The history of the American Negro is the history of this strife — this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and truer self. In this merging he wishes neither of the older selves to be lost. He does not wish to Africanize America, for America has too much to teach the world and Africa. He wouldn't bleach his Negro blood in a flood of white Americanism, for he knows that Negro blood has a message for the world. He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without having the doors of opportunity closed roughly in his face.
According to Owusu, while African Americans experience the double consciousness that W.E.B. Dubois describes, the African immigrant encounters a triple consciousness:
The African immigrant is unlike the African American who has a double consciousness. The African immigrant has a triple consciousness. The African immigrant has to assimilate in white American culture in order to succeed in American society. The African immigrant is grouped and identified with African Americans in the eyes of others because of their shared skin color. Yet the African does not always identify with African American culture and history. Along with the African immigrant’s triple consciousness, he has to deal with the African world and his or her own line of descent. READ FULL FILMMAKER’S STATEMENT
Her “warring consciousness” as she describes it, becomes the point of departure for her film Me broni ba (my white baby). Using hair as a medium of culture, she examines African and African-American identities and ideologies in an effort to resolve their differences.
Me broni ba is inspired by the experiences of Adoma’s sister who as a child was fascinated with white people’s hair, as well as her own observations, during her travels to Ghana, of girls using white dolls to practice hair braiding. This relationship to the white doll raises the vexed question of the exportation and internalization of white standards of beauty in Africa. Thus a parallel to the triple consciousness among the African immigrant population—an “exteriorized consciousness” that Africans experience, though not in the context of assimilation but rather of interiorizing a western aesthetic leading to a similar double consciousness to which Dubois refers, in the form of an African/Western dichotomy.
In the United States, Owusu reflects a growing population of Neo-African Diasporans, whose experiences highlight a recent debate on the differences between African Americans and Africans in America; the former, descendents of enslaved Africans having endured the transatlantic slave trade and U.S. slavery, and the latter, diverse groups having largely migrated to the United States post-African independence and who constitute the “Neo-African Diaspora”.
VOA TV2 Africa Report on Akosua Adoma Owusu’s Me Broni Ba
Me Broni Ba by Akosua Doma Owusu (Trailer 1)
Me Broni Ba by Akosua Doma Owusu (Trailer 2)
Intermittent Delight by Akosua Adoma Owusu (Cal Arts Film and Video)