The African Identity
We are the beating drums of a tribe. The smoke that rises with celebratory fires. We are black unkempt hair, roots that meander like our rivers. We are the beads on our necklaces, the animal skin on our instruments. We are the blood shed within the soil; the lives taken during Slave Trade and Colonialism. We are the voices of heroes; the souls that broke silence and injustice. We are Haile Selassie. William Wilberforce. Queen Anna Nzinga of Angola. We are the army of warriors that fought slave trade for centuries. We are three-hundred years of slavery. Of wrists shackled. Of manslaughter. We are also freedom. And emancipation. And independence. Strength wrapped around our skin. Our tongues speak of victory. We are the African men and women that built this civilization – from dust to the heavens. The sweat and tears of workers that laid brick upon brick, building empires that stretch from Cape Town to Cairo. We are skyscrapers – hands that stretch to claim the sky. We are the Pyramids of Giza. The Great Sphinx. The Marrakesh. The Table Mountain. And, despite the masterpieces that we have built, we are also endowed by blessings beyond human creation. We are Mount Kilimanjaro. The Nile River. Okavango Delta. Victoria Falls. The Sossusvlei. We are a continent of natural wealth. We are also a rare blend of cultures. The many dialects that dance around our lips. The clicks and ululations, how we own our languages, how we assemble English to suit us, like West Africa’s Pidgins. Ours is a history of storytelling. Tales and Proverbs passed on from the old, to the young, around firesides. Words that weave meaning to characters. To places. To objects. Our symbols too, speak if you listen. The Adinkra symbols, carved in wood and print, remind us of love. And peace. And God. We are also rumbling stomachs. Craving powdered gari 1or soft chapati 2. If we are truly what we eat, then we are diversity. We are Jollof 3 wars and pap. Our palates are insatiable. We are art – not just in the pits of glistening black pots and pans – but everywhere. Nollywood films that make us belly laugh. Nollywood films that make us petrified.
We are a rhythm. Hips that gyrate in the name of passion. Hips that gyrate to kwaito. And amapiano. And afro-beat. Watch how the Earth cracks when we stomp, knocking on its core with our legs. With our bodies. With our radiance. We are poetry. The words of Ijeoma Umebinyuo – that remind young women of their power. Words that question men who objectify. And hurt. And abuse. Words that transcend the borders of Africa. We are Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie. Chinua Achebe. Tsitsi Dangarembga. NoViolet Bulawayo. We are chapters and chapters of black excellence. And, when we are not reading the lines of our greatest minds, we are working hard to build lives, out of the poverty some of us may find ourselves in. The Kibera Slums, buried in Nairobi, houses over hundreds and thousands of lives. There are orphans and prostitutes that beg for coins in the streets of Mbare, Zimbabwe. There are thousands of homeless souls – that scour bins and rotting plastic bags – in neglected parts of Sierra Leone. Ours is a pain that cannot be illustrated through words. Ours is a struggle. We are the village women, that carry buckets of water on their heads, while their babies rest on their backs. We are the farmers that tread lands, planting seeds, feeding hope into the mouths of their children. Breaking generational poverty, one maize seed at a time. We are faith. The prayers of church members to prosper. To find light amidst the darkness. We are Muslims. And Jews. And Catholics. Our worship are letters to God – for many things. For riches. To be pulled out of scarcity. For cures. To fight off COVID 19. And HIV. For police violence to stop, so that we can sell our vegetables in the streets, without scars or blemishes, without bleeding. We say these private letters to God – for humanity to be just a little kinder. For politicians to stop taking advantage of us. For them to deliver on their promises. For them to fix the roads. And improve health care systems. We pray for systematic racism to fall – wherever it may exist – like apartheid fell. We pray for the rape and child abuse to stop. For gangs to stop shooting.
We pray for humanity, for you, and me. Because, when everything is said and done, to be African means to be human. And there is no singular story to being human. We are a multitude of events, of ideas, of culture. We are our history – in all its pain and glory. We are our present – in all its beauty, and challenges. We are our future; a future yet to be written.
1gari: a powdery food material made from the roots of the cassava plant.
2 chapati: flatbread made from whole-wheat flour.