Migration is such where one moves elsewhere seeking greener pastures and this is why we as humans continually move. It is a way of life and this I truly believe was what my parents had in mind when we left Nigeria and moved to South Africa. I was 11 when we moved alongside my younger siblings. I truly cannot recall how i felt when I learnt we were moving but Mom said it would be much better so off we went but not before every single piece of furniture we owned was sold. Fast forward to a few months after arriving in South Africa and my siblings and I enroll at a school nearby. Perhaps I can blame it on my personality, being extremely reserved, or maybe I can blame it on the language barrier but one can understand why I wasn't so keen on starting school. Schooling in South Africa is an integral part of this story because you see I quickly realized that I was shielded from a lot of things. The confusion I felt when I was alienated was strange to me, not because I was not used to being on my own but in truth never once had I had to witness pure rage on a person's face was they learn that I am Nigerian. I quickly learnt of the stigma that was automatically attached to my citizenship status and the words spoken to a child not only by adults but by children as well is one I cannot forget. Having just arrived, I had a recognizable accent that marked me out immediately so for a while I learnt to remain silent, to hide myself because if they couldn't hear me they couldn't see me right? I cry as I write this because there were genuinely kind souls who helped me or tried to but ever notice how it seems as though your mind recalls bad experiences much vividly? I am so ashamed to admit that as time went on when asked where I was from, I'd deny and picked any other country just so long as it wasn't Nigerian. I can't say I was not thinking because I was and the one thing on my mind was to preserve myself. It sounds like such an extreme move doesn't it? Being locked several times in an empty classroom, threatened with violence, called really degrading names, told to go back to your country and so much more, I'd sit in the toilet during break because I truly wanted to be unseen. If you met me you'd know why this was hard, my mind couldn't seem to find a reason as to why...I mean I heard their words and all but why treat me so coldly.
It got easier the longer I schooled, I was young so as I grew older my accent I would say became more neutral or more localized. Despite this, somehow people could tell that I wasn't a local. "How do you know this" I always ask...is there something on my face perhaps? No it's not that, it's just your aura. I'm older now, I'd think so they can't hurt me as much anymore so i'd tell them to guess like it was a game where points would be scored. I've be told that I look and sound like someone from so many different African countries but never once was I said to be Nigerian. It worked too well I guess, I must have conditioned my mind to the point whereby no association whatsoever could be made to me. The one question that triggered me a few years back was when family members would casually state "You think you're South African now, you'd better not return because you wouldn't cope" or "This one, this one is not Nigerian anymore".
For a while I truly didn't know who I was, my identity because no matter how long i'd stayed, I still felt like a spectator just observing. A moment of maturity for me came when I realized that maybe I was part of the problem. I was little yes and could not possibly defend myself. My parents, I didn't even think of telling because what good would that have done? I'm 26 now and for every single stereotype that i know that is being propagated about me, yes me because being Nigerian is who I am, i had the opportunity to be a living breathing contradiction. I just had to open my mouth and speak. This is what I started doing for a few years now and I truly found it was a moment to educate. The shock on their faces when I tell them yes I am from Nigeria often leads to conversations in which sometimes childhood stories are exposed. This is how stereotypes are formed, breeding hatred and intolerance. If one actually interacted with a living breathing human, to be in the presence a person and put a face to that stereotype, it makes it harder I believe. For every word spoken to me denying me of my birth right and for every single moment I denied myself that, I truly forgive. Home is where my heart lies and while I am still discovering myself and actually planning on moving back, I know I will be fine. Change starts from me and I might be idealistic but it's made me more aware that people are their countries. I am what they see and I can do my part right where I am. I am kind, loyal and I snort when I laugh. I would do almost anything for my family, I have no filter unfortunately so my family hears the truth no matter what. I'm emotional and I cry when I hear about complete strangers who pass away. i love my siblings so much, I swear they are literally my best friends even though they sometimes gang up on me (They're twins). I hate the smell of soil after it rains but yet I love the rain. I am so much more and I refuse to be defined by anyone or anything. I am me.