When I started my blog this year, this was my first draft. Which stayed as a draft for a very long time. It was a heart issue, until I found the courage to finally click “Publish”… Thank you to my friend Dave Kasweka who has been very supportive and encouraging, your words : “Courage dear heart courage🌹”. I hope that any reader can relate to my article. Feel free to leave any comments or questions. Love, Tshowa
I was born in an era that did not give me much of a say on where I wanted to grow up. With the war, my family fled to a land of refuge. We lost almost everything. I can barely remember the years of my younger days. The days lived in my beloved country, at the very heart of Africa.
We moved to a foreign land at the time. Which is what we now call home. Back then, our mothers were laughed at for wearing the liputa “African print” attire. Called “makwerekwere” (meaning outsider/foreign) for embracing what is ours. For embracing our culture!
And so for school functions, we wouldn’t wear our tradition clothes, lest we get judged. Lest we get called makwerekwere or kwang.
I remember in grade 2 whilst walking to school (not far from home). I met this lady and her child with the same uniform going my direction to school. The lady greeted me in the local language in which I responded. She then continued to speak words I could not understand and so I said to her, “sorry ma’am but I do not understand seSotho”. She was puzzled, astounded because maybe in her world, all blacks, all people living in SA had to speak a local language (at least that’s what I assumed). She then asked me how did I know it was seSotho she was speaking, and I answered: “well it didn’t sound like isiZulu and so I guessed it was seSotho”. She then asked me where I was from and I told her.
Her response left me wounded. She said: “I’m sorry, my father will not allow you to walk with my daughter to school, in fact he will shout at me, he’ll be very angry”. And then she left, walking faster than ever. She disappeared. These very words, years later, still so fresh in my subconscious.
At that time, I did not understand what she meant. I tried to figure out if it’s something wrong that I’d said? Or was I a problem? If so, why and how?
The years went by and before I knew it… I could no longer speak my home language as I used to. Tshiluba left me. Like a visitor, she left with no adieu. More years went on. I felt myself detaching. My friends were mostly Indians and Coloureds (I was safer here, mentally I was safer with those who would not judge me). Don’t get me wrong, they knew I was Congolese. It was just safer being with them. Mentally.
I lived through the first Xenophobic attacks ever. My own foreign brothers and sisters were killed, burnt alive, for being who they were. Different. Foreign. How would I have been able at the time to find confidence in what my roots looked like? How was I to water my roots, if the very leaves on my branches were withering away?
It was not until when my relationship with Christ started growing that I started to slowly accept who I was, who I am. (Listen reader, I’m not here to “Bible bash” anyone. These are my experiences and my life is centered around Christ. I will not be apologetic in mentioning His name. He is the reason I live and so I will continuously sing praises to my King).
Attending varsity, a new chapter in my life. Instead of following the crowd in worldly activities. The Lord used that moment to shape me. It was literally in 2016 that I knew who I truly was in Christ that I was able to accept myself for who I am. I found solace in my own skin because I know that I’m perfect and wonderfully made. A true image of God. A creation of perfection. That’s when I wholly accepted my Congolese identity. Unashamed. Even my friends are in awe. That I can now wave my flag without fear. That I can now share my love in various patriotic groups and activities.
The Lord softened my heart through the people around me. Thank you to my African forefathers for having paved the way. Thank you to my African mothers for having moulded me into the woman I am today. Thank you to my fellow Africans, my sisters and brothers, from Cape to Cairo for the beautiful friendships. I have come to learn that the only way to live in peace is to accept differences. But the first step would be in accepting and loving yourself the way God made you. Then you can make room to love others because He first loved us (1st John 4:19). Loving our neighbor as we love ourselves. That’s the second GREATEST commandment (Matthew 22:36-40). I have a hope in Africa. A better Africa. One that transcends borders. One Africa. One People.
And so today I stand. Boldly. Before I’m anything else. I’m Christian. I’m African. I’m 🇨🇩Congolese🇨🇩. I AM Lizette Tshowa Kabala.