My name is Makanaka Tuwe and I moved to New Zealand from Zimbabwe 13 years ago when I was 10 years old.

On the inside, it feels like you don't know where you're from. If I go back to Zimbabwe I'm too Westernised to be a Zimbabwean, a ‘full-blown Zimbabwean woman’, whatever that means. And over here, because of my color and the way I look, I'm too much of that to be an ‘actual kiwi’, whatever that means too.

Who know what that means. I'm the transitional generation. The third culture kid, trying to balance everything else.

In my experience, when I was younger, a teenager, I used to think, “Okay so I'm an African and I'm in this new country and nobody really likes us or anything so I have to act as un-African as possible”.

At the time, I didn’t realise it. You realise how big a step it really is to move and adapt. You’re like dying or depleting, and you realise when you’re much older – that really screwed me over. When you are younger, it’s the stupid stuff you do to fit in. Trying to listen to the same music as everyone else, trying to wear the same clothes even if you think they’re ugly. You’re 13 and so you’re trying to figure it out by not having any African friends. Saying, “I don’t do that kind of stuff, I don’t do Africa.”

I guess, there's a time for everything.

When I turned 17, my dad gave me a book to read – I paused and thought, there's a whole history of us that was completely erased. So actually we're quite cool, and actually, it is cool to try and embrace being African. So I embraced that. From then on, I began to learn more about that history and culture and owning who I am.

These days, I try to be comfortable with who I am as an individual. Being perceived as African or kiwi, it doesn’t matter; this is just me being true to my authentic self.

To me belonging means, firstly, you belong to yourself, that you're fully comfortable in yourself. So it doesn't matter where you go, wherever you are, if you love yourself, if you know who you are, and if you are just true and honest and free, then that's where you belong.

I have a stone sculpture that I bought the last time I was in Zimbabwe, I must have been 20 at the time. As I always do when I’m in Zimbabwe, I was spending time with family and friends and over the last couple of days, we went to the markets. I was looking around the market and I was buying fabric, beads and jewellery, and I saw this. I have always wanted a sculpture and usually, they’re really big. And because of the 33 kg limit on airplanes, I can only keep things that mean a lot to me. So I saw this and it was quite small, so I was like ‘cool! I’ll get it.’ So I did, and it's nice and light and I have had it for the last 3 years.

I didn't ask the sculptor what it means but I personally think it symbolises pristine Zimbabwe and the love I have for the country. It also symbolises balance between energies.

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I believe I'm afro-futuristic – so I feel like Africa as a whole is my home. My ancestors all migrated from central Africa and from West Africa so I believe that the whole entire Africa is my own although I do have my Shona.

I mostly follow politics to do with the entire continent. And I mostly follow news of African diaspora and communities in different places and outside the continent.

In terms of belonging in NZ, I would say just be yourself. When you’re a young person, you think everybody is watching what you are doing. And as you get older realise, actually everybody is worrying about what they are doing. So just be yourself and that's just how I've been able to sort of situate my belongingness.

In New Zealand, closeness and comfort of my family has been important in my journey. My younger brother is my best friend. I love him a lot. We've just really been very honest with each other. Just real honest, just really there for each other. I went through really bad break up and instead of getting angry, he was there for there for me and took care of me. And he's really supportive of my projects.

I have always been really close to my Dad. My Dad and I have this interesting similarity and similar interests. I remember having a conversation with my uom where I said to her, “you’re still my mother, but I have also entered womanhood. So I would like to get to know you not as my mother but also as the woman that you are.”

As a family, we always laugh because we're each other's cheerleaders.

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With my girlfriends or my sisters, it’s the same – we study together, support others’ dreams, we cry together, we dance to the beat of the full moon together. We drink tea together. We travel together. Yeah, we do a lot of things together. We’re open, honest, and there is no bitchiness, there is no competition. We just love each other.

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