Finding my African
My name is Christine Tama, but friends and family call me Tina. I wasn't as aware of race and identity until I was in my late teens. I wasn’t raised to fully immerse in the culture of my parents and have never been to their home land of Cameroon. However, as I grow and evolve, I find myself longing for that connection and understanding of self which I believe I will only find back home. A feeling I have truly felt in England having been born in the UK.
Photo 1: A confused child
I spent the first two years of my life living with my Jamaican nanny and her husband in East London. She was fair skinned, just like my mother, and fed me traditional African food. I believed this was my mother's mum, until I met my actual grandmother at age 10. This living situation was never explained to me and I remained confused for many years, until the pieces of the puzzle naturally clicked as I got older.
Photo 2: Eclectic friendship group
Growing up, I lacked awareness about race, and so I easily made friends from all different backgrounds. I didn't think anything of this until an African girl said to me “you're not really African...not like us", and it really stung. The truth is, I didn't know how to be “African” in the stereotypical way. I now realise that a new generation of children of African immigrants are emerging with a new and diverse perspective on what it really means to be African.
Photo 3: My foundation
I’ve started asking my mother more and more questions about our family history and her upbringing. It was frightening yet fascinating to hear her stories of poverty growing up on a coco farm in the village; a life I had never lived but could only imagine. A fire for knowledge had been lit and since then, I've been re-connecting with family all around the world. Unfortunately, there is currently a civil war in Cameroon making it difficult for me to visit at this time; but it's on my to do list.
Photo 4: Adventures in Africa
I finally made my way to sub-Sahara Africa in December 2017. I stayed in Ghana for two weeks and even though it's not where my family is from, it still felt like home. There is a type of familiarity which seems to be shared across all Africans in Africa, one I do not feel amongst Africans in England. I have since been to Uganda and cannot wait to explore other African countries to breath in the rich and raw experiences of some of the most diverse people on earth!
Be bold, be brilliant and recycle.