#NaMankosi : How Do you Teach A Child of Dual Heritage to be Positively Black & African?
Joan Ncube Turner, a UK-based Writer, and Poet recently took a stab at an issue that is close to her heart titled ‘Namankosi’, a British Council supported Project inspired by her journey of motherhood, parenting a child of dual Heritage. Having left Zimbabwe at the very early age of 7, Namankosi is about documenting the struggles Zimbabwean Mothers face raising an interracial child, struggles Joan can strongly relate to as a parent to two children of dual race and heritage.
“Black women have been told who to be for a long time, how do I teach, my child blackness when I am only just figuring it out?” – Joan
The project – Namankosi, aims to use short stories, photography, and interviews to explore the topic of black Zimbabwean mothers and children with mixed-race/dual heritage. One of the participants – Michelle Clarke who was born in Harare, Zimbabwe and based in the United Kingdom wrote:
The first time I realized I was being treated differently was when I moved to the UK. I only realised that people looked at me differently because of my complexion. I remember hearing [an] older adult saying she’s a daughter of a white man, because of my complexion…to me I felt I was normal, [since] I was born in Zimbabwe I never saw myself [as] different.”
‘Mixed race’ is now the fastest-growing ethnic minority in the United Kingdom and as a result, one would assume that prejudice would be a thing of the past. A writer for the Telegraph Laura Smith reveals there’s still got a long way to go.
Where I grew up, a mixed-race family was something of an anomaly. Families, according to our neighbours – and the pictures on cereal boxes, board games, and holiday brochures – meant a white mother and a white father and two children, preferably a boy and a girl, ideally blonde. The father went to work in a suit; the mother stayed home and sang along to Radio 1 while doing the housework.
My family wasn’t like that. My mother was from Guyana and wore her hair in a short Afro. She liked jumpsuits and jewellery and, shockingly, worked full-time. My father was from Scotland and wore embarrassing checked jackets from the 1960s (he was in his forties when my brother and I were born). Neither had heard of Radio 1.
My childhood memories of growing up in a mainly white, expensively heeled north London suburb include the following…
I am six years old and talking over the garden fence to my next-door neighbour and two sisters from across the street and one of them calls me “Poo” and they all laugh and run away. I am eight and a classmate stops me in the corridor and asks, “What’s it like to be black?” and I can’t think of an answer so I ask her what it’s like to be white…
The same can be said for the other end of the world in Zimbabwe where words are used to derogatize people of dual heritage. The Project name itself was inspired by a term in Joan’s Culture used to describe, a mixed-race child as ‘Namankosi’ – a child without a last name.
NaMankosi will tell these stories and exhibit images to showcase the differences in narratives of mixed raced people in the UK and Zimbabwe. Through a series of workshops, letter exchanges, interviews and will culminate into a reading and exhibition which transfers to a multi-media blog in hopes of translating these experiences and building positive self-identity.
You can read about how the British Council is ‘Making More Art Happen’ here.