Following my interview with Aondoakaa Fele, I wanted to share a little bit more about my first encounter with him and why I wanted to explore his view on belonging.
As it says on the title, we met on the bus! Making friends in unusual settings isn’t new to me. I love meeting people. More often than not, it’s when we meet strangers that we have no intention with that we show our truest light.
I was running late to work, and just about managed to catch a bus that would shrink my lateness from 10 minutes to 2 minutes. I spied a seat next to an Asian man, barely glancing at him as I was sitting down, he joked, “Hello! Of course you can sit next to me!” I was not used to such sarcastic humour on my morning commutes, nor did I know he would become one of my closest friends.
We went on to talk about our jobs, our interests and feminism. A lovely bunch of South-East Asian teenagers came downstairs and that is when we began to discuss identity. We had spoken about heritage and Akaa had mentioned he was Nigerian. Living in London where diversity is ripe, I had no further questions. The Asian man I had seen disappeared when he spoke the words Nigeria. As the young men laughed and played around as they waited for the bus to reach their stop, he commented on them being his brothers because of the similarity in looks. “I can say that because I’m half-Japanese.”
Akaa’s life experience as a multiracial person from Africa living in the diaspora, and his passion for tradition and culture are inspiring. Is it visible in his work as a designer and in his social enterprise, I Am Benue, a business directory and historical archive for his home state, Benue, Nigeria.
The interview Self, Myself & Belonging covers some of our conversations in the following days, with advice on how to gain a sense of cultural belonging if your parents are from different backgrounds. If you haven’t read the interview yet, check it out here. Self, Myself & Belonging. Find Aondakaa on social media to discover more of his story.
Photo credit: AkaaFele