© Tomas Bachot
It was my first time in Ghana, which I had only knew about it from my then-girlfriend’s stories. She grew up there as an Obruni – a foreigner. Her mother is Belgian and her father Ghanaian. Together, her parents built a cleaning supplies company there twenty years ago.
I remember her saying that she had never been on a public bus, a tro-tro, in her life. Her parents or a chauffeur would drive her around Accra to the mall or to her school. Most of her friends were foreigners, although the French School she attended wasn’t the most exclusive: in the American one, tuition fees could be as high as $20,000 a year.
Because of this, I already had an idea in mind before arriving. Still, I was amazed by the barbed wire fences around the big houses and the exclusive shops filled with European products. In these upscale neighbourhoods and gated communities, I saw more SUVs than people. The financial gap between the locals and the Westerners was so huge that it created rather a fictitious atmosphere. Almost every day I watched Belgian television and ate Flemish food. I slept with blankets in air-conditioned rooms when it was 30°C outside at night.
For seven weeks I photographed the environment where my former girlfriend had spent her youth.
The expat families I met were very friendly, but they didn’t really realize their exclusive position. I had explained my project to them before coming, so they were aware of me being there in the role of photographer. But still, after seeing the results, one family got really upset and accused me of placing them in a colonial setting. In a sense, of course, I understand their feelings. Being confronted with your own way of living can be hard and your comfort bubble can burst.
After two weeks I also found difficulty in seeing the distinctive way of life lead by the Obrunis. I was introduced into their lifestyle and this is how I was living in Ghana too. I quickly got used to it. That’s the turning point, when the awareness of the model you live in slips away.
Tomas Bachot is a visual storyteller. The topics that interest him the most are the outcome of his journalistic background and personal relations. He is currently studying photography at the School of Arts/KASK in Ghent, where he specialises in documentary. Previously he obtained a bachelor in journalism and went to Brussels’s art school ‘Le 75’.
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