“The ache for home lives in all of us. The safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”― Maya Angelou, All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes
It’s been a few weeks now since we have been sequestered at home. Sadly for many people, home is a convoluted subject. Instead of being a safe place to find solace, it is a place of sorrow. My heart breaks for all those who have no place to call home. I wish I could give them a home. As I write this, I realize that I am blessed to have many places to call home.
One question I used to despise is, where are you from. But I have learned to take it in strides. After all, I am proud of who I am. I am African, to be precise, I am Nigerian, Sierra Leonean, and Zambian. These three countries have my loyalty, and I am connected to them in a profound and meaningful way.
Growing up in Nigeria, I always knew I had ties to both Sierra Leone (through my Mother) and Zambia (birthplace). But it was not something I thought about daily. Then at 14, my world changed, with my family moving to Zambia. For the first time, I had to deal with the concept of home.
You see up until then, my home was the house I grew up in Akure, Ondo State, Nigeria. In addition to this home, there was the paternal ancestral home in Asaba, Delta State, Nigeria. These two places were a place of comfort and belonging, it was where I socialized with loved ones.
So it was difficult saying goodbye to our extended family and to our homes. So imagine my surprise when I found out how strong of a link we still had in Zambia, despite having been away for 10 years. I remember walking around Ndola and having people come up to me and talk about carrying me as a baby and toddler.
The truth was I did not have much recollection of our first time in Zambia; after all, I was a wee little babe. So although my parents felt at home, my siblings and I still felt uncertain and uncomfortable about the move.
Those first few months after we moved were difficult. Thankfully, I found African Literature and found that I still had elements of Nigeria with me, hidden in the pages of the books I devoured. When I read Arrow of God by Chinua Achebe and Kehinde by Buchi Emecheta, I was transported back home. Yes, they were two different books, dealing with varying times, but written by Nigerian and Igbo writers. Yet, in their writings, I found a piece of home, and I found my voice.
I needed to find my voice if I was going to thrive in my new environment. Thankfully Chengelo my school, provided the ideal atmosphere for me to grow in my new found confidence. I soon fell in love with Zambia. I mean, what’s not to love. I loved school, which was becoming a home as the days went by. I learned to play sports, climb mountains, and learn so many new and exciting things. Yet in the school library and at home, I found books that connected me to my past, keeping me grounded.
I always loved going back home to our house in Ndola, Zambia. Simply because my parents had found a way to make the place home. Often when we walked in after the long trip from boarding school, the aroma from the kitchen would bid us draw near. Often wafting through the hallways was the delicious smell of egusi, that my dear Mother had prepared to welcome us home.
After settling down, we would gather at the dining table and demolish the food while catching up on the stories of our lives. My father always had things he had saved for me to read. He would print out news from Nigeria, so I could catch up on all the stories I had missed while I was awake in school. He also went out of the way to buy African magazines. Being at home with my parents and siblings was a delight, a chance to soak up a little bit of Nigeria in Zambia.
It’s been 23 years since we left Nigeria and moved to Zambia, and a lot has happened since. I have gone on to acquire more homes, and I have experienced the joy and heartbreak that comes with each move. So when next I am asked where home is? My answer will be wherever I can be safe and where I can express myself and use my voice.
Part of finding my voice is to be part of the solution. As a teenager in Nigeria and Zambia, one of my goals was to run an orphanage. It’s a dream that has lain dormant, but it is beginning to peep out again. As a global citizen, I want to be able to provide a home for others who have no place to call home. This is something I am going to look into, as I look for ways to give back to society. Having a home shouldn’t be a luxury; it is part of our fundamental human rights.
Below is a video of a speech I gave about my thoughts on what “home” means to me.