The Afropolitan’s Homeland
By Taaka Odera with art by Laylie Frazier
Homeland brings to my mind ‘belonging’, specifically having a physical space to call home. While the idea of having physical roots, to a country or a city that ties you to how you understand yourself to be, is a ‘no-brainer’ to some, it is not the case for all. Those without, are often labelled as ‘diasporic’ or ‘Afropolitan’ and various other titles that denote cultural hybridisation- but what does it actually mean?
In literature and film, we often see a romanticisation of people who travel and belong to multiple spaces. From big cinematic productions to music videos, the allure of the travelling person is always curated to seem inviting or enticing, when that is not always the case.
Being an Afropolitan often feels like being stuck between two (or more) worlds. Through time, I’ve absorbed aspects that would place me in one space, and transferred them into another. There is a beauty in being a diasporic person. I have been, and still am, exposed to many different ideas, ways of life and I can learn from each of them. I have also become quite a porous person by way of how quickly I absorb information. But the difficult part, the hard part, is feeling like I don’t really know how to define myself.
Being attached to many spaces can often feel strenuous or weighted when trying to root your own identity, and create a physical space to where you belong – it can feel as if you may be plagiarising of sorts, or fumbling about, not really sure where it is you should belong to. I seem to occupy the space between here and there, and seem closer to neither.
Now by all means, I’m not arguing that the concept of belonging to multiple spaces, or identifying with multiple cultures is all doom and gloom, or that a person who hasn’t grown up in one place is doomed to be restless for all of eternity. In fact there is much to be gained from travelling (outside of the exposure to different foods and sights and sounds). I’ve gained a greater sense of empathy and compassion as I’ve grown to understand more about different people. I’ve gained from moving about, an amalgam of identities. Everything from my accent, to my sense of dress, my taste in music and food and all the like- nothing is necessarily rooted in one place. I’ve heard many diasporic people talking about the ‘adjustment period’: it takes for people to settle back into a returned space, often the adjustment from coming from another country that they have spent so long in. The pressure to revert back to a state of mind I once had when I was in my place of origin is often there, but I exist in limbo, not fully assimilating into the ‘old’ culture, but not fully being a part of the new. I often deliberate as if I have to choose, one or the other. The reality is within myself, I will always have a bit of both, and will always carry a feeling of home when thinking of both.
Taaka Odera is a Kenyan aspiring writer and is interested in most topics anthropological. She is passionate about telling stories and having all stories heard. Artwork “Moth” provided by Laylie Frazier, contact artist for prints.