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Last Updated: Friday, 12 January 2007, 12:34 GMT
Identity: Who do you think you are?
Composite of pictures showing a zebra, men drinking from a gourde, a woman carrying oranges, Kwame Nkrumah, Somali passports, an Egyptian football fan and Ethiopian veteran soldiers.

With the 50th anniversary of Ghana's independence coming up in March - an event that symbolised the beginning of the end of colonialism in Africa - the BBC's new competition for Africa explores the continent's identity.

Here, the arts editor of South Africa's Mail and Guardian newspaper, Matthew Krouse, describes who he is.


Matthew Krouse
When I was growing up we were not African.
Africans were the people at the bottom of the garden.


And although we came from a Lithuanian backwater, there we were never considered to be European.

Indeed in Africa we were everything we were prohibited from being back home.

Although we were born on African soil, here we were comfortably European.

I have often wondered whether my poverty-stricken Yiddish grandfather actually came to Africa because he wanted to know what it meant to be European.

One day we awoke to realise that everyone had stopped calling us Europeans - now they were calling us bastards

Anyway, whether he wished it or not, when the apartheid system finally allotted the so-called whites their privileged portion, my uneducated zeida [grandfather], a butcher by trade, was awarded a document that classified him European.

On that basis we, the generation that was to follow, fulfilled the promise that he had taken on his path to Africa - we became white.

We sat in all-white classrooms where, diligently, we learned that coloured South Africans were lazy but friendly and that South African Indians were shrewd in business.

'Poisoned tinned fish'

My situation was, however, further complicated by the fact that my father is an Afrikaner.

I am half-Afrikaans and half-Jewish. Indeed during the Boer War my father's family survived Lord Kitchener's concentration camps.

My Afrikaans grandmother used to tell me: "When you get to the camps, remember: don't eat the tinned fish. It is poisoned by the British."

So, being half-Jewish and half-Afrikaans, we were the outcast Europeans of Africa.

To the Europeans of Europe we were the Europeans at the bottom of the garden.

How did we then become Africans?

Well, one day we awoke to realise that everyone had stopped calling us Europeans - now they were calling us bastards; and if we wanted to redeem ourselves we had better start calling ourselves Africans.

There was no chance of catching the next boat home. It was a matter of survival.

WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?

Let us know whether you identify yourself first and foremost with your family, your ethnic group, your country, your region or your continent. How does that affect the way you behave and the way you see the world?

If you have photos to accompany your contribution send them to newsonline.africa@bbc.co.uk, otherwise use the form at the bottom of the page.

Entries should be no more than 300 words.

The best will be published on the BBC News website, broadcast on the BBC World Service's Network Africa programme and entered into a prize draw to win a week-long visit to London.

Name
Your E-mail address
Town & Country
Comments

The BBC may edit your comments and not all emails will be published. Your comments may be published on any BBC media worldwide.





MANDELA AT 90

WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?

 

Girl hanging out cloth to dry in Mali, West Africa [Photo: Barry Perks] Your take
Send us your photographs from across the continent

 

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