Feast Your Eyes On This

I love food and most of my travel ideation probably revolves around all delicious goodness I’ll get to devour. While my piss poor financial skills and limited budget aren’t letting me be great a girl can still dream 😬 Nothing can match my devotion to African gastronomy. I was fortunate enough in my early years to travel the continent and experience different culinary cultures (goal number X when when my bank account finally lets me move back is to do a West-African road trip sampling all suyas and brochettes and kebabs I can find on my path. My mouth is literally drooling as I type this😩)

I’m obviously over the moon with regards to the current culinary developments in African cuisine. The rise in prominence of afrocentric food bloggers, chefs and restaurants gives me so much life. Features of my personal faves include a focus on local sourcing,  preserving cultural heritage, a fusion of cultures and amazing visuals. I would love to see them all profiled with a Netflix Chef’s Table style documentary (Iroko TV , don’t say I never gave you any ideas😬)

Souvenir_Cameroon_ #voyageculinaire #workantravel

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Sure, we’ve been feeding each other for eons but a focus on traditional inspired dishes at the haute cuisine level is an interesting shift. Our dishes can also now benefit from the popularity that comes with social media proliferation. I never felt any shame towards food from my corner of the world but I know that’s not everyone’s experience. Some have developed mad complexes with regards to food that they felt the world considered unsophisticated and favoured western cuisine as a mark of refinement. That someone would decide Ekwang deserves the luxe treatment still makes me all giddy inside though.

I hope the agricultural sector will also benefit from this burgeoning scene of food connoisseurs. Propping up local dishes could spur the popularity of our local ingredients even beyond our continent. Think of the technological advancement in food production from farm to table! I’m just sitting here waiting for the rise of the palm-wine sommelier 😬

The Art Tickling my Fancy

It must be a factor of minimalism and abstract thought dominating my mind at the moment but I’ve been drawn towards certain types of artist of late. Clean lines, laser focused use of colours, whimsical projections, whatever it is about these following artists, they’ve definitely found themselves seared into my imaginary. I’ll let their work speak for itself.

Issak Ik Emokpae

 

Oluseye

"two dimensional sculptural portraits" #oluseye

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Victor Ekpuk

Studio today. #artiststudio #victorekpuk

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Francis Kalu Essoua AKA Enfant Précoce

 

Neals Niat

Victork Ehikhamenor

Woman in trance. #tbt #thingsremembered

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Iman Geddy

Yellow is still a great color. #illustration #HyperCherries

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Adele Supreme

We just want the food to appear already

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Promise O’nali

 

Bryant Giles

" morning "

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Tales of a maladjusted adult pt 4

Hello Parentals,

This letter has been a long time coming.
It’s me, progeny one, your oldest daughter. The one you carried from the hospital weighing just about 3 kgs. The happy child who talked and danced before she could walk, who spoke of herself in the third person incessantly, who joined every after-school club she could, loved school and questioned everything.

It’s still me now, a bit different but still me. I think the child I was colours your image of the woman I am, blinds you to how far I am retreating within myself. I say the word – depression – and I can see it doesn’t mean much to you, that you push it aside, think it’s something I’ll just wake up from one day. Because why should I be? I have a family who loves and provides for me, I am relatively intelligent, moderately attractive with a nice financial safety net. I shouldn’t want for anything. And I don’t.

I also don’t feel much – often.

Why do I have to crash before you listen to me? I had to get suspended because I couldn’t wake up to go to class for months (I didn’t tell you why just that I had been) before you even took notice that something could be amiss.

I ask for time OUT, to be able to breathe a bit, you tell me “well not everyone can.” Quite frankly I couldn’t care less, I can! Maybe it’s because you don’t understand (and I don’t tell you) what a day in my life is like. And how can I sometimes, when I hear the mocking tone that colours your voice when you tell me your annoying coworker has “mental” problems, when somehow you who know me most don’t notice that I’m barely ever awake when I come home, how you let yourself believe that my drastic weight loss is simply because I’m “working so hard in school”, how you keep telling your friends “my daughter is this” and “my daughter is that” unwilling to confront the broken individual that stands before you. Do you think it’s normal that I burst into tears every time we have the “so what are your plans” talk? Does it never occur to you to ask me how I’m feeling? Why are you pretending like I’ve never mentioned this or do you think I’m just doing it for attention? I don’t blame you though, I’ve perfected my human suit over the years, so much so that I don’t even know if I feel or simply react to my surroundings.

