This is testimony time. Let me confess to you, my relationship with Africa was not always smooth. I had my share of doubts and fear to face in order to give my country of origin a place in my heart.
I was born in Benin and raised up in Europe. I never felt the need to know more about Benin and did not grow up going on vacations over there. I grew up connected to the food and family culture but still felt somehow disconnected from the country. Never taught I will want to visit, wander over there. But look at me today, founding a brand that advocates for my Africa. We grow, we experience, we learn and we try to do better than yesterday.
I hope my story resonates with some of you guys and will spark some will to change and move forward whatever it is holding you back from giving your origin country a big place in your heart.
Let’s start at the beginning.
So let me share with you why I felt disconnected and how my mindset shifted.
Why did I felt disconnected from Benin growing up in Europe?
I used to hate my African parent’s origin country!
Yep, this African queen you see today used to not want to go back to Africa at all. I left Benin at 7 years old. Effectively back in the days, before my 20 years old, I associate Benin with the context that leads to me moving to London with my family: the death of my mother. Because of this, I was not ready to go back to visit Benin or be interested in learning more about it. Facing my trauma and seeing this country from a gentle point of view was not one of my purposes.
Some Africans living in Western countries have experienced traumatic situations, political instability, social and economic situations that led to the immigration of their family, so they associate the country with that. The fear that is often transmitted by their parents’ experience in Africa and the negative mass media narrative around the African continent does not help either. I know for sure this story might resonate with some of you guys.
The family trip that took place in summer 2013 was the beginning of my healing journey at 20 years old. I had some taught conversations with my Dad, did get some answers, met relatives that care. I knew deep down that my denial of this country was not fair and my taught process was biased, but it help me cope with my trauma in some ways. I choose to rewrite a new chapter of my story and relearn how to embrace my country again with a more open mind.
I went from not being interested in visiting Africa to a solo trip in west Africa.
Growing up in Europe I embrace my African culture but there were few representations. So, this strengthens my will to visit Africa after my 1st experience over there since I left at 7 years old.
The mindset shift was happening, the healing journey had begun and I was ready to embrace it.
An emotional path that I faced with road bumps, but I was grateful for the experience.
I felt overwhelmed by this trip and frustrated at the same time. Not being able to visit the country, have some local language barriers, having no proper leisure time was a disappointment. 3 weeks of only family greetings and cookouts were exhausting and not fully satisfying for a young adult. So, I decided to come back one day and explore Benin and Africa by myself and give myself a chance to embrace more my roots.
In January 2018 I made my goal to visit Africa by myself a reality, Benin and South Africa trip! In Benin, I focus only on 2 main cities, the capital city, and the economic capital city.
I started slowly and you can read about that trip in my article: “They call it Africa, we call it home”.
I have learned some priceless lessons by choosing to face my doubts and fears.
The reality is either
I have described my journey with no filter. From why I felt disconnected to how when my mindset shifted.
I have learned some valuable life lessons throughout that journey that I am sharing with you.
One of the most important ones is “forgiveness.”
Lessons learned from that journey are priceless.
- It is ok to not know everything, and it is never too late to learn something
- Trauma is real, take your time to digest and process your feelings
- It is ok to ask for help and support if needed
- Parents are human beings also, not superheroes
- Great things take time
- Reconnecting with your country of origin can be done on your own terms
It’s never too late to gain a deeper connection with your roots
The most important lesson is also “Forgiveness”.
Forgive yourself and your parents. Even with the best intention at heart, mistakes still happen. We learn as we grow. Nobody is perfect. Especially parents, they do the best they can with what they know and what they have in certain situations.
Let’s keep that in mind.
It is a journey, nothing happens overnight, move at your own pace, and reach your goals. It is never too late.
Dare to bloom!