My Sun­day

Be­ing dropped from net­ball team the Cen­tral Pulse felt like a breakup, but ris­ing New Zealand rap­per JessB has man­aged to see the sil­ver lin­ing. She tells Nicky Park about los­ing her iden­tity as a star net­baller and dis­cov­er­ing an­other: her Kenyan her­itag

Sunday Star-Times - Sunday Magazine - - SNAP­SHOT -

If I have a show on a Satur­day, I will be re­cu­per­at­ing, re­gen­er­at­ing on Sun­day. I like to keep Sun­days as a chill day. I don’t like to be too busy, cos I am still busy dur­ing the week, even though it’s not a typ­i­cal struc­tured work­ing week.

We have fam­ily din­ner on Sun­day. I have a re­ally big fam­ily. I’m adopted, so my par­ents are Kiwis. My birth fa­ther lives in Kenya still. My aunt and un­cle raised me. So I still have a con­nec­tion with my birth mum, and via that fam­ily con­nec­tion they’ve al­ways tried to keep the idea of Kenya in­volved in my life… I’ve never been dis­il­lu­sioned.

I’m not the only Kenyan in my fam­ily. My cousin mar­ried a Kenyan guy, by com­plete chance, and he has be­come like my big brother. I ended up go­ing back to Kenya with him, so I met his fam­ily when I went over there. Next time I go back I might meet my birth fa­ther. But I just wanted to go back, I just wanted to see it. So it was the per­fect trip to go with him be­cause he took me un­der his wing.

Kenya was a huge cul­ture shock, which I hadn’t re­ally pre­pared for. I grew up so quintessen­tially New Zealand. I found it re­ally hard be­cause here I’ve never quite fit­ted in, be­cause there are not many mixed-race Africans in New Zealand. I never had a group of friends grow­ing up that were the same as me. I kind of felt like go­ing back to Kenya I was go­ing to be in­vis­i­ble, be­cause it’s re­ally hard to stick out all the time. It gets tir­ing. But I wasn’t. Be­cause I am a mix, be­cause they knew I was not from there, there was no blend­ing in, which I found quite hard.

It changed the way I saw my­self. I just knew there was a lot of work for me to do in terms of the way I see my­self, and my iden­tity and my life and how I re­late to that and be­ing a New Zealan­der who’s of Kenyan de­scent, or an “Afric-Kiwi”. It’s a beau­ti­ful coun­try, the cul­tures are beau­ti­ful and it was nice to go into that world. That’s my blood­line. I def­i­nitely came home with a dif­fer­ent mind­set, not of the world, but in terms of my place in it.

I never felt com­fort­able in who I was, I al­ways wished I was dif­fer­ent. It’s like a lin­ger­ing thing. It’s not some­thing I would ever talk about, it’s just some­thing that was there. I hated my hair. In sum­mer I would stay out of the sun be­cause I didn’t want to go any darker, just lit­tle things like that. When you’re doing them you don’t re­alise what they ac­tu­ally mean and how you’ve in­ter­nalised that. It wasn’t un­til later on that I re­alised all those things and I was like: “Wow, there’s a lot of work to be done.”

I feel proud of who I am, and my make up, and all the parts of me. I would love to go back and spend some more time in Kenya and con­nect even more to my an­ces­tral land and where my fam­ily comes from.

I’ve al­ways been wordy. Some­times I’ll write ran­dom sen­tences that just pop into my mind. Then, when I have the time later, I will go through the notes on my cell­phone and pick out the best bits and start for­mu­lat­ing lyrics from there. At the mo­ment, they are

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