Well this is me. Your golden child. I set 4 alarms, 2 hours before I need to wake – on the days I’ve managed to sleep. Once I open my eyes, I scream myself awake, will myself to be. If I have energy I shower, limp scrubs under running water. I don’t go out, not because I’m studying but because other people just drain me. I look forward to Fridays because it means I don’t have to leave my bed till Monday. If I do go out I numb myself so hard I forget I am me. I care for nothing. I am invulnerable.

I can’t love. If to love is to share, this I can’t. How to start opening myself to someone to show them this nonsense? I can’t even think clear. I shake someone’s hand limply, say something by mistake and for weeks I am haunted by it, repeating it over and over and over again till I’ve scrubbed my soul raw and convinced my self that I am worthless, stupid and good for nothing. I know this is not the truth but why do I feel like this? How do I explain the tug I feel on balconies, how terrified I am of some of my thoughts because I know I can be impulsive and reckless. I am confronted with who I am everyday, where I fit, if I belong, if I have anything to offer.

All I want to do is sleep and I’m scared that the only reason I’m still alive is because there are people who know me and who have significant emotional investments in me . It feels weird to live because of some mutated sense of duty. My life is no longer my own. I shouldn’t feel obliged to be alive.

You said we had to be financially independent after our first degree and I had no problem with that. Finding a job was challenging but not impossible. I’m bilingual with a good work history in this country (the blue passport doesn’t hurt) but I can’t keep a schedule. I wake up late for everything, I’m in a haze as I mechanically perform whatever task is asked of me, I beat myself up for not being a good employee, break down in tears in bathrooms during breaks, call in sick when I can.

Sometimes I wish I had something physical so you’d take me seriously, so I would fade faster and alarm you. My irreverence is deceiving, my smiles painted to make you feel comfortable. I don’t want to keep lying to you, to tell you I’m OK and never better. I don’t want to keep calling you to tell you all of this at odd hours of the night only to end up saying “I just wanted to hear your voice.” Why can’t I be honest with you? Why am I so convinced you won’t understand? Have you ever shown me to be heartless monsters that would not hold their daughter while she is in pain? Comfort her? Why can I not share this with you? Why am I so scared you’ll think this as some sort of failure on your part as parents when you are literally the only thing – for better or for worse – that keeps me tethered to this shithole.

The few thing I manage to be happy about you dismiss as hobbies, making me chop bits of myself till I fit the daughter mould you have in mind for me. Does it not occur to you that I want nothing of the life you prescribe for me? Not as an insult to you but because I might perhaps know what would make me happy, give me some semblance of peace. Do you know how tiring it is to feel guilty for the things you buy, how they affect the world, to be acutely conscious of the fact that your life is not your own, that your actions have consequences, even the seemingly inconsequential ones, to constantly feel that you are contributing to the same system that is fanning the fires of your self destruction, to overthink everything from where you eat to what you wear because of some irrational culpability that won’t give?

I don’t want to be like this, and I’m afraid, so afraid, that one day I’ll fall and I wont get up. I know you want the best for me, you keep pushing me to be great – go to school, get your bachelors (barely made it out of the first round alive and you just wanted me to jump right back in, all bloodied and bruised), study translation, get a masters, unhook the moon, we know you can, we’ve seen you do it all before. For once would you just listen to ME? I don’t want my last thought to be that I’m leaving my parents with another bill to pick up (just so you know cremation is the way to go).

