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Last Updated: Wednesday, 31 January 2007, 12:35 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, BBC News website reader Joseph Kaifala describes who he is.

Joseph Kaifala
When I was growing up in Sierra Leone, there were no questions about my identity: who I was, where I was born, or what beliefs and philosophies I professed.

I was simply a Sierra Leonean and everything else about me was obvious within my country.

My name, Joseph Kaifala, is a clear indication that half of my family is Christian and the other half Muslim.

I am black as are almost all Sierra Leoneans, and my family performs Christian and Muslim religious rites with equal devotion, and also participates in traditional religious ceremonies with all due respect.

The term "black" applies mostly to descendants of former slaves, and "African-American" now mostly applies to recent immigrants from Africa

Every other Sierra Leonean can predict what part of the country I descend from by simply knowing my last name.

It indicates that I am from the south-east, Pendembu or upper Bambara chiefdom near the borders with Guinea and Liberia.

But none can predict that I speak Mende, Kissi, Mandigo, Krio, English and French.

Loving labels

My identity confusion began, however, when I was introduced to other philosophies and religions.

I became a Rastafarian and adopted Gandhism.

When I left Sierra Leone to study in Norway, my national identity was immediately replaced with the continental label: African.


And because I was one of the few Africans studying with Europeans, I also became known as "the black guy" or "the Afro guy" because of my fluffy hair.

In America, I am still different, even within the Negro communities.

I have realised that the term "black" applies mostly to descendants of former slaves, and "African-American" now mostly applies to recent immigrants from Africa.

There is another confusion among my white friends about whether to refer to me as "black" or "coloured". Personally, I prefer to be called black.

The fascinating fact is that these labels only function at various times based on my immediate locality.

But I appreciate all labels as long as they are not derogatory, because I am always a product of my immediate social stratum.


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.

Your E-mail address
Town & Country

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




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