The Travellers of Colour Collective: Six Months On

by Kiki Nartey

As The Travellers of Colour Collective approaches its six month mark, it feels only natural to reflect on the growth and manifestation of what was initially an informal idea that casually sprung to mind whilst sitting in my German apartment. As a person of colour who was to embark on a year abroad, I always saw myself as being placed in a unique position, and wished to document it in some way. The specificity of my experiences as a minority in a less culturally diverse environment was something I knew I could extend to other people of colour, who may have been able to resonate with me, and I thus drew inspiration from the affinity I shared with them. In creating my blog, I wanted to provide a platform for expression that was somewhat missing before. Since its launch, it has been wonderful to witness the expanding nature of discussions surrounding the role of race in travel through my blog.

The beauty of having a collection of stories is the plurality of experience yet individuality of every written account. Each blog post from The Travellers of Colour Collective comes with fresh perspective, enabling us to think about our racial and ethnic identities in a multitude of ways and in a plethora of different cultural contexts. As people of colour, our existence and experiences are often homogenised, particularly by mainstream media; so the advantage that The Travellers of Colour Collective has is its ability to showcase the diversity within our experiences. It has also been interesting to collect stories from those who have come back from their travels and people who are still currently abroad. The differing approaches to writing are evident, since some are more holistic in their reflection of their travels as people of colour, whilst others are writing at a present moment in time and are therefore discovering more about their identity under a new cultural framework.

The issues that have been brought to light as a result of the series of blog posts is an aspect that continues to be of paramount importance in The Travellers of Colour Collective. The refreshing honesty with which my writers document their experiences facilitates the very necessary discussion of how race impacts the way we can be perceived and ultimately treated in certain cultures. The intersectionality between race and gender, for example, is a recurring topic, with few who have candidly divulged their experiences of being fetishized abroad, specifically as women of colour. Others have written about their interactions with children, observing the way in which they understand and react to racial difference. Many blog posts in The Collective also include testimonies of positive cultural exchange and the opportunity to educate those who have not been exposed to cultures outside of their own. Thus, I believe that The Travellers of Colour Collective has achieved the aim of highlighting the unique challenges we have, or may face, as people of colour, but to also use this as a source of encouragement and empowerment to continue to venture out into the wider world.

Whilst this platform serves as a safe space for people of colour, the readership amongst non-POC audiences plays a significant part in emphasising the purpose of my blog. I was very keen to make the content accessible to all readers, in order to foster appreciation and acknowledgement from those who are largely unaffected by or simply oblivious to the nuanced experiences shared by people of colour.

So far I have been humbled by the progression and positive reception of the Travellers of Colour Collective since its launch on 1st September. Each new blog post represents an added voice that contributes to the continuity of a unique but extremely pertinent subject, and I hope that my blog continues to serve as a platform for us as people of colour to bring our distinct experiences deservedly to the forefront.

Comments

Adeorike: “Aside from the fact that she is a friend, I was keen to contribute to Kiki’s blog because it was an idea that intrigued me quite a bit. Platforms in which people of colour could share their experiences abroad with each other are rare. Kiki creating this blog that was so accessible to many of us was encouraging, enlightening and inspiring.”

India: “I don’t even know how I first came across The Travellers of Colour Collective but I remember feeling an amazing sense of kinship with the people sharing their stories. I felt that I couldn’t hold back my own thoughts, particularly on my eye-opening trip to Thailand, and I submitted my piece to Kiki. Seeing it published on the (frankly, gorgeous) website made me really happy. Just like the other testimonies inspired me to keep travelling no matter what, I hoped that my story would do the same, while also preparing other black and brown people for the possibility of experiencing racism and feeling exoticised in other countries. Kiki’s blog is a godsend and connects likeminded people whom I never knew existed before. As a black woman specifically, I needed real people’s stories to inspire me to keep getting the most out of life.”

Harvin: “I feel that Kiki’s blog is an excellent platform that brings POC together to share their experiences. This is extremely important- as people of colour we should be united, never divided by our uniqueness.”

Katie: I think it’s spectacular what Kiki is doing. Her platform allows people a safe space to share their experiences while also enlightening those of us who can be naïve to the impact of race in aspects such as travel.”

