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The Rife Team

Being Burundi In Bristol


Imagine your house turned into a community centre for people from the same culture as you every weekend. That’s Prince’s life.

Burundi that’s the answer and I am proud to say it.

‘Where are you from?’

This is a common question I’m asked throughout my school life still to this day. Being from a country with the population a fifth of England and around the size of Wales I used to shy away from answering. Burundi that’s the answer and I am proud to say it. It is a country full of diverse traditions and culture. Most people had never heard of it until I tell them I am from there and sometimes they still don’t believe that it is a real country.


Moving to England at such a young age I felt distant from the culture and saw it more like my mothers culture then mine. My mother is a proud to be from there and in my house you can always hear my mothers voice echoing the language to relatives across the globe.

…you can always hear my mothers voice echoing the language to relatives across the globe.

As I grew older there were some awkward moments when my mother would force me to speak to relative on the phone who spoke little to no English and I felt ashamed not to speak the language. Not speaking the language I felt like I couldn’t get involved with some of banter that was going on. This became most apparent when we went there on holiday in 2010. There were cousins and other family relative that I couldn’t speak to.

But there are other ways to communicate and I started to enjoy this great experience that I was luck enough to have. I started to enjoy it more by doing the tiniest things like playing football with other people and going to the beach.  People who I have never seen or talk to in my life were coming up smiling and hugging me. This is when I realised I was blessed to be part of a culture where everybody care for each other and are so close.  Respecting your elders was a big thing and you seem to call most everybody older then you are either your aunty or uncle. But probably the best thing about it is the food it must be an unwritten rule that you must overcook and always have enough for seconds, thirds and even fourths.

Burundians seem to be spread all across the globe but it such a tight community you either have a family member or a family friend in most countries in the world. In Bristol there must only be around fifty but it seems like hundreds.

On Saturday my house feels like a Burundian community centre. People come and stay till the late hours of the night and always mock me about not speaking the language even though they know I don’t. If they get a little drunk then the dance moves start to come out. They look like choreography routine they are all so in sync with one another.


Everybody who comes seems to bring a bucket of food so by the time everybody arrives there is a landfill of food on my dining table. You treat everybody like family so still to this day I don’t even know who my real relatives are. My mum tried to always keep a bit of that African culture even after we moved.  In my wardrobe there must be three or four African outfits in there.  Shirt, trouser, hats you name it I got it. Dotted around my house are little things from or related to Burundi and the biggest thing is that our coffee stand are drums made from Burundi or the various flags that our around the house.  Something we tried to do every year is to go to Coventry on 1st July to celebrate Independence Day. I feel like almost every Burundian who is in England is there, even famous people like West Bromwich Albion striker Saido Berahino. I see Burundian culture on a bigger scale, I hear the national anthem, seeing Burundian drumming and hear native songs.

I feel like Bristol really helped me accepted and explore my wonderful culture being such a diverse city.

I feel like Bristol really helped me accepted and explore my wonderful culture being such a diverse city.  But not all the culture is good we have this dark history of civil war. These two tribes fighting nearly destroyed Burundi so now they are trying to teach my generation not to worry about tribes and see all Burundians as a collective group.

Now in July 2016 being Burundian affects my everyday life.  I have seen the many advantages and wonderful affect having a diverse background does. So many different types of cultures all working together in complete harmony creates so many opportunities. I think food is important to any culture and this is definitely with Burundian. Waking up Saturday morning to find out your mum is cooking porridge is still one of the best feelings I have ever experience.

When my mum speaks to me in the language even though she knows I don’t understand fully and I just need to guess what she is saying by the context. One little thing that I got from the culture is that I shake a lot of people hands. This comes after years of shaking family relatives hands when meeting them. There are so many advantages of being cultural diverse which I don’t think many people know about and I think as this boy from a tiny country I can see how much culture can me to the people of the country but also the country itself.

If you’re looking for stuff to do, get involved in acta community theatre– an arts/theatre charity engaging everyone in society.

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