who are you? do you even really know? it’s hard to know yourself, yet we’re regularly supposed to know and be able to articulate our knowledge of who we are to strangers in interviews and conversation. and don’t you hate it when you are asked to describe yourself in 3 words, or a sentence? ask a scientist to sum up the big bang in 3 words. they couldn’t do it, and yet mine and your existence should be easier to sum up, because we are not as incredible, alluring, and enigmatic as cosmic chaos? i’m sorry, but i am not able to sum up 20+ years of the perturbation of my celestial being.
my identity is the metaphorical equivalent to a whodunit – complex with a constantly evolving plot. just when i think i know, i’m reminded that there are no constants in life, even though mathematics taught me otherwise. i am puzzling and frustrating – charmingly perplexing.
i grew up in a home where my mother teased my father of his half Mozambican bloodline, and my father encouraged pride in it by reciting traditional praise poetry of our family name. i even went to a Portuguese school, and learnt the language of my father’s European forefathers. at one point in my life, i spoke and understood 4 languages, and they were all “mine”. my father frequently teases my mother, up to this day, of her mixed African and European heritage, and asks her “but where are your really from?” – she can never answer because her heritage is made up of more than just claim to one political land, one race, and one tribe. and even still, she only knows part of the story, because her grandfather’s “white” was never categorised. my mother’s grandmother frequently visited, and reminded me often that although i was my father’s child, i descended from her prestigious Swazi bloodline. my father’s mother, devoutly Christian, and proudly Ndebele taught me our language, and reminded me to regard everything i am made up of with equally high esteem. my mother’s parents were the only ones who never really discussed earthly origin as often as the others, because “we are the children of God, and God has no nationality, no tribe, and no race”.
i was born in Zimbabwe and spent my childhood there. I spent my teen years in Leeds, and grew into a woman in London. who am I? i grew up predominantly speaking Shona and English, yet i am “technically” neither one or the other. i am black, yet i am only 3 generations from white. who am i? i am Zimbabwean born, but Zimbabwe does not run in my blood. who am i?
my interests and appreciations are even more diverse than my ethnic make up. i dance to the beat of many drums. it may explain my lack of co-ordinated rhythm. but i’m black, am i not? i’m supposed to be able to cut a rug, not just shift dust on it. i am more complex than even i can imagine. i am quiet and perspicacious, yet my passions roar loud, and i love with a blatant disregard of consequences. i am a realist, and a comatose dreamer. i am have afrocentric tendancies, with eurocentric habits. i am a singer who is too shy to be heard. i am a traditionalist with modern expectations. i am a neuroscientist with a passion for Christ. how do i explain that?
how do i explain myself without illogical contradictions? who am i? where am i supposed to start, and what am i meant to leave out? what is most important here? what is supposed to define me?
now, please, tell me – who are you?