Category Archives: Diaspora

Black Beauty

Loving this series, brought to my attention by Ms Afropolitan. Awesome to hear from this collection of Black women talking about our wonderful city of London and Black beauty.  So many things resonate with me on a personal level; particularly what Minna has to say on Black beauty in a political context, in contrast to the visual or aesthetic. Check out the London edition but the whole series is worth a look.

What say you, is there such a thing as Black Beauty?

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My African City-The Ghanaian Friend

I have been looking forward to my Ghanaian Friend returning from her trip to her homeland.  We have been discussing a guest blog for months and her trip home seemed like the perfect opportunity to put this to the test.  And she did not disappoint!  I hope you enjoy her blog.  It is a rich and vibrant offering, highlighting some of the issues from my previous blog posts; mainly identity as a African born in the diaspora and the impact when one returns home.  I’d like to thank Ghanaian Friend and say that she will definitely be invited to come back!

I was actually introduced to the YouTube show ‘An African City’ by the ‘Diasporan Newbie’ herself some months back.  I knew instantly after my first viewing of the 15 minute first episode, that I would have a field day discussing this with her as soon as we next met.  Cue the excitable chinwag that followed: “But is this REALLY Africa?”, “Are these ‘bougie’ girls meant to represent today’s African woman?”, “Seriously? An episode that centers on retrieving a vibrator from customs?”  And of course: “Oooh the fashion is outta this world!  Carrie Bradshaw – eat your heart out!!”

Yet for all my conflicted and indecisive opinion on Nicole Amarteifio’s

YouTube hit, when I finally touched down in Accra, Ghana a few weeks ago, this is strangely what I had in the back of mind.  In my defense, I hadn’t been back to Ghana since 1995 when I performed the Krobo tradition of dipo in respect of my mother’s tribe.  Hence my vision of the county now as a 29 year old woman had been moderately shaped by friends and colleagues who were born there but now lived in the UK, and travelled back frequently, or family members who had disturbingly polarized views on the former ‘Gold Coast’ – ranging from charming Utopia where one might find the sweetest pineapple and mangoes to enjoy all day, to a deep societal inertia that continued to be glossed over by the Wests’ obsession with labeling Ghana’s relatively stable economic and political governance as West Africa’s ‘beacon of hope’.

I wouldn’t exactly say that I was on a mission to penetrate these opinions or theories.  I was, lest not I forget there to unwind, further discover my roots and heritage, and enjoy myself!  Incidentally, I had the time of my life, seeing parts of the country I had never experienced before and adopting ‘YO-LO’ (‘you only live once’ for those who haven’t watch enough episodes of  KUWTK!) as the official holiday mantra – an indication it’s going to be a crazy one!

But I’m not writing to give a blow-by-blow account of my phenomenal experiences (which by the way included riding horseback across the sandy white beaches of Labadi, climbing 40 metres high to cross less than sturdy planks in the rainforest (YO-LO!!), and surviving two marriage proposals in 2 weeks!).  I’m writing because I want to salute the Ghana I met for teaching me an important lesson about identity.  There were a million and one observations that I made about Ghana (or more accurately the snapshot that I saw), but Ill keep to identity for now (and maybe chip in on another blog about other stimulating and provocative topics).

Identity is was and is extremely real for me in Ghana, particularly as I was conscious that I might be received as a foreigner or that they would call me ‘obroni’ meaning white person.  Surprisingly, that never happened.  Perhaps it was my insistence on speaking ‘Twi’ as much as possible and being quite clear that I was a Ghanaian who just happened to be born and raised in the UK.  Instead I was accepted and ushered in a way that I have never felt in my 29 years in good ole’ Great Britain.  Instead what I heard was;

“Sister/Maame, you must come back soon, this is your home”.

I couldn’t help but compare, but what I noted was, from the Ghanaians that I met (some “bougies” that could have stepped right out of an episode of ‘An African City’, some extremely wealthy, and others leading a very humble lifestyle indeed)

Nobody merely exists in the way that I see Brits bitterly do.  Ghanaians are so proud of their cultures, they love their country (many still acknowledging deep social, economic, and political blockages) and as one Ghanaian friend said: “we don’t envy the white man!”

I couldn’t help but feel that I and my fellow inspired Ghanaians, with our strong (and in my case renewed) sense of identity could be part of the solution to shaking up the inertia I mentioned.  So what started out with an interest in ‘An African City’ and its ability to ‘keep it real’ ended with a truly amazing experience of my own African City.  On both fronts, I have no doubt there is plenty more to come.

Together We Stand

Today I was moved by this image that I came across on Ms Afropolitan’s Facebook page.

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It is stunningly beautiful.  Arresting. I was so taken with this piece that I decided to check the artist out.  His name is Kehinde Wiley, a New York-Based visual artist.

His World Stage series depicts ‘urban, black and brown men’.  Here is the brief description on his Facebook page describing his work;

Kehinde Wiley creates highly realistic paintings of people of the African diaspora which reference the Western European portrait tradition.