I don’t want to be a burden, but I’m terrified of being the kind you keep 6 feet under. I am not weak, I try my best not to complain, I push myself beyond my limits but fuck this shit – I’m not a mule. I am chocking – I want to fucking breathe. I am barely surviving – I want to fucking thrive. Somehow I’m back under your payroll. You offered, wanting me to focus on school instead of work. I resisted, not wanting you to think me weak or incapable, reluctantly accepted under the guise that it would be better for school, truly knowing I’d rather do neither. I can barely take care of my primary charge, my own body. I am trapped in me, ashamed to ask for help because you’ve convinced me I’m capable of so much. I don’t think you understand how the cost of your power over me, my desire to please you, to be who you think I am, could be, should be is literally killing me. It’s easier to keep quiet when it seems as if no one is listening.

So please, the few times I speak to you in a voice that doesn’t mirror yours, hear ME and not what you think I’m saying. Listen while I can still speak.

Space and Place

1.

BSL: international day
This is just a costume. I’m a fraud. the mask is slipping and I think the others are catching on.

Just the other day Tunde played a bunch of anthems on Encarta. I walk into the computer lab and he starts playing one I can’t recognize. I don’t know why but my eyes fall on his screen and I see a Cameroonian flag. Small imperceptible glance. As if he could sense my ignorance he asks smugly if I know what anthem is playing as he quickly minimizes the page to keep any hint out of sight. “Of course I know my own anthem” I reply with such indignation I am shocked at my own lie. I spend the next two days learning every word.
In french.

National anthems known in chronological order:

France
Ivory coast
Nigeria
United kingdom
Ghana
Cameroon

2.

When people find out I speak french and I tell them I come from Cameroon, they assume I’m francophone. I’m actually north west (anglophone) and I speak french because I was born and raised in Ivory coast.

3.

Going to primary school: we were not Ivorian and most of the Cameroonians we knew went to english schools. All were born in Cameroon so in a sense we were the odd ones out. Cameroonian by blood, was that enough?

4.

“Aleh (how are you)?”

“Don kein (I’m fine thank you).” success, 1 experience point.

”Luwien yeh?

“Don kein.”

They laugh at me, I didn’t understand. They asked where my mother was. I am not from here. I will never forget what that question means. Luwien yeh? is your mother here? Luwein yeh? is your mother here? Luwein yeh? is your mother here?

5.

World cup in Canada. cars are passing. I see many flags, Argentina, France, Nigeria, Ghana. Who here is even from here?

6.

IB results come in, 6 in French and in English. Not good. Excellent. What can I say in Kedjom? Ma kefi nyam : I want to eat meat.

7.

‘What’s your name?’ Sally. ‘No what’s your name name?’ Sally. ‘Is that your first name.’ Yep. ‘Do you have any other names?’ yes, Wuwihbwen. ‘how do you spell that?’ It doesn’t matter, the spelling doesn’t correlate with the pronunciation. I know its meaning: man is not God. It might as well be empty. I say my name over and over and over again till it doesn’t mean anything anymore. Just sounds strung together by some unknown ancestor. My own name has to be subtitled. I am the audience.

8.

World cup team support in order:

Cameroun
Ivory coast
Select colonizers
Brazil

9.

Sharing rooms with Maki with a clear line demarcating our sides. Somehow I’m always cleaning up our room. Everything in its place. Everything has a place. Clothes closeted, books tabled, toys and assorted things boxed. Nothing can be out of place.

10.

I wish I was a twin. I’d have an anchor. I would look at their face and know. Know I belonged. There is a root. There is a home. I am not alone. I am not alone. I belong to something. I belong to someone. I am a point of reference.

 

11.

Kedjom funeral – I can’t feel – I don’t know this person enough – if at all to feel. But I know Mum, she is my bridge so I take her hand and she leads.

I am from nowhere. I am from everywhere. I am a bridge too. Where do I lead to?

