Deborah Ekoka Interview
Which universe do you come from ?
Well, I come from a universe, very different from the one in which we currently live, where certain things that happen sometimes escape my understanding.
As sometimes, this lack of pervasive love in this universe, where people seem to care nothing about the human being, next door.
I’m observing first, that they teach us a little by giving us the guidelines, they educate us to think in this way, and then we perpetuate the same thing, as we grow, as we learn, becoming adolescents, then older.
And at times, I find myself at a point where I really get lost, I understand certain things obviously, the intricacies are not unknown to me but I think there could be a much simpler coexistence and much more bearable too, if we thought a little more about who we have next to us or in the one in front of us, instead of trying to be the centre of everything.
For me in this context, education is something essential, super important also that must inculcate these principles. If from an early age you’re taught, you have to take everyone into account, that all opinions are valid, I believe, you can take things and function differently.
Sometimes, when I see very bad things that are happening and hurt, I say:
«Really, not everyone feels the same?»
«Is there people who do not care?» …
«Really, the politicians who are above us all, occupying their position, do not care at all about the people below?»
In that case, I believe that we live in a world, as a colleague used to say:
Where “we are very disconnected from each other”…
Then, when these kinds of things happen, I feel that I come from another universe that was not like that, of course, where I think there was much more love, more understanding and more connection.
Who is Deborah ?
“How am I?”
I believe that I’m someone who has always been in constant evolution.
I’ve always wanted to go the other way, although sometimes, I’ve been told, I can be a bit stubborn and it’s hard for me to see the path they’re showing me, which I will deny until I can see and recognise it myself.
I believe, I’m also someone open and a constant for me has been the pleasure to know, to learn, to support when I thought I saw injustices; I must say that it is something I’ve always had in mind.
Addressing the issue of Blackness, it is not something I’ve integrated many years ago, at least, fewer years than I’ve been aware of the whole concept.
I come from a White family, I grew up with my maternal grandparents, who were Spaniards of European descent.
At the same time, I’ve always had my father as a reference in my life, who has lived in the same city while I was seeing my cousins regularly, but I can’t forget that uneasy feeling from back then, a feeling I couldn’t decipher.
Something that happened to me a lot, for example as a child:
I have many memories of the times I was with my cousins on my father’s side, we always went to my grandmother’s house, we were all together, and they are moments that invariably, I have been very fond of, where I had a great time, but I couldn’t put my finger on what it was exactly and why…
Now, being more conscious, I really valued those moments because I felt and saw myself more among equals, comparing with my White environment which was practically of 99%. There are many things that I have rediscovered now, seeing them from another perspective.
I think going to Africa helped too, it made me go around, the experience unlocked something in me. My father is from Equatorial Guinea and I always wanted to go there, really.
The fact that my father has also been a little more detached with me, had to play a role in my construction, not hearing his stories of Guinea or telling me about the country, I knew little more than specific anecdotes about family events; having on the other hand all his brothers living in Guinea, now their children that take him there, among them the contact was never lost.
I must be the only one of the nine brothers who has not had this connection and finally, I went as soon as I could pay my ticket. It must symbolize something, travelling there, and on my return, something inside me had changed.
Another way, has been by meeting people who have been showing me things from another perspective, things I had not seen or that I didn’t know of, like my partner Ken, my alter ego who works in the book store with me.
Suddenly, I could see many things from another angle, and say “Wow!”, With a little resistance or denial at first, but then I could progressively perceive it was also real and realize that this was another vision of reality.
Another perspective which led me to start embracing with more determination my Blackness, at the same time not wanting to remain the same and value myself more for what I am, because of my differences.
Also, through other women, starting to have real life references and role models…
I think the lack of role models is something that has played a very crucial role in all of us, while we were growing up without being able to see ourselves in a mirror.
The first time I saw a woman with afro hair, I was 25 years old, which is seriously sad, and that’s when you start to realize certain things that you have taken for granted all your life …
During the trip to Guinea, it didn’t seem normal to me that all the women between the age of 20 and 60 around me, were wearing braids or straightened hair, there was not a single afro visible.
