Discovering home with Wainaina

 

 Binyavanga Wainaina makes the reader feel as though they are right by his side as he travels from Cape Town to his grandparents home in the far West of Uganda through his immaculate description of scenery. We become more familiar with geography than the  characters in the short story. As he travels we begin to discover the difference in each country and town. All embodying their own distinct characteristics and personalities.

Wainaina denounces the illiterate idea of a single narrative of Africa.  As we vicariously travel with Wainaina to his grandparents’ home we are reminded of all the ideas and images we had formed of Africa as children. Through discovery we being to realise how these images are not a true reflection of Africa. It’s only through immersion into Africa that we begin to form accurate representation.

I was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, to Congolese parents. Although, we ate “Congolese food”, went to a “Congolese church” and were largely interacted in a Congolese environment in South Africa. It was only when I went on holiday to Congo that I got to discovery Congo. I got to understand the way of life of Congolese people. Just like Wainaina travelling to my parents’ home country gave me opportunity to discover “home”. Although, I consider South Africa to be home and Congo ‘home away from home’.

” … I began to realize

that I may not be Congolese

enough.”

My parents moved to South Africa in 1993. My mother is from Kivu, which is an Eastern Province of the Democratic Republic of Congo and my father is from Kasai-Oriental Province which is in the south-central province in the Congo.  Before arriving in Congo in 2002, the only images I had of the country was that which the media, namely western media, portrayed and a few accounts from my parents.  However, it’s only when I got to Congo that I was able to map a better understanding of the people, their livelihoods, the politics, the economics, etc of the Congo accurately.

Being born in South Africa despite being Congolese poses an every day challenge to my identity. People often question me if  I am South African or Congolese. Sometimes they get technically and ask if I have a South African Green ID or passport.  Then they go on to measure my South African-ness by testing if I’m well accustomed with the culture, food or language. For the most part I like to identify as simply African.

It’s probably in this moment that I began to realize that I may not be Congolese enough. I grew up in Johannesburg largely surround by a different culture. I responded better to the “South African way of life.” I understood  South Africa more and can contribute more eloquently to this society than I could ever in Congo. It’s only when I went “home” that I discovered I was not really at home.

To associate myself with simply being African  gives room for the fluidity in my identity. My definition of African is not rigid. As I acknowledge that we all perform our African-ness differently. Its also very hard to develop a singular definition of what it means to be African. African consists of 54 beautifully different countries, hundreds of cities, thousands of languages, tribes and ethics. So to pinpoint what is means to be African is an unjust act. Africa is so diverse with diverse Africans.  

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