Afropean is said to be a word first coined by Talking Heads singer David Byrne to describe the music of Belgian-Congolese group ‘Zap Mama’. It was later popularized by amongst others, the Afro-French sister duo Les Nubians.
Broadly taken an Afropean is;
- A European with African ancestors.
- A member of the black diaspora living in Europe
- A mixed race individual
- Any African living and/or working in Europe
I don’t know how I stumbled on the word but when I found it, it was the last piece of a 27 year search to find a word to describe people like me. People like me who have spent considerable time living and/or working in Europe. People like me who are from Africa but have built their lives in Europe. People of mixed African-European heritage like my children that I see every day in my daily life. Children who live in Europe (and may have never been to Africa) but are brought up with the influence of at least one African parent. People who technically belong in Europe but because of the bright colours of their skins are constantly being asked where they are from. It turns out that a variation of the word had been there at least since 1988. There many blogs and social media pages which are dedicated to this very subject. I think one more website/social media page would only help to give additional momentum to a growing awareness and identity movement.
When I stumbled on the word; Afropean, I finally felt a sense of identity. To be clear, the sense of an identity crisis is not one that was/is triggered by only the Europeans. A more recent personal and on-going questioning of who I was happened inside my house in Rotterdam in the autumn of 2016. Some friends visiting from Nigeria, the country of my birth blatantly told me to keep my counsel to myself while discussing the state of affairs in Nigeria. They told me they do not consider me a Nigerian any more and that I had zero knowledge and stake in anything Nigerian. The fact that I (and my children) still retain the Nigerian nationality in addition to the Dutch/European nationality was not even a factor. I live and work in Europe and as far as my friends who live in Nigeria were concerned, I did not exist any more!
And before you think this rejection is incidental, I should add that I get to hear these from erstwhile fellow Nigerians at least 6 times a year even while visiting Nigeria or other parts of Africa. I am not alone. A friend who lives in Poland told me that as an African, he gets referred to in conversations as African-American even though everyone knows he carries a European passport and is clearly not an American! Their explanation being that African-American is the only acceptable terminology they know when referring to people of African origin. But we are not Americans!
In my daily job as a producer for Africa Web TV, I get to meet a lot of people who are in the same boat. I see many children of mixed relationships who are struggling with whom they are. While some shrug their shoulders, some are taking a proactive approach and recognising that, oblivious to many, there is a new culture that is evolving right in front of our very eyes. The African cuisine, the African fashion, the African music, the African culture and more are making their ways out of the subconscious to the conscious of Europe. Africa Web TV met two of those Afropeans in 2017 at The Hague. It was fascinating to hear those young ladies talk about their sense of Europeaness being shaped by their Africaness. It is the friend in Poland and these two ladies who added a sense of urgency to my quest to finding out what my identity was/is.
The urgency was further fuelled by the rise of xenophobia and right-wing populism in Europe. When people, who are born here in Europe, are being told to go back to their own countries, you know it is time to start claiming your own space. The Afropeans are already home. They are going nowhere. This land is our land too. We bring so much to the table that we can neither be ignored nor bullied any more! We are Europeans who are proud of our African heritage too. The longer we live in Europe the more a new culture develops that is a rich mixture of the European and African cultures. We don’t need to choose because we are The Afropeans!
I invite every Afropean to send their own stories to be published in this blog. Your story can inspire a lot of people who are in the same situation. If writing is not your thing, send a short video of your own story or struggles. Contribute images and pictures even songs. Let’s make it personal. Sharing is loving. Don’t be quiet. Claim your space. Be inspired and inspire others too. Stand tall and be proud to be an Afropean! Please use the contact page to get in touch with us.
Watch this space for stories and images of the millions of Afropeans living in Europe and elsewhere.