#Curator of African heritage

I am Dr Teju Baba, a proud girl dad and I prefer to refer to myself as a West African with a Beninese passport. Yes, I know I run the risk of alienating the advocates of Africa’s colonial border and a past that is still present but hear me out. I was born in Benin, former Dahomey, bordered by four other countries we now call Togo, Burkina Faso (former Upper Volta), Nigeria and Niger.

These countries found their original (or almost original) forms redesigned by the colonial bequeathment of Africa (without Africa) at the famous Berlin conference of 1884-1885. It is not hard to imagine that my great grandparents could have easily found themselves in Togo, Nigeria, Burkina Faso or Niger and I also could have eventually claimed any one of these nationalities. Come to think of it, I could easily be Senegalese or Cape Verdean or Gambian.The possibility is endless.

All that being said, I am grateful to be from Benin and privileged to hold a very pretty Beninese passport, but I am always West African.

Raised in West Africa in the 80s and 90s, in the French education system characterized by French books that describe the French history and culture, I like most African kids today, aspired to this imaginary place (the West) described in these books, these stories, so beautifully and magnificently written.

Centering the colonizer’s values in the education system, Africa has for many years raised citizens that are not grounded in their African-ness and who have not learnt the principal value of Maya in Bambara, Mali and Ubuntu in Southern Africa. This value refers to human interdependency, the recognition of our duty to each other and the world around us. A philosophy that advocates for collectivism over individualism.

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As I shed the colonial ideals of my childhood and embrace my African-ness, I continue to be appalled by the way Africa is represented globally. If you have any doubts, just look within your country. I can almost guarantee you will find a British council, an Alliance Française and possibly a Chinese cultural centre. How many African cultural centres can you see? Add on the systemic inequality in terms of resources and access for storytelling and publishing and what you find are marginalized people often deprived of the power to own and share their stories. This is why I am passionate about joining the likes of the creators of the Kore cultural centre in Ségou in Mali, the Akanga cultural centre in Benin and many more that continue to emerge every day to share our story. I believe that the bravery to tell our story and our truth can be a force for immense change. Perhaps not just change but also the freedom to see ourselves not through the lens of our colonial past but our true value as African, rooted in our individual experience, but open to modernism and growth.

This platform is my attempt at chronicling my own ongoing journey to letting go of the colonial ideals ingrained in me from childhood and embracing the uniqueness of being and living as a Pan-African citizen. My book combines my passion for history and writing and contributes to an expansive, truer, and ultimately better representation of Africa and Africans in the literary space. My blog made of short imaginary conversations about history, (not limited to African heritage) with my dad, aims to link the news that unfold every day under our eyes, to the events from history that we were not taught. My podcast My African clichés which truly kicked off this journey is a response to the many widespread clichés about Africa and Africans and a complete retelling of these important stories. I invite you to be inspired to be braver about your story and your truth.

They read the book