By Nigerian author Amara Chidinma Ezediniru
Once, my father told me “tell your story yourself, for you are not just a lead character, you are the story. Paint your pictures, it’s your voice to the world.”
Thinking about his words many years later, I know he’s right. Being African is not a script for the big screen, it’s my life. For the movies, I’d need directing and costuming, I’d have lights and camera; there would be simulations of reality. Worse still, there is a software! Who needs all these to be me? How do I tell of me with another’s lens?
I am Africa!
I see how poorly I’m painted. I see the darkness that surrounds my image, not a silhouette of me but my reality. Why am I smeared as if I know no joy? Why am I heaped with sadness and gloom? Is that how I am?
I know my skin is tinted but it is also firm, it is lush, and soft. My skin is flawless. Are there no brushes and colours to represent these in your art?
Did you see my hair? Why are they always coarse and messy? Could it be your lack of imagination or your poor definition of beauty? Do you not see how thickly lustrous, preternaturally glossy they are? Oh! My hair reminds of the richness that dwells on mother earth. It reminds me of the luxuriant biodiversity rainforest with tall trees and lots of rain.
What is life without rain?
And the radiance on my face! The smiles that divinity freely bestows on humanity. When I widen my grin to reveal my beautiful teeth, how do you see a jagged set? Does your easel suddenly become too high that you are unable to perfect your finishing touches? Could you not add the finesse? My teeth are not spiked and cadaverous, they are white and finely woven, an indubitable work of fine artistry. Look again, see how gorgeous they are, they are mine, my sparkling teeth. I’m not a predator! I am a child, an African child.
The innocence that comes with being a child! I fear you’ve battered it, your drawings of me leave a battered feel.
My eyes are bright; they speak a thousand words. Do you not hear? I was conceived first with words, words of grace and grit. I was raised in hope and schooled by faith. I know me. When I see your art, a gush of fear arise in me, waves of doubts too. These are incongruent with who I am. I get troubled not for me but for you. Could there be some fears lurking in you that you seek to express? Is your heart dark because your thoughts are?
My land is green, can you not see? I was born into profusion, not just of food but also of richness. Rich is beyond the money you flaunt. I am called Plenitude for a reason, ask my mum, my Chi. A bu m Obianuju, I am Obainuju, the one who came in abundance.
Wait a minute! I am from the groins of an adept maestro, an artist of great repute; beautiful representations are us. Take my pencil and I’ll hold your hands. Let the canvas be your mind. We won’t need an eraser for I am the art. I will paint me. We will paint together.
I am Africa. I am beautiful.
Amara Chidinma Ezediniru is a trained business administrator, human resource manager and a certified teacher. She is widely traveled, a compassionate Rotarian, an author of three books, and a mother. She is the managing consultant of Rald and Vid Consulting Ltd.