So….. I have officially relocated to London for roughly the next two years. Today is my two-week anniversary! Don’t worry I won’t be counting the weeks in every post I do. I will lose count after 4 weeks!). I just want to get one thing out in the open. I am not running away from Australia. I repeat, I am not running away from Australia. I love Australia and I really appreciate my upbringing. I say to my friends and family, I am coming back to raise my kids in Australia!
When I go to Ghana, a lot of people are amazed that I am from Australia and assume that because I don’t live in the UK, US or any other country in Europe for that matter, I am missing out on the real ‘Abrokye life’ (The ‘abroad life’). I have met Ghanaians in London (and I know I will continue to meet some) who think the exact same thing or think I have moved here because I have been underprivileged in Australia. I am now fed up trying to justify my good life in Australia. I wish I could tap into the past and future like Phoebe (Alyssa Milano) from Charmed (this is not the best example but it was the best I could find). Every time I would meet someone and they would assume the intentions of my move, I would just hold their hands, close my eyes and visualise my life and they could see and feel it!
Although there are quite a few people I have met who think it’s absolutely crazy for me to move from a sun-blessed country with less people and more space to a heat-deprived country with an overflow of people and no space. I have a few relatives and family friends who lived in London or Europe years back and now reside in Australia and think the same thing. Come winter when temperature highs reach 4 degrees, I will be asking myself the same question!
In all honestly though, I am just here for a new career and cultural experience outside my comfort zone. Comfort is not enough for me. Challenge is what I thrive on and I think this is a big challenge on many levels.
It’s been two weeks and I don’t think I am ever going to get over seeing this many African people on a daily basis or hearing my language on every street corner, or walking into an Afro-Carribean shop which is owned by an non-Afro-Carribean or a hair and beauty store and getting exactly what I need without a hitch! Or hearing sales stuff in stores like Topshop speaking my language as if it’s the official language of the UK! These may seem like small things, but look at it this way. Culturally, it’s like I was taken taken from the small country town and brought to the city with triple the amount of multiculturalism!
When I was younger, where I lived, there weren’t many Africans. You could probably count on your two hands all the Africans around and they were mainly Ghanaian, if not they were Nigerian. On the usual shopping trips to the mall with my parents, I would spot an African from afar and make my parents, in particular my Mum chase them just to say ‘Hello’ because I was so excited to see another African. She said she used to get annoyed, but to make me happy and feel proud of who I am, she would allow the pursuit. I eventually grew out of chasing people. Now, if I see an African approaching me, I always try to acknowledge them. In a land where we are so few, an acknowledgement means a lot. In London, that kind of acknowledgment wouldn’t old up here. My fellow Afro-Aussie Sarah Balla summed it up nicely in an email to me a few days ago.
The irony of being black and Australian. You search aimlessly for that connection with another black person, but when transported elsewhere, you’re confronted with the reality that you’re JUST another black person.
When I read that, I had one of Oprah’s ‘Aha!’ moments. Sarah summed up years of my feelings into two simple sentences!
I am also intrigued about African experience in London and possibly Europe and people’s engagement with Creative Africa. If you have ever watched The Afroklectic Project: Introduction, fellow contributor Sefakor raises the issue of there being less resources in Australia for African people to be an active creative body like in the US or the UK. We don’t have the Black Beauty & Hair, Pride, New African Women or Arise Magazine to spoon feed us with info at the tip of our fingers. We don’t have the Tate and the V&A holding African exhibitions every now and then or amazing shops like Soboye, or events held at the Africa Centre. Moving here is an opportunity to experience all that first hand rather than spending hours online looking through photos and reading about events.
My first taste of an event as on Monday at Africa@Spitafields. I really enjoyed the vibe and I realised this is what we are missing in Australia – a full fledged African shopping experience. Seeing so many people of all ages walking through the space engaging and buying stuff was all different to me. It was so inspiring!