Last week my brother Ian was visiting with a childhood friend of his who now lives in Lincoln, Nebraska. That gave us a reason to connect with several other friends of Ian’s. We met at Buka, a popular Nigerian restaurant in Bed-Sty, Brooklyn. Ian has known J, an architect based in Red Hook, since they were toddlers (40 years!). J has known K, whose roots are in Minnesota but who grew up in Jos with us, since they were in grade school. At Buka, we connected with 3 more guys, 2 of whom were also Nigerian, brothers in fact. One was born in the Bronx and raised in Nigeria; the other was born in Nigeria and raised in the Bronx. I never quite figured out how that came to be. However the more interesting part was that one o f these brothers, C, was married to an Australian and he and his young family live in his wife’s hometown.
I turned out to be the only woman at the table. Still I shared much in common with these brothers.
Between us, 5 had gone to Hillcrest, an American missionary school in Jos, where Ian and I grew up. Educationally speaking we’d been to Baruch, or Columbia or Yale or NYU or King’s College, London. Five of the 8 of us have master’s degrees; (one has a PhD). We reside in 3 continents and travel to the 4th – Africa – frequently. And we are at ease discussing how Kazakstan is both similar and different from Nigeria as we are talking about innovative strategies to raise and spend funds for the 1 billion people on the planet who don’t yet have access to clean drinking water. We call New York and Abuja and Adelaide and Lagos and London home, and are comfortable in all of the above.
As we drank Gulder and Perrier and laughed and caught up and experienced “Nigerian time” waiting for our delicious suya, and moi-moi, and egusi and pounded yam, and eba, and ogbono, I couldn’t help but think we were embodying Taiye Selasi’s coined word: Afropolitans – privileged Africans of the 21st century who can move almost seamlessly through many different cultures and contexts . Check out her 2005 essay “What is an Afropolitan?” http://negotiatingspace.wordpress.com/2013/05/04/what-is-an-afropolitan-by-taiye-selasi/, which caused quite a stir.
And if you want a fictionalized account of Nigerpolitans in particular, pick up a copy of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s recent and provocative novel Americanah.