"Funny, moving and uplifting"
Why Pandora's Box?
Lagos International Airport, 2006. The arrivals lounge is full of kids with English accents. It’s early September. Shouldn’t they be in departures, on their way back to England for the start of term?
But they’d come to Nigeria FOR the start of term. They were British-born diaspora kids whose parents (mostly British-born too) were opting to educate them in Africa. Some had been plucked out of ‘good’ schools with prestigious reputations. Why?
“All black children should spend at least a few years of their lives in a black majority nation, for their developmental well-being,” said one parent. “They get to see black people as prime ministers, architects, lawyers, leaders. It widens their horizons. They see alternative ways to live, and other ways to be.” A Brixton mother was there with her five-year old daughter, “I’m not taking any chances,” she said. A couple from Barking told me their priest had advised them as newly-weds: primary school, London; secondary school, Nigeria.
Those encounters sparked this play, along with the many conversations with friends who, like me, have wrestled with the question: where is the best place to raise an African-diaspora child in the 21st century? Many were against the idea of 'transportation', saying, "you stick it out wherever you are. Work to build and improve institutions. Don't run back to Africa." Others claimed it was "an admission of failure" if any parent had to send their child away. I listened. As the headlines about teen trouble proliferated, I sniffed a great story.
‘Pandora’s Box’ looks at the relative merits of London vs Lagos re educating . In it, a London mother takes her son on holiday to Nigeria and must decide whether or not to leave him there.
The play explores the universal human subject of a parent’s struggle to do what’s best for his/her child. But it’s the first time the drama of sending a child back home to Africa has been set on the British stage. So it’s also a story that has never been told before.
Why not? Because the first generation of British-born Africans are only now coming of age to tell it. These challenges are happening to us for the first time. These dilemmas are upon us here and now, as we raise our kids and try to navigate them through life, and come of age as British-born children who are now parents ourselves.
And our ‘coming of age’ coincides with the new era of ‘Africa Rising.’ That too presents those of us born in the West with delicious dilemmas and juicy conflicts : here or there? Part-here, part-there? We here, kids there? Kids here, we there? Now it’s time to reflect on these issues, to dramatise these choices, argue about them, write about them, and share our unique stories with the world. How wonderful to launch this play and the Spora project in 2011, the UN International Year for People of African Descent.
Pandora's Box Events
Fight or Flight: Education, British-African kids and Africa
Out of the Box – Young people talk about their education and aspirations, and involvement in UK, African and diaspora leadership progammes with representatives from UK youth development organisations.