It happens just about anywhere you go in the world; you see dedicated Africans actively involved in promoting African issues, culture and traditions, setting up networks, getting involved in development projects that benefit the continent, hosting websites and blogs that narrate Africa related issues, writing and publishing books on the same issues, and generally being obsessed with Africa. They even seem to have more interest in Africa than many Africans back home.
So how do we explain this extreme Afromania and Afrophilia among many Africans in the diaspora? And if they are so concerned and obsessed with Africa, why don’t they just go back and live there permanently. As a victim of all the above, I have a few thoughts:
To compensate for time lost not being African: The story repeats itself in so many places and with so many different people. An African born or raised in Europe or migrated in early adulthood finds himself or herself struggling with two identities. On the one hand, there is the conviction and determination to be a fully fledged member of the host country and society, and the fear that any reference to being different in any way is distancing and limiting one’s opportunity.
But sometimes, irrespective of how many years you have tried to fit in, your physical features and sometimes your accent give you up. You often get the odd question of “where are you from?”, and people look to you to be an expert whenever anything African is mentioned anywhere. You then realise that there is an opportunity to specialise in being African. Then you say damn it! I will be African if that’s what everyone wants. Then you start diving deep into your new specialisation. You discover the fun and all the things you have been missing. And you want to make up for all the time lost not being African enough. You think of all the music you can listen to, the dance, the food, and by the time you know it, it becomes an obsessive identity. You soon find yourself knotting the traditional African attire every now and then. Who said you cannot be both fully African and European? Afropean, anyone?
Hobby: Being African can be a hobby, a very addictive one for that matter. Whether you are talking about Africa’s past like slavery and colonisation; its endless problems; its diversity; its nature; and even its extension in the Caribbean and Americas. It provided ample opportunity for discussions and actions. And you can make so many friends doing so. The Afromania and Afrophilia community is growing exponentially and transcends racial and ethnic lines. You suddenly discover that being African, instead of isolating you, actually makes you more friends both African and non African. The number of groups and events dedicated to Africa is staggering. Check out meetup.com .
Guilt: Sometimes you feel you could make a lot of difference but haven’t. You have acquired a lot of skills and knowledge be it in medicine, engineering, or information technology, and you feel that Africa is in more desperate need for these skills that your host country. May be you got a scholarship in the first place from the continent and feel you need to pay back in some ways. Sometimes it is just hat you feel you have the solution to the continent’s varying problems.
The feeling of being permanently temporary: This can be a curse! It is often a consequence in itself. You have one foot in Europe and the other in Africa. You are never sure of buying properties. You can’t decide where you will settle down. You keep dreaming of the time when you will be there and the real happiness will begin. That’s until it dawns on you that with so many Afromaniacs around, you can create exactly the kind of Africa you want around you. You can have exactly the food you want, listen to the music, read books, go to dances, and soon discover that you can be more African than the Africans in Africa.
Distance makes the heart grow fonder and stronger: Being away gives you time to reflect over everything you used to know. It enables you to be objective about cultural practices while you are not obliged to observe them. Sometimes you do not like what you see. You begin to distinguish between what is good and what is unnecessary. You miss certain aspects of it so much but then you feel strong to criticise others that you do not like.
Africa Rising: You hear of the rising GDP. You hear of foreign companies heading into the deep corners of the continent. You hear of technology penetration. You hear about the rising stars. You hear about large development projects. And you really get scared of missing out. You want to prepare and expose your self to any piece of the action.
I am sure there are other reasons. Are you an African living in the diaspora? please join the conversation and tell us what is driving you.