The Interview

1. How would you describe your national identity?
I’m a British national but when people ask me where I’m from they rarely want to know whether I’m from London! So I would also say I’m Zambian despite no longer having a Zambian passport.

2. What is your definition of heritage?
The legacy and history of your parent’s and ancestors.

3. Could you describe your parent’s reasons for immigrating to Britain and give a brief account of their experience?
They were trained pilots in the military and were stationed in a small village in Greece before they came to England. They moved because English was their second language and they learnt British history and read various English novels at school so they were more familiar with England than Greece, also the people in Greece were really racist. My mum felt quite lonely, especially when she found out she was pregnant and my mum’s sister and her family had moved to England a couple years before. So they moved in with them until my mum had me and my twin sister. I think it was easier coming to London because it was slightly less alien but it was difficult having to switch jobs, adjust culturally and have two babies all at the same time!

4. Do you feel that you have a dual nationality, and if so how does that define you as an individual?
I do. I had a Zambian passport before I had a British one and then I had both! I just think of myself as a British Zambian which sounds like a contradiction but it works for me.

5. Do you feel you have a connection to Zambia, or only to Great Britain?
I have a connection to both despite only going to Zambia twice. Zambia is my family, it’s the flavour of the food I eat at home, it’s the way I move my body. Britain is also my family, friends and my boyfriend, being in London makes me unbelievably so happy! I itch when I’m away from the stink and smog. I happily engage in both cultures although I didn’t always. At school they only taught us about slavery and only talked about Africans like they’re all poor, savaged and diseased. I was embarrassed, my name was so African and my skin was so brown I couldn’t escape it but I grew up very quickly and realised that it wasn’t true at all and I embraced being Zambian.

6. For you, does Zambia belong to the limited African stereotype of ‘‘Third World Country’’? What is your reaction to this limited stereotype of Africa?
Yes it does, people always talk about Zambia being a ‘developing country’ so close to the Western model of modernity but not quite. They never realise Zambia didn’t need colonialism in the first place. Zambia and other ‘Third World’ countries can never be like England or France or the US and shouldn’t be, it’s not working.

7. How does your experience as a second generation British citizen compare to that of your parents?
My parents will always be ‘immigrants’ whereas I was born here and I have that. But it still feels like a slap in the face when people talk about negatively about immigrants. I empathise strongly with the concerns of immigrants because I although I don’t know first-hand how hard it is to migrate to another country (especially one so hostile) I know it was hard for my parents.

8. Would you describe Britain as multicultural?
Not Britain as a whole, but some British cities, like London. I go to some places in Britain where I don’t think they’ve ever spoken to a black girl before.

9. What opportunities does Britain offer for you as a young woman that Zambia does not? (Vice-Versa)
I think I’d actually know how to cook properly if I was in Zambia! But Zambia is quite similar to England: girls are encouraged to go to school, to work and also have children and a husband. Although if your skirt is a little too short an old woman might tell you off. The British economy is better and in terms of education and resources I have a lot more access in Britain.

10. Do you have a desire to live in Zambia at any point in your life, or in any other part of the world?
I don’t think I’ve been enough times in my adult life to know. I think just because my parents left it’s never been in my mind to leave England and live there! I definitely want to live somewhere else, even if only for a while. Somewhere less wet and more exciting.

12. Can you give examples of art, literature or other forms that you feel represent your experiences?
Ngozi Onwurah and Isaac Julien’s films are amazing. Zadie Smith’s books such as White Teeth were extremely informative and Tsitsi Dangarembga’s Nervous Conditions was so close to home. Lynette Yiadom-Boakye and Chris Offili’s pieces are gorgeous and rich in different ways. I feel like these artists represent Africa, blackness and Britain in very interesting and refreshing ways. Although set in France Sembene’s Black Girl is also wonderful.

Extra Details on Chibeza

Equality & Diversity Committee: I go to the committee with things that can be improved or issues to discuss relating to race and ethnicity, if a group has an issue I can bring it to our student union and the issue would be addressed. Also I collaborate and create events and relating to ethnic minority student but I also help out with things regarding to LGBT+ students, students with disabilities and other minority groups as of course there are intersections within these groups.

Dissertation: And I’m doing my dissertation on the representations of mixed race women with a black/white background in British cinema. In previous years the White British public thought that mixed race children were a bi-product of a diseased society and they were largely oppressed and marginalised. Mixed race people are now the largest growing ethnic group in Britain and the media heralds them as examples of a ‘‘post-racial’’ society. I found that mixed-race women are often fetishized, hypersexual used and made invisible.


5.1. Description of the Portfolio

All in all, the interview and the historical research have been key factors to understand the deconstruction of the African myth, both in terms of success and migration, and alsp to realise that the image that Europe portrays of Africa is not entirely true. Sometimes, and as discussed above, it is a real struggle for African people to be accepted in the host country and to find a job where they can succeed. Besides, Europe’s biased belief that it is almost impossible to earn a living in Africa has been dimmed taking into account the fact that, as Aliou mentions in the interview, Africa is a continent with a wide amount of chances in store for its inhabitants. Hence, the created portfolio is aimed at supporting the above-mentioned ideas.

Firstly, we invented a short story that clearly mirrors the difficulties that immigrants have to undergo when arriving to Europe alongside the possibilities to find a job and to live a successful live in the African continent. Besides, a documentary has been recorded in order to provide information about migration policies coming from real data obtained directly from official web pages and books that masterly deal with the aforementioned topic. Finally, the portfolio contains an album with pictures Aliou gave us in order to illustrate his life in Africa and, using his own words, his “shift into being a European citizen”. The cover of the portfolio highlights, with the picture of luggage, the idea of migrating in order to find a better life in another country. The globe underscores Aliou’s route from Senegal to France and, eventually, to Spain.

