My mother and I recently decided to do DNA kits together in honor of Mother’s Day. (Please don’t @ me with warnings about how our information will be used; we’re grown, neither of us is a serial killer, and genealogy searches have taken us only so far.) Since we’re decidedly African American and slavery was not a choice, we’d like to get a better idea of where on the continent we come from, genetically.
So there’s something enviable about British model Adwoa Aboah’s direct knowledge of her heritage: Her father is Ghanaian, while her mother’s family are members of British nobility. As one of British legacy brand Burberry’s current campaign stars, the now-Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Aboah took the label and photographer Juergen Teller to her father’s native country. She returned to the capital city of Accra to shoot Burberry’s Autumn/Winter 2018 precollection (Aboah was both model and art director) and to give her family a glimpse of her high-fashion life. As she told British Vogue:
I tried very hard not to be too emotional about this trip, but it’s so special for everyone to see where the story started. To be in Ghana means coming home. I’ve been able to bring close friends of mine here, and my grandma and my family have had a taste of what the other part of my life is like.
But there’s couture in Ghana, too, which Aboah’s aunt Tina demonstrated by transforming the iconic Burberry tartan into a collection of Ghanaian-style garments and head wraps, modeled by Adwoa’s grandmother Gladys Aboah, great-aunt Mary Asare, cousin Kensemaa Aboah and Tina (Ernestina Aboah) herself. It’s the perfect melding of Aboah’s two lineages, and a reminder that high style exists everywhere, as Adwoa explained:
I just remember telling my auntie what we wanted her to do, and she was so excited. This is what she does in Ghana, and for her work to be seen on an international scale was so exciting for her. None of us wanted to take our outfits off, because they were so different and cool, modern but very much traditional.
And as for Aboah’s identification with the land of her father’s birth, she speaks of a newfound sense of belonging to a place where she used to consider herself a visitor: “I am still an outsider there, but now, what’s been so different this time is I feel like I am Ghanaian. And I’m excited and proud that I have another half of me.”