A really big lineage

I have a big family. I could never count how many relatives I have and many of them I have never met in my life. Some live and work in a remote village in the northwest of Ghana, Hiineteng, some in Burkina Faso. They belong to the ethnic group of the Dagara, who live in the three-country triangle of Ghana, Burkina Faso and the Ivory Coast. Traditionally, they are subsistence farmers, as they were before the colonial era. However, many now work as teachers, tailors, traders, labourers, engineers, university professors, doctors or even as disaster managers for the UN. I am very excited. Because soon I will be with them and I will meet many family members again or get to know them for the first time … In Ghana!

By the way: I myself am a Berliner, author, photographer and ethnologist, born in Mexico, raised in Brazil and German. And I have a whole lot of other relatives, biological relatives. If I were to count them all … My grandmother had five siblings, some of whom had many descendants. In my generation – on my mother’s side – I have quite a few cousins. For the most part, I don’t know them either, at most from seeing them at traditional family celebrations that were and are regularly organised. The group photos of the extended Behrend family and all the descendants are indeed extensive. A broad panorama spread over Germany and Brazil, even worldwide. In Ghana, all the Behrendts would simply be my brothers and sisters. Or cousins. Mothers and fathers. Aunts and uncles. No linguistic distinctions are made between first, second or third degrees of kinship.