Wednesday, 4 July 2012

I Am African.

Rich in melanin supply, and wealthy in culture and tradition: I am.

This photo was taken at a traditional 21st of one of my close friend's sister. There's a more colorful story behind it though. My friend(Sibu) invited a few of us to come and support her family during a massive celebratory ceremony. Our group of friends was very excited, but not half as excited as I was. Over this weekend, I knew I would learn some new songs, dances and about some traditional beliefs. Boy, was it an adventure!

We spent the whole night learning and practicing dance sequences and songs, woke up a few hours later to bath in a nearby stream(which I politely avoided) and sang, for meat! It was fantastic. There was a group of girls(namely, virgins) who came specifically to entertain guests with traditional dance and singing. Observing it was fun, but stirred some insecurity within my heart. Here I was, somewhere in a crowd of my people, yet I felt so out of place: I knew just one song, and could not throw my leg in the air high enough for the life of me! I felt awkward and like an alien to my own culture; to everything my country says I should be. How black am I really?

I'm somewhere in this picture, half in the shot in a yellow vest on the left.

I can say, with confidence that my parents have done a good job at raising me, and helping me turn out 'right', but they may have forgotten to add something to the identity they created for me. Culture! I cannot explain the turmoil I felt when I got home and had a brief reflection of the weekend behind me. I found myself asking God who He says I am, what I am, and what the heck being african is, if the color of my skin and the language I spoke wasn't enough. Heck. Did I think I was better than everyone else, or was I shamefully over westernized? I needed some answers.

Just this past week, I've been serving at a holiday club for primary school children in the Addington area, Durban, through my church(Westville Baptist, which I must mention is quite awesome!). They have an influx of children from all over  Africa: Congo, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Mozambique etc.

I've been studying their faces, skin tones, language and smiles and have found that they are so precious!

The bible tells us that God loves us, equally. What the bible says, we should believe because it is from God, but with the political histories of the world, prejudice and undeniable racism, this idea of equality has become hard to understand.

I have also believed, for most of my life, that 'white people'(this is said with no intentional offense to anyone, in South Africa this is usually okay) are superior. They have always had better hair, skin, bodies and more inventions(according to my old self). I used to dread being black(this too, is normal), and rejected anything that identified me with this race. Absurd! I know. I only ever heard black people say, 'Black is beautiful' and scorned at other races who praised our culture. 

Many times, I got into arguments with people who believed otherwise about culture and traditional practices. Black pride, afrocentrism, what was that to me? It meant nothing. I must admit, it still has little value in my life, but I soon realized that I was focussing on the wrong thing: myself, and everyone else, and had never thought to put God in the equation- the very Being who created all of this!

In the bible, I do not recall God ever proclaiming more love for one nation over another. Everything He does and says is out of love, and justice(which He gives of freely and equally because He is perfect), which we cannot understand. 

Okay. So, how black am I really? 
Very! Completely, utterly, fully, 500% black. 


My skin says so. My heart does too. The food I eat. The way I relate with my parents, community and friends. My naturally tightly curled hair. I'm always late! The languages I speak. My history. My past. My present. My future. But most importantly, God says so: not that I am black(that does not really matter), but that I am His; one of His own, a princess; royalty because He took me in as one of His; a righteous King, called an unworthy, mostly sinful child to sit on His lap.

I am black, undeniably.
but most importantly:
I am God's own, and I am called to live like His little princess.