Here in Spain, I possibly see about 20% of Black women, and I can understand to a certain extent that they wear their hair slick and straight, but when you are surrounded by Black people in a Black country and you don’t see any with hair in their natural state that’s when you say: “Here, something is wrong”
Also, once you start to notice this kind of things, you become conscious, you can’t go back, you can’t choose not to see it any more, you necessarily see everything, now, unless you deny yourself. And it is exactly, what happened to me because for the longest of time, I had been denying myself and that’s how we were taught as children.
If they tell you so many times:
«You are ugly, you are ugly»
Well, no matter how pretty you think you are, one day you’ll say:
“If everyone says it, I must be ugly”.
In this and many other ways, I value myself a lot more, realizing that it was not true and partly thanks to the role models found along the way. Listening to other women and other men talking about their Africanness, about their feelings, is very important to me, now.
What would be the main reason for your presence among us ?
Or said in a different manner.
What is the purpose of your personal journey ?
Since the beginnings of United Minds, I’ve gone through a personal journey, a kind of soul-searching.
That particular moment, having no idea or not knowing what to do with my life, that’s when I had many doubts and I didn’t have a clear objective, because I wanted to do so many things at once. Little by little, I’ve been moving forward, finding new doors to open, It’s a lot clearer now and maybe in five years this will change again, you never know.
In my present, the most evident objective is to help above all, to highlight the AfroSpanish identity. Right now, the workshops I do, are very focused on the matter because there is nothing, no precedent and it’s necessary that we know each other as a community and that the rest of society starts to know about us, also to be accepted, to accept ourselves and be seen.
For example, in my book it was very important to put AfroSpanish women instead of Afro-descendant women, because it serves to create an imaginary in the territory and this is my current job, working towards the visibility the Black culture, to show the multitude of role models and public figures, we do not know but do exist.
In short, it is my role both through the book, and through the festivals I organize, thorough United Minds as well, everything goes towards that same line of action, now. I don’t know in a few years where it will go, but for now this is my path.
What do you do for a living ?
Actually, I would be called a cultural manager and it gives me something to say, because it seems that in this world with the “titulitis” syndrome or over-enthusiasm for academic qualifications, if you don’t have a degree and you didn’t go to college, you cannot be.
When other people who have gone to university tell me:
“No, she is a cultural manager” and I say:
“Wow, I am, then!”.
I give myself permission to call myself that, it’s complicated sometimes to say and accept it but right now, that’s my field of expertise.
I develop my activity managing culture in all its forms, mainly art, history, philosophy and literature therefore, my job is to combine it all, managing everything and mixing it in a shaker. At United Minds we do diverse Afro centred activities.
A workshop is held one day on a specific topic, it can be the presentation of a book, or the presentation of an exhibition. During the festivals, we combine several activities together, to create an experience so that the overall set has more balance.
What is United Minds ?
United Minds is a book store and a sociocultural space dedicated to Africa and the Black Diaspora.
Interestingly, we are the only existing book store in Spain and it is also an initiative managed exclusively by people of African descent.
My partner Ken has envisioned the project, after studying and living in New York, several years, as a family member on his father’s side emigrated there, years ago. With the experience of being over there, having access and finding a lot of literature, when he came back to Spain, it was quite the opposite, he could find almost nothing and the little bit that was there was scattered, lost here and there.
Ken is also a musician, rapper and for him the idea was to sample: take all those ideas and join them in one space.
In addition, United Minds is inspired by a very funky place in Brooklyn, called Nicholas, an AfroDiasporic space, a shop which combines a mix and match, an experience where afro hair products, clothes, books, accessories and lots more can be found under one roof…
Our intent was to unite in a single space, what we could not find in several, and that it could be seen as a community space to find Black culture, although the backbone are the books.
Sometimes, we use the space to hold meetings, as well.
We have an anti-racist feminist school composed of racialized women, AfroSpanish and migrant women.
It is an open space for everyone who wants to go in that line, to propose activities.
It is the only space that brings all this kind of things together in such a way and in Valencia, actually, the only one in Spain.
Sometimes, for events we make as well African food, because here in Valencia there is not a single place that does it. It’s funny, because there are some places (run) by Africans who do something or the other, but there is no restaurant as such, to order various dishes. There is an association that offers daily menu, but it is not like Madrid, where you can choose between 4, 5 or 6 Senegalese restaurants.
