Comedian Eddie Kadi is Congolese by birth, and you may forget that fact when he opens his mouth and pure Britico English flies out. He came here as a boy, and he’s absorbed the culture; taken to it as a duck to water. Hard to believe when he tells you of a time when the only two words he could say were “Hello” and “I’m fine”.
At this year’s TEDxEuston, he takes us through the journey of breaking the news of venturing into comedy to his father. And when you think of the outstanding feats he overcame, then you could possibly forgive his father’s misgivings when the young Eddie went home to tell his parents that he wished to be a comedian. According to the brilliantly funny Kadi, “When I told my dad I was going to be a comedian, he said ‘that is your first joke!'”
Indeed, these careers are alien to many African parents. Careers in sports, IT, media, creativity or consultancy are unknown to Africans of a certain generation. There are certain acceptable fields and you deviate from them at your own peril. Doctor, lawyer, engineer or businessman. Those are the options available to you. Nobody worked to put you through school just so you can crack jokes all day.
But footballers, musicians and comedians have shown us that homegrown talent is important. Laughter is medicine for the soul. Design and art makes our world that much more beautiful. Sport shows us what this frail flesh can do when pushed to the limit. And we have an infinite source of these talents in Africa.
Luckily for Eddie Kadi, his father has come round. And I am sure that the parental support has paid no small part in his stellar success. But there are many youngsters who are still being fettered by parental disapproval. It is up to us, the ‘enlightened’, to give them the strength to take the path less travelled. The people who attend events such as TEDxEuston must provide the kind of legitimacy to these jobs as more traditional roles enjoy. It is our duty to the new African generation to convince them that they do not have to travel abroad to make it. We must show a successful artist for every successful doctor. And we must show them resident in Africa. Because our power resides directly within our talents and capabilities.
Eddie Kadi says that Congo is the future; his future. He can proudly beat his hand on his chest and call Congo his identity. It is my fervent wish that every African can proudly say the same about his or her country.
Lord knows my heart wavers daily with Nigeria.
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