Sunday, 6 March 2011
Ghana turns a fashionable 54
The occasion: the 54th Anniversary of Ghana's Independence
In the little black book: His Excellency the High Commissioner of Ghana to the UK, Professor Danso Boafo
The venue: Jumeirah Carlton Tower Hotel, Cadogan Place, SW1X 9PY
The dress: Not so much last season as last six years. It's an old favourite that still fits, save for a little hemming in at the waist.
The event: Within minutes of arriving at the swanky location in Knightsbridge I know I've walked into something of a fashion show, as I take in a retina-dazzling array of design, colour and truly sumptuous Kente styles. I hurry into the warm foyer of the hotel and make a quick dash to the bathroom to fix any stray strands of hair.
I climb up the thickly carpeted stairs, and a man dressed in a ceremonial red and black suit not unlike what one would see on the guards in Whitehall, beckons me over and asks my name.
'Davida Vanderpuije', I say loudly in order to be heard over the blaring music. He looks at me as though he thinks I'm joking.
'Say that again for me, love. Slowly this time.' I repeat my name, and a split second later he booms loudly (a little too close to my ear for comfort, but whatever), 'Your Excellency, DAVIDA VANDERPUIJE!', and prods me gently towards His Excellency, Professor Danso Boafo, who shakes my hand warmly and flashes a smile. I'm still recovering from the reverberation of the announcer's voice in my ear, so the moment with the High Commissioner passes in a blur.
I flag a passing waiter and grab a glass of red wine. As the first few sips sink down, an alarming sensation in the pit of my stomach reminds me that I'm hungry, and that drinking on an empty stomach is not a very smart idea. Fortunately I spy a table laden with diced fruits and a chocolate fountain at the other side of the room, and inch my way towards it, just as the band on stage strikes up a catchy rendition of 'Ozim zim oyaa.'
Moments later, Castro's song with Asamoah Gyan - with the infamous line, 'Ghana girls you be sweet, sexy like cheese' - blares over the loud speakers, and a few brazen youngsters get dancing. I'm munching on a heavenly strawberry when I look to my left, stare and do a double take. And stare again. Wait...I'm either seeing right, or I have actually hallucinated him into existence, but Asamoah Gyan himself is standing an arm's length from me. I glance surreptitiously again..and it is him! Baby Jet in the flesh. I'm a little starstruck, and momentarily rooted to the spot. I snap out of it quickly enough, and walk determinedly towards him. I know a photo op when it's standing right in front of me...
I elbow my way through the adoring crowd gathered around him, murmuring in a firm, yet pleasant tone, 'Excuse me..' I do it with such confidence that I think people think I'm part of his entourage. I finally reach him and audaciously link arms with him as though he were my old pal from the hood, from back in the day. I thrust my camera at a serious looking man in front of us, and tug at Baby Jet's arm for his attention, 'look this way..!' Like a great sport he turns the smile on, and we both flash our 32's for the paparazzi. Afterwards I quip directly into his ear, 'No cheese today?', and to my blessed relief he gets it and laughs. What a gracious star, is our Asamoah Gyan. I can't help noticing that up close he is quite sexy himself. Like...cheese.
By this time the live band has been demoted in favour of hip-thrusting hiplife tunes over the loud speakers. The announcer from earlier on reappears on stage to quieten everybody as we prepare to sing the National Anthem. The band strikes up the anthem, and I start singing..except it takes another moment before I realise I'm the only fool actually singing out loud - everyone else has their mouths closed, looking solemn and patriotic. I'm blushing furiously under my black skin. The moment is finally over, and I hurry away from the scene of the 'crime'.
I spot a few familiar faces around the room, and happily spend the rest of the time schmoozing with some of Ghana's finest in the UK. Ruff n Smooth's 'Swagga' comes on, and I drag my two left feet on to the dance floor and do some quick steps.
Ah, Ghana. Sometimes nuts, crackers and crazy; then an informal, infectiously friendly and wonderfully inviting country; often a treasure trove cove of history. Always, always the motherland.
Happy Independence Day!