me, Fedora Ouandié
How weird is it to talk about yourself, huh? It can appear quite narcissistic, very quickly. But well there I am, fingers on my keyboards, ready to tell you the story of my life as a Third culture kid.
Planes? I think I know them by heart, I’ve been on planes my whole life, either in my mum’s belly, then on my two feet, and if there is something I can assure you of: time does not heal everything ,turbulences still appear as impressive even 20 years later. I could have had been offered a free plane ticket if I had not been reinvesting all the time my thousands of miles in excess weight for my luggage. This is the disadvantage of not having a fixed place but well I’m fine with it. Anyway to start from the very beginning, we will have to go back 50 years ago and even more (no I’m not 70 years old). At this time, Cameroon was still a French colony and my grandfather (Ernest Ouandié), a teacher at first revealed to be one of the leaders in the struggle for Cameroon’s independence. Very patriotic , he fought to the death.
This is my grandfather on the last day of his life, he refused that we cover up his eyes, and before dying his last words were for cameroon once again “long life to Cameroon”
It’s in this historical context than my family has been split worldwide. My mum grew up in Asia and South America before ending in Europe. My journey will start in the 2000’s when we were to leave Paris to move to` the French Antilles. But I don’t think that traveling has played a major role in the formation of my identity, for sure traveling gives me a wider vision of the world, and allowed me to meet people from completely different backgrounds. But to go back to the main question, which is where I’m from; I never know what to say because once away from Bath, my final destination is most of the time unclear.
Simply because there is not a final destination, I go from one place to another without really stopping there. I don’t think that I have a precise identity either, although my French side outpaces the others. Vietnamese culture marked me too, and it’s partly in this one that I grew up. Not from a culinary perspective, although my mum and I are big fans of the Asian area of Paris but more in term of value, this rigour and solidarity. I think that Asian people are from all what I’ve seen very welcoming, and warm, one of my best friend is actually Asian (well originally). But Paris remains my little home, although I don’t go there quite so often. But as a person of colour, you ethnicity and your origin will always be under scrutiny. In Guadeloupe, people used to say that I was French or African, In France that I’m from Guadeloupe or Africa and an African won’t bother to say that I’m white.
In this tennis match, complicated to really find your place. But if I had to be lucid, I’m conscious that this kind of matter will never end, or at least not before decades. Because in mentalities, ethnicities and culture are interlinked. Whereas these two notions have to be taken separately, while focusing on the human and his experience. Something that people struggle to do, and leads to strange statements ‘’ but actually you’re not black, you are white’’. Blackness isn’t a state of mind but the colour of a skin.
“Living in Europe has strengthened my identity as a person of colour, and living in England as a French person. I remember calling my mum one night completely distraught ‘’ mum, I got It, I come from Mars’’
Even though I would have love to put aside ethnicity, living in Europe has somehow strengthened my identity as a black woman. The fashion industry and the cosmetic tend to put aside ethnic minorities, there is just a few blue black models. Looking for a foundation or other product of the supposed normal life as cream for the hair hasn’t been as hard as now that I’m in England. A fact that has been voiced by a couple of models lately.
Same issue to find a hairdresser, I remember being completely distraught in front of my laptop during my first year here as there was no afro hairdresser in the whole city, same for the hair product, I had to order it online. As I said, I remember calling my mum and telling her mum I come from Mars.But these episodes have been instructive and allowed me to assert myself in my difference. Looking at strong women as Viola Davis stimulated me a lot, in addition to be talented, she seems fearless, she’s one of these rare black actresses who doesn’t hesitate to carry the afro. And this is this nappy trend who motivated to carry the afro from time to time and to accept people’s look.
Viola Davis (How to get away with a murderer) first black actress to receive a grammy awards.
And for the final question: where do you see yourself in 5 years I’ll say ‘’ carte blanche’’