African travel influencer Kojo Nkunim was born and raised in Bomso, a town in Kumasi, Ghana. In 2010, he moved to the United States, where he now has two children with his wife, Michelle. As a multicultural family, the Nkunims are intentional about ensuring their daughters—two-year-old Afia and ten-month-old Andiaso—are exposed to both cultures that comprise their unique identity.
Living in the U.S., they are immersed in American culture every day. However, it is equally important to the Nkunims that their girls get to know, learn and experience their Ghanaian heritage by incorporating aspects of it into their everyday lives.
The Nkunims recently traveled to Ghana in July 2022 to spend time with family members in Bomso and experience the culture firsthand.
“Our first stop when we arrived in Ghana was going to see my mom in Tepa,” says Kojo Nkunim. “This was the first time they got to meet their nana in person, and they were so excited to finally meet. Anidaso was only three months at the time, but my mom and sisters were quick to carry Afia on their back, which she had the time of her life with. She immediately fell in love with her family, and I’ve never seen her so happy. Our girls were able to meet all of their cousins and the connection Afia had with them was like the one I had with mine growing up, which was emotional for all of us to see.”
Kojo was able to share precious pieces of his childhood with his daughters, including taking them to see the home he grew up in and the hospital he was born in. These were memorable and touching moments for him as a father. He really enjoyed sharing foods with them that he ate growing up.
“Our girls are foodies, and they definitely have Ghanaian taste buds,” he says. “Every morning I went out to get Hausa Koko and Kose, which is what I would eat on special mornings before school, and also Red Red, which I appreciate a lot more now that I’m older. Growing up, we didn’t always have money for meat, so we relied a lot on beans, and Red Red was a staple for us, something that we enjoy weekly as a family since becoming vegan about four years ago.”
For parents of the Diaspora who long to introduce and expose their children to native homelands, the now viral father offers the following advice.
Maintain family ties
There are a variety of reasons parents choose to expose their young children to their ancestral lands early on, and great benefit in doing so.
“Since most of my family is still in Ghana, it’s important that my children are able to have a relationship with them throughout life,” Nkunims shares. “I want them to have core experiences with our entire family, and since most of mine is abroad, there’s no question on whether we need to spend time there.”
Even while at home, you can maintain the connection through video calls and photo sharing. Seeing their long-distance family members’ faces and hearing their voices will evoke warm memories of their time spent together and fond images of their ancestral home.
Preserve the legacy
“Both sides of my family were born into Ghanaian royalty, my great uncle being one of the most revered Ashanti kings. So, having my children understand their ancestry is a priority to me, and something that I want them to walk with pride in knowing. Before my father passed, he was putting together a full history of our family along with petitioning to reclaim some of the land and kingship that rightfully belongs to us, and I hope that one day they will be able to walk on that land knowing what our family built so many years ago.”
Incorporate the culture
Being a multicultural family, the Nkunims want their girls to know about the beauty of both of their family’s cultures, and not just the modern-day American culture that they are exposed to on a day-to-day basis.
“There’s so much about their background that they cannot get out of books, shows, or movies. It’s about immersion into the culture. I just want them to see the beauty of their homeland because I wouldn’t be the person that I am without having lived there until my adult life,” he says. “The person I have become is founded in the morals and traditions that I grew up with, and foundation is built so early in life.”
For parents living in Western countries, Kojo stresses the importance of speaking your native language to your little ones.
“We incorporate it in conversations as well as books and some cartoons. It’s amazing to hear Afia singing songs that I sang growing up.”
Sharing culture through cuisine is another easy method.
“We will sit with one platter as a family and eat with our hands. While some people don’t understand, it’s such an intimate and cultural experience to have as a family.”
The Nkunims look forward to returning to Ghana in May and staying for a longer period this time.