Imagine an overcast morning with clouds filling the skies, and the mountains behind you totally overshadowed by these thick white-grey clouds. Now, Imagine yourself dressed in a black shirt, a chitenge short and some brown boots. Fabulous right? I know hey.
Well that was me on this fantastic Sunday morning. I was geared and ready, in my Sunday kit to go and spend time with Mr. Jesus. Church was awesome; we learnt about the importance of imparting knowledge in the family through the teachings that happen at home (from parents to their children).
After church we usually spend time chatting amongst ourselves and catching up on the passed week. My reason for writing this little blurb came from a comment a dear friend made who seemed perplexed when I said to her that my chitenge shorts came from Zambia (my country of origin). She then responded and said I thought you were from Ghana because (paraphrasing the next bit) they have a certain flair about them, or I would have thought you were from a West African country because of how you look (she then went to describe the texture of my skin and attributed it to that of the people of West Africa).
Funny thing for me is that a similar situation occured whilst I was back home (in Zambia) over the December holidays. I had gone to a deaf center run by a friend of mine to do some work there, when one of the guys came up to me and asked “ Where are you from? Do you come from South Africa?” A little surprised that he would assume that I am South African I asked him why he thought that and his response shocked me a little. He said the fedora I wore and my outfit was not something that a Zambian would wear. In his eyes I was dressed well (and he seemed to think a Zambian man cannot be dressed well or at least not the way in which I was dressed). He went on to say the texture of my skin seemed too smooth for me to be Zambian. I had to emphatically tell him that I was born here and I have lived all my life in this amazing country. The way I look is the way a Zambian person looks, as there have been no alterations to my body or skin to make it look any different from anyone else.
These instances however are not the first time someone has assumed I come from a country that is not my own. Usually when people look at me they ask me if I am from Zimbabwe. I recently corrected a lady who made that assumption. I told her where I was from and she responded with the following comment “Zambia, Zimbabwe – they are one and the same thing right?” Uhhh… Wrong! How on earth can two countries be one and the same? There is such a vast difference between Zambia and Zimbabwe – but that is something I will discuss later on.
The fact that people constantly ask me whether I am from Zimbabwe or make the assumption that I am from any other country in Africa apart from Zambia has made me question what my fellow Zambians and I are doing to ensure that people know that our country exists. If you look at Zambia, it is a peaceful nation, no civil wars since independence. There have been peaceful transitions of the instruments of power in the recent past from one president (the most recent transition happening only last month in January). As a nation we are very accommodating to various religious groups and people from different nations. Our musicians are of a high caliber as they perform around the world, look at people such as of people such as Pompi, J.K, hey even Emeli Sande has Zambian blood in her from her father’s side. Looking at sports, our national soccer team overcame several challenges when they acquired the AFCOM Cup in 2012. Our Visual Artists are amongst some of the finest; when you speak of individuals such as William Bwalya Miko, an individual who has made it his mandate to bring about formidable change where visual arts in the nation is concerned whilst exhibiting across the globe and impacting nations with his art. If you speak of natural resources, we have the Victoria Falls, which is one of the 7 wonders of the world. I could go on highlighting the beauty and achievements of our nation but I shall leave it here for now and make a subsequent post with more fun facts on Zambia.
I would like to make a simple point as I wrap this up by saying that Zambians have flair, we have style and we too are a nation that is a force to be reckoned with. We might be quiet and humble in our presentation of the lives we live but we too contain fire and power. Personally I believe our forte comes in the fact that we are a Christian nation and that we aspire to place God at the center of our interactions as a nation.
So the next time you see a good looking African man or woman please don’t run to every other African nation before you mentioned my beloved country. Zambia does exist and it is breeding blessed and influential individuals with an amazing capacity to bring about change wherever their feet may step. I mean, just look at the artist going against the grain and making something out of his gift.
To my fellow Zambians- the call is simple. Stand out and make sure people know that you are from Zambia as you do. Don’t hide in the shadows and let people continue to label you Zimbabwean, South African, American (yes I have got that one as well) or whatever else they want to. Let people know that you are from the land of the free, the beautiful land of ZAMBIA!