A lot of people who have never been to Africa, it goes without saying, have such a warped perception of it that’s borderline crazy. I spent 4 of my formative years (is that what they call them?) in the UK and quite frankly I was appalled and fascinated by how little people knew about Africa as a continent and even more so how much less they knew about my country, Zambia.
When I was due to come back to Zambia, I obviously had to tell the school I was at then, and my class of course and say my farewells. So they put together a cute little purple card of manila paper (I wish I still had a picture of it) with lots of stickers on it of animals such as tigers, elephants, snakes etc.
At this point you’d think that I’d heard all of the ridiculous questions but I was wrong. One of the questions I got was “Do you have tigers in your backyard?”
I was dumbfounded. How do you crush a 10year old’s dream and tell him that there aren’t any wild tigers walking around the back yard that i ride everyday to school and back?
Another great question I got asked growing up was about my hair. I have thick, jet black, 4C natural hair (Currently dyed, but that’s neither here nor there). And so, I would get it braided in all manner of style box braid mostly and what I suppose the world now calls African threading. My hair dresser (mummy dearest) would try all sorts of elaborate styles. I remember this particular one she did which looked like I had a greenhouse on my head (lol).
Anyway one of my classmates, Alice (she was half Japanese and half British), asked me if I had to shave off the hair where the parts were done. *facepalm* and she was a very smart girl, brilliant at Math….but….well I don’t know where she got the question from.
This question came from a girl who would do pigtails but just couldn’t somehow grasp that it was the same concept with African hair too. (Still makes me chuckle)
My childhood was filled with many things, games outside with the neighbors, exploratory walks and one of my favorite past times; CLIMBING TREES!! That’s something I loved dearly even though I was constantly told how it was unladylike. (I have the scars to prove it).
The lanes of my childhood memories are filled with visions of climbing guava trees with my brother to see who would be the first to spot mom coming back from work and scrambling down hurriedly to go greet her. Other slides show my brother attempting to teach me stealth by showing me how to catch dragonflies. My memories are filled with flavors of ice-cream, chocolate eclairs and bubblegum. With the smell of roasting mango, groundnuts and cassava, and boiling milk tea.
Childhood was interesting; filled with many lessons, because indeed Africans take the whole it “takes a whole village to build a man” thing very literally and very seriously. So you almost always grow up with a hoard of aunties and uncles and cousins that aren’t related to you by blood but are family all the same.
Growing up African is an experience like no other. Indeed I haven’t gown up any other way so maybe I can’t say for certain; but I hail from a land of strong people and carry my heritage with pride.
*pictures courtesy of the world wide web