Fraser McGruer

Isaac & Evangeline

I sometimes feel more Ghanaian when I'm surrounded by British people. For example, in my office, I'm not able to keep up with the amount of tea rounds. 

Isaac. I was born in the UK actually in Shepherd’s Bush, but I grew up in Ghana. I am a tax consultant.

Evangeline. I was born in Nigeria and I came over here when I was a baby and I’ve been in the UK ever since. I'm a primary school teacher.

Isaac. I consider myself British; I live a fully settled life in England and I'm able to relate between many aspects of the British culture. For instance, when I'm in other European countries I cannot call myself Ghanaian, I say I am from England and I am British. That said, I sometimes feel more Ghanaian when I'm surrounded by British people. For example, in my office, I'm not able to keep up with the amount of tea rounds.

But it’s also quite weird to hear where I'm from being referred to as Africa, because I have never identified as African; I have always identified as Ghanaian. 

Evangeline. Yes; I think that before going to Nigeria I would have actually had the mindset that Nigerians and Ghanaians are just like all Africans. But after going to Nigeria two or three times and then visiting Ghana, I saw such a massive difference. I felt like the Nigerian attitude was in your face, aggressive, 'it’s my way or the highway', and when I went to Ghana everyone just seemed chilled out. And I felt, 'Yeah, this is my kind of living". I think I opened my eyes to the fact that everyone is not just 'African', there is more to it than that - and I think it made me understand my husband and his family a lot more because they have always been so relaxed.

Isaac on Evangeline

So when is Evangeline Nigerian? She is, in fact, not very Nigerian; for example, I think she is more at home with English food and she sticks out like a sore thumb when she is around Nigerians because you can see from miles that she is very different. She can’t speak the language very well, she tries to put on a Nigerian accent: she’s more British or English than you would imagine. 

Evangeline on Isaac

I would say that Isaac is very much British when we are in public. I have noticed that he has a way of speaking in that he has an almost British Boarding school style of speaking - very polished. But when he’s around Africans or maybe just at home, it’s not as polished. I remember there was a time I actually called him at work and I had to ask myself 'Is this really Isaac?' and I said him 'Why are you speaking like that?'

Evangeline. I definitely do feel British but I would define that as being like a product: like something that is produced in Britain, but I know that my origins are not Britain. I live in Britain and I take on the British values and this is the way of life I live, but I know my origins am not from here, they are African - and I am able to switch from one to the other.

When I visited Nigeria, I felt I didn’t belong in my own country because I couldn’t put on the 'African display' that my friends and family would. I also felt that the African culture was very forward and very in your face and almost aggressive. I think that, personally, I’m a gentle 'live and let live' kind of person, so in the market, I remember my aunties saying, ‘What do you mean!? I'm not paying this much for it, you need to cut the price!’ and I was completely horrified.

Also, with African food, if somebody cooked something really hot and spicy, I would possibly be the one to be tasting it and to be eating it, whereas I find some of my British friends saying that’s too hot for them or saying let’s go get some fish and chips. But, I can identify with both because I love fish and chips but then I love hot and spicy as well. 

Evangeline. I went to school in Derby and in my entire primary school it was just two black children. But I want it to be different for my daughter, Cherish.

I think it’s very important for Cherish to get a sense of identity from a young age. So I’ve always told Isaac that I would like Cherish to be around people that are Ghanaian and Nigerian from a young age, like in London where there is greater cultural diversity. The reason I say that is because I have memories of being in primary school and all of a sudden it dawned on me that my hair texture was different to your hair texture and my skin colour was different to yours. I found it hard to deal with what I called being ‘the odd one out’. So I think it’s important for Cherish to be around people that look like her and have a similar cultural background from an early age, so that she can grow from that because I think that it will give her the sense of ‘I belong’ or ‘I’m like her’. I think we all need 'that’s my dad', 'that's mum', 'that’s my friend' and 'I belong'.

I never had that and I found it very difficult to identify with anything.

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