***I posted this once before before changing my topic. After changing topics, I decided to make it private. But, I’ve been thinking about it and realized this was part of my initial brainstorming process so here it is, public again.***
It was in the eighth grade that one of my classmates came up to me and asked “where are you from”, to which I responded “Nigeria”. I guess you could say this was the beginning. Back in Nigeria, if someone asked me where I was from, I would respond with “omolayo estate, near alegongo” If it was someone who did not know my mother, I’d answer with “my mum is from Ogbmosho, my dad’s from Gbedun. I guess I’m from Gbedun” But back to the eighth grade, after I answered with Nigeria, eyes wide open, confusion arising, I heard “Wait, what? Aren’t you from Africa?” (Insert face-palm meme here). This happened on more than once occasion, after which I would have to explain further Yes, I am from Africa. Nigeria is a country in Africa. At this point, I was not even aware that Nigeria was in West-Africa. Today, if someone asks me where I’m from, they get a respond that sounds something like “Nigeria, it’s in West Africa”. This is quite amusing coming from someone who stayed away from maps all her life and didn’t even know Nigeria was in the West until actually leaving Nigeria, Africa, so I guess you could say it was a form of adaptation.
For my case study, I would like to analyze the change in identity post migration. When I was in Nigeria, I was just Pipe. Today, I am Pipe, the African music blasting (from the north, south, west, east), African print wearing, vocalized proud African. It was not until a few months ago that I began to notice this change in identity. Even while taking a transnational migration course during my freshman year, I did not quite grasp the fact that I had undergone a change in identity due to moving to the United States. During this past Tuesday, the African Student Union had a meeting in which our discussion centered on identity. The discussion ended up on a path I have found myself exploring recently: identity change post migration.
What is it that happens during residence in a foreign land that leads people like me to view themselves as a proud African, rather than Yoruba or another ethnic identity? Why is it that back in Nigeria, Ghanaians were the frenemy soccer competitors we had a joking love/hate relationship with (history of the “Ghana Must Go” bag) but here in America, meeting a new Ghanaian is like meeting a new potential close friend. We share music discoveries, send for African print items together, watch hilarious Nollywood movies, request “alingo” by p-square at the ticktock and discuss our love of jollof rice. It’s all a sort of merged identity. When meanwhile, in Nigeria, I did not even like to watch TV, and hardly spent time listening to music, except church music that my parents played. Today, I spend hour watching azonto competition videos and music videos, exploring Afrocentric tumblr blogs and looking at outfits I can make with Ankara or Kente.
None of these activities are a conscious attempt at trying to prove my “African-ness”. On the contrary, it is a natural reflection of the identity that I seem to have been placed in. It was quite interesting to make this realization about myself and I am quite curious as to when this transformation started, what led to it, how do other migrant teenagers and young adults, African or not feel about this? And if one of the theorists we have encountered in this course had to put my experience into theory (Which I doubt they would be capable of), would their theory say that a sense of rebellion to the hegemony influence my sense of obligation? These questions and many more is something I hope to answer to an extent through this blog.
But this blog entry would not be quite complete if I did not share some sweet West-African goodness (Ghanaian, to be specific). *Dramatic commentator voice: And now, presenting the winners of the “antenna” azonto competition”, a video I watch multiple times a day.