our interviewee's answers, we observed that he has undergone a remarkable process
of cultural assimilation, as he feels highly detached from the culture of his place of origin, and
has replaced it, almost completely, by the one of the place of destination.
Although we consider this process to be partly natural because he has grown up and been
educated in Catalonia, we wonder whether avoiding the cultural connections to the place of
origin is healthy for the young migrant subject. That is, Michael only identifies himself as
Ghanaian within the household, a place where he is observed only by his family (parents) who,
as he states, identify mostly as Ghanaian. On the contrary, when in social environments (in
school, with friendships, during leisure time...) he feels 'just like everyone else' (referring to
native Catalan youngsters). This clear dichotomy prompts our next question: is his cultural
identity determined by those who surround him? If so, what is his actual cultural identity?
These questions lead us to Stuart Hall's second definition of cultural identity as a matter of
'becoming' as well as of 'being' (225). He states that we need to acknowledge ruptures and
discontinuities in the formation of identities (225). That is, it would be naive and simplistic to
take into account Michael's original cultural background only and neglect the fact that he is
highly involved in the Catalan cultural environment.
8

Thus, we have come to draw two possible reasons for his identity dichotomy (between that of the
private and that of the social environments) that may or may not be true for our inteviewee but
we believe they are plausible and true for some cases of young migrants.
Our first hypothesis proposes that the young migrant subject, who has been bred, educated and
socialised in the destiny country, simply feels attached to that culture only but keeps some
aspects of the culture of origin in the household because of the emotional and respectful
connection with his relatives in other words, that he accepts sharing Ghanaian cultural traits at
home rather because he feels respect for his parents' culture than because he feels it to be his
own.
Our second hypothesis proposes quite the opposite. The young migrant subject would actually
feel multicultural (or even attached to the culture of origin only) but, because he/she has been
shaped by the destiny place's education, social conventions and way of thinking, he/she has
internalised the prejudices, ideas of Otherness and ostracism and tries to detach from the original
culture so as to avoid being seen and feeling as 'the Other'.
Finding out whether any of these suggested hypothesis is actually Michael's case we believe to
be outside the scope of our project. It would require wider knowledge on the psychological
effects of migration, a closer relationship with the interviewee, and his willingness to accept and
explore possible identity issues (which he denies having so far). We also believe that the fact that
he is so young can be an obstacle for further research in this aspect, because although the topic is
more interesting for us, he may not be mature enough to feel serene about it and eager to analyse
his own situation.

4. Based on the interview: Practical aspects


Once analysed the theorical aspects of the contents of the interview, we aimed at using them in a
practical way and at the same time learning something from the process. Therefore, we explored
a new platform in which we could develop and spread the contents of this project.
4. 1. The creation of an online blog
4.1.1. Justification
Since our first aim was to approach the issue of migration focusing on young immigrants, we
wanted to create an easy, popular way to access the contents of our research project so as to
spread the knowledge it may provide readers with. Given that technology and social networks
are highly popular amongst the nowadays youth, we decided to create a blog online in which an
introduction to the most interesting contents of this research can be accessed.
4.1.2. The process
The first step for creating the blog was to choose a blogging platform that fulfilled our
requirements. We wanted our blog to be of free access, easy to manage but mainly visually
attractive, so we chose the platform Weebly (http://fromkumasitovilafranca.weebly.com).
Secondly, the title we chose for the website is the one that gives name to this project: From
Kumasi to Vilafranca. Apart from symbolising the idea of movement that the migratory
experience implies, our purpose was to make it more personal to Michael's case by using the
name of the towns he has lived in, instead of a more general title (From Ghana to Catalonia was
firstly considered, but it lacked the personal attachment we were looking for).
10

