Every year, primary school pupils across Ghana – and no doubt Africa – take one end of term exam or the other which asks a simple, yet complex question: Who is your role model? And every year, without fail, the majority of those pupils are likely to respond: My mother.
And indeed, that’s what our mothers (and mother figures) are to us: role models. The women who birth us, help us model our lives, our paths, our very beings. Women – and men – who may not have carried us to term, but still nurture us, teach us, scold us, guide us, and challenge us to be the best we can be.
I was one of those children and though I can’t remember the details, I’m sure my essays had many great reasons for why she was (and still is) my role model. Over the years though, the paragraphs worth of explanations have been narrowed down to simple words, memories, and sentiments that I have come to associate with the love of a mother; my mother.
Take for instance, cloves. Yes, cloves. Those brownish-black, small flower/stump-like spices have become one of my strongest associations with my mother’s love. Why? Because whenever anyone in our house has the slightest indication of a cold or cough, my mother would insist that we make sure we add cloves to the hot, boiling water for breakfast every morning.
Because of this, wherever I find myself in the world – and especially when I’m ill or have the flu – I find myself some cloves. Sometimes to use, sometimes to smell, but most times, just to have close. For the simple fact that it reminds me of my mother’s care and love and makes me feel safe.
And then there’s ‘chilo’ or kohl eyeliner; something my late aunt used to wear all time. When my sister and I were younger we make endless requests about visiting my aunt in Tema because we wanted to get some of her chilo. It had to be hers, nobody else’s. Looking back now I see what we enjoyed was the fuss she made over how beautiful we were. Today, I rarely leave the house without some chilo lining my eyes. It’s become part of who I am and that’s largely thanks to my aunt. By this simple act turned personal ritual, she nurtured our self-confidence, sense of self-worth and identity.
Now, you must be wondering – why this talk about my mother on a random day such as this? As Oli Ham reminded me on Google+ some weeks back, we need to celebrate our mothers every day. That’s exactly what NIDO is doing with its “Thank You Mother!” campaign. By teaming up with husbands, friends, family members and children like Dominique Banama, some deserving mothers across West Africa are receiving heartwarming surprises to help them be the best mothers, caregivers, professionals, women they can be. Check out the videos below – be forewarned, you might shed a tear or two – and do share them if you find them inspiring or meaningful.
And so now, I have a question for you: What does your mother mean to you? It could be a word or an entire essay. A clove or an emotion. Whatever it is, join us as we continue celebrating our mothers every day. Why? Because they deserve it. Thank you mummy!
Jemila Abdulai is the creative director, editor and founder of the award-winning website Circumspecte.com. A media and international development professional and economist by training, she combines her business, communications and project management expertise with her strong passion for Africa. Besides writing and reading, she enjoys travel, global cuisine, movies, and good design.