Where Am I From? It's Complicated

This article is a series of stories I've written from November 2020 to present:

November 2020:

Around 1 week ago, I was reading a book called Black and British: A Forgotten History by David Olusoga. I was reading about Bunce Island which was used as a processing point for slaves to be sold during the transatlantic slave trade era. This got me thinking about my ancestry. My whole life I had thought I was just Krio from Sierra Leone. So I asked my mum,

"Mum! Where are our ancestors from?!" (I shouted this from the living room to the kitchen).

She came to the living room, to speak to me properly.

"Yu already know yu fambul dem kɔmɔt Salone" (That's Krio for "you already know our family comes from Sierra Leone")

"Yeah but what about paternally?"

(For reference, my father is not in the picture so I don't really know him)

"I na Igbo frɔm Nayjiria.. ɛn mi papa was as well" (That's Krio for "he was Igbo from Nigeria and my dad was as well")

My mum said this comment so casually despite it being a complete bombshell for me. If my father was Igbo and my maternal grandfather was also Igbo that would make me around 75% Igbo. Meaning I would be predominantly Nigerian. I was still in shock for a while as my whole perception of who I am changed in an instant. My mind was drawn to my computer as I began to do more research on the Igbo tribe.

The Igbo people are a meta-ethnicity (larger group of ethnic groups that identify with each other) native to present-day south-central and south-eastern Nigeria. They speak the Igbo language and have a culture distinct from other Nigerian ethnic groups.

I was very interested by my newfound ancestral origins and I read about Igbo history, their traditions, their cuisine (which was eerily similar to Krio cuisine). However something deep inside me knew it would be near impossible to truly identify and be Igbo without having any Igbo family members (alive or around) and not actually growing up with the culture ore even speaking the language). I made peace with the fact that I could tell people and acknowledge that I have significant Igbo ancestry but it would not be right or even possible to identify as an Igbo person.

April 2021:

Yesterday, I did a DNA Test , and my results came back. It proved what I had thought. It said 76.3% Nigerian which is close to 75% anyway and what I expected. I also expected my mum (who had done the test prior) to come up as a my mother in the DNA Matches (obviously). What I did not expect was for a half-sister to pop up. An actual half-sister. It's crazy. Luckily the DNA service allows us to contact the person through their secure network. She's really nice. Her family is from Jamaica which was a shock to me and my mum and we are obviously going to investigate further. Still in shock actually.

May 2021:

Another secret about my ancestry has just popped up again. I wonder when it's going to stop. Turns out my maternal great-grandmother, Cecilia, was not Krio but actually was Bassa (an ethnic group native to Liberia) and was born in Monrovia (the capital). I always thought maternally apart from my grandfather that I was just Krio but seems like that is not the case. Shocked again and I am going to have to do more research on the Bassa people. Still can't believe it.

June 2021:

It's been a tumultuous 7 months indeed. Really crazy actually. But more recently I have gotten into more research into the cultural group I was brought up in and where a part of my ancestry is from, the Krio of Sierra Leone.

The Krio people also known as the 'Sierra Leone Creole people' are an ethnic group in Sierra Leone. While only making up 1.3% of Sierra Leone's population, the Krio people have a distinct and mixed culture deriving from various West African ethnic groups from Nigeria, Ghana and Liberia as well as from freed African American, Afro-Jamaican and Afro-Barbadian slaves and British colonisers as well.

The cuisine is influenced by Caribbean and West African cuisine with meals such as fufu, a meal, in Sierra Leone, made of a dough-like paste made from cassava (a signature ingredient in Sierra Leonean food), which is served with plassas, a spicy dish of tripe, fish, beef and chicken.

Folktales are common among the Krio people which have come from the Akan and Ewe people of Ghana and also Jamaican Maroons. The most popular folktale being an Anansi story.

The most interesting part of Krio culture is the language also called Krio. The Krio language is influenced by the Portuguese, English, French, Jamaican Patois, African American Vernacular English, Liberian Kreyol, Igbo, Yoruba, and Akan language. It is the lingua franca in Sierra Leone meaning it is the one language that is used to make communication possible between groups of people. It is my favourite part of Krio culture because I find it a beautiful language with so many influences that it could be understood by people who speak other Creole languages.

So there you have it. I do have mixed ancestry after all. A mix of various African ethnic groups each distinct from each other yet equally as intricate and incredible.

So where am I truly from? It's complicated.


Hastings Grey.

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