Once the URL was settled, we decided on the design (See Annex 7.2). The characteristic element
of the site is a combination of two pictures: one of the street market of Kumasi, and one of
Vilafranca's. The image is linked to the title as it parts from one photograph to the other, by
merging them in the middle. The reason for selecting pictures of street markets is that they
provide a sense of the social sphere, which Michael has settled completely in Catalonia, although
he parts from the Ghanaian one, by melting them in the middle (the household, where both are
combined). Also, it can be observed how the two pictures do not differ so much from each other,
although each of them has their own peculiarities, both markets (i.e. both social spheres) are
established in the same way, and thus their fusion works perfectly.
4.1.3. The results
The results of the creation of a website have been very satisfactory, as we have achieved our
goals of easy accessing and spreading knowledge about such a relevant topic in nowadays world.
The site is visually attractive (See Annex 7.2) and contains the most relevant elements of our
project, which are developed in depth in this dossier.

11

5. Conclusions
To conclude our research, we wanted to make a few comments regarding our experience while
carrying out this project. To begin with, the articles chosen were very useful in providing
background information about young immigration, destiny and work opportunities, adaptation to
the European lifestyle, and cultural identity. Thanks to these articles, we were able to create a
proper interview in which we tackle all the topics as regards our aims.
However, it is relevant to take into account that the project had a turning point. While doing the
interview our expectations were not achieved successfully because our interviewee had a
different attitude and experience than we had expected. Nevertheless, we were able to reconduct
the approach of our project and still maintain the topics relevance. Therefore, we decided to
focus on the processes of assimilation and how our interviewees culture differs at home and in
the social environment. Also, we were able to explore new ways of conveying information, for
instance, our blog online. Hence, the content and the format of the project match successfully.
Thanks to this project, we have deeply explored some issues dealt in class as well as current
social aspects. We have learnt more about Ghanas background, the conditions of immigration
and the process of interviewing. Team work was also crucial for us to achieve all the goals of this
project.
We expect that there is further research in the topic of young people who migrated in their
childhood and grew up in the destiny country. We believe the psychological dimension of the
migratory act is as important as the social one, and that although some of its aspects can be
theorised, we ought not to neglect its sentimental and personal consequences.
12

6. Bibliography
Bonaba, Edmundo Sepa. "La immigraci negreafricana a Catalunya i Europa: visi
sociohistrica." Revista catalana de sociologa (1998): 71-74.

Hall, Stuart. "Cultural identity and diaspora." Identity: Community, Culture, Difference. Ed.
Jonathan Rutherford. London: Lawrence&Wishart, 1990. 222-37. Print.

Pedone, Claudia. "Lo de migrar me lo tomara con calma: representaciones sociales de jvenes
en torno al proyecto migratorio familiar."Trnsitos migratorios: contextos transnacionales y
proyectos familiares en las migraciones actuales, Universidad de Murcia, Murcia (2010): 141170.

Sow, Papa. "Aproximaci a la immigraci africana a Catalunya." Ausa 23.159 (2007): 203-212.

13

7. Annex
7.1. Summaries of the consulted articles
7.1.1. La immigraci negreafricana a Catalunya i Europa: visi sociohistrica by Edmundo Sepa
Bonaba
This article deals with the issue of the african immigration towards Europe and Catalonia. The
sociologist Edmundo Sepa Bonaba discusses several aspects throughtout the article, such as the
truth of the origins of this massive migration and the possible outcomes for the social conflics
that are emerging as a consequence of it. According to Bonaba, this is directly linked to colonial
discourses and, therefore, the effects of colonization, which are considered to be the main cause
of the African dependence towards the white world which is seen as a utopic role model. Thus,
this dependence, creates an addiction towards anything related to the European lifestyle that only
widens the gap between the rich and the poor. As a conclusion, Bonaba gets to the point that
there is no possible stoping the African migration towards Europe / Catalonia, hence, the real
outcome would be to work together in order to achieve a less traumatic both for Africans and
for Catalans / Europeans social, economic and educational insertion.
7.1.2. Lo de migrar me lo tomara con calma: representaciones sociales de jvenes en torno al
proyecto migratorio familiar by Claudia Pedone
Focusing on Latino migration, this article remarks the necessity to tackle the approach to family
relations in a transnational context. It explores the ways in which transnational movements cause
family fragmentation, as well as it states that stigmatisation about the educational development

