It is that time of the year, the night when Wellesley is blessed with the music and food from the African continent. In case you do not know what Mamaland is -say you are a first year or you spend most of your time at Wellesley living under a rock- Mamaland is an African culture show that began in 2004. It is a time to celebrate African presence on Wellesley’s campus with music, food and festive performances. This year’s Mamaland is called Jabulani which means Rejoice. So rejoice!
Honestly, there are so many to things to rejoice about, especially concerning Africans and our place in the world. I remember when in high school, I was ashamed of being African. People heard it in my accent so I stopped speaking in class, in front of people, and to friends. People saw it when I would rather listen to African music than the popular songs on the radio or do cultural dances than the ones every cool kid was doing. Now, in college, I no longer feel that shame. Instead, I feel pride when I identify as Nigerian because we as Africans are doing amazing things and contributing to the world in science, technology, business, art, and innovation.
It is sad to think that during my parent’s time in the US, as Africans, they were not just fighting the racial discrimination,you were also fighting a time where wearing clothes with colorful prints meant that you were a fraudulent African prince who was trying to scam people. It also did not help that the media painted us as uneducated, incomprehensible, and politically ignorant. So it is amazing to live in a time where, although most of the problems still persist, that I can tie my identity of being a Nigerian and an African with success, intelligence and great accomplishments.
I recognize how lucky I am to live in a generation where Africans are acclaimed for being the most educated group in America. I also live in a time where owning a Dashiki is cool and most people want one. A time where I can walk out in an Ankara dress and get compliments and questions of where it comes from. A time where hip-hop artists appreciate the unique tunes of afrobeat and are willing to accept the contributions of African artist and collaborations on chart-topping music creations. A time where Africans are writing narratives of African people as actors and people with relatable experiences that aren’t tainted with sickness, starvation and wild animals.
So yes, it is a time to rejoice.
However, I recognize that all is not well in the motherland. That there are huge economic disparities between social classes. Some parents would rather invest in the education of their male child than their daughter, and of course, the political uprisings and unjust killings that take place in the continent. But what place doesn’t have a crisis of its own? I believe that the African continent has been unfairly simplified as a monolith. We are peoples with problems too.
The most recent bombing or flood should not be the immediate association that you have with an African country. his is problematic and I don’t believe I need to explain why that is. If your only association with Africa is starving children or a giraffe,then you are responsible for your ignorance. If your only experience in an African country was on a safari, or if the only African book you have read is Things Fall Apart, then you need to take accountability for your self-chosen ignorance and do more research. If this sounds tedious to you then come to Mamaland, and plunge yourself in the unfamiliarity of spicy food and unique music rhythms, but also be there to listen and learn.
Come experience something new or familiar! Come to Mamaland!