What helps us a lot is to leave the area regularly, even if we are doing things, for example with a museum here, or if the library is too small to organize activities, at the same time we are trying to create networks with other spaces.
We move to festivals in Madrid, Barcelona, Tarragona, Granada, we have gone to many places, to congresses and festivals that give us the opportunity to promote United Minds.
People stop to see the books, and they’re usually surprised:
«Wow, there are so many books from the Diaspora!»
“It really exists here?”.
Of course and there are a lot more…
Just reading the titles of the books we sell, it is already a journey through Blackness and its history.
Between Barcelona, Madrid and Valencia, how would you define the environment and points of comparison?
Well, the truth is there are quite a few points in common, in fact we have considered the idea of moving to Barcelona or Madrid, but we also have the (local)facilities and the quality of life in Valencia which are points that have a lot of weight in the balance, I must admit, I like it here.
It is a quiet city, it’s flat to ease urban cycling, but of course, being a smaller town, it also holds village mentality.
A short time ago, a Brazilian girl who attended a workshop, told me it was not going well for her, she really wanted to go back to Brazil at that point. Because here she felt very isolated because she couldn’t see or be in contact with many Black women, and the few with whom she crossed paths, did not have a very fraternal way of reacting or wanted to say hello in her presence, she felt very much observed by disparaging glances on the bus. With the multiculturality that exists in her country of origin, in comparison this seemed like a small village, unfortunately Valencia is what it is.
Barcelona is a very cosmopolitan city, maybe it doesn’t have like Madrid as much unity among Black communities or people of African descent, it’s the impression I was left with, going to festivals between the two cities, this is what I could recall and from this point, my observation started. It is true that in comparison, in Madrid there is a lot of community effort, people offer a lot more support, and they are united for a cause and go together.
Here in Valencia what I feel is that the book store is not appreciated so much, on the contrary when we travel to Madrid we get a different response:
“Wow, I wish you were here, how come there’s nothing like that here, being the capital!”
At festivals like ConscienceAfro, it is literally a non-stop selling books.
My partner who had to go on his own this year, did not stop for a second, the poor guy could not keep up with the frantic rhythm, to stop and eat something.
In Valencia, however, you can do an activity where more people come but it is not the same, even in Barcelona it would not be the same either.
It’s the impression I get from people in Madrid, they are very keen to be exposed and gain more culture, it’s a place where a lot of culture is absorbed or consumed and if it’s something different which is out of the usual, it triumphs.
In Barcelona, I think that the way to be is more individualistic, people don’t meet so much… Yes, they attend events, but they make an appearance and leave, until the next event, next to nothing happens and in Valencia it’s pretty much the same.
It is also true that in Valencia a quite large anti-racist movement is being created within what has been in existence there, lately many concentrations are being organized.
Being a small city and very comfortable, having to move means a lot to the local mentality. We’re in an area located 15 minutes away from the centre, it would be more or less the centre in a bigger city, but here the people are very lazy.
If four drops of rain are in sight and already, you’ll hear:
“Oh, I don’t know if I’m going to come”.
But we go little by little and also the travelling is what saves us, if we were only in Valencia I’m not sure that the project could continue or move forward.
We have an online store, we have the web, we ship throughout the country and the truth is, we are receiving many orders.
What about your experience as an AfroSpanish woman ?
My experience has been synonymous with loneliness, to feel very unique in the world, in my city, in a territory where I did not feel represented in anything or anywhere, on the contrary, the imaginaries which I grew up with were very far from my own image, full of stereotypes, partly a consequence of my years spent in Catholic schools: I will never forgets the DOMUND campaigns
«Poor little Negroes who go hungry, go on, help them».
«The”Blackie” girl in class»…
I remember, it was first at school that I became aware of my skin colour.
When someone says Black to you and you respond:
“Yes, I’m Black, is that bad?”
And you start internalising all that, I remember, even when my best friend at the time would get mad at me she would say:
I was also a very sensitive girl, I must say, I always have been, I was not the typical one who would reply or defend herself, I would go to a corner and cry and that was my way of dealing with it all.
I would have valued a lot, having someone on my side, someone close, to help, because it is something recurrent when you are that age and you tell your elders, and nobody seems to care.
Unfortunately, it is something that keeps to happening today, it has not changed at all and the elders will tell you:
“Well, nothing happened here, child.”
