Updated: May 16, 2021
This was a live talk that I presented on 25 April, 2020 to the United World College community.
My name is Chulu Chansa from Zambia. These are the words I spoke when I descended from the bus for the first time at United World College of Atlantic in 2002. They are words that I would continue to say for many years to come.
One of the many topics that is brought up for much self reflection in a United World College is the idea of Identity. Who are you? Where do you belong? What does it mean to be part of the group you identify with? What are your core characteristics as a group?
Well I am a Zambian female of the Bemba tribe. Our geographical location is in sub-saharan Africa. We have beautiful weather, numerous natural resources and we are a peaceful nation with no civil war since our independence in 1964. There are 72 ethnic groups and languages in Zambia, 7 of which are national languages including English and Bemba. Last but not least Zambia was declared a Christian nation in 1991 by our former president Chiluba.
BUT, I have a secret. I do not actually speak any indigenous language. I have never been to a village. I have never gone through or seen any traditional rites of passage as a member of the Bemba tribe. I come from a middle income single parent home and quite frankly lived a sheltered life in the city. I learned about the world through books and western media. So there I was, an urban kid, stuck in United World College where everyone was sooo cultured. We are talking about 200 students from 90 countries on one campus. Talking about bonjour, hola, konichiwa and there comes Chulu with “Hello. How are you today.” I was terrified. My first thought was, “What if they find out I am a fraud masquerading as an ambassador of Zambia when I had no clue what that really was.” My next thought was, “they will kick me out!”