For many years, Innocent and his friends continued the practice of ‘eating with dignity’, refusing to eat in places where there was no respect for them.
Innocent: Firstly, Africa Center is the space to connect with the African community as well as the wider community in Hong Kong, which is something that wasn’t here when I came. Sometimes in the past, it took me a few weeks to connect with a number of people who could click and share certain things.
Secondly, for me, Africa Center embodies the idea of self-realization, a place to be yourself, a place to explore yourself, a place to see how much you could potentially do and not do, so I think it’s all of that. You could dream something, you could imagine and envision something and be able to see if you can implement it and get the feedback, and continuously improve primarily oneself. What the platform is for me, will evolve.
One of my favorite moments is when we are all eating here together. I remember when we came to Hong Kong, a friend called Farhan and I started a movement called ‘eating with dignity’, primarily because we felt like when we were eating in some places, we were treated like monkeys in the zoo. ‘Eating with dignity’ implied that we had to forgo some delicious food so that we could survive on one roti prata [an Indian-influenced flatbread] with a tiny sauce that we were sharing, so that becomes our daily meal. We went hungry but we went hungry with dignity without having to eat the food of somebody who is going to telling us we are acting like monkeys and some poor people who couldn’t do shit for themselves.
It’s not always easy to follow the principles if you are on an empty stomach, it’s easy to follow principles if you are Bill Gates because there are not much consequences. Most of the things in life is about resources, and for some of us, it was about food at a particular point. That was the kind of reality I lived in, thinking whether tomorrow, I wake up alive or not. We agree to stick to principles: that’s why the eating part is important to me, that finally we are eating with dignity here at the center. It isn’t only one roti prata with a little sauce now; there is a lot more of fancy decorated food with dignity now, and some of you may not know how that feels because in the past, it was something else. Since then, I’ve appreciated food more. You know, the meaning of it. Just like the whole idea of eating without somebody trying to sneak a camera in a certain angle that is so demeaning.
Elsie: Eating with our hands, is not something bad: we have fork and spoon in our countries. I don’t know for my brother’s place [Innocent] if it’s eating with the hands has the same meaning, but in my dad’s house where we used to eat with our hands, meant that we are eating from the same plate, where there is no difference and no judgement: we are all the same. It was our way to show that we love each other, and I don’t care about your saliva and that you are eating with your hands and your saliva: no, we are all the same. That’s part of the meaning with eating with our hands. It’s a power! I’m teaching my kids how to eat with their hands. It’s important because it’s from generations and if someone think that we need to think twice about eating with our hands, go to hell. I will use my fingers as much as I want to. It’s ours. That what I was saying, Africa Center allows me to be myself and it’s a good thing.