Taiye Selasi and the Afropolitan

So yesterday, Granta announced their once-a-decade list of the Best British novelists under 40. I’m pleased for English PEN deputy president Kamila Shamsie, who was featured on the list.
But I’m also delighted to the inclusion of Taiye Selasi, whose novel Ghana Must Go has recently been published. Taiye is the author of my favourite piece of prose published in the LIP magazine, a magazine project I worked on from 2003-07.
The LIP magazine examined ideas of multiculturalism, diversity and globalisation, putting the words of established writers alongside those of students.  In our ‘Africa’ issue (#5) we published Bye Bye Barbar by Taiye, in which she coined the term Afropolitan. One thing I like about the piece is how it describes the experience of being grounded in more than one place:

Were you to ask any of these beautiful, brown-skinned people that basic question – ‘where are you from?’ – you’d get no single answer from a single smiling dancer. This one lives in London but was raised in Toronto and born in Accra; that one works in Lagos but grew up in Houston, Texas. ‘Home’ for this lot is many things: where their parents are from; where they go for vacation; where they went to school; where they see old friends; where they live (or live this year). Like so many African young people working and living in cities around the globe, they belong to no single geography, but feel at home in many.

It’s an explanation that may feel trite and obvious to anyone with any kind of dual heritage or émigré status… But it is still a revelation for those who are grounded in one culture and town.
I also like the bolshy tone of the article, which eschews such compromising terms as ‘integration’ or ‘tolerance’, which presuppose the cultural dominance of the West. Selasi’s article embraces the idea that other continents will soon attain parity with Europe and America – first culturally, then economically.  It was published eight years ago, but feels very relevant for today.

Tauye Selasi
Tauye Selasi

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