Is it my very long name, with extra syllables and a very thick accentuated tone? Is it my dark kinky hair? Is it my chestnut colour? Is it because I am geographically situated in this particular continent that makes me African? It has taken me months to really articulate what makes me African and what makes you African.
I was talking with a friend recently and we came to a realisation that more often than not people tend to put a list of check boxes that you must tick to be African. It’s a long list but there are some common ones that you must tick to qualify. You must speak an indigenous language. You must have been born on the continent. You should have at least an “African” name or surname. And the long contested one, you should be black. For so long many of my friends associated being black with being African. But that is not the case as I have learnt over the course of time. Race, colour, citizenship, language do not determine your African Identity.
Then if these check boxes that are supposed to qualify my Africaness don’t, what does? Chester Higgins Jnr said “We are not Africans because we are born in Africa we are Africans because Africa is born in us.” When I first read this quote I did not understand it at all. I could not fathom how Africa could be born in me, or you, or anyone. Now, however I think I do.
Being African is not the same as being European or Asian. The reason I say this is because Africa is not just a continent it is a living entity. A myriad of different colours, people, cultures and spirit. Africa to me is alive and vibrant but then again my view could be biased. What makes me African is me choosing to be African. I am African because I love there is about Africa. I love the different mix of languages, music, dance and fashion. I am challenged and motivated to rectify the political situation in my country. I am inspired to see an Africa that no longer suffers from poverty.
I am proud to be African the good, the bad and everything in between. What makes me African is me. What makes you African is you. Our different connections to Africa makes us African and our experiences solidify our African identity.
And to my friend, I think you are more African than I am. And that is a good thing.
Comment and tell me what connections do you have with Africa which make you African?