Abdirahman and Ali speak of Africa Center as a platform to rewrite the narratives that people had placed upon their countries and the continent.
Ali: At Africa Center, we stand strongly against the narratives that we see. We are living in a society that puts the entire continent of Africa as one, and then the behavior of one black person, whom I would call a brother—if he does something wrong or something good, people always see the darker side of him and inevitably this affects all of us. At Africa Center, we are quite open to anybody to come here to sit together and to work on something. When we achieve something together, we really feel proud even when we are tired; when we see people happy, we feel this success, that we did something good. We are a platform that collaborates with different people, to give them the vision that we have. We want to show the people where we come from and how we are.
People don’t know your background. As a person who comes from a new place, you need to approach the people to show them what your background is and what you really have to offer, so that these people will see and approach you again; we do what we can for the positive image and I am speaking for the brothers and sisters.
Abdirahman: If you are working for a multinational company in Hong Kong, most of the things we do are related to the economic aspects of our lives but not much about the social or the cultural part of it. At Africa Center, you can meet a lot of people and you can take the opportunity to have an impact on how you are seen, because whether you like it or not, people will see you in one way or another.
It is kind of your responsibility because you have the chance to represent yourself to people from other places and not letting people have their own understanding of you without you putting an input in that understanding. You a chance to show them a different knowledge, and in all of those actions, bit by bit, you get a chance to contribute to how people see you, how you are presented in a global context.
In Hong Kong, if I want other people to know about me, I would rather be the one telling them about myself instead of letting others tell about me. If I am from a certain country in Africa, living in an environment in which the people are similar to me, and then I come out of that environment to Hong Kong, where I am no longer Somali because now I am African as any other African from South Africa, West Africa, and if I have these similarities as an African and everyone exists in the same way, then now it’s my responsibility to represent us. I think being in Hong Kong is an opportunity because in places like Hong Kong, narratives about Africans are less established than other places like the United States and you really have an opportunity to make a difference in that story about Africans. That’s what we are doing at Africa Center.
What I really find important as a platform is that we are able to tell people what we feel about our countries and our stories. If I wanted to know about you Miki, I wouldn’t ask Abdikafi about Miki to tell me about you, I would rather come to you directly and ask you about you. There are always these people who come out and say I’m an expert on Africa but you have other people who are from Africa, who lived there, who are born there, who are experts of Africa because they are Africans and they know about Africa. When you want to know something about Africa and you are in Hong Kong, you have the chance to come here and get your answers from real resources, resources that know the aspects of the African life. You have the ability to get that message across to everyone who wants to know more, instead of asking people who don’t really know the entirety of Africa.