By: Yambakam Nyangani
Black or white, it seems the world is screaming to me that I have to be one or the other. They do this so as to constrain and curtail individuals to a set standard. But me? I’m neither. On a night in yet another land, I’ll soon call home. I ponder, “How will I fit in?” Surely there must be one. My thoughts and words stretch past the curtailed parameter; this does not flow well with the tailored system around me.
My first home is Nigeria, a juxtaposed hub of wealth and poverty yet amassed with ingenious citizens and colourful cultures. I think to the day I left my homeland; my mother whisking my sister and myself to meet my father in a land that will offer us optimal opportunity; because their homeland could no longer suffice. Of course, my nine-year-old self did not care about those boring things. I was just excited for the adventures that awaited me.
Before the sun rose, dim and early, we were off on four wheels, a car driven by a church member demonstrating utmost Christ-like fellowship. Usually, we moved on two wheels called the okadas, what you might know as motor bikes. This was the main means of transport in the city of Badagry Lagos, a land mainly occupied by Yorubas, a major tribe in Nigeria. “It’s never too early for Lagos traffic,” our driver announced. The intricate architecture of the road, the criss-cross complexion of the bridges over the Lagos lagoon mirrors the complexity of my people for whom I have so much love. I love their persistence to attain the better, their hardworking nature which never competes with their love for family and community.
Upon landing, we were greeted by my father whom we hadn’t seen for one year. “Migrant” became my new label, and the length of time I was going to be in Jamaica? I knew not. My “fatherland.” It unveils to me a different side of the world. When I left my motherland, I did not know that I also left behind my innocent view of the world. The same ebony brown that caresses my body caresses theirs, the same gravity defying, cotton-like crown on my head was on theirs. A very confusing feat for a nine-year-old child. “Somehow determined I was different even though I looked like them,” as I explained my confusion to my pillow most times.
In this gorgeous land, I met my most difficult life events and aberrant explorations. From dishonest acts to extreme sadness, rebellious paths to losing a sense of myself and simply absorbing the events around me, to sexual indulgences, I found new parts of myself. Whenever I think about the eight years I spent in my fatherland, I am reminded of the gems I found there like the tantalizing jerk chicken recipe. More importantly, I am reminded that my greatest asset is my authentic self even if I lose a sense of my identity; a quiet, introspective search is sure to guide me back home.
Now 17 years of age, I stepped into the chilling arms of my third home, can you guess it? It was cold and stunning Canada. I was not too excited to leave my second home, I had gotten comfortable with my fatherland, and sadness filled my heart again as I left. My expectations were different this time because, when you’ve lived two lives, you tread cautiously with your third. Here I did not feel fully accepted. My difference was more vivid, glaring. My brown melanated skin starkly contrasted the white or lighter skins throughout the population. Most astounding, however, was the subtle yet piercing racist acts perpetuated through the sheep clothing of advice or guidance. So here I am, in a new world, yet the same old sense of difference still exists.
There is something, however, that this new world offers that I did not experience in my motherland or fatherland, and that is the opportunity to recreate myself. I see now too that I can find others like me — people who might not always fit in. Together, we can find a way to fit with each other. This realization helps me become more comfortable in my own skin. One night, I chant to myself: “I take you, Yambakam Nyangani, to be my soulfully wedded husband, to revel and to hold, void of restrictions, free from the chains of segmentation, to never stop being an anomaly, to accept that I am motherland, I am fatherland and I am the new world, all wrapped into one. All these homes are within me until I depart from this world to join my ancestors. It is a holy matrimony with myself.
About “Motherland, Fatherland and New World”
“Motherland, Fatherland and New World” was written as part of the Write and Tell Your Story workshop series during International Education Week (IEW). This story also won third place in the IEW Writing Contest.
Yambakam is a first-year Science (Life Sciences) student at McMaster.
Stories for a global community
Throughout IEW, students shared how recent experiences enhanced their global perspective and contributed to their intercultural skills. Experiences included:
- Remote or virtual experiences
- Experiences abroad (studying, working, volunteering, researching, etc.)
- International student experiences
- Out-of-province experiences
- Participation through clubs and organizations with an international or global perspective