Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Afropolitans: Africans of the World

African art at the Met
African art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, U.S.  (Photo credit: tamaradulva)

Globalization has had a profound impact on migration patterns in Africa creating increasingly complex identities within Africa and the African Diaspora. As Afua Hirsch aptly narrates, she is often considered, “…too black to be British and too British to be African". Many Malawians find themselves at the same cultural crossroads. They are considered be too British to be Malawian and too Malawian to be British and don’t fully fit in to either culture. Many are now seeking to self-identify as cosmopolitans and identify with both Africa and the culture of their host nation. They consider themselves not only cosmopolitan but also part of a new sub-culture coined 'Afropolitan'.

The term Afropolitan is becoming a part of contemporary African vocabulary. It combines the words “African” and “Cosmopolitan” in to lexicon befitting of the contemporary African identities and experience.  An Afropolitan is an: “African from the continent of dual nationality, an African born in the diaspora, or an African who identifies with their African and European heritage and mixed culture.” Whether they were born on the continent or overseas, not only do they bring a hybrid cultural identity - they also bring a global perspective on issues. They are a new breed of Malawians that think globally but act locally. This term aptly describes many Malawians living in the Malawi and those that are living in the Malawian Diaspora. Malawians that consider themselves Afropolitan are embracing their roots bringing a resurgence of pride in African culture. Even those that do not consider themselves Afropolitan are exposed to global culture from television, radio, and satellite like other cosmopolitans around the world. Many Afropolitans argue that Afropolitanism moves beyond culture and in to political space – they lobby governments and undertake voluntary projects on the continent. They have a commitment towards improving the continent.

English: My hometown, Johannesburg - its motto...
 Johannesburg - its motto is "A World-Class African City". Also known as Egoli, which means "City of Gold" in Zulu. It is also known informally as "Jo'burg", "Jozi", "Joeys" or "Egoli". (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Whilst some Africans make attempts to assimilate in to foreign cultures by abandoning African cultures, Afropolitans embrace their African roots wherever they are regardless of citizenship. They also reject the notion that their “foreigness” makes them less of an African. In fact, they self-identify as Africans and proclaim that citizenship does not make one African. As Taiye Selasi highlights in her essay, ‘What is an Afropolitan?’, "We are Afropolitans: not citizens, but Africans of the world." Africans are therefore not any less ‘African’ simply because they crossed the border, sea or street. Formal recognition of Afropolitans as citizens or dual citizens in Africa though is important to solidify the relationship between this Africans in the Diaspora and those on the continent. Citizenship issues for Afropolitans that do not have citizenship on the continent needs to be debated and addressed. This will help them have a greater impact on the continent and become even more engaged in Africa.

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