A teenager. That’s what I am. Yes, indeed, I have feelings; feelings of love and hate alike, of strength and weakness, of joy and pain as well. My Africanness does not exempt me from all such emotions, although it is commonly believed to. My Africanness does not wipe the sweat off my cheek as I work hard. My Africanness does not hand me tissues to wipe my tears when my heart is broken. No-my Africanness does not make me a paragon it does not make me perfect. It does not change what I can and cannot do.
Like yellow soccer books covered in brown mud, smouldered with orange paint, my true self is hidden under a layer of stereotypical colours. Africa wears me as she walks through a thorn bush, embedded in broken glass and muddy soil. So she makes holed in my fabric, as my soles soon wear out, and I grow weaker. And yes, I’m overwhelmed. Yes In’m tired.
Therefore, I begin to rebuke Africa. I ask myself, “what’s the point?”, “why do I even bother?” As I look around at the tall, rigid, glad buildings in tall their glory and precision, I fell intimidated. I hear my mother loosely speaking to her older sister, “and Jimi will study architecture in England and then marry a boy from her father’s village…” Heavens! “Jimi definitely does not have a boyfriend, and of course she’s a straight a student/ I mean, if you taste this girls jollof rice…” I look at the off-white cartridge paper which lies on my brown desk, as I gauge the perfect urban landscape through my glass walls. Look how the ink runs down the letters of the word “accepted”, to the letters of the word “major in creative arts”. Oh God, how do I break it to her? I feel y iPhone vibrate down my tall stack of books; mathematics, physics, advanced physics, microbiology. “You got into Harvard? I’m so proud of you baby” sniffle and slide the machine underneath my desk. Running my fingers through my chemically straightened, artificially coloured back hair, I pick up my brown hooide and begin to walk around town, and I eventually drift into the countryside.
As I sit on a large man-made oblong rock, I begin to ponder on my future. I cannot handle the pressure of my mother’s expectations, which are driven largely by African stereotypes. I despise them. Just go, Jimi, I tell myself, you don’t have to return. Soon, y thoughts are rendered inaudible by a loud, low-pitched, ratchet noise. The beautiful countryside becomes a blindingly bright flash of white light.
Lid after lid, I carefully open my eyes. I am interrupted half way through my couch by the great noise a few hundred animals make as they run violently towards me. And the dogs, lizards and birds travel with such an appearance that they look as harmful as the elephants, hippos and lions. I get up and run off their path for fear of being killed in this great fleet. Eventually, I notice a slim, tall, dark-skinned lady quickly descend onto the ground. She was unharmed.
I see her bare feet sliding through the pale green grass. Her long, slim toes shine in the sunlight as this African sits on a nearby tree stump. I watch in awe.
The soft wind blows through her thick forest of hair, as she runs her hands across her perfectly narrow stomach. The paragon yawns gracefully, and looks up at the rest of her unspoiled forest, and carefully considers how to proceed back to where she came from.
“Supernatural”, I murmur to myself, “She is amazing”. With all her class, her cultured clothing and her undisputable beauty, the lady automatically becomes my symbolic representation of Africa.
Her beautiful, oblong toes leave a long trail of blood behind, as she limps through the thorns and glass she finds along her path.
She starts calmly, walking through a forest o nothing. I follow her through a damp, cold, sticky cave of ugly tree strums. She begins to pace; faster, faster, faster, until she crashes onto her stomach. I run up to her and carefully tap her right hand. She fitches and turns back to me. She screams in a language I do not understand. I look at her cluelessly trying to guess what she is trying to say. “Are you alright?” I ask, with my British accent smacking down on my t. The blood in her face seems to rush out, and her ebony brown skin becomes a sickly ivory.
“Are you hurt?” I ask, after I clear my throat. Her arms tremble and her eyes, nose and lips begin to twitch. She utters hopelessly, through her burst lips. “Can I do—“I start?
“Get away!” she screams, jerking backwards. Her accent is African, but I cannot place exactly what language its drawn from. Nonetheless, it is beautiful.
“I’m sorry, I—“
“Why have you done this?” she screams.
I look back het her bleeding palms, as she tries to wipe her face.
“Can’t you see it?” she gets up, “look, youth—look up at the world of nothingness which was once my home. Look up at the black sky and the burnt out bushes! What have I done to deserve this kind of treatment?”
“I don’t understand” I mumble.
“God! You ignorant children! There’s nothing I do that pleases you. Nothing relating to me is good enough for you. You go about beating me down, and now you’ve left me nothing!” she screams.
And there is nothing. A few scraps here and there, perhaps some sort of hope, but nobody to work on them. Nothing.
At this moment, I wish I could speak my dialect. I wish I had not died my hair and bleached my skin. I despise my English clothes. I despise my fake nails and false eyelashes basically; I wish I had built myself into the perfect African child. I had never seen Africa so beautiful before; but heath all her great modifications, she is gorgeous. She is not all pain and rules. How did I miss that? I wish I had stopped earlier to acknowledge the value of my culture. Why was I so blind? I despised my entire lifestyle, and Africa does too. But I’ve lost myself, I’ve disposed of my identity and now, Africa does not even acknowledge me as one of her own.
So I find myself buried in an ocean of tragedy, emptiness and regret, when the bright light re-appears, and I find myself lying in a cold white bed, opposite a dull glass door, in a room with sickly white walls. I look straight into the mirror, at the masquerade I’ve turned myself into.
“What have I done?”
– Similoluwa Aluko