I've grown comfortable with the fact that I may never know exactly where I've come from. As difficult as this may be for some people to understand, it is a realisation I think many cultures have come to accept. Honestly, I have never really felt like Africa is my home, simply because I don't know Africa.
I represent an African diaspora of African American millennials, who have been separated from the motherland by one too many generations and thus have lost a sense of connection to this part of their world.
Growing up, I watched my grandmother make several attempts to weave together the tapestry of our family history, from the front porches of Savannah, Ga to the country streams of Riceboro. She always managed to jump back several generations, but once she hit the early 20th and late 19th centuries, she hit a standstill, missing the golden thread to complete our family's genealogy.
Although being a slave in southern America meant Africa was strongly rooted in your identity, once auctioned and bought by a master, that identity was quickly erased. The Asari's, Mensah's and Boateng's were swiftly replaced with Smith's, Campbell's and Tailor's. This became the core problem, making it difficult for many African Americans to accurately trace their history. By replacing the surname of African slaves with his own, a slave master branded his property, leaving them with no identity and only one purpose - to serve him.
This issue of PETRIe's eMagazine commences a dialogue about our origins, what they mean in contemporary society and the complexities they present us with on a daily basis. Elena Stanciu's addresses the tension existing between Africans and African Americans asking the question: can Africa ever be reunited? Writer William Hunter Howell is interviewed by Elizabeth Neep for PETRIe TV , where she discovers how his perilous youth has provided him with a colourful narrative for many of the chapters that make up his stories. Photographer Mia Dabrowski and stylist Tess Pisani take us to the origins of life, childhood, where who we are doesn't really matter, and the freedom to create and discover your identity is left unchallenged, as youthful innocence permits foolish bliss.
As you explore the issue, I'd like to leave you with this question: In a society where we have the ability to recreate and alter who we are almost instantaneously, do our origins really matter?
Words: Zadrian Smith
Photography: Heading North to New Jersey, 1940 by Jack Delano