Story: Afropolitan – An Identity, A Movement, or Both


African Princess by Mattahan
Source: Mattahan
Source: Vlisco

I was introduced to the term “afropolitan” while listening to an interview with author Taiye Selasi on NPR. She was discussing her recent book “Ghana Must Go,” and mentioned why she considers herself an “afropolitan,”:

“What distinguishes [Afropolitans] is a willingness to complicate Africa – namely, to engage with, critique, and celebrate the parts of Africa that mean most to them. Perhaps what most typifies the Afropolitan consciousness is the refusal to oversimplify; the effort to understand what is ailing in Africa alongside the desire to honour what is wonderful, unique. Rather than essentialising the geographical entity, we seek to comprehend the cultural complexity; to honour the intellectual and spiritual legacy; and to sustain our parents’ cultures.”

Her story and opinions caught my attention and I continued to research this term to see how it was received. It turned out I was a bit late in this discovery – there is a sophisticated magazine in South Africa, an insightful blog in the UK, a number of news articles, and a variety of exhibits and panels highlighting this subject.

With all of these outlets, the definition for an “afropolitan” seems to be up for self-interpretation depending if the individual lives in Africa or the diaspora. I plan to examine these interpretations and see where this search for identity and community could be taken a step further. At the moment, this project will be a short documentary with a supplementary op-ed piece.

If you or someone you know identifies with the term “afropolitan” or have an opinion you would like to share, comment here or contact me.

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