What does it mean to be an Afropolitan?
The term was first coined by Taiye Selasi in her iconic essay, Bye Bye Babar:
[We] are Afropolitans – the newest generation of African emigrants, coming soon or collected already at a law firm/chem lab/jazz lounge near you. You’ll know us by our funny blend of London fashion, New York jargon, African ethics, and academic successes. Some of us are ethnic mixes, e.g. Ghanaian and Canadian, Nigerian and Swiss; others merely cultural mutts: American accent, European affect, African ethos. Most of us are multilingual: in addition to English and a Romantic or two, we understand some indigenous tongue and speak a few urban vernaculars. There is at least one place on The African Continent to which we tie our sense of self: be it a nation-state (Ethiopia), a city (Ibadan), or an auntie’s kitchen. Then there’s the G8 city or two (or three) that we know like the backs of our hands, and the various institutions that know us for our famed focus. We are Afropolitans: not citizens, but Africans of the world.
When originally coined by Selasi in 2005, the term ‘Afropolitan’ was inherently associated with Africans in the Western diaspora, with an “American accent, European affect, African ethos.” However, I grew up in numerous African cities and have lived my adult life in Asian cities. I have always felt a simultaneous closeness and distance to my own culture due to my peripatetic upbringing, and it is from this position that I create a project that is undeniably Afropolitan.
In his essay, We, Afropolitans, Chiolozona Eze explained, one can “identify [us] as Afropolitans because [we] lay claim to Africa and the world in a flexible gesture of unbounded humanity,” and I believe that our claim to the world has become more formidable with platforms such as Instagram, which is both a dynamic archive and the medium upon which contemporary Afropolitan aesthetics are being shaped. Afropolitanism is a collective solidarity that opens the possibilities of appreciating cultures that are within the continent, yet outside our own, and I take pride in the knowledge that with every new piece of work I create, I am a part of shaping the rich culture of Afropolitanism.