When I fill in the census I always tick the box marked: Black British African.
This has always proved a conundrum to me.
I was born in Angola and moved to the UK at the tender age of 5. Leaving Angola at such a young age meant that I did not have much time to form an African identity; instead I was thrown into an unknown country where people labelled me as African before I could even grasp what that meant.
At home my parents encouraged us to speak English so that we could assimilate easily into our new land. However, this just sparked off the beginning of my identity crisis. I was an African who spoke Portuguese (thanks to our colonisers) but who no longer used this tongue at home, instead quickly replacing it with another oppressor’s tongue.
I am a Black British African. What a contradiction.
I am whole, yet made up of so many different cultures and diasporas and cannot claim to fully be one over the other.
I am a binary opposition, consisting of two conflicting ideals both fighting for supremacy.
I am an African who eats traditional Angolan food with the same gusto and fervour of that of my ancestors. I am an African who dances to Kizomba but who lives a very western experience. I am British who spouts tales of Harry Potter and sings ‘God Saves the Queen’ whilst pining for a home far, far away that I have never fully embraced.
However, Home has been the UK for the past 20 odd years of my life. Home has been the UK which has informed my decisions and shaped my reality. Home has been the UK which has shaped this internal conflict inside of me as I battle to decide which country I pledge allegiance to.
I feel robbed of my African experience, whatever that may be. I feel robbed for not having grown up with my extended family and feeling the rush of love and warmth whenever friend’s speak of ‘popping down to Nan’s house’. I have never had that experience.
I don’t know how it feels to play ‘garrafinha’ or playing in the sand getting my white school robes dirty. I don’t know how it feels to fetch water or eat ‘gelado de mucua’ feeling the rich taste drip down my face. All this, I have learnt through my parents and older siblings.
I have missed out on family weddings, births of new blood and deaths of the old.
My identity as an Angolan has been shaped through Western ideals and rhetoric and also through stories told by my parents.
I have come to realise that I am a proud product of both and don’t have to fit into one neat box. I am between two different worlds. Nevertheless, I do wish to reclaim and learn more about my heritage. I long to know more about Angolan history and folklore and let it spout out of my mouth just as easily as I do tales of Henry the Eighth and Guy Fawkes.
I am unapologetically a Black British African, a conundrum that I have now reconciled.