Where am I from? Ekhosuehi Iyahen
I identify as a Nigerian-Barbadian, as I was born in Nigeria but have lived most of my life in Barbados and I am a citizen of both. Both countries are amazing in their own right! I like to believe that the dynamism and diversity of Nigeria coupled with the measured and organised nature of Barbados makes for a great combination!
That said, the dual Nigerian/Barbadian heritage is really not that uncommon. In fact, there were several families like us growing up in Nigeria. To be both of the continent and her diaspora is a wonderful blessing!
I left Nigeria when I was about 11 years old but my childhood in Nigeria was a pretty exciting one. A lot of time was spent running around barefoot and exploring with family, friends and neighbors. I am a twin and jointly, we developed a reputation as the adventurous and hyperactive twins. Beyond exploring every nook and cranny of our neighborhood, we also did a bit of travelling within Nigeria with my father and then further afield to the US, Europe and Barbados on family trips.
Moving to Barbados was initially a bit of a challenge. Although we all spoke English, the Barbadian accent was unfamiliar and it took some time to adjust. Once we settled in, which was not too long, we quickly fell right into the rhythm of island life. A beautiful thing! My twin sister and I became known as the “skinny bald head African twins that can run”.
Barbadians have a special way of characterizing people and each other. Well, it’s a Caribbean thing… I wore this characterization with a badge of honor 😊 The most striking memories of growing up in Barbados were weekends and long summers in the sun getting burnt and totally enjoying the water and all the fun water sports that come with that experience. Crop-Over, the annual festival was also a big deal!
Life has taken me many places, from living in Jamaica, London to my current base in South Africa and visiting over 67 countries and still counting. Having the opportunity to come from a diverse family and to travel the world has been so important in terms of my growth and exposing me to new ideas and people. It makes for a life full of rich experiences.
Bonus Q and A!
- Where is your mom from? Where is your dad from?
My mother is from Barbados and my father from Nigeria. They met while they were studying in the United States
- Where do you feel at home?
I feel at home in both Nigeria and Barbados. Both extremely different countries but equally amazing in their own right.
- What languages do you speak?
Unfortunately I only speak English.
-Do you speak your native languages with an accent?
Well, I can’t claim to speak any of the local languages in Nigeria and in terms of Barbados, there is “Bajan” which I fully understand.
-Are you comfortable speaking these native languages and have you ever been made fun of for speaking in your native language?
I wish I spoke local languages. It has always been a regret of mine. That said, I have never been made fun of for not speaking or even my accent. It’s a bit strange as when I speak to Nigerians, they can often tell that its not a pure Nigerian accent. Likewise, when I speak to Barbadians, they can also spot that it’s not a pure Barbadian accent. That said, people are generally complimentary.
Do you get confused when they ask you for your permanent address at the airport?
No. I generally am comfortable identifying my permanent address. I suppose the idea of being from and of multiple places has always been a part of me so that confusion does not exist for me.
- Do you have siblings and do they see other places as home/have a different rapport to home (than yours)?
Yes, I have other siblings. They are also world citizens and travel quite a lot and have lives in many places from United Arab Emirates, South Africa, Fiji, Switzerland etc. We are constantly on the move. In fact it’s difficult to get all of us in one place.