Travelling While Black
Essays Inspired by a Life on the Move
Thoughtful, original reflections on migration and identity from an African woman abroad.
What does it feel like to move through a world designed to limit and exclude you? What are the joys and pains of holidays for people of colour, when guidebooks are never written with them in mind? How are black lives today impacted by the othering legacy of colonial cultures and policies? What can travel tell us about our sense of self, of home, of belonging and identity? Why has the world order become hostile to human mobility, as old as humanity itself, when more people are on the move than ever?
Nanjala Nyabola is constantly exploring the world, working with migrants and confronting complex realities challenging common assumptions – both hers and others’. From Nepal to Botswana, Sicily to Haiti, New York to Nairobi, her sharp, humane essays ask tough questions and offer surprising, deeply shocking and sometimes funny answers. It is time we saw the world through her eyes.
Nanjala Nyabola is a writer and political analyst based in Nairobi, Kenya. Her work focuses on the intersection between technology and politics, as well as migration and human mobility. A constant traveller, at the time of writing she has visited over seventy countries across four continents.
‘[Written with] passion, erudition, and fluidity … Provocative and always willing to take on the conventional wisdom, Nyabola emerges with this book as an important observer.’ — Foreign Affairs
‘Through her experiences, [Nanjala Nyabola] brings to life the legacies of “othering” and colonialism that impact how Black people are perceived and treated around the world.’ — Metro
‘Skilfully told … constantly challenging the reader to ask questions and see the world from varying perspectives.’ — African Arguments
‘In the great tradition of Said, Orwell and Bessie Head, Nyabola’s is a profound, gripping and beautiful book of undeniable genius on exile, migration and travel in our catastrophic times. It speaks to all those committed to truth and justice.’ — Cornel West, author of Race Matters and Professor of the Public Practice of Philosophy, Harvard University
‘A valiant exploration of one of humanity’s most fundamental needs: the freedom to move. Drawing on a captivating life of her own, Nanjala Nyabola powerfully reminds us of the complexity of human identity. Above all, an incredibly moving book.’ — David Lammy MP, author of Tribes: How Our Need to Belong Can Make or Break Society
‘Nyabola’s insightful essays deal with identity and the notion of home and belonging, in a world challenged by mobility and dislocation. This collection joins a venerable tradition of Black essay-writing, as it discovers for the socially aware traveller new routes and philosophies to explore.’ — Margaret Busby, editor of New Daughters of Africa
‘What a book! Nyabola takes us on a travel odyssey and an inner quest, and with her we recognise what remains undone and how we see or unsee others. Lethal and restless, yet tender and vulnerable. Disturbing, delicious, defiant. A triumph.’ — Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, author of Dust and The Dragonfly Sea
‘A unique, provocative and thoughtful collection of essays. Part autobiography and travelogue, but also a powerful reflection on migration, travel, identity, racism, literature, language, Pan-Africanism and the experiences of a young Kenyan woman travelling throughout the modern world.’ — Hakim Adi, Professor of the History of Africa and the African Diaspora, University of Chichester, and author of Pan-Africanism: A History
‘At a time where the freedom of Black people to exist and move safely feels compromised, Nyabola’s collection of essays on travelling is an urgent intervention which powerfully marries cultural and political exploration to the intricacies of modern Black identity.’ — Jason Okundaye, writer and campaigner