The video entitled “Mapping Migration: The Deconstruction of a Myth”, is the clearest example that underscores the reality hidden behind the flux of migration that is usually displayed. After a very scrupulous and deep study on migration, paying special attention to African migratory movements, it has been observed that a lot of Africans leave the country and seek for comfort in Europe. Among the countries that are usually chosen as the destination for African immigrants feature France (which, worthy of mention, is the first place Aliou emigrated to), UK, Italy, Germany or Spain. It is important to value that such a careful study of African migration has revealed that some of these countries, as exemplified in the video, have become harshly racist, developing policies against black immigrants (Juba, 2003). Therefore, the barriers they have to overcome are not only those of a difficult and dangerous journey, but also a situation of racism in most cases. Emigration thus needs to be read as a process that involves multiple decisions -including the abandonment of a family, a culture and a homeland- and which usually derives into the disappointment of the emigrant when arriving to the place of destination. The aforementioned portrayal can only account for those emigrants who actually leave Africa as a continent. But is that really the unique type of migration that is taking place in Africa? The video reveals that this is not so. While we are only offered images of black people il/legally migrating to Europe, the number of African people who claim for intra-migration is actually outnumbering that of people who decide to leave the continent. Hence, more migration within Africa takes place than migration outside Africa (Koutonin, 2014). Mass media seems to be a direct element affecting the perception of black migration, and thus it is a determinant factor when it comes to craft European beliefs about racism, rejection and hatred. This reveals not only that a lot of people decide to stay within the confinements of Africa, but also that it is a country full of possibilities. We should not believe everything that we are told, because, sometimes, reality is far away from it.

In order to complete the piece of work with a more creative and informal part, it was decided to create a tale. This story presents two friends, Aarif and Kaamil, who live in a small town in Senegal and struggle to create their own story in the world.

As in Africa it is very difficult to find good job opportunities to make a living, Kaamil decides to look for those opportunities in Spain, whereas Aarif stays in Africa looking for those same possibilities. In a series of letters these friends send one another, we have a glimpse of the struggles a black person may undergo when in a European country. The main purpose of the story is to provide the reader with an overview of those struggles as anecdotes that lead to the adaptation of the immigrant to the new country and lifestyle. The drawings have been made by hand and afterwards photoshopped so as to introduce some real elements to the original drawings. Moreover, the letters have been written as if we were those fictional characters in the story, trying to show the emotions and worries they would feel.

Sometimes, those Africans who need to leave the country and need to acquire false identities in order to be accepted as factual part of the destination demography, they need to stop at places such as Cape Verde. This problematises their journey towards a new land, for they have to fight for achieving a new identity and hence abandoning anything they claimed for before.

Isabel Flaquer Beltrán
Sílvia Pérez Carro
Mireia Trejo Domingo
Ada Guiteras Canal
Eva Puyuelo Ureña

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Materials: jeans fabric, brown silk fabric, blue cotton fabric, green plush cloth, thread, paper, cotton, ink, buttons.
Size: 30 cm x 12.5 cm.

It is a doll that represents Prudencio and it has different parts: a body, some clothes (a hoodie, a pair jeans and a pair of shoes) and some stickers or labels that cover the clothes. The doll symbolises people’s prejudices from the external appearance and how the reality is different from those preconceptions. It is thus an invitation to rethinking one’s own presuppositions before meeting a person, just by judging the looks or the accent.

The stickers represent the labels that people here put on Prude when they see him, as he says in the interview. The first thing many people sees on him is his skin colour, so there is a sticker painted with black ink that represents this label. This is connected to the label “foreigner”, because Spanish people tend to think that black people are necessarily immigrants:

(…) but from outside nobody recognizes me as a Spanish. It is like when at the beginning, when you have to sign a document, they tell you: “Can you give me your NIE?,” when the NIE is a document for foreigners; this means something. So then, which is your nationality? Which is your country? Which is your language? All of this is not taken for granted in you, evidently. Sure, it is a problem of society because here it hasn’t been a long time since they have started to have massive immigration.
In addition, they also tend to associate this with poverty and failure, inability to get an education and a good job (labels “Poor” and “Dropout”). The last label (“Label me”) challenges the observer to reanalyze Prude from a different perspective.

Now, if you unbutton the doll’s hoodie, you will find a “window” in his chest, a chance for Prude to show how he represents himself despite all the external labels. The inner part is made of the same green cloth as the suitcase, as it represents his hope to achieve his dreams. It has some additional stickers on it. There are the flags of Canada and Spain again because he feels Spanish-Canadian and does not like to be perceived as a foreigner, which he does not feel. There are three paper dolls holding hands together that represent, on one hand, children and school, Prude’s studies and job, and on the other hand, his future projects of solidarity. There is also a sticker which says “Successful”, because he has managed to do many things despite the difficulties. Finally, there is another sticker which says “Handsome” because he sees beauty in his blackness. This is a celebration of self-esteem because unfortunately there is a tendency to associate fair skin with an ideal of beauty, and it is great to hear that Prude is able to see himself as handsome in defiance of this ideal:

ELENA: Then do you feel African or not?
PRUDENCIO: Yes, because I follow an African root, but I don’t feel Malian. I’m European… I’m black and handsome, that’s it. [Laughs]. Jealous, no?

By Carla Asensio, Clara Esquerdo, Anna Ferrón & Elena Peris