What do we mean when we say authentic?
Today I got to visit Aburi Gardens. It’s the kind of the place people say you must see if staying in Accra for a significant period.
They were beautiful and full of interesting trees, including this cedar tree that was no more because a parasite completely took over.
The oldest tree in the garden, a cotton silk wood tree, stood prominently. And so did the cinnamon trees, cocoa trees, bay and curry leaf trees (sorry I don’t remember the scientific names).
The British planted Aburi Gardens in 1890. Many of the plants were imported from abroad (the cocoa trees, for example, were from the Amazon).
Are the Aburi Gardens authentic? Authentic to what?
When we speak of authenticity, we are asking questions of origin and ownership. Did __ start here? Who created/invented/first imagined/brought about ____? A Ted talk that many Stanford sophomores watched in the spring has reframed the way I think about authenticity and belonging for humans (check it out here). But notions of tradition and ownership are hard to truly pinpoint when we as people, our customs, and our cultures (including the physical manifestations of all of these things) are constantly in flux. It feels like the authenticity of anything can never fully be spoken, as factors impart change in ways never fully describable or perceptible to the human mind.
If a garden “began” before the nation of Ghana, a country itself sewn together by colonial powers, “began” then isn’t this garden authentic to Ghana itself?
My answer to the above question is yes. Aburi Gardens are authentically Ghanaian. But it feels weird. The cocoa tree with a sign saying that the plants were from the Amazon did not feel Ghanaian. But it was. Right? Maybe my definition of Ghanaian needs tweaking.
Leave comments if you have thoughts on this or think I’m wrong 😉
P.S. I got to eat kelewele today. What a treat.