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What I Wish I Knew About Africa When I Was a Child

Updated: Jan 25, 2022

A few days ago I went out with a few friends for drinks. Within the abundance of seated laughs and drunken philosophy, the following question came up and dropped the table into a heavy silence: ‘What do you wish you knew about Africa when you were growing up?’ After a few minutes a cypher of 'wokeness' ensued.

“I wish I knew we could relate” – Goodness (yes, that’s his name)

Goodness recalled how we all had access to insane amounts of foreign media while growing up; so much so that we formed bonds and memories with these foreign ideas. Coming from Limpopo, South Africa, he found he could relate more with TV shows like Police Academy and Dragon Ball Z than he could with actual people from Zimbabwe who were just a few kilometres away from where he lived.

“I wish I knew that we were fine on our own” – Thato

“I wish I knew that we did not need ‘advancement’ from the West.” You could feel the angst in her voice.

“We were sold this dream in which Africans were savages and the white man swooped in and saved us. Africa had wealth, Africa had resources, Africa had

infrastructure, and we were fine on our own.”

“I wish I knew I was allowed to be proud of what is ours” – Zukiso (that’s me)

When I was in primary school there was a kid called Parker who, as I eventually found out, was actually named ‘Phakamani’ (meaning rise up in isiZulu). African names have meaning, they show pride in who we are, and allow us to tell our stories. This young gentleman was negating all of that by choosing to be called by this fake European sounding name.

There is so much more to Africa that I am only discovering now in my mid-twenties. There is a richness of culture, diversity, ideas, and innovation I knew nothing about even though I have never left the continent. We just cannot afford to do the same for the generation of children growing up today; we need to teach ourselves about ourselves.

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