And there, they are invalidating your feelings, they think it’s better that way and you start believing that nothing is happening, you believe that what you’re thinking, what you’re feeling isn’t right or valid, that something is wrong with you. This is something that I have experienced, and most Afro-descendant children that have grown up here, too. We did a workshop in United Minds with children, and they told us, it was better to keep quiet because the act same thing happened to them.
I remember being in schools where there was a little more diversity, but the truth is, I’ve always been quite alone beyond the cousins I was close to, then in a boarding school I started to have more friends. In Mallorca, I went to the Madre Alberta school, a huge centre and I think we were with another Filipino girl, the only non-White students. It was about 18 years ago, going to this school 3 years in a row, at the time I was able to relate to another girl who looked like me, in fact people confused us, and we called each other “cousin”, because you see for the first time I met someone who looked like you.
Apart from her and another Brazilian boy, I don’t remember any more Black peoples in Mallorca during my stay, it has traumatized me a bit when I considered, returning to the island. Since then, it is important to be able to move around, to surround myself with people with whom I can identify with. Today I see my son who has more mixed race or Black friends than I had at his age, and he is only three years old.
Being AfroEuropean means something to you, or do you feel part of something other than your AfroSpanishness ?
Yes, I feel part of something, because I know I can talk to you and there are a lot of things we have in common.
I can even go further, the first book that I read and I felt identified with was Americana from Chimamanda Ngozie.
The connection for me was unbelievably strong, to be able to identified myself with the reality of a novel written by a person who at first glance has nothing to do with me, when you take into account that she was born in Africa and lived in the US, places light years away from Spain. I also have the conviction that most AfroEuropeans, have gone through exactly the same experience in life.
Perhaps, France has a slightly wider open mentality to consider that a Black person can belong to the country, but there are other places where it doesn’t work that way…
I was in Amsterdam, Holland, when here we’re complaining about the blackface but being there I was amazed, because it is a thousand times worse, I saw that they have Blackface figurines in chocolate, dolls everywhere, on television too …
It shocked me a great deal, to see the little representation of the Black population who live there reduced to this and if something similar happens in most European countries, then I do feel identified.
Now, If we take Spain in account because of its geographical position, being next to Africa, in addition to the entire Black Moorish legacy, denied in its history, then I think we are similar in that way, because the Spaniards also believe they are European, they believe to be White. That is the basic problem, because the rest of northern Europe considered White, does not see them as such.
In this country they always have denied an unforgettable historical past, saying that we have nothing to do with Africa and that we never had connections with slavery but:
“How can we have nothing to do with anything, if from Tarifa to Africa it takes an hour by boat?”
“Nobody has travelled there before?”
“Do you really believe slavery didn’t happen?”
“If you see the physical features of Andalusians, you see it clearly”…
“It is not by chance that they take in a lot of sun or because they are lazy people?”
Little by little we are revealing some truths, making them more visible…
But then, on a parallel note there is also a strange narrative on the part of the people here. I have the example of this girl who told me how she felt in an email, right after the ConscienceAfro festival, where she had listened to my partner Ken in a talk during the Rototom festival, by the sound of it, I thought she was from African descent, to the question she responded:
”Sure, Afro-descendant, if you mean we all come from Africa, yes. But my skin is white.”
My answer to her was:
“Okay, but if your skin is white, you are not discriminated against…”
Can you talk about integration, assimilation or emancipation in your personal case ?
In my case I can’t talk about integration, although it is also true that part of this society has the conviction that I should be integrated.
But how can I integrate? If I was born and raised here …
My mother is Spanish, my father was born in Equatorial Guinea when it was still a Spanish province, therefore on neither side my Spanishness should be questioned, given the acculturation that took place in Guinea, when I travelled there it gave me a sensation of being in Spain 50 years ago.
My father arriving as a migrant had already received a Spanish education.
What kind of integration are we talking about? Instead, we are still being put into the same bag, born and bred here doesn’t make any difference.
In fact, sometimes I feel that other people who are migrants can claim that they come from here or there, a point of origin without being challenged.
I have suffered racism equally, but people who are Spanish, who have not migrated from anywhere in the world, however strange it may seem for some in 2019, I don’t have to ask to be integrated because I’m from here, and I’ve been here forever.
