Don't Say Africa Told You So

See, I was just about to blame Africa for a great many things.

I was going to sit back on the sofa, get myself comfortable and complacent, sip my coffee, and say, with my chin up, that it has been tough growing up in Africa. I would glance at you from the corner of my eye, ensuring my words have had the requisite effect; that you might already be looking at me gravely, pityingly, confirming that indeed, I have suffered.

I was going to smooth a non-existent crease on my skirt as I tell you how Kenya has slowly ruined me, subjecting me to the 8-4-4 education system, a system that taught me and showed me how the claps would get louder when one succeeded in science, if at all claps were heard anywhere else. I would tell you that I was not free to dream my dreams. This Africa does not allow. 

I was going to shake my head solemnly as I told you that my mother confused me as she taught me to check the feasibility of any action by asking “what would so and so think? What would they say of me?” and that now this is why I must search your eyes before I do anything. I have been taught to look for praise, see, I would say, and this is what I do. Praise is the soundtrack of Africa.

I was going to stand up now, and walk…to that couch there and back here, and slowly, thoughtfully say, and the leadership doesn’t help, see, they are all self-seeking and corrupt, we have been taught to be corrupt; there is no other way, not in Africa.

But something else in me is mocking me, revolting, refusing. I would not be able to deny that I would be disconcerted as I said these things to you, because there would be something rising in me; the kind of discomfort that comes with suppressed truth. Truth would laugh at my dressing my enemy in Africa’s clothes.

“Africa” did not choose my shame for me. “Africa” did not hold my hands behind my back and stop me from making my own choices, from choosing what in my soul I knew was right. “Africa” did not ask me to hide my hair, and parade it only when it is straight and flowing. “Africa” did not ask me to reject a man because of his looks, wondering what our pictures would look like. “Africa” did not ask me to take my own money with my own hands and bribe. When I sit here and try to claim my shame is imposed on me, my own cowardice gains shape, becomes increasingly obvious, emerges from the shadows and glares at me and dares me to lie when I know I have tied my own hands.

Africa is trees and earth, beaches and lakes. It is diamonds and the Great Rift Valley, it is rivers and mountains. Africa is the wild and the alive, it is the breathtaking and the free. Africa has not told me, or you anything.  

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