“Multiculturalism has helped develop my sense of self”

The question of ‘who I am’ prompts for a journey of self-discovery. The answer to this question is rooted in my DNA, my personal experiences and the environment that has shaped my identity over the years. I am of Nigerian heritage, but I also strongly identify with British culture. This is due to the fact that I have lived in London for most of my life and a lot of my personal life experiences in the city have played a very instrumental role in my social development and sense of self.

As an African growing up in a multicultural environment, the benefits are two-fold. It has created an environment for a cultural exchange with people from different backgrounds and it has also provided me with the choice to stay in touch with my heritage by mingling within the Nigerian community. These elements of living in a multicultural environment have been strongly engrained into my identity and I feel that it has played an enhancing role in my relationships with people, particularly individuals from different cultures and traditions.

From a contextual point of view, the globalisation of the economy and technological advancement has played an indirect role in globalising our societal elements, particularly our relationships and peer groups. The shift towards diversity has given the Millennial generation a new lens on cultural perspective. In other words, it has shifted the idea of ‘the other’ into the idea of curiosity, tolerance and acceptance.

The effects of diversity are not only displayed in our peer groups. It is also reflected in the individuals we look to for inspiration. I think my generation is aspirational and we look to prominent figures to inspire and help propel us towards our goals. Currently there is an on-going trend of young people selecting inspirational figures that do not directly share the same cultural background, but share some other type of similarity. In my case, I find inspiration in artists such as Jay-Z, Mark Rothko and Jean Michel Basquiat. I may not share the same heritage as those mentioned, but we still share similar life experiences. By forming parallels it enables me to see myself in those prominent people and be confident in what I wish to become in the future. In other words, who I want to be makes up the fabric of who I am.

By Joshua Okungbaiye; aged 24; Nigerian/British