Saturday, September 14, 2013

Taxi Cab Ethnography and African Gypsies

Hanging around the front of Accra Mall and other places such as Nkrumah Circle there are these child beggars. They are not Ghanaian. In fact they don't even look African. They look like the Gypsies you see in Europe and Central Asia. They have brown skin and South Asian features. They also act like the Gypsies in Europe and Asia. You never see any adult men, just children begging for money. I have asked a number of cab drivers about the origins of these people. Each and every one of them has a different story, but in every case they identify them as coming from the north. Some say they come from Mali, others Burkina Faso, still others Niger, some say they are from Chad, and one guy even claimed they came from Somalia. Although to be honest they don't look Somali to me. They look and act like Roma to me. Also like the indigenous peoples of Europe and Asia, the local Ghanaians do not have a very high opinion of these immigrants who seem to be composed entirely of beggars. I have read a little bit about the Roma in Europe, but even though by some accounts they supposedly entered the Balkans via Egypt, hence the name Gypsies, I have not seen any scholarly references to this ethnic group making its way to Ghana via the Sahel. Does anybody know anything about the origins of the Gypsies in the Accra area?

1 comment:

7725xmasmenu said...

I was in Accra for work, and saw these kids. I think the preferred term is "traveler," but otherwise your account of how they look and act is spot on. I did see a Ghanaian lady talking with them in a familiar way as if they knew each other.