Monday, January 14, 2013

The Concept of Home and Unofficial Dual Citizenship

Picture courtesy of:

I’ll admit, I had gone rogue (pun intended) for a good few months, but since this is the month of resolutions, what better way to start the year than to write an article for one of my favourite platforms. I recently visited my homeland Zimbabwe for the first time in two years and one conversation struck a chord in me. A young girl who has become a friend and who I refer to as Soul (because she gets me so well) spoke about her unofficial dual citizenship. See, she moved to Canada to study,
where part of her immediate family is based. She never really wanted to move so far away from home, which I thought unusual because of the socio-economic and political hardships that our country (as do most, albeit at varying degrees) faces. Her juxtapositioning went something a little like this: 

Home has been split by virtue of geography, where a young adult’s life is developed in a new place, away from the influence of parents, but where decisions are defined and informed by the knowledge imparted when one was growing up. The other understanding of home is this memory of the growing up with family, in a country where official citizenship is held, where there is no question of nationality when one is asked. Separately, these worlds exist, and in travel, they can physically be returned to. However, when internalising these experiences, the conflict lies in that it becomes very difficult to perform a single identity within both spaces. So you find often, as in the case of Soul, it comes to be that you live two very separate lives, despite you being known as one individual. 

Despite the battle of merging the person you are abroad, and the person you are in your 'homeland', there is also the battle of perception, and the question that I usually ask myself is “who actually knows who I am/ who do people see me as?” When people saw me after two years, they knew the person I was on my last visit– but I have made such an array of decisions, and my life has progressed in various ways in the last 24 months. This is difficult to reconcile and explain and share with someone who has not been a part of the over-the-border experience. So the battle also exists in showing and enacting who you are to someone who merely perceives without in-depth understanding of you as who you were. 

It may also be a narrow-minded perspective, but when I also meet people I have known who have not left their homeland, I tend to look at them in a one-dimensional perspective – because to me the essence of what home is and how it shapes our perceptions and our enactment of identity, hasn’t changed. Thus as a result, it feels as if my people from that home do not face the dual positioning of identity in the same way. (I say “in the same way” because I don’t believe that any one person has a single dimension to their identity; I am speaking from the perspective of Soul and I, one raised in one country, and having had to spend their young adult years in a foreign country.)

 It is the same with the locals in the city where I stay in fact! At home then, I am attacked for having sold out, for no longer being an authentic Zimbabwean; in Cape Town, I am forever a foreigner – so being this in-betweener comes with the same unofficial citizenship and multi-dimensional identity Soul is battling with.
The concept of home is to me, nothing static, or fixed, which in itself is an oxymoron because I have forever understood home to be that solid, unchanging place you go to feel rooted and comforted. My view has changed over the years because I cannot afford to be temporary in the spaces I enter; otherwise the experience of the place and its people is diluted. 

Home is where my love is. 
It’s neither good nor bad, it just can get confusing but my new (year) philosophy is -where I am, I am all in.


Rumbidzai:-) said...

Dear Soul,
Cant think of a better way to put this: home is where my love is. A prof and friend of mine once asked me after how long do you consider a city as home. For the first 2 years of my away from home experience i vowed i would never call a place that isnt my city of birth home. But i found myself subconsciously saying 'I'm going back home' recently referring to Edmonton where I live now. I think the answer is coming to me in much the same way you put it- a city becomes home to me when I have met with love there. When i have loved and been loved there. When i have involved my heart in my affairs there.
I have very close friends whose mom is a doc with UN and who consequently changes her country of residence almost every two years. However each time they go and visit her, regardless of where (last year Benin, this year Chad), and despite the fact that they may have never been there,they always, without realizing it, say they are going home. "Home is where my love is", and our hearts are big big things so there is room for many many homes:-)
From Soul:-)

Ruvimbo Gwatirisa said...

"A city becomes home to me when I have met with love there." Well surmised - it's a privilege though - and not easy to come to that place of peace in foreign-ness. Thanks...and thanks!