If this society didn’t want to see me and wanted to deny me, it’s not my problem any more.
That is why, I think it is so important that people understand Black Spanish people exist. Many things have been hidden in the past as well as our presence, and we are part of the Spanish identity.
Antumi Toasijé, the historian, comments in one article in his blog Africanidad, that there are two ways to belong to a territory:
«To be born here or that your whole family is from here»
There are places where it can be achieved by birth right or your all family has to be indigenous to the country.
In the Spanish context, it seems that your whole family should be from here, at least if you are racialized, being born here does not guarantee anything…
On my ID card the nationality is Spanish, no matter how many times I give it to people, to have a good look at it, the eternal question comes up:
“But you were born here?”
“Were you born in Spain, in Valencia?”
And clearly there is no doubt about the information written on the document. «What’s wrong, I’ve falsified it?».
Personally, I believe it’s a closed mindset which does not understand that anyone can be born anywhere in the world, in 2019, we should be used to it because Franco’s era is far away.
To belong to this state or to this culture, you have to put aside your foreign culture, your difference inherited from your parents, people don’t understand that you can’t claim a different one because it would be like eliminating a part of your Africanness. As I see it, that is the concept of assimilation of the racialized body within the Spanish society.
I would add that I don’t have the feeling that concepts such as assimilation and emancipation exist in Spain, I would rather say it is about these two words :
multiculturalism and interculturality.
In the national scenario there is multiculturalism, we all see it, today in any Spanish city we see people of all colours and with all kinds of phenotypes, in some places more in other less.
But, if you have your own traditional and cultural habits no matter where you are from, we do not want them.
Now, interculturality is something else because for this society, integration is the obligation to put aside your culture, exchanging it for the local, you must forget everything and also deny it. Once you agree to do that, if your physical features as a racialized body are very dominant, they won’t accept you equally or better, they will continue to think that the closest thing to them is what is acceptable.
I am convinced that we have to advocate for interculturality.
There is no doubt that the mixture of cultures enriches, and more here with the festivals we have of Moors and Christians, even in architecture we have many Moorish influences, we should be a little more coherent in this sense and recognize the legacy and cultural contributions of our past.
Another example would be the Latin American language richness, parting from the same base, they knew how to transform, enrich and turn it into something that sounds much more poetic, modified to narrate with great details.
It is true that there is another distinct phenomenon that consists in using the culture of others as a fashion statement or trend, partially taking what they like most, without inquiring into their definition or rationale:
«I’m going to take a lot of sun, I’m going to an African hairdresser to get myself some braids, because it’s cool, but then I’m not going to eat the Ethiopian injera with my hands, because I don’t eat with my hands.»
I’d rather see the positive part, because there are people who are assimilating the concept properly making them more culturally sensitive, and I think we are going forward in this sense, although we still see the opposite and resistance with institutional racism still growing.
For me, community emancipation is defined by the fact that you have your culture, your rights, and they are recognized as those of others.
We are at this point now, closer than 5 years ago, with this boom that has become fashionable, the Afro idiom, the Afro trend. As in the newspaper El País where a lot of things are published on the matter, we were featured with United Minds, with Lucía Asué Mbombío and many more people, thanks to this and other publications, our cause and existence are being made even more visible. Paternalism is still there, but balanced already and sometimes it is not.
Another real anecdote, recently a man came to the book store and said:
“But here you sell this, why not selling things from here?”
“But then, I’m not from here?”
Because he told me that he had a mixed race daughter, so I asked him:
“So your daughter is not from here, is she not Spanish?” And he answered:
“No, no, she’s Spanish.”
“So … I’m not from here, because this is also part of my culture.”
When you talk to people directly, face to face, they can understand it differently.
The other day, I was in a talk Quan Zhou was giving, an AndaluChinese girl as she calls herself. She makes comics and her page is called Bittersweet Gazpacho.
He took some articles from El País with the comments that people made about her, to gain better understanding of the situation, one of the comments made by a lady wrote:
«Of course, these people, are not Spaniards, they were only born in Spain.»
Apparently, being Spanish and being born here is not the same thing.
