"I was born in the United Kingdom and lived there with my family until we moved to Nigeria, where I was raised through high school. Just after I graduated, we moved to the United States, and I’ve since lived in Kentucky and Washington, D.C., and become a U.S. citizen. I would like to claim semicitizenship in each of these places—Nigeria, the U.K. and the U.S.—because I feel as if I’m a sum of each of those experiences. But I can’t say I don’t find myself worrying, does it mean that I’m confused or, worse, trying to “pass,” or rejecting a part of myself?"
- Omonigho Ufomata
In this highly globalized world where we are exposed to more cultures than ever before, the freedom to self-identify is both more liberating and more complex that perhaps it was in the past. Whilst to many, this may present itself as a liberating path of self-discovery, those of us who are uprooted and thrust from one environment to another often find ourselves in a no man’s land between two or several cultures we feel an allegiance towards, battling with questions of authenticity and belonging.
Personally, I have and continue to struggle with what British-Nigerian-American writer Omonigho Ufomata calls “multicultural-identity conflicts”. Due constant travel and moving from one country to another, I’ve found myself both consciously and subconsciously picking up bits and pieces of several cultures, all of which I identify with on various levels. So whilst I am not Kenyan, French, English, South African or American by blood or by birth, with my life being scattered in these countries and a few others, simply stating that I’m Nigerian doesn’t quite cover it. Then again, to say that I am anything but Nigerian sounds like a betrayal, even when many tell me that the dilution that cultural exposure has had on my ‘Nigerianness’ doesn’t quite make me truly Nigerian (something I will readily argue to the death of me).
What is truly a shame is when people (as seen in the comments below her op-ed) dismiss or derail the conversation to say that such complexities are simply ‘made up’ or that someone who has an ethnicity should be glad that they can single out all the pieces of their identity to the most minute detail and denominator. Aside from hijacking the greater issue at hand and making it about something of which it is not, such remarks make the individual at hand guilty for an oppressive hand in history they (and quite possibly their ancestors) had no part or agency in determining.
Perhaps some people may not be able to see the complexity in this form of self-identification, especially as it’s something that monoracial black people (Africans especially) don’t seem to be afforded (complex identities - we can be multi-ethnic/cultural too) but as a globetrotting young African, I can’t help but relate to the struggles and frustrations highlighted by Ufomata.
Read her full piece on The Root.