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Features & Columns
by Heather Clancy

What does it mean to be African?

"We are very spoilt here. There is more hope here than anywhere else"

Africa, my love
Africa, my love

It is said that when you are born in Africa, Africa is also born in you and so the love affair with your homeland begins. Moreover, being African seems to be more than simply a coincidence of birth, it is a choice too. Those living in the Diaspora have often never touched African soil, yet Africa is alive in them. But what does it mean to be African? We who claim this great continent as our home vary like the colours of a rainbow. Our cultures, religions, races and languages often differ greatly, yet we are all bound not only by the geographical borders of this continent, but more importantly, by the intangible belief that this is home.

It is only natural that we love our home; after all, it is the place where we can be ourselves and the place where we can remake ourselves in the image of our dreams. Africa, with its boundless energy and unmistakeable spirit, offers a springboard to its citizens only limited by their own limitations.

However, we often take for granted the gifts we are bestowed and so it is necessary as a reminder to ask: why do you love being African?

Esther Meikle

Proud mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. Young at heart with a penchant for dark chocolate and dark humour.

“I have never considered the question why am I proud to be African. Being born in Lithuania and then moving to South Africa as a young girl, I never chose to come here but I built a life here with children and happiness and sadness too.

At my age now, what I enjoy most about living here is the weather. It is never too cold and the sun is always shining. Outside of my window I can see children playing cricket in the sun. How lovely to be young in the sunlight?

We are very spoilt here. There is more hope here than anywhere else. Other countries are held captive by tension; we are more tolerant and at ease here. Although things are very bad in other African countries, there is hope for change. God doesn’t give problems to those who can’t take it. Africa has many problems, but things can get better. Anyway, you have to think that things will get better; it is the only way to survive. I am turning 89 this month, I should know.”

Phindile Thengeni

By passion, the founder of COST wear. By trade, a graphic designer and researcher specialising in fashion and music. Originally from the Free State, she now makes her dreams come true in the City of Gold.

“Not only do I love being African, but I am proud. As an African I feel it in my soul, the struggle of my ancestors and the journey it has taken us on as Africans today. It’s encrypted in me and that is why spirituality and culture matters to me. As an African in this part of Africa I must say I am of a certain privilege. There are plenty of opportunities for me here and I can be whomever I want to be, which is a really special feeling.

And being alive in this era I see the attempts from Africans and other nations to go back to our roots. Music, fashion, art and even politics are all covered in traditional African veils and it makes me happy even though I feel the attempts can be and are sometimes desperate. I am proud of clothing brands such as Babatunde and musicians such as Okmalumekoolkat (Smiso) for infusing African elements in their craft.

I am proud to be African in this day and age because the world around us is finally taking note and shutting up to listen to us. As a young creative it is really liberating to know that the art forms I experiment and create can get worldly recognition with the click of a button. I am not really an “Africanist”; I am NOT going to be pumping my fist up and forcing my perception of whom and what Africans are down anyone’s throat. I believe in freedom-of-whatever which means people are free to create a character of their own and live how they see fit. And on that note, even though there are still negatives about Africa and Africans, or rather negative perceptions, I am proud to be African of this generation because a lot more understanding is being put into defining the people of Africa. The movement of Africa and its people is really inspiring and beautiful to be part of currently and I encourage everyone to at least be part of it.”

Maru Nirvana Mokuena

A seven-year-old chess and soccer enthusiast with more stamps in his passport than most adults. From travelling the States to Germany, he is happiest dancing in front of the TV to his favourite hip-hop tune.

“What I like about being an African is that people are normal. And people are very kind and there is something else I like and it is that I learn different languages every day because there are different countries. And what I also like about being African is that there are villages here and Africa is such a great place that I could stay here my whole life! And it is always sunny.”

Tommy Dennis

Writer and student of international relations and philosophy at Monash University in Rumsig.

“Hope is what I love most about being an African. That unlike other places and other people, Africa and Africans come from a history of pain and loss. I think because of that we almost have a clean slate to start from. We can do anything we want to; our world is not ancient and rigid like Europe or Asia. We can find new ways, and new answers for questions that have plagued humanity. That is what I love most about being an African – the endless hope that I feel for the future.”

Salendra Moodley

A loyal sports fanatic who is passionate about development and growth. Prefers to take the road less travelled.

“There is one thing that immediately stands out – there is absolutely nothing that compares to being an African. We experience highs only quantifiable by Mount Kilimanjaro and lows that go into the depths of Lake Assal. Regardless of if we are surfing a wave of pure ecstasy on the east coast of South Africa or treading over unstable territory in a newly formed democracy, there is this unique spirit that connects us and carries us forward.

We have faced many challenges, some of which are still on-going, having detrimental consequences towards our fight for freedom, equality and certain human rights. Our cultural diversity is what sets us apart from the rest of the world and makes us who we are. By interacting with various ethnic groups, learning about different cultures and most importantly respecting their practices this not only betters us, but helps to understand our common view points and encourages us to embrace our proud heritage.

The growing recognition of Africa as a major contributor on the global economic scene is something most Africans should be proud of. We now possess the ever-growing knowledge and have the required skill sets to live off monumental mineral wealth, develop first world infrastructure as well as making positive strides with great innovation and momentum, turning our continent into global leaders in certain functional areas.

We have it all on this glory bound continent: rich cultural diversity, increasing potential for economic supremacy and unrelenting passion, all of which catapulting us towards greatness.”

Gareth Cowden

Born and bred in Johannesburg. Stylist and founder of Babatunde.

“I love the fact that I am living in a time where there is so much opportunity and that we have an opportunity to create a positive identity for ourselves and all Africans. As Africans we have an opportunity to influence the way future African generations think about and interact with each other. I love that we live in a time where we as Africans have so much freedom to shape our continent’s identity and self-esteem.

I love it that myself, along with an ever-increasing number of Africans, realise our responsibility to Africa and fellow Africans and make this not only an economically powerful continent but also a continent that’s own people can be proud of and can prosper on.

I love it that I can be in the city, and then in an hour’s drive be somewhere that seems like the city does not exist. Alternatively I can be in a friend’s low-cost home and then in an hour’s time be in another friend’s mansion and get the same warmth and hospitality and feel a sense of belonging and comfort in both. Although I am from a privileged background it is important to experience how different Africans from different backgrounds live. And beautiful to see that we can have great friendships and live through each other.

I love that when I travel abroad, the people I meet are so intrigued with Africa. And generally this interest is from a positive place. They want to know about our lifestyle and if everything they have heard is true.

Mostly, I love the fact that I am born African and can’t be anything else.”

The second-largest continent on the planet is our home to claim and what a home it is: the diversity, unyielding potential, tireless spirit and natural beauty of Africa is unmatched anywhere else. Our history represents the rich tapestry of life – struggle and triumph with our ending yet to be defined.

With so much to love and to be proud of, the question “What do you love about being African?” seems to always garner the same response: first a smile and then a gasp of, “There’s just too much to mention” seems to be the overwhelming sentiment. But it is only to be expected when the continent that you call home boasts being the birthplace of humanity and the hope of tomorrow. However, from old to young there is some consensus, it is the simple joy of sunny skies and even sunnier dispositions that make the heart really swell and sigh: “I love being African”.

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