So, I think we are very, very far away, to a resolution on the matter but on the other hand there are people who are assimilating it, people very open, but also, the resistance is never out of sight and this is the case with Vox and it is what is visible to most people, unfortunately. I think we’re doing better anyway, doing worse would be difficult, right?
Without veiling our eyes before immigration laws, the thorny issue of borders, the fence of Melilla, human tragedies that don’t disappear one day to the next because of one extra step climbed towards the recognition of our existence. We even see how dead White bodies matter more that melanin people who are dying; unfortunately the Mediterranean is full of them and nobody cares, it is part as well of the media propaganda, presenting the news in such a way that perpetuate this reality and normalize it.
What was your experience throughout this process ?
As mixed race people it seems that we have to be more on one side, this time always comes in our life where we feel obliged to have to position ourselves.
It seems that we are something new, an experiment, instead of being a bridge between two cultures, what we should represent, we become the marked separation between both worlds.
It is a positioning, taking a side according to the family, according to beliefs, according to which parent one has been brought up by.
As mixed race children we navigate between both sides without being able to belong fully to both equally, we can be very much in the White part or very much in the Black part, when we should be in balancing point, to act as a bridge, but instead it is a very heavy burden.
How did it affect you personally ?
On a personal level, my upbringing was done in a mostly White environment. When I went with my Black family, I was White, but when I went to school I was Black.
I learned recently to assimilate the fact that I am White and I am Black, but at the same time, neither I am White nor I am Black.
This is an ongoing process I had to do with myself for 28 or 29 years, to find that peace of mind or find an answer within my spirituality.
It takes us to the subject of building self-worth and self-esteem, when the messages you receive are:
«You’re ugly, the way you are.»
You end up believing it, although it seems you can easily accept yourself externally,
I believe that’s the easy part because without that it would be impossible to come to term with how you feel inside. You wrap yourself in this state, where you are in outright denial of yourself, because not even society accepts you as you are.
My grandmother used to tell me: “shrink your lips”, it was not that she thought my lips were too big, it was what society had told her to think, and she did not even question it. And it’s when you fall into a pattern of behaviour which came to fruition thanks to colonialism, neocolonialism and lack of role models, which look like you.
This is when some unconscious behaviours, having people lightening their skin or straighten their hair chemically, kink in.
I am not demonizing this hair practice or the people doing it, because I was one of these people for many years, but I do believe that if you do things you have to know at least why. I believe, it’s very important that we know that these practices also damages our health in multiple ways and is scientifically proven, nowadays.
It is a set of things, in short and a lot of stress related:
having to navigate between two waters, having to decide and position yourself, having to feel in one way or another, depending on the side you decide to choose, having to resist and fight against criticism and ignorance.
And this dimension exists in any anti-racist struggles, whether we are mixed or Black women.
Black women also have to suffer their own struggles, although they don’t have to fight so hard to demonstrate their Blackness or belonging to the community because nobody can deny them their African roots.
Even if when they travel to their country of origin, they are called “bounty”, which come to say: you are Black on the outside and White on the inside, equally these type of things affect negatively.
There is a point in the anti-racist struggle where you have to preserve and protect your mental health, because the glass is filling without a rest and in the end you end up exhausted, defeated, sick, losing years of your life, being completely absorbed by the cause, forgetting who you were.
So yes, I went through this process of struggle in my life, but you have to choose your battles and what matters the most, what will hurt you and what will not, to avoid spending your life permanently wounded.
Did you find any technique or personal method to deal with stress ?
Right now, I’m with the anti-racist school, and we’ve done some healing activities. We believe, it is very important to be able to do it with healers, as a kind of therapy, to be able to get out of ourselves, to take charge of our own healing and self-care, which is something very important, and it is becoming quite logical with emotional education …
I see it as a necessary tool, an essential one in our lives because otherwise, you end up very damaged mentally. We already come to this point quite badly, but we must reach a point where we want, and we will heal our minds because running out of energy, sick you can not work or fight and everything stays in nothing.
Sometimes stopping is also part of it, because the frenetic rhythms of life affect a lot. Invariably, we have to do a thousand of things for today, this is the stress that a normal person suffers, to which we add the stress and oppression that we suffer as women of African descent. So, the healing, and sharing among ourselves is fundamental goal.
I was fortunate enough to observe it firsthand in the community because it became quite visible during the first ConciencaAfro festival, where I collaborated with the organization.
