A strange phase seemed to have captured my friends and I. I noticed that over a period, we had unintentionally become more in tune with our roots and I couldn’t help but feel that the hardships we are facing in the world today, that seemed to mimic those that our ancestors faced, at an ever growing rate, were the driving force behind our blooming desires to learn to love, understand and grow in the beauty with which we could and should identify: our culture.
My friends asked to be called only by their native names.
I started reading African (predominantly Nigerian) literature and this made up the majority of my library.
I found myself randomly speaking my mother-tongue, even learning how to read and write in a language that for so long I was only able to translate in my mind.
I stopped chemically processing (lathering the creamy crack onto) my hair- I’m officially a year into my transitioning journey!
I even started subscribing to more and more Nigerian vloggers on YouTube.
I did all of these things and I didn’t see any meaning behind it until I was asked a very simple question:
“Where are you from?”
My answer was Nigeria. The follow-up question is what switched the light bulb on: “So when did you move here?”
Well, I never did. I wasn’t born there and I had never lived there, but in my heart, in my mind, that was where I was from, that was how I identified myself.
I spoke before about how much Differences Matter, and that we should learn to embrace and celebrate these differences. I live in a town where I am the only person that looks like me, the only person that understands the languages I understand and the only one that eats the foods I eat. So without any intention of becoming more culturally aware, I was reading books and watching films that would remind me of home; things I would have had no reason to do back home where I didn’t have to enforce a culture I was already experiencing.
Please do not be misled into thinking that I was ever ashamed of my culture, the pride has always been there; the problem that I discovered was that I was proud of something I didn’t fully understand simply because of the riches and wonder it encapsulated.
As we get older and move away from our comfort zone, we realise what it is that makes us who we are, culture included. We reach a point that isn’t as vibrant or loud as what we’re used to and it ignites this fire in us to make sure that we hold onto what we were taught and ensure that it shines. We are the generation born into a strange world. A generation where bangers and mash will suffice for lunch but jollof rice, fried plantain and chicken is what awaits us for dinner. A generation who has been given this heavy burden of ensuring that our culture and customs do not die out. A generation honoured to receive the creative task of combining these two worlds without losing the essence of either.
Sometimes self-discovery won’t lead us to anything new but opens the doors to the rooms we never explored and dusts the shelves stacked full with the stories we chose to neglect.
We are to be proud of our heritage and to be bold.
My culture makes me comfortable because my culture is me.
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