popular
Aminata Tejan-Thomas, Saidu Tejan-Thomas' mother. Image courtesy of Saidu Tejan-Thomas.

In ‘Borders Between Us’ Poet Saidu Tejan-Thomas Embarks on a Journey to Rediscover His Mother's Life

In his new audio essay the Sierra Leonean poet and storyteller shares a deeply personal, yet relatable, tale of familial relationships, sacrifice and forgiveness.

Saidu Tejan-Thomas first began writing poetry while pursuing a public relations degree at the Virginia Commonwealth University. While he soon discovered that PR wasn't the career path for him, he also discovered that poetry and writing were a meaningful outlet for his passion for storytelling. An interest in podcasting and audio work developed soon after. In his newly published audio essay, Borders Between Us, the accomplished poet fuses this talent for spoken word, writing, and auditory storytelling to take listeners on a personal journey of family, migration and forgiveness.

Born in Sierra Leone, Tejan-Thomas moved to Alexandria, Virginia in middle school to live with his mother, who had immigrated there shortly after his birth. This began a process of learning and unlearning his mother's story and the complex intergenerational dynamics that shaped their relationship. In the Borders Between Us, the writer shares detailed memories from his childhood, introspective observations about identity, and an enlightening conversation with his aunt that brings him close to understanding who his mother was as a person. It's a journey that many of us take on a deeply personal level, but one that some might be hesitant to share. Tejan-Thomas, instead, shares his journey openly and honestly.

OkayAfrica recently spoke with Tejan-Thomas about his latest audio work, which he described as "an essay and a poem all in one." Read our conversation below and listen to the Borders Between Us via the public radio platform Transom.org.

Keep reading...
popular

Nana Oforiatta Ayim author photo (c) Naafia Naah

In Conversation: Nana Oforiatta Ayim On How Her Debut Novel ‘The God Child’ Challenges the Typical Immigrant Narrative

The Ghanaian writer, art historian and filmmaker talks to OkayAfrica about the magical storytelling in her new book, exploring the complexity of intergenerational African identity, the writing process and more.

Nana Oforiatta Ayim's debut novel The God Child isn't your typical immigrant tale—in fact, despite it being about a Ghanaian family living in Germany and the UK, according to the art historian and novelist, it isn't one at all. "I refer to [the characters] as 'expats,' because I think it's kind of nonsensical that Westerners have co-opted this [word]," says Ayim who is also the creator of the African Cultural Encyclopedia project, dedicated to preserving Africa's artistic heritage. "When they come to work in Africa, they call themselves expats, and yet when we go to work in Europe or America, we are automatically immigrants."

The novel seeks to turn trite narratives about immigrants on their head, as it follows two young protagonists Maya and Kojo who come to terms with their cultural heritage while being brought up as first-generation children in Europe. When they learn about their homeland through mystical tales from Maya's mother, they take it upon themselves to try and restore the fictional Ghanaian dynasty back to its former glory.

The God Child colorfully explores the intergenerational experience of African children and parents living in the West, and how each responds to, adapts to, or reject the feelings of loss and sacrifice that often come along with it. Ayim depicts two young people determined to hold on to their culture despite the challenges presented by their environment. The book offers a nuanced perspective and challenges the notion that most Africans migrate to Europe or America out of an idealization of the West.

Keep reading...

get okayafrica in your inbox

news.

popular.