When it comes to my identity, I’m a bit of a melting pot. Africa is a continent rich with diversity – people from all over the world find themselves here with an array of languages, skin tones and cultures. I am no exception to this rule. My father is from Algeria – an Arab country near Morocco, Egypt and Libya in the Mediterranean. My mother was born in Kenya, her family is from Scotland and England, and moved to South Africa when she was six. After this, my parents met in London and had me there in 1994. We moved to Cape Town when I was eight years old.
Who am I?
The move was a complete culture shock for me. I struggled for many years, right up into my adult life, to make sense of where precisely I fit in. I wasn’t ever quite South African enough, and when I went back to England, I found I wasn’t really English enough either. On top of that, I speak such limited Arabic that it’s difficult for me to connect with my Algerian family.
For a long time, I was left with a feeling of insecurity around my identity, an aching hole in my chest that I had no answer for. I had no roots, no one particular culture to define me – and as a result, I rebounded onto the identity that I felt I related with – my English identity. Instead of making me feel as if I had roots, it ostracized me further from those around me.
My parents have little to no English identity, and neither do any of my friends. It became a source of contention in my life. I was never happy where I was, I always wanted to go back to England – I thought to go “home”. Now I recognise it was actually a longing to go back to before I felt out of place and insecure in my own identity. Some children, when they make a drastic move, are able to adapt quite quickly but unfortunately, I was not one of those.
All the pieces make a whole
It has taken many years for me to recognise that neither one of my three cultural claims identify who I am. They are a part of my story, yes, but they do not define me. I think people strive to find security in a community, which isn’t always a bad thing. However, a love for your heritage should never be confused with finding your identity in that heritage.
While we can celebrate our uniqueness, our skin tones and our cultures – we always need to be careful that they do not define who we are. Simply because they are not able to! The truth is that we are complex, beautiful creations that cannot be contained in our entirety by any label whether that be your political standing, nationality or what sports team you support.
We are so much more than this. We are divinely crafted by a Master Creator and He chose to use extra paints with me for a reason – so that I would find my identity in Him, Jesus Christ, and not in anything or any place.
At the core of who I am
First and foremost, I am a child of God. All the other bits and pieces of who I am are wonderful but secondary. There is no need for me to feel insecure, or to look for my identity in a nation, while I can see clearly who I am in the world-creator Himself. Today, particularly in the world of the internet, there are so many labels that can define, and limit, who we are. Feminist, vegan, skin colour, gender an so on.
While none of these is bad or wrong or negative, they are secondary. They do not tell us how valuable we are, how perfectly created we are, or what we are capable of in life. The only ‘label’ that can tell us that, is the label of being one of God’s children – it is a label that supersedes all others. In Him, we find our true identities, an identity that brings peace and not confusion. An identity that doesn’t depend on any worldly attribute, but fully rests in the knowledge that we are wonderfully and purposefully made by God and for God.
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