‘Whose Australia?’ Deconstructing a Semester Abroad in Melbourne

by Kulani McCartan-Demie, AUSTRALIA

I will begin this post by acknowledging that for perhaps the first time in my life, travelling from my safe, multicultural home of London to the other side of the world, Australia was met with an underwritten sense of displacement. I was somewhat out of place, an Ethiopian-Irish female spending a semester studying in Melbourne— often deemed among the more ‘diverse’ cities of Australia. I was surprised to have only met a handful of POC, let me be honest, I can count these individuals on one hand and even that it self is me being pretty generous. One individual I will always remember, was ‘Ababa,’ I remember the day after I arrived, seeing a lady cleaning the kitchen who looked familiar to my Ethiopian family. I asked one of the Australians, who had lived for a couple of years in this particular flat about her; what her name was, where she was from? They shrugged and almost looked confused that I dare ask such a question. Me being me, I approached inquisitively the next day asking her name and where she was from. I knew that she was East African, but nevertheless I asked her where she or her family was from. At first she told me she was from ‘Africa’—perhaps used to the limited knowledge of African countries from the average Australian—but I remarked “but where in Africa Aunty?’ and soon learnt that she was from Eritrea and her name was ‘Ababa’. I told her that I was half Ethiopian and within ten minutes she kindly offered to bring me Injera, an Ethiopian staple bread and Berbere, a key Ethiopian and Eritrean spice to cook with. It was amazing that despite being so far from home, I found someone from the Horn of Africa who taught me how to make staple Ethiopian dishes and bought me fresh injera! I would often spend my mornings catching up with her, whilst making a cup of tea, learning about her life and when she migrated to Australia, what the UK was like, and learning of her upcoming return home to see her family after many years and attend her son’s wedding ceremony in Eritrea. I was very fortunate to meet Ababa and hope I will one day meet her again.

 
It was incredible to learn of a strong African diaspora in Melbourne, in ‘Footscray’, a sort of migrant hub area closer to the city. I was particularly proud to experience the Oromo diaspora in Melbourne, the ethnic group my dad belongs to in Ethiopia. A few days before I left Melbourne to return home, I attended the annual Oromo Cultural Festival held in Federation Square greeted by thousands of Oromo’s and non-Oromo’s from all around Australia and the world. This celebration promoted self-empowerment and sought to raise awareness in the wider community about the lifestyle, culture and ethics of members of the Australian Oromo community. To see Federation Square embellished by rows of sky-high Oromo flags marked a proud moment for my Dad and me. From being awkwardly interviewed on national Oromo TV, reaffirming my ‘Oromo-ness’ to the cameraman who questioned this (given my lighter complexion), to being introduced to many Australian Oromo’s as the daughter of ‘Dr. Demie’ from London, by a family friend. I was proud to witness how strong diasporic and cultural networks are working globally.

I recall a time I walked passed Flinders Street station, Melbourne’s equivalent of Kings Cross, and there a black man stood, in the centre of the road on Melbourne’s prime Flinders Street, holding up a placard entitled, “Stop Australia’s Racism”. Amidst the traffic, I really wanted to go up and hug him and tell him that what he is doing is so critical and valuable to this country. I guess my time spent in Australia is characterised in two-fold; I found it such a beautiful place experiencing some of the World’s most beautiful white sand beaches and crystal oceans, but equally a country underwritten by an uncomfortable colonial history. This is why it was imperative that I studied the politics and history of Indigenous Australia- writing on epistemic and ontological whiteness and the treatment of mixed race and Indigenous Australians throughout history proved very important to me. How could I go to a country and not seek to learn about its past and its Indigenous communities, who are silenced, disenfranchised and undermined by the state everyday. I think in this sense it drew interesting comparisons to my next semester in South Africa, which echoed similar characteristics of incredible beauty alongside racial, ethnic and political cleavages, and albeit another beautiful country which has undoubtedly enriched my life experiences to date.

 

Photos:


Oromo Flags Lined outside Federation Square in Melbourne

 

   

Young Oromo girl in traditional clothing holding her hands crossed in Oromo peaceful protest gesture, ‘X’ in solidarity with Oromo’s.

 

 

 

 

One Year, Two Cultures

by Maddy Crabbe, CANADA/ITALY

My return to London in September 2016 marked being away from home for 11 months. I studied abroad in Canada for eight months and worked as an English teacher in Italy for three. I really enjoyed studying abroad, and although it was challenging at times and I had serious bouts of depression, I was able to pick myself up with the help of friends I’d made along the way, as well as a steady growth in my self-confidence. My best memories of my year abroad are from joining the University marching band. My proudest moments were performing at Toronto Fashion Week and at the St Patrick’s Day Parade in Montreal, for which we won an award. I began solo travelling halfway through my year abroad, with trips to Kincardine, Washington D.C and the Niagara Falls. I found these times a really good time to reflect, and enjoy my own company. Towards the end of my year abroad, I felt the desire to continue travelling, so after receiving a job advert for teaching in Italy, I applied to work last summer as an English teacher at summer camps. I had the best summer of my life teaching adorable children, immersing myself in the culture by living with various kind families and embarking on an adventure so different to anything I’d ever done before. Despite having some problems coping with racist attitudes and micro-aggressive behaviour in Italy, I had a wonderful time and I am sure that I will go back next year to do it all over again.