People needed to talk, they needed to get everything out, the debates were extended to an hour, to two and a half hours, because people need to vent. Beyond attending demonstrations and supporting, self-care is very important in this field as well, it has therapeutical effect to have your community, to have your group present, surrounding you.
Sharing to escape the imposed silence, the loneliness, the ostracization, to be able to talk to someone who understands, to communicate your story, someone who will understand what you feel and where you are coming from.
What is love for you ?
It is a very complex question, I am thinking a lot about, lately.
Because I am working hard and listening to many talks about the subject of the ego.
I speak about the ego, from the view point of the relationship with someone, because you can communicate from the ego or from love.
I don’t know if I have my own constructed concept made about love, but I found it very funny talking to a Chilean friend of mine, who said she prefers to use the word “affection” instead of love, and I really like how she includes that word with love, because I think, culturally they have given us a conception fairly ugly, and I don’t know if it really works for me.
So, right now I’m building what love is for me and it’s affection. It is not about ego, or imposing yourself on the other, but being on the same level, speaking affectionately, caring for the other person.
I also believe that here in the West, they have sold us a lot that romantic love.
It seems that if you talk about love, it only refers to romanticism, to the love of a couple, even falling in love!
For me, to fall in love as a concept is to be able to fall in love with a lot of people, and not necessarily in romantic set up.
It comes to mind as an example, the death of my grandfather.
My grandfather was like a father, that person in my life who was everything, who has helped me, who has taught me a lot of things. And when he died, I thought about the meaning of love, what it is to fall in love and I understood it was another king of falling head over heels in love.
I can also meet some random women and say:
«I have fallen in love with this woman!».
It’s not that I’m pursuing something romantic or a relationship with them, but I love how they are as people after meeting them, I already love them a lot.
We must step away from that zone of exclusivity regarding love invariably attached to the couple, while we can love the whole world and always with respect.
Respect, gratitude, I like them very much because they are words that people have been teaching me throughout my journey and I keep them as valuable teachings, other things that you learn from others is sharing, which is also love without expecting anything in return.
In short, I believe that love is something, with such broad meanings and every one of them will have a specific definition.
Do you have family where you live ?
Are you a mother ?
Yes, indeed, that’s why love makes me rethink how much I’ve really loved.
I had to have a child to say:
“This is such an intense love that I almost die”, I don’t know how to express it but this is a raw feeling that comes to mind.
Motherhood has taught me a lot, because I’ve also been an only child, I’ve never had that feeling of a family tribe, on the contrary my partner does with his own family.
I see the union between the family members and how as a tribe they support each other, and this a feeling, I can’t identify with.
Motherhood took me out of the thought of individual thinking, because I never had to think about someone else, I was never responsible for someone else.
So, being a mother, when you have that little person, everything known breaks down, everything turns around and everything changes. And as it grows, it is a very enriching path.
Your definition of spirituality ?
I think, it’s something that we all have inside, but it’s not the majority who decides to develop this aspect of themselves. We live in a very materialistic world where spirituality is a concept, something complex to grasp.
Apparently, I usually meet with many people who can only understand spirituality as a religion, and on the other hand, others who will say to you:
“What’s that?”, and they perceive it as “nonsense”.
Looking back, I think I’ve always considered myself or have been quite spiritual, in many ways.
Probably, because I’m a sensitive being too, but for me spirituality is fundamental because it answers this question:
«What are we doing here and why are we here?»
I have to get into my spiritual side, to answer these questions and stop living as a robot…
The important thing I think, above all is self-awareness, working on oneself.
It is not a common thing to do and there is usually not much or nothing done to achieve something of the kind.
“Who can say, I know myself?”
Nobody can affirm something like that, because it’s something very complex, but at least knowing that I have investigated, to try to know myself better, and it helps me.
How many people do I find in my day to day life, to ask this question who can honestly say “yes”
I believe that we are disconnected from spirituality, we live in a world where the material prevails over the spirit. The spirit isn’t something that is here and will disappear when I die, it will last when I am not here any more.
I am one of those people who believe, we are here to transcend, each life cycle serves for this purpose, to transcend things that in another life could not materialise.
Another very important concept is to understand death through spirituality, our own or that of others, because unfortunately it is not taught culturally.
