As a woman of a certain age, I’m starting to give more thought to how I’ve lived my life so far and how I want to live it going forward. Whilst I am not yet retirement age, prioritizing what stays and what goes matters. My mother died just a month before her 51st birthday. At 44, I’m keenly aware that longevity is not guaranteed. I also find myself constantly questioning how true to who I am the life I live in the Washington, D.C. area is.
I was born in Zimbabwe (formerly known as Rhodesia), in southern Africa. I grew up in England from the age of 7 until I moved to the United States at 36. As one of an estimated 170 million members of the African Diaspora—people of African origin who are scattered across the world—feeling more connected to my ‘African-ness’ is increasingly more important for me.
As I have travelled to a handful of countries over the years, mostly for family funerals and weddings and sometimes for work, I am always struck by how different being in Africa feels in real life compared to what you hear or read in the media.
After losing both parents four months apart, I instinctively knew that I had to go ‘home’ to Zimbabwe, if I was ever to heal. As luck would have it, the universe moved to meet me. Quite by accident I found a great job that allowed me to spend what I still consider the best two years of my life, living and working in the capital city, Harare.
That experience and working in international development, has made me increasingly intolerant of the limited stories we hear about the countries in and people from Africa. Even in the age of social media, when it is easier than ever to learn about people and places beyond our own doorsteps, Africa is still talked about as if it is a country!
If countries in Europe are called by their names—France, Spain, Italy, Germany; and even their cities get a name check—Paris, Madrid, Rome, Berlin, then surely we can extend the same courtesy to Africa. Far from being a country, it is the second-largest and second-most-populous continent. What makes Africa really fascinating is that as rich as it is in natural resources—from diamonds and gold to coffee and oil—it is also home to some of the world’s poorest people.
I have decided to stop complaining and to do something about my pet peeve—by visiting all 54 countries in Africa; and documenting each one in images and a few words.
Last December I made the first stop on journey to peel away the outdated narratives about the continent that I grew up with, at Cape Agulhas—the southernmost point of Africa. The area boasts rich plant biodiversity and birds with very interesting names—the Cape Sugarbird, the Hottentot Buttonquail and the Southern Tchagara, to name a few. It is also where the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet. (Top photo: The dividing line between the Atlantic and the Indian oceans, at Cape Agulhas. Photo credit: CC BY-SA 2.0)
Cape Agulhas, in South Africa (Credit: @jsib)
Cape Agulhas is in the Western Cape province of South Africa, which is more widely known for Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison, on his Long Walk to Freedom.
As I make my way across the continent, I am excited to see what each stop will reveal. The stories I see, hear and have the privilege to capture and share may not make global headlines but each one is a beautiful thread in the rich tapestry that is Africa’s story.