Am I an African?

Rear view shot of a young woman relaxing by the pool
Rear view shot of a young woman relaxing by the pool

It's been about a week since we celebrated Africa Day 2016, but I can't help but think about what it means to be African. And if I am indeed African enough.

First of all, let me clarify that Africa Day is not a celebration of the country Africa, but the continent of Africa which consists of many countries -- 54 to be exact. I know this is confusing because we celebrate Africa Day but please, believe me. Besides, you'll sound smarter when you proudly declare that you dream of visiting a particular country in Africa (insert name here) and not Africa.

Now, if being African was based on an exam which included tests on language, culture, cooking, general knowledge or geography, then I would miserably fail.

I was born in Zimbabwe and raised in South Africa but I don't fluently speak any African languages. I know, you're disappointed and shocked but I am too. When I was younger it didn't really bother me that much. But now that I'm older, there's nothing more frustrating than understanding your home language and having to respond brokenly (as you drag out your words attempting to directly translate form English) or you reply in English.

There have been many phases in my life when I attempted "be more African" -- whatever that meant. Like the time I cut off my relaxed hair and went natural -- after a few weeks my hair broke and I rocked a massive afro-weave. Then there was the time I only listened to vernac music. I also had daily one hour Shona lessons -- thank you YouTube. Poorly wrapped doeks (head scarves) also became "my thing" for some time. And I can't forget African jewelry -- unsure of what tribe or country it came from, but if it looked African I wore it.

The thing is, none of these external elements made me anymore or any less African. Odd, how I was looking for validation for something that ran though my veins. I love reading Kwame Nkrumah's words:

"I am not African because I was born in Africa but because Africa was born in me."

Questioning whether or not I'm African enough is a thought that should not be entertained. What bearing does the color of my skin, my accent or fashion style have on my Africanness? By who's standards shall I be praised?

I'm blessed that my soul finds great joy in the works birthed from the people of this land. I've been transformed by words of Chinua Achebe, Alan Paton and, of course, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie who said:

"If you followed the media you'd think that everybody in Africa was starving to death, and that's not the case; so it's important to engage with the other Africa."

My family has been on countless road trips to Zimbabwe accompanied by the sounds of Oliver Mtukudzi and Thomas Mapfumo. I've sat at home glued to the TV watching Africa Magic -- captivated by the dramatic stories. Why are we so quick to take in negative stories about our continent from overseas? If you want to read some incredible stories about Africa written by Africans, then read the likes of Forbes Africa.

Being of this land lies not in the color of your skin, the dialect you speak or your culture. It is an inner being.

One of the most moving speeches I've heard about our continent comes from Former President of South Africa Thabo Mbeki. It's the speech he gave on the 8th of May 1996 when South Africa passed the new Constitution.

It's the answer my question. And the answer is "yes". I AM AN AFRICAN.