Borderlands and the Colonial

Every time I convince myself to stop talking about the colonial, something happens to drag me back. In a way, I suppose my continuous return to the colonial is a microcosm of the Africa’s relationship with the rest of the world.

We often talk in terms of globalisation as neocolonialism. However, neocolonialism is a fakery of a word, because it suggests that colonisation and its effects have ended.  Our borders are colonial. Our state structures are colonial. Our values are colonial. The content of our education is colonial. Our laws are colonial. We are colonial. Everywhere we go colonisation follows us. Everywhere we step is colonial ground. What is contained IN lines in the ground is colonial. What is contained BY lines in the ground is colonial. The lines keep in and keep out. ‘Neo’ tries to create a false schism between the past and the present. Our past speaks into our present. We stand side by side with history’s ghosts. They stare out at us from our school books, Put their hands into our pockets and control our economy. Stand in our places of worship alchemising tradition and religion. Let us own our history. Let us own our coloniality. We are colonial.

We often fail to own our coloniality because, it makes people uncomfortable when we mention empire or colonialism. We are often regaled with cries of ‘playing the victim!’ and ‘move on already!‘ ‘get over it!’

Stop and think about that. Why does the mention of the colonial bring discomfort? Why do we avoid that discomfort? How do we get over what is not over?

Mentioning the colonial and calling for decolonisation is often seen as a rebuke, an accusation, a personal attack against which the addresee must mount a spirited defence in the lines of ‘I am a good person’ As if personal virtue suffices to defuse group disadvantage. This is privilege. This is fragility. This was not about you till you made it so. Decolonisation is a series of questions crying out for honest responses. How did we get here? Where is here? Where do we want to go? Decolonisation is never personal. It’s not about you. It’s not about me. It’s about us all and the borders of our mind that translate into structural oppression. Ideas do not require passports. There is no visa category for ideology. Decolonisation looks outward at the structures our minds have constructed that we inhabit so unconsciously as if virtue or vice dictate which group we fall into.

So we keep on drawing lines on the ground, believing our protection lies therein. Some of us have fixed our identity to lines on the ground, to something that is not there, a figment of our imagination.


So we should remember that state borders are just imagined lines on the ground,

And beware of making them primary markers of your identity,

So the sum of who you are is not limited by someone else’s imagination,

Someone drawing arbitrary lines in the dust,

Lines that can easily wiped away,

When the sea eats the land.


Look outward.

Let us free each other

Until then

We are ALL colonial.




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