It took me a long time to grasp this notion; the notion of what it means to be part of a diasporic people and grasp an understanding of my identity in that regards.
However, living in the diaspora can often be a ‘conflicting’ experience. On one hand you have adapted to a new culture and different ways of doing things and the other hand, there’s a piece of you that always longs from home.
Diaspora: The dispersion or spread of any people from their original homeland.
Prior to my undergraduate module on migration, I rarely questioned my identity or discussed what I think defines it – I had always identified as Congolese. I was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo; left at the age of 4 months but grew up in Kenya until the age of 5 before moving to London. It wasn’t until my lecturer asked me how I identify myself that I started to think about whether or not I view myself as ‘Congolese’ or ‘British-Congolese’.
I often hear the same narratives amongst those in the diaspora with hopes of returning home and investing in a business or project but I think we sometimes view this narrow-mindedly. What we often neglect is the thought that we may have to re-adjust our minds before moving back‘home’.
For example, I have a friend, who after growing up in the U.K decided to move back to Nigeria and pursue some business ventures. Every time I spoke with him, he was frustrated. He was frustrated with how slow things were going, how late people arrived to meetings and how the rules of business and negotiation are different. He had adopted a British-Nigerian culture.
We don’t realise how much our environment frames our thoughts and behaviours yet these are the things that essentially shape our identity. We live in a fast paced society where things moves pretty quickly and there is always a sense of urgency. We have adapted to this and it has become natural to us and become part of our culture.
Culture: The ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society
We cannot assume that our Western qualifications and experience will open doors and make moving back home a walk in the park because we believe that ‘home’ will always be home and it will adjust to our new ways thinking. Maybe it’s us that must do the re-adjusting. As I think about my future and whether or not moving back to Congo will be an option for me, I also think about the mental shift that will need to take place before that transition can happen.
Naivasha Mwanji @bantukongo