Trouble in the Newsroom: A brief overview of the state of African media

Nigeria finally has a new president and contrary to the predictions (and hopes in some cases) of western media houses the elections were relatively violence free – thank goodness. It’s a shame that such outcomes were expected but this trend set off a few alarms in my mind. I was slightly pissed to see that most news agencies covering the election results were from ‘abroad’ which in all honesty is not shocking. My main issue was that when I did find them in African/Nigerian owned media, with a few notable exceptions, if the quality of the information wasn’t questionable at best, it was lifted from other sites and unreferenced. I’m not saying that poor ethics in news is a purely african problem (News of the World and Fox News anyone) but would it hurt for those that are in the continent to be more credible?

Media in anglophone Africa, unlike that of our francophone counterparts who were stifled by their colonial administrations, got the chance to develop independently and got more control of press. Its evolution, sadly, is symptomatic of most institutions on our continent. From brown envelope journalism to lack of intellectual integrity, this industry is in a state of disarray. The Linda Ikeji-Aye Dee debacle scratched the surface on this matter but sadly the conversation didn’t take a turn in a direction that would change current trends. I don’t even need to go on about party-sponsored social media personalities. What did it for me was seeing a Wole Soyinka article I had just read on The Guardian, copy-and-pasted word for word mind you with no reference to the original source or author on an online news magazine whose mission statement, and I shit you not, stated that it was “created to bring about more professionalism in online journalism”. Is that so?

What all these issued have in common is that they make me question a) the credibility of the organization and by de facto b) the credibility of the information. The bribery of the brown envelope journalism posed an obvious moral impasse: one can pay for the version of the truth they want. The intellectual laziness of the copy-and-pasting on the other hand reveals more fundamental issues. As the journalistic equivalent of chew-and-pour studying, it shows a lack of analytical skills. That kind of journalist/columnist is really just pushing someone else’s agenda with no thought as to whether he supports their rationale. If you put no real pride in your work to begin with, selling your platform to the highest bidder isn’t that far a step. In the true spirit of mimicry, some go as far as copying formats or presentation style down to font colour. Sure, there may only be so many ways to organize news sites but I can only come across so many sub-standard ripoffs to come to the conclusion that imitation isn’t always flattery. Most importantly for me though, it exposes the lack of a fact checking and proper referencing culture.

Those of us who intend to or already work in mass media don’t just report what is happening in our communities, we analyse events and culture, contributing to the formation of public consciousness on a range of complex issues and public figures. We then owe it to readers to provide them with accurate, well supported and relatively unbiased information. The dangers of unsubstantiated stories become more obvious in tense situations such as seminal elections; they conjure unnecessary animosity. I’m sure everyone saw their fair share of shit-stirring-enemy-of-progress articles. We media workers should consider our role as the new griots and talking drums of our communities. We can’t always cry foul when the west paints our continent with whatever colours suit their narrative at the time if we are doing no better to ourselves at home.

We spent most of the past months demanding accountability from our leaders so we too should uphold ourselves to those same rigorous standards, regulate the media not for conformity but for quality assurance. Well informed conflicting points of view should be encouraged – I’m a firm believer that truth lies in the synthesis of opposites. I commend those who continually push for original voices, content and analysis in new and old media and offer platforms for legitimate discussion, these will become crucial spaces as our societies continue to evolve.

Originally published on The Naked Convos.

The Perpetual Guest: Where Are You From?

“Where are you from?” I always smile to myself when I get this question. Most people expect a clear cut answer, one where Home is a defined, concrete area but that is simply not my truth. Such an expectation comes from the rather static concept of identity we seemed to have developed as a society over time. In an increasingly interconnected world, perhaps it is time we start thinking of our culture and identity in terms balance versus absolute truths. We have to accept a growing reality in the multicultural world that immigration creates: many people no longer identify with just one culture. This gives space for an emerging sector, that of the cultural hybrid. This happens in various degrees and the implication stretch far and wide from the effects on the concept of the nation state to the formation of individual identity.

In the wake of wide spread “globalization” a lot of attention has been given to the immigrant. The conditions in which the african immigrant comes to be are varied. Most of us are familiar with the Africa to the West direction first marked in the seventies, usually composed of economic migrants. You also have those who left for academic purposes on various bursaries and lottery winners. One subset of African immigrants that gets very little attention is the African immigrant with Africa. The dynamics in place for this immigrant are such that he tends to always feel like a guest.

