The British Library

Sumaya’s Story

Since my earliest memories I had always considered myself a child of the world. Not bound by the banners of nationality or ethnicity . I grew up as a child in Geneva where despite most folks being kind older generations often reminded me I was different, I came from somewhere else far away, beyond mountains and seas, they told me it was a different continent.

From the age of 12 onwards my parents packed their bags and set to move, never truly settling in one town across Europe and Africa, we’d spent a year here, two years there.... and perhaps a few months in a transit city.
I never got the chance to attach myself to one country in particular, I loved the world as a whole, its people, poetry,music and colours. I did to some extent understand why peoples had pride in their nations, but never understood why they’d hate other nations.

But as I grew up I could no longer ignore that almost everyone who crossed my path was from ‘somewhere’’ - a nation who’s soil and waters they identified with. So naturally when I grew older and saved up I visited my parents ethnic ‘home’.

Barely speaking it’s language I had the naive idea I would be welcomed with open arms and I would find a sense of belonging, at the airport they made me lign up with the foreigners or so they called them,they said I was an idiot because I had an accent, and I could never understand their culture and daily struggles because I was too pampered and westernised.

I’m now ever searching for ‘home’ the way a child searches for their mother... i’m not white enough to belong in the west or know my tongue enough to belong in my parents ethnic home, I am not British enough, not French enough and not Somali enough...

I am a child of the world but not it’s tenant.... because they won’t let me be

-Sumaya, London

© Yinka Shonibare, 2018 | Website by Hanna Sorrell