There is no home or ‘hood’ for me. I have been moving from place to place since childhood, experiencing various settings and different kinds of people in their unique communities. I settle in many run-down, crime-stricken places where survival is the daily motive and strength is found in numbers and in being ruthless. I had never remained long enough in any community to call it home and even when I had, it is hard to call a place home when you feel like you don’t belong there. When you have always been an outcast, it becomes all you know and it is hard to establish yourself as anything else. If it is who you are, the only thing you can do about it is embrace it. There was never anything wrong with it.
My father was Congolese and I noticed how people were more comfortable around him if they were foreigners too. South Africa’s xenophobia was enough for us to be wary of locals. At least Dad’s bonds with fellow countrymen brought a piece of Congo to me since I’d never been there. Through those friendships my dad had access to ingredients for delicious traditional Lari dishes that he’d prepare on special occasions. We relocated but Dad could still find his “brothers” to catch up.
In other ghettos I faced discrimination as my English was decent, so many people believed I was a well-off suburban kid when they first heard me speak. That was never the case but because of it, I never did too well socializing wherever we’d settle. I’m an artist with my own style so I’ve never been good at fitting in but it doesn’t bother me enough for me to try to.
At one point, I ended up in a children’s home. My social worker would take me to her friend for art lessons and on these trips; I envied suburban life. When the home closed down and I moved to my aunt’s house for a while, I questioned my desire for it. The environment was quiet and comfortable, but to me, it was lacking. Neighbors didn’t know each other or care to; the streets were dead and people seemed pretentious and materialistic. By the time I moved out, I no longer wanted to belong there.
During my first job I was sent out to areas much like the one my aunt resided in. We were under government control and I wondered why these regions were our priority while where we lived, protest action for the services provided turned detrimental. It wasn’t like our clients were paying for a government service, so why couldn’t we provide it to the more deprived areas? It dawned on me. It’s a classist world now. One is either rich or poor, with the latter seemingly more important in society. Living by society’s rules means accepting that the uneducated are ignorant, that self-worth is based on what you own, that you should strive for wealth, and your place in the world is to live life the right way.
I only have one rule; whatever you believe in becomes your truth. I don’t believe in society, I don’t believe that one individual is worth more than another, I don’t believe that each human being is not invaluable and I certainly don’t believe that one needs to find a place in this world. “Before I Forget” by Slipknot (one of my favourite songs) states, “I am a world before I am a man.” I believe that to be true, in which case there isn’t a need for me to find a place to belong to. I have always been an outcast in several aspects of the concept. If fitting in and belonging means betraying what I believe in, it’s better to remain on the outside. I’ll never betray myself to fit in when there is nothing enlightening about shrinking.