Embodying Ancestry: Ekua

Themes: Blackness, Africanness, Kenyan, third culture kid, global citizen, multiculturalism, naming

“I’m Egyptian. So I’m African. First generation American, but I’m the first of my blood to be here. My parents met in Alexandria. Met in ’88. Egyptian-Egyptian, my mom has pharaonic blood across centuries, across oceans. We’ve got family in Brazil, family in South Africa, family in Europe. Arab and African. And it’s fraught, right? Like, I don’t really conversations about being Arab and African with many people. You’re either Arab, you’re Middle Eastern; Or you’re African or African American, you’re Black. There isn’t a lot, in the communities that I’m in or with the friends that I have, an acknowledgement that Arabness is Blackness too. I’m coming into that for myself. Because it doesn’t matter what country you’re in when you’re 12 years old and you’re still called Black.”

“I don’t know how my grandma got the name Paulina. I felt like it was Spanish because I always knew girls that were named Paulina to be Spanish. I haven’t done extensive research, but I know that every so often — at least when a girl child is born — they are supposed to take the name of one of their ancestors. So my cousin, my mom’s sister, gave birth to a girl, so she has my grandma’s name. I know when I have a daughter she’s going to be named Rosemary, my mom’s name. Or even, Nerima as her middle name because that’s her great grandmother’s middle name. And so the lineage continues.”

“Musumba is my clan name because within tribes in Kenya there’s also the clans. Our clan is called Basinyama. Women were warriors in my clan and the clan animal is the elephant.” 

“I consider myself a global citizen and that’s why I love understanding identity because, at least now, we are living in a world where identity can be very fluid. I feel for a long time it’s been very rigid. So I consider myself a Third Culture Kid because I’ve grown up in New York City, but I was actually born in England. I am Kenyan. Also, Ghanian, but I refer to myself as Kenyan because that’s the side I’ve grown up with, I’ve known and I’ve come to really register. I was raised in a very Kenyan household where we speak Swahili. But my first name is from Ghana.”

“We, as Kenyans, have such weird relationship with the rest of Africa. Our influence is more Indian and Arab. You know Swahili has elements of Arab in it — our food, the curries. We have japati. I don’t know if West Africa has something like that, but they probably do. But because it’s very linked to India, the rest of Africa really isn’t so they just don’t understand how what I am wearing could be African. And maybe that has to do with people associating Africanness with West Africa. I love talking about this stuff because it’s what brings out our individuality. You see the nuances of people and how blackness can exist and how Africanness is really complex, but also beautiful at the same time.”

“It’s scary how much Ekua and Paulina have their own personalities. The good stuff, yes, but even the not so good stuff. Like, I think my cousin has my grandmother traits where she keeps to her word. Even with personality traits – she has a very strong personality. And my aunt, who is called Matilda after my great aunt from my grandfathers line, I find that they must have similar traits, where my relatives will be like, “Wow Aunty Maty has Matilda’s traits.” I like to think about the future, when I become a grandparent and what would that look like for us and our grandkids.

More Participants

Lontia | Marylin | Amy | Jasmine | Christie | Geraldine | Patricia | Laura | Angela & Diana | Tsedaye | Eddie | Lola | Briana | Simone | SINI | Italy | Ekua | Anika | Reem | Bobo | Kei | Macy | Sarah | DaMonique | Nandi | Anise | Yadira

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