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Sunday, September 04, 2005

Colour, language and identity

I'm having fun this week in seeing people's different perceptions of what's what in terms of language and identity. My daughter is very pale and looks English but speaks very good Portuguese in a perfect Brazilian accent. She sees herself as being English. I don't look Portuguese and speak Portuguese with an Anglo/Portuguese accent. I don't have a clear identity for myself - I was born and brought up in Kenya, lived in England and think I come from Portugal. Our two friends staying with us look African/Jamaican and see themselves as British.

In shops and on the street everyone imagines that our friends speak Portuguese because they look African and so must come from Mozambique or Angola (except for the people who start singing "No woman, no cry" when they see them). Then there is a confusion because my pale-faced daughter steps in to translate for these "Africans" using her perfect, broad north-east Brazilian accent.

And even more confusing today at the Festa de Avante is that whitey-me stopped to speak Swahili at some of the stalls, whereas our "African" friends could only speak English.


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