Depending on how good your memory is, most people have vivid memories of themselves as far back as three years old. Our memory stretches back to Cathedral of Christ the King in Doornfontein, Johannesburg, where we attended nursery school. Our first memory of our lives exists right there, happily singing "bana ba sekolo, bana ba sekolo, tloong sekolong!". The good old days I suppose, we didn't know about the real world of division that awaited our arrival.
Many people associate xenophobia and afrophobia only to the extremes like looting and displacement that flare up every so often in South Africa which are so often just dismissed as elements of criminality but everyday unreported events continue to cause the African child a great deal of mental decay. Words can cut so deep like you can't begin to imagine, no matter how strong you are. South Africa is the only home we've ever known, our whole lives are based here. We are part of a limbo generation, too Congolese to be South African and too South African to be Congolese. So where on Earth would we find the response to this vicious statement: "Go back to your country!"?
It's a full-time job trying to preserve the culture that I have inherited from back home while trying to also incorporate the beauty and variety that I experience in South Africa, my new home. I want to be a powerhouse, a melting pot of the fusion of cultures and experiences that I am exposed to and that I feel represent me and everything around me. But I'm reduced to a measly kwerekwere all because I responded in English in the taxi. Out of the taxi into the supermarket and my fate is identical, my black skin automatically means I should communicate in a local vernacular language and if I fail to do so, I become invisible to the person I require assistance from.
Mentally exhausting, the more I try to feel at home the more I am reminded that I'm not South African and that I will never be South African. Over the years I have realised that people deal with people, if you have had a positive experience with an African (by African I mean a native of all African countries except South Africa) you are less likely to be Afrophobic because of this experience. So when your best friend, boyfriend, colleague or neighbour, for example, is a non-South African, African or you have travelled the African continent and are not oblivious to the realities of 'Africans', it's easier for you to see them as the person that they are and not just give them the negative label, 'foreigner'.
While we may never be able to respond to every South African who chooses fear over understanding, this short video will hopefully allow our fellow brothers and sisters to see us.
Africa Day might be celebrated once every year in South Africa but our daily existence is an expression of our pride as Africans. Let's celebrate our unity in diversity.Suggest a correction