Indentity changes based on time and situations. I am one thing to someone and something totally different to another.
But I question myself sometimes about who I really am, or maybe the question should be who do I want to be?
When I moved to Africa I relished the fact that I was unknown, I could present pretty much what I wanted people to see.
I wanted to explore my true face or the face I wanted to create for myself.
Like Marimba Ani I believe Africa is in my DNA. Its a way of being for me that seems to be steadily disappearing as Africa rushes forward to modernity and development but maybe that is just in the urban centres, in the villages it could be different. That’s why my next episode will be to live in rural Uganda.
I have found that our definitions of who we are have become so limited as Africans. The other day a woman called my son a thief because he has locks, she doesn’t know my son but its an assumption she made based on his appearance. Just like theifs speak Swahili. Its a shame really but these are the stereotypes we hold onto about people.
The other day I was at Interpol and they asked me where I was from. ‘I’m an African’, I responded. I smiled and joked awhile with the enquirer in order for him to be receptive to my story. However I realise that many of us are confined to the geo political borders created for separation of Africans.
The teacher Malachi Z York, spoke often of DNA explosions, these were changes in our genes that made us more receptive to new information we may have neglected before. I mention this because I think my love of African was stimulated by one of these. I didn’t have African friends, knew nothing really of the continent, but from a very young I had felt like I did not belong in the UK. Then at 18 I started gravitating to literature on Africa. Marimba Ani was one of the authors I read, alongside people such as Ivan Van Sertima, Chancellor Williams, Naim Akhbar, Josef Ben Jochanan and Chiek Anta Diop. Later on I would read Dr Llaila O Africa, JA Rogers, Marimba Ani, Hunter Adams, George G Jackson, Jewel Pookroom and Dr Phil Valentine. This exploration was also stimulated by a mentor of mine called Viv Ahmun. I would attend workshops and listen to him speak about Melanin, ancestoral memory and Identity. Then in 2000 I invited Muata Ashby and his wife Karen to the UK. This scholar had written over 30 books on the legacy of Kemet, commonly known as Egypt. It was a quiet visit but a milestone in my journey to understanding and practicing African culture as a descendent living in the diaspora.
I started wearing African attire, locksing my hair, changing my diet, exploring African spiritual systems. I conducted and participated in rituals, rites of passage, healing ceremonies for cleansing and restoration of my ancient memories. I moved through different groups such as the Nation of Islam, Hebrew Israelites, Ausar Auset, Nuwaupian Nation of Moors, in order to gain greater insight of Africa of the past.
The Africa I read about was pre-historical. The empires of Kush, Songhay, Kemet, Ta Seti, Nubia, Sumeria and Ethiopia became the thoughts of my dreams and waking hours. I wrote poems and lamented on the loss of our identity and culture through Maafa (great disaster commonly known as the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade).
What is interesting is that because I was rediscovering who I was, I could decide on what elements of the African legacy I wanted to imbibe. This is liberating because what I have learnt is that many of us feel restricted by our cultures here on the continent. So in a sense I am a New African and I haven’t finished formulating and constructing myself. I’m excited by my journey because I’m always learning. I don’t limit myself with titles I am that I am, isnt that what the creator says, and i think I want to be a creator.