14

of children and teenagers involved in these new migratory contexts is high and reinforced by the
Administration; for instance, by giving a criminalised image of the Latino youth.
Pedone explores how immigrant youngsters have reinforced their supra-national, national and
even regional gathering as a mechanism for identification and solidarity, differing themselves
from their autochthonous contemporaries.
Furthermore, Pedone states that the intercultural education provided by the educational system
does nothing but reinforce the folklorising ideas about the places of origin of this immigrant
youth, highlighting the dichotomy between us and others. She concludes that this is highly
linked to the educational deficiencies of immigrant offspring.
In addition, and taking other researches as a basis, Pedone states that these immigrant teenagers
remain invisible inside the migratory project of their families, and this fact complicates the
possibility to approach their way of constructing their multiple identifications. She emphasises
the fact that those identifications are highly heterogenic, plural and fluctuating depending on the
information they get from the parents, the amount of time in which they have been immersed in
the migratory project of their families, as well as the ways of reagrupation carried out by their
parents and the everyday life in the transnational context.
Exemplified by fragments of interviews to migrant teenagers and mothers, Pedone illustrates
how some of these youngsters prefer to go back to their place of origin, as well as how they
consider social education options (programs of professional training) and/or work. She states that
the diversity of these considered options is inherently linked to their social class.

15

Claudia Pedone concludes that migrant families have transformed their structures, defined roles
and built strategies to manage their everyday life in transnational contexts. Also, she defends that
stigmatising discourses have prevailed in these changes and transformations, and that they have
been determined by the conditions found in the place of destination as well. To finish, she states
that although they are obstructed by those reinforced symbolic frontiers, the sons and daughters
of immigrant origin must construct their own and singular sense of belonging.
7.1.3. Aproximaci a la Immigraci Africana a Catalunya by Papa Sow
Papa Sow's article focuses mainly, as the title suggests, on African migration to Catalonia. It
explores the causes of such migration, the years when it took place, the effect it had on
Catalonia, the places where Africans reside and the increase of such migration.
Focusing mainly on Subsaharian immigration, Papa Sow claims that probably from the eighties
onwards, when several economic crises occurred and poverty in such countries increased,
African migration became a reality. Now in Catalonia, he claims, it is a reality. He argues that
probably the Africans' idea in the first place was to move to Northern and Central Europe, in
countries such as Great Britain or France. However, since immigration laws in those countries
became harder, many migrants decided to stay in Catalonia as they found jobs and could afford
living in the country. As a consequence of the immigration, African communities were created all
over the Catalan territory.
Papa Sow also explores the origins of African immigrants. The migrants from the eighties, he
claims, mostly came from central and occidental African countries such as Congo, Nigeria, Ivory
Coast, Senegal, etc. However, it has been proved that lately African immigrants come from
16

countries in Northern Africa such as Morroco. Nevertheless, Sow claims that the African
community which has most presence in Catalonia comes from Senegal.
He also explores where in Catalonia the migrants settle. Following some statistics, he believes
the region preferred by Africans is Barcelona's province. It is followed by Girona's province,
Lleida and finally Tarragona. He also argues that in some regions such as Alt Peneds, African
migration is almost non existing.
His article also focuses on the Africans' jobs in Catalonia. He has observed that in the
Barcelona's surroundings, they can have almost any kind of job. In Girona, Sow claims that they
tend to work in the tertiary sector doing jobs such as owning a supermarket. In Lleida and
Tarragona, Africans tend to work in touristic places. One of their most common jobs is working
in hotels.
Finally, Sow explores the increase in African migration. Since the beginning of the twenty-first
century, Sow observes that the African population has increased. That is so mainly because wives
and children, who still remained in the country, now have moved to Catalonia to reunite and start
over with the family.

17

7.2 Screenshots of the blog From Kumasi to Vilafranca

The home page of From Kumasi to Vilafranca

The bibliography page and the full dropdown menu

18