Photo by TONL.

These Young Zambian Women Share Their Experiences with Culture Shock After Resettling Home

This transition was not as easy as they'd thought. Here are their stories.

Your 20s are the time of exploration, and finding of self. In this journey however, many will attest that neither school nor parents actually prepare you for the world of adulting. For young adults who have lived abroad, culture shock can be added to the long lists of things you were never warned about. It's the secret icing on the cake (along with taxes and bills) that makes adulting that much more of a chore.

Zambian culture is built largely on respect, for your elders, family and of self. There's no escaping this and it goes hand in hand with the sense of Zambian pride as this respect is largely ingrained in our traditions and passed down across generations. We wear this aspect of our culture as a badge of honour. We are, as a society, very respectful, welcoming and warm. So growing up Zambian you will learn; to kneel when greeting your elders, to eat the right piece of chicken, to address people by correct respectful titles, and to always be polite.

Navigating the social norms expected by family and the traditional Zambian society is not an easy task for many young people—a number of them found that coming back to Zambia was not as easy to deal with as they'd thought. If they ever felt that they were foreigners in other lands, coming back brought a new problem of not being Zambian enough.

Here, they share their experiences and how they deal with the unfamiliarity of Zambian culture after years of being away.

"I'd love to see our culture evolving and not remain stagnant and rigid."

Poet, rapper and all round creative Ludo Lukwele, born and raised for the majority of her 20something years in Botswana, explains that she was reminded a lot growing up that she was a foreigner.

"It was refreshing to come back to Zambia and not constantly be reminded that I was a foreigner even though I was born there (Masunga, Bostwana)," she says. "I came to Zambia after Form Five (Grade 12) and funny enough, I found I wasn't Zambian enough here, I was called a coconut and seen as a Motswana."

Linda Sikana, a marketing manager, also shares similar sentiments and divulges how growing up in the UK and Kenya made coming back to live in Zambia a bit awkward socially.

"I think the people were my biggest shock," Sikana says. "No offense, but I felt I had gone back in time 10 years. No one understood my sense of humor or my personality in general. I wasn't white, but yet, I wasn't black enough either. I felt like I didn't belong for the longest time."

The general expectation is that the younger you are, the easier it is to adapt to change. And much of this perception is fed by the fact that not many people take the time to track or document the resettling process for youths. In moving countries, unlike moving cities locally, you have new cultures to learn and sometimes unlearn depending on what country you end up in.

"It would sound strange to hear this, but everything was a shock for me! The general expectation is that since Botswana and Zambia are neighboring countries in Southern Africa, that they're completely similar,"Mumbi Mwelwa, a librarian and digital marketing specialist who was also born in Botswana, reveals. "The truth is far from it!"

It's important to note that culture shock isn't limited to only those born in a different country. It also relates to young adults like Ines Makuza and Munshya Mulundu who've studied abroad for their tertiary education.

"The more we start to realize our worth, the more we'll actually start to make a conscious effort to better ourselves."

"The first shock to me was the racial diversity," Mulundu explains. "I studied in Pretoria, South Africa, which has predominately white people (from my experience), so I got to be part of the minority for once. It didn't really affect me or anything; I didn't feel disadvantaged in any way—it was just something different."

Having been exposed to many cultures these young ladies share what stood out for them in their travels, and what cultural fusion they'd like to see or achieve.

"My poetry and music is highly influenced by where I grew up," Lukwele says. "My poetry speaks a lot to women because women from Botswana are very independent and strong; so I try to speak it out to people here. A woman is happy and independent at 45 in Botswana—no one gives her pressure unlike here [in Zambia]. No one makes them feel like less of a woman."

To Sikana, Zambians tend to be a little closed minded. "I wish they had more of a sense of adventure," she says. "I wish they were more willing to try new things and be more individualistic." This is a train of thought that Mulundu also shares.

"I'd like us to be more proud of ourselves. The more we start to realize our worth, the more we'll actually start to make a conscious effort to better ourselves," she says. "I feel like this whole quest to be humble has left most of us meek and timid. It's almost offensive to want to speak about your achievements openly. I'd also like for us to be a little bit more open minded to change, and to learn the true meaning of compassion. I'd love to see our culture evolving and not remain stagnant and rigid."

All in all, they do all agree that Zambian food, hospitality and sense of community are like no other. Above all, one can find family in Zambians everywhere. In a land of diversity where there are already 72 tribes, adding a little sprinkle of another nationality really shouldn't be seen as a bad thing. It's just another opportunity to add to the richness of the existing multi-dimensional culture that makes Zambia so unique.

Photo: Benoit Peverelli

Interview: Oumou Sangaré Proves Why She's the Songbird of Wassoulou

We caught up with the Malian singer to talk about her new Acoustic album, longevity as an artist, and growing up in Mali.

When Oumou Sangaré tells me freedom is at her core, I am not surprised. If you listen to her discography, you'll be hard-pressed to find a song that doesn't center or in some way touch on women's rights or child abuse. The Grammy award-winning Malian singer has spent a significant part of her career using her voice to fight for the rights of women across Africa and the world, a testimony to this is her naming her debut studio album Moussolou, meaning Woman. The album, a pure masterpiece that solidified Oumou's place amongst the greats and earned her the name 'Songbird of Wassoulou,' was a commercial success selling over 250,000 records in Africa and would in turn go on to inspire other singers across the world.

On her latest body of work Acoustic, a reworking of her critically acclaimed 2017 album Mogoya, Oumou Sangaré proves how and why she earned her accolades. The entirety of the 11-track album was recorded within two days in the Midi Live studio in Villetaneuse in 'live' conditions—with no amplification, no retakes or overdubs, no headphones. Throughout the album, using her powerful and raw voice that has come to define feminism in Africa and shaped opinions across the continent, Oumou boldly addresses themes like loss, polygamy and female circumcision.

We caught up with the Malian singer at the studio she is staying while in quarantine to talk about her new album, longevity as an artist, and growing up in Mali.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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