Deconstructing Walls Between East And West Africans

Photo: The Volta River Inc

Photo: The Volta River Inc

By Elaina Nyandat

CBC, a TV network in Canada, released a new episode of their series Hello Goodbye Canada, a show set in an airport that tells the incredible stories of people reuniting after long periods of time.

The season finale showed an African couple parting ways for a couple of weeks. The guy, Lionel, is from East Africa and the girl, Mary, is from Côte D’Ivoire on the west coast of Africa. They have known each other for three years,  been dating for two years, and find home within each other. Lionel mentions how his mother is opposed to them being together because of the possible culture clash, being from opposite ends of the continent.

If Lionel and Mary were to get married, there’s a possibility of traditions not being honored that their families want them to participate in.

Despite this, in an update video that was released, Lionel and Mary announce their plans to get married in 2018.

More than the love story itself, what sparked dialogue was the mere fact of contention between two coasts of the Motherland still existing in the 21st century.

Within the African millennial generation, there has been an increased interest in marrying/dating more diversity within the continent, much to some parents’ chagrin. The belief is that if you marry someone outside of your region or country, there will be a big clash between the cultures. With 54 countries in the continent of Africa, and numerous cultures within in country, the possibility of a culture clash is very high, but not the end of the world.

Writer, Hannah Giorgis slightly touched upon the socio-economic and historical elements that led to the divide between East Africans and other Africans in her essay "Everything You Believe About East African Women is Wrong"

"East African womanhood is a minefield between the region’s war zones and too-simple Western understanding thereof," she says. "The experiences of women from Ethiopia and Somalia serve largely as a barometer of the nations’ violence."

This internal strife often leads to East Africans forming tighter connections with their own, once they've left their hometowns— a similar narrative for Africans in other regions. 

"In the parts of East Africa our ancestors are from, warfare and political and religious tension prevent women from cultivating connections across borders. But in America, our experiences overlap in ways that illuminate our shared history."

But luckily, the lines of communication are opening, as revealed by Lionel and Mary's story.

Part of loving someone is accepting everything about the person you love including the cultural background they come from. Their history, their struggle, their internal resilience and beauty. Despite these challenges, dating someone from a different region or culture can expand your mind. It introduces you to new opportunities and can even create new traditions.

At the end of the day we shouldn't let the stereotypes of other cultures and your parents’ disapproval stop you from loving someone.

Elaina NyandatComment