Being a mzungu

Great post by Felicity Feinman, former reporter with me at The Charlatan in Ottawa and current CMTS intern at Farm Radio in Tanzania, on being muzungu.

Finding Nyumbani

I’ve never been a racial minority before.

Now, I want to be clear that I’m using the word ‘minority’ with a small ‘m’ not a big one. I’m not at all suggesting that my experience in Tanzania is in any way similar to the experience of oppressed minorities in developed countries.

Nevertheless, white people in Tanzania are statistically a racial minority. We’re something different.

When I walk down the street, suddenly people stop their conversations, get up from their chairs and walk towards me. A choir begins to sing “rafiki!” “I love you!” “Jambo!” “Friendy!” and of course “Mzungu!”

Mzungu simply means foreigner in Swahili, but I’ve come to hate hearing it. It’s what people call you when they know your skin colour, but not your name.

When I convince Tanzanian friends to call me “mgeni” or “visitor” instead of “mzungu”, it feels like an accomplishment. But you can’t escape…

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About msmarguerite

Young Quebec City-based freelance journalist. once and future nomad. I blog about life, about travel, about things I notice and every so often about work. I enjoy language learning, singing, swing dancing, skating and...other stuff, sometimes. My heart is somewhere in East Africa, Haiti or Eastern Europe. English, français, русский, malo slovensko, un poco de espanol, um pouco de português ndiga ikirundi, mwen ap aprann kreyòl...
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