Personally, I had a very bad experience with Catholicism, having been a student of several religious schools under the influence of priests and nuns and, including my maternal grandmother, obsessed with the church.
From the age of 2 until 14, it was compulsory to assist mass, consequently I developed a lot of rejection with this part of my upbringing. Especially, when I discovered other forms of spirituality, how they accept death, how they celebrate life.
Catholicism on the contrary, blames you, kneels you, you must implore for forgiveness, you must confess your sins because you have done wrong, you have behaved badly, it is almost self-lashing …
Internalise and verbalise:
“Because of me, it is my fault, it is my great fault.”
I find it so horrendous and so sad!
Leaving the sadness of the Catholic Church, I have gone to other types of churches, instead there, it’s a celebration with music, with food, and plenty of joy.
In many other spiritualities, including many African ones, there is a connection with nature and I understand this message.
My experience with Catholicism was harsh and it affected me very negatively which took me to the other side, it was a tortuous path for me until I arrived to this point.
Meditation also accompanies me at the moment in my life, is equally important, to be with oneself, to be relaxed, to be the person you want to be, to stop and breathe.
This entire process has helped me to look for my own path and for me spirituality is this set of beliefs.
What makes you laugh uncontrollably ?
My son, he’s a clown, he makes me laugh uncontrollably a lot like his father, he must have got it from him, for sure.
My favourite entertainment, is the type of humour and series, centred on the caricature of the characters.
For example, I saw the series that Berto Romero does, in which he’s a father with a son going through a set of events, very familiar to all new parents.
I identified myself with things that perhaps at the time when they were happening to me, I did not like ; to see them now with a different perspective, from a distance, observing how they happen to others, makes me laugh like never before.
Despite my slightly bitter and very sarcastic sense of humour, I’ve always liked to have people around who make me laugh.
ABOUT METAMBA MIAGO BOOK
The collective initiative Metamba Miago means “Our Roots”, born from the need to make visible the existence of Afro-Spanish women by giving them a voice in the richness of their diversity.
The impulse is a desire for union among several destinations, the sorority is in the essence of the project.
AFRONOMADNESS collective supports this self-financed proposal where part of our collective can identified itself with.
We leave you the link and some important notes to familiarize yourself with this beautiful proposal.
«Metamba Miago. Stories and knowledge of AfroSpanish women is a book that aims to tell our own stories.
An important part of what we want to convey is how identity is constructed in a territory where it is continuously questioned, simply because of the color of our skin.
The wide majority of White-Spanish society still does not assimilate that we can be “from here”.
Metamba Miago narrates the difficulties we encounter along the way, as women and as Black women.
This is a project born from the United Minds bookstore, and more specifically from one of its components, Deborah Ekoka.
United Minds is the only bookshop in Spain, with the specialized subject matter of the Diaspora and authors of African descent, addressing as well some related issues, such as education, Black consciousness or decoloniality.
Founded in 2014 by AfroSpanish people in an intent to unite in a single space all the titles of Black authors translated into Spanish, as a result more than 350 titles, can be found on the Web platform.
We have worked with the institution providing them with book selections, in addition to doing several workshops on Diasporic literature and AfroSpanish history. A wide range of different activities are carried out in the space (book presentations, screenings, workshops, lectures, colloquiums, exhibitions, etc.) related to Afro culture, always from an Afrocentric perspective.
Through this book we seek to share experiences, listen to ourselves and identify with our collective community.
We want it to serve as a reference to all future generations of AfroSpanish and Afrodescendent women, who can see themselves and their realities reflected in Metamba Miago.
It’s a necessary step given the denial of our AfroSpanish identity by society, so we can finally be part of the imaginary Spanish collective, getting away from the limbo of identity disturbance, since we are aware that most of us are not recognized either as Africans in this territory.
We want to give visibility to a rigorously denied reality throughout Spanish history and is that Spain has always been a diverse country and full of mixtures and not a country made of Caucasian people as it is intended to showroom the rest of the world, we have more in common with Africa than any other European country, in addition to a clearly visible Moorish past. We intend to go to the root of our origin.”
I invite you to visit the official website and learn more about the project.
You will find more detailed information on the link, on the protagonists of these stories and the focus of the book.