Skip to main contentAccess keys helpA-Z index
BBC World Service Launch BBC Media Player
  • Help
  • Text only
Radio home
World Service
Radio Schedules
Learning English
World News
Middle East
South Asia
Have your say
Country Profiles
In Depth
Last updated: 02 January, 2007 - Published 15:43 GMT
Email a friend Printable version
Nowhere man

Gray Phombeah
The BBC's nowhere man in Nairobi
This is a story about a nowhere man - born to a Kenyan mother and a Malawian father, and growing up not belonging to either country but somewhere in between and sometimes anywhere he happened to find himself.

Belonging to a rather insignificant Kenyan tribe and an imaginary fatherland elsewhere spared him the horrors of tribal or national rituals and loyalties.

The departure of his father when he was five and the death of his mother when he was barely ten set the tone for a life that had little visible traditional signposts or benchmarks.

The Catholic Church couldn't stop him embracing with revolutionary socialism in his early youth, and writing offered him the illusion of belonging.

The liberation struggles in Angola and Mozambique fascinated him; Kenya's independence and that of Malawi offered two new countries and perhaps a new beginning.

New level of nowhere-ness

But carrying a Malawian surname, a Kenyan passport and speaking Kiswahili in an adopted Tanzania accent did not help much.

 So many forces conspired to shape this nowhere man

The nowhere man brought forth two small copies of himself, a son and daughter, and began a new life with a Kenyan Indian bride, taking his nowhere-ness to a new level.

So many forces conspired to shape this nowhere man: God and Karl Marx, his distant pan-Africanist father, his father's comrade-in-arms Julius Nyerere and Kwame Nkrumah, writers like Victor Hugo and James Baldwin, the sounds of Salsa and Rumba, the BBC and the internet - and this secret place in the nowhere man, which cannot be entered, where he paces alone, 3am in the morning of his soul.

Of course, there is no standard definition of this life, for the simple reason that there is no clear-cut identity - or answers - for the nowhere man. Only the life he leads.

Well, I should know.

I am the nowhere man.

The new Network Africa competition seeks explore our African identity. Who are you? Do you identify yourself first and foremost with your family, your ethnic group, your country, or your continent? and how does that affect the way you behave, the way you see the world?

If you'd like to share your personal thoughts on this subject, e-mail no more than 300 words to, and put 'Who Am I' in the subject line. Or write to Who Am I, Network Africa, BBC Bush House, London.

Kwaku Sakyi-Addo African, plus
"Who am I?": Kwaku Sakyi-Addo describes his personal identity
Ghana magazine page detailFocus on Africa magazine
Kwaku Sakyi-Addo examines the forging of a Ghanaian identity
Email a friend Printable version
SERVICES About Us | Feedback | Daily Email | News on mobile devices
BBC Copyright Logo
^^ Back to top
  BBC News >> | BBC Sport >> | BBC Weather >> | Learning English >>
BBC Monitoring >> | BBC World Service Trust >>
  Help | Site Map | Privacy