I spent so many years as the smelly African kid. I was brown-noser, whose hand was always raised, with a book glued to my hands. My glasses always slipped off my wide nose during P.E. and the new food I ate settled comfortably on my round mid-tire—a perfect target for dodgeball.
Being brown, round, and foreign was the equivalent of being a nerd with a pocket protector. My name gave classmates a chance to rhyme with bodily discharge and we-we was an early nickname.
My torment at the hand of young children in my new home was the first reason I learned to love my heritage. The idealized image of a country where everyone shared foundation in brown, where noses were variations of round, and there was a love for every size gave me hope when I had no more tears to cry, and my throat hoarse from my sobs.
This nostalgia continued throughout my education. Whenever I was asked why I worked so hard, I would respond that all Nigerians work hard. When someone commented on my excellent command of language, I would credit the imaginative way in which my countrymen speak English. When asked where my imagination came from, I would point to the generation of storytellers from which I descend.
For me my heritage was both the question and the answer, and I didn’t let the contradictions bother me. Living abroad for over two decades, all I knew about my country was that it was large, with one of the largest populations of Black people in the word, extremely rich in resources, full of corruption and potential, and currently stunted in social growth.
Despite my limited knowledge I loved Nigeria with all my heart. I couldn’t bear to hear an unkind word spoken about it, or my fellow Nigerians. For me, that identity was all that I had left. In a country that refused to claim me, that branded me foul, unintelligent, ugly, promiscuous, loud, and irate, I clung to my identity because, as a Nigerian woman, I could be something else—I could be something more. As an African, a Nigerian woman, I could define, for myself, who I was, and what I wanted to be.
Chinwe Ohanale; My Rock (via africaisdonesuffering)
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