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Embracing my roots with pride

Ian Ford Nkera on his graduation recently

You will hate to believe it, but yes, I can now identify as a ‘summer’. Not your conventional one. My skin colour did not upgrade and neither did my accent. The accent has traces of UPE in there, sprinkles of years of downtown haggling and other things that scream Ugandan.

When you have spent years haggling for second-hand t-shirts in Owino, the ka accent remains with you like a bad cough. It is really hard to treat and if symptoms persist, it might just be passed down to future generations. The side effects of untreated Ugandan-ness are very much alive in individuals like Kato Lubwama. You cannot teach that.

You see, I have been in Japan for some small small Adult Education proggie. Thankfully, I saw that through and I can proudly say I am a whole Master’s graduate.

Cheesos! You can now organise yourselves to throw me a bash. I think I deserve one, sikyo? Anyway, that’s kaboozi for another day. My life in Tokyo, Japan was an eye opener. I lived in the most culturally conservative society. It did not matter that Japan had recently started embracing globalisation, they were not enslaved by it.

For the millions of tourists that thronged Japan and uncharacteristically left their cultural norms, Japan retained its culture. Their identity overpowered anything else. If you entered their country speaking English, you left speaking Japanese.

Tokyo, a largely cosmopolitan city has Japanese culture underlined in the architecture, way of life, food, fashion… literally everything. Not even Nigerians in a serial ploy to marry off Japanese girls diluted their concentrated culture.

It did not matter the length of time you spent in Japan or your proficiency in the Japanese language, you were somehow a member of the out-group.

You were never fully integrated however much you tried. A little frustrating, I must say but admirable from another perspective. Preservation of culture is a virture not many cultures are willing to uphold.

During my stay, I met a British man who was so surprised that I spoke English fluently. Irritated, I quickly took him through my education background to justify my command of the coloniser’s language.

I unintentionally prided myself on the fact that I was educated in the British system and we struck a friendship. After I got home is when a reality check struck me. I found the need to unlearn so many things about culture and identity. It dawned on me that the British had sold us their culture and dictated their way of life to us.

I got angry that my own culture was a daze at the moment. Here I was, an African who did not speak his local language fluently, confidently being an Ambassador of the British.

While speaking English fluently was not necessarily a bad thing, it is the delusion that my African culture seemed inferior to the English culture. My children cannot find me like this. I will forever be a student of my culture from now henceforth. You should do the same. We owe it to generations following us.

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