Zainab Boladale: how we can embrace Africa and its diaspora.

24th May 2021

RTÉ Nationwide presenter and co-creator of Beyond Representation, an organisation that champions women of colour who are breaking new ground in Irish Media, Arts & Business, Zainab Boladale reflects on how we can embrace Africa and its diaspora.

My first experience of ‘Africa Day’ was in Clare as a child. The ‘aunties’ and ‘uncles’ would gather in their finest colourful cultural wear with trays of tantalising dishes waiting to be shared and tasted.

The event would usually take place in one of the local school halls, families would enter ready to participate in the day’s festivities, the event was always welcoming to all in the area. To me, it was one of the many local events that marked the beginning of the summer, it meant meeting other children in the area who understood what it’s like to have dual identities and also being able to appreciate both wholeheartedly.

While the reality of 2021 means this connection and exchange of customs will be missed by children and adults around Ireland, we can still experience the joy of celebrating the African continent.

Africa, in its grandness, is not something that ever leaves you. I connect with Nigeria through music and food, for me there’s soul and passion behind both because it’s a form of communication and love. Even in the way Ghanian, Nigerians, and Senegalese people argue about who makes the best Jollof Rice, regardless of who’s right, these conversations about the things neighbouring African countries share entangles us. It’s like a spiritual transportation that immediately links you to your heritage, something that will always live in you.

Seeing so many talented Black Irish creatives share their heritage, whether it be through food, fashion or music has been inspiring. Seeing how they’ve triumphed through this entirely difficult year has been admirable.

I think a lot of people are starting to realise that they don’t have to be African to appreciate Africa or its diaspora. With 54 countries rich with culture, music, history & tradition, Africa Day is an opportunity to learn something new about even just one. From Angola to Zambia, there’s so much beauty to take in. Sometimes it takes just asking someone about their country of origin, watching a Nollywood film, ordering from an African food business to get a sense of the place. People are always excited to show and celebrate what makes their country of origin special.