As I looked through his work, seeing images of Black men faces from Haiti, Lagos, Dakar, Jamaica, Israel and France, I connected with his description of his work and more importantly, his subjects.  The Africanness of his subjects, no matter where they are, is what made my heart rejoice.  At this point in my journey, this is still very important to me.  Not only is it vital for me to identify with my African heritage, there is something about how that is acknowledged by others.  Kehinde’s work ( I love this name; it is the name of a character in Ghana Must Go) seems to break down the barriers between people of African descent. Through the lens of his work, we are all African, wherever we are in the diaspora.

Now, not everyone identifies in this way.  And that’s OK.  This thing of identity is multi-faceted.  And Caribbean culture is the one that is most familiar to me as this is the culture I was born into and grew up in.  Still, I find that the more time I spend with friends with African parentage, the more similarities I feel in how move through the world, our experiences of being Black British and Black Other, how we were parented, our values.  So many similarities yet still so many differences.

One of the things I want to explore in this blog is the perception of difference.  Growing up, I was always aware of was the unspoken understanding that ‘us Caribbeans’ were different from ‘those Africans’. Those Caribbean do not know who they are.  They have no true heritage. I don’t really know what us Caribbean had to say about our African brothers an sisters.  As a child,  it manifested in things like laughing at unpronounceable African names at school; grown ups turning their noses up at the smell of African food; how they dressed.  Why the laughter?  Why were these things chosen to highlight out differences?

This journey is about not about difference but about sameness.

I have not broached this topic with my friends as yet but know that is a conversation that I will have soon.  It will be a difficult one.  Because in there somewhere I do wonder whether it is true; many of us Caribbean’s do not know who we are.  That privilege was taken away from us many generations back.  This blog is proof of that in many ways.  I am envious of my friends who are firmly rooted to their heritage, with knowledge of their home, their people, their language, their ancestors.  Is there truly a snobbery about this?

In any case, those conversations will definitely be the stuff of future blogs!  Ghanaian Friend is in Ghana right now and I have asked her to guest on Musings From a Diasporan Newbie.  I think she will have something to say on this subject so watch this space!

On Sunday, I’m off to Africa Utopia at the Southbank Centre.  Some of the themes for Sunday are around Africa and the Caribbean as well as the wider diaspora.  I’m really excited and I’m sure inspiration for blogging will be everywhere.

In the meantime, I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.  Are you of Caribbean descent and disagree with me?  Are you of African parentage and want to weigh in with your perspective? Or maybe you are neither but would like to share your thoughts.  I’m happy to explore different perspectives so feel free to comment!

Final words; check out Kehinde’s work.  It really is incredible.

 

 

 

 

 

Minna Salami: An Interview with the Creator of Ms. Afropolitan

Another woman and blog I have found inspiring. This is a great interview, I love how clear and authoritative Minna is in her view of African feminism. For me, this is an important part of my own journey into identity. My Africanness and womanhood and two things intertwined. This also resonated with me:
“And yes, being a feminist is subconscious, in fact being a feminist and being a woman are synonymous to me; I would not know how to be a woman who is not a feminist. ”
Enjoy.

This Life

I’m wide awake at stupid o’clock and rather than lie in bed thinking vague thoughts and counting down the time I may as well write something, right?  So I’ve started a new blog exploring my experience as a 1st generation, UK born, half afro-Guyanese and half Jamaican, black woman.  I hope y’all will get involved, leave your comments and posts as I go through this journey.

I am a busy, working mum trying to run a household, have a meaningful career, play an active role in my community and have fun while I’m doing it (I have always liked to party and that has not stopped since becoming a ‘responsible adult’!).

Life is pretty interesting at the moment, with lots of things on the go and lots of exciting new spaces in which I find myself, particularly professionally. However, the thing that is most interesting for me at the moment is identity and the nature of identity.

Many things have changed in my life over the past 18 months, all of which have been positive.  I have found myself suddenly close to a small group of women who were not in my life 18 months ago.  I have been surprised at how these new connections have grown and I now count some of these women as close friends.  Several of these women are African.  This has had a deep impact on me.  I am like many Black British women of my generation; I lay claim to my Britishness in one sense but in another, have always felt ‘other’.  My experience of becoming close with a number of fiercely proud African women has been life-affirming.  The closet thing to ‘sisterhood’ I can recall experiencing.

This is certainly a reflection of the personal development journey I have been on in the past 18 months.  In a deep conversation with a friend earlier in the year, I began to realise that for the 1st time in my life, I identify as an African more than anything else.  Of course my cultural upbringing is important to me and certainly a critical part of who I am.  But I also have connected with something that feels deeply fundamental and such an obvious part of me that I am slightly amazed that it has taken the best part of 40 years to find it!

This 1st blog is a commitment to charting this experience and period of exploration and growth.

http://www.culturaldiplomacy.org/experienceafrica/index.php?en_the-african-diaspora

I do need to go back to bed now!