What it means to be Afropoli­tan

Nige­ria/uk, writer and blog­ger

The Africa Report - - FRONTLINE -

Speak­ing from a rented of­fice in La­gos where she is work­ing for a few months, Minna Salami shares one of her fond­est mem­o­ries from her early days in a Swedish sub­urb at age 13: “On the first day of school, one of my class­mates got an­gry at the teacher and threw a chair at him.” Com­ing from a very strict Nige­rian back­ground where teach­ers were revered and re­spected, she was left speech­less: “I just re­mem­ber sit­ting with my mouth open, think­ing ‘What is this?’” But af­ter 26 years liv­ing in the di­as­pora, which saw her move to Fin­land via other coun­tries be­fore set­tling in the UK, Salami has grown to em­brace and bal­ance the cul­tural dif­fer­ences. “I am Nige­rian, Fin­nish and Swedish […] but I am also specif­i­cally a Lagosian, Lon­doner and Mal­moite, the three cities in which I have lived over a decade,” says the Soas-ed­u­cated jour­nal­ist, who was listed along­side Michelle Obama as one of the ‘12 women chang­ing the world’ by ELLE Mag­a­zine in 2015. In 2012 she started her award-win­ning blog Msafropoli­tan, which touches on fem­i­nist is­sues in Africa and in the di­as­pora, and her own jour­neys be­tween cul­tures. When she talks about Afropoli­tanism, she em­pha­sises that un­like the term ‘di­as­pora’, which largely con­notes the African ex­pe­ri­ence out­side the con­ti­nent, Afropoli­tanism ex­ists as much within the con­ti­nent as out­side it and is con­cerned with so­cial, po­lit­i­cal and cul­tural change much like pan-african­ism. “But I see Afropoli­tanism, panAfrican­ism and di­as­pora as connected,” she says. As a writer who has lived both in Africa and abroad, she says her in­ter­na­tional ex­po­sure has pros and cons: “On the one hand, it brings new ex­pe­ri­ences – and ex­pe­ri­ence is to a writer what a petri dish is to a lab sci­en­tist. On the other hand, African writ­ers who have spent no or lit­tle time in the di­as­pora may de­velop a less en­cum­bered voice.” Salami says many of the prob­lems we face to­day in cross-cul­tural re­la­tion­ships are as a re­sult of fo­cus­ing too much on our dif­fer­ences. “We com­pli­cate things for our­selves a lot with this di­vide be­tween African and Western cul­ture and mov­ing back and forth be­tween the di­as­pora and the con­ti­nent.” This sen­ti­ment was high­lighted in her pop­u­lar 2015 TED Talk, dur­ing which she shared sto­ries of African women and how sim­i­lar they are to women every­where. She says the African Union’s recog­ni­tion in 2012 of the African di­as­pora as its sixth re­gion makes sense and was more an act of recla­ma­tion. “The ma­jor­ity of Africans in the di­as­pora have left in­vol­un­tar­ily, through slav­ery, forced mi­gra­tion, or po­lit­i­cal, cul­tural and so­cial rea­sons that are linked to the his­tor­i­cal and con­tem­po­rary global or­der”. Oheneba Ama Nti Osei

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