Allow me to give you a brief overview of my upbringing. My parents are originally from Cameroon but I was born and raised in Ivory Coast. The latter is a country that is very welcoming to foreign nationals who make up about twelve percent of the population. While I knew I was Cameroonian (my passport told me so) my main connection to this country was through bedtime stories, food and monthly meetings the Cameroonian community my family belonged to organized.

French is the official language in Ivory Coast and as such my parents thought it natural to send us to a french primary school. I went to Groupe Scolaire Jaqcues Prevert. The parentals then decided to enrol me into The British School of Lomé, Togo. They happen to come from one of two english speaking provinces in Cameroon so we grew up with both languages in our household. Additionally they had ensured that we watched cartoons both in french and english to ensure we had a healthy grasp of both languages. The switch between school systems caused little discomfort. Both schools were international (though populated predominantly by africans of various nations) so I was always surrounded by people of different cultures. In my early years I never really thought of my nationality passed the passport level. Beyond the African cup of nation and the world cup where my nationality was a shining beacon of pride fed by a competitive spirit, being Cameroonian was just another label akin to girl, student, book lover: central to my identity yet not all encompassing. The ghost of my foreignness always loomed over me, not threatening but as a marker of my difference.

My educational environment afforded me a lot of peculiar opportunities. One area that was particularly affected by this multicultural upbringing was my choice of reading material. I have always been an avid reader. Hemingway or Arundhati Roy, if it’s written I’ll read it. It wasn’t until half way through secondary school that I realized I had almost never read anything about an African by an African. I had an english teacher who was very insistent on teaching books that were not in the english literary canon. The first african novel I read was Sembène Ousmane’s “God’s Bits of Wood”. In it, I saw a story that was unfamiliar yet mine. I started becoming more aware of my continent’s history. Over time I was exposed to more material which allowed me to widen my perspective not just on who I am but what it means to be human. My literary and cultural upbringing led me to accept the singularity of the human condition but there was a disconnect between this knowledge and how I saw myself portrayed in relation to others.

Due to the tumultuous history the west has with our continent, a negative light is shed on those who happen to identify with them. I was raised in a way where I saw flaws and merits in both cultural influences. It is inevitable that I would grow up accepting both as part of who I was. I love foutou banana and sauce graine but I wouldn’t pass up a good steak either. The idea that if I accept one I must deny the other needs to be challenged. This our obsession with compartmentalization has lead to a strict binary of the self and the other, the native and the foreigner. My upbringing has lead me to realize that the relationship between the self and the other is much like a mobius strip, one constantly influencing the other, always linked. Our attempts to reconciling both cultures have not yet rising beyond the metaphorical level of slapping an ankara pocket on a denim shirt. It tends to ignore the dynamic nature of culture, placing more importance on the static versus the fluid. Where does an individual such as myself fit in this ORGANized world?

Twenty three years later, I am settled in Canada and about to give up my Cameroonian passport for a Canadian one. I want to know why part of me feels uneasy. I was born an immigrant within my own continent and I cannot help but feel like a guest at times. I consider myself an African at my core but I cannot completely identify with any african nation due to my fragmented upbringing. It is not lost on me that my position is one of privilege. Trying to situate myself in african society does not and should not invalidate the experience of those who do not share the position I was born into. When I go to my own village I am treated as a foreigner because I cannot speak my mother tongue. I think and communicate in languages that are not native to my own and I have been influenced by a myriad of cultures. I am constantly bombarded with conflicting ideas of what it is to be African. If what I am is not a real african then what is?

Over the years my answer to the question “where are you from?” has been varied. Now when asked, I will tell you I am Cameroonian by blood, Ivorian by birth, West African by association and Canadian on paper. Does my perpetual guest status make me any less african or am I simply part of a growing demographic, an as of yet unclassified subset of the afropolitan world?

Originally published on The Naked Convos.