Cultural Fusion

By Tanielle Dlamini


My mother is Jamaican

My father is South African 

In Jamaica, I’m Tanielle

In South Africa, I’m Amahle


I have my names

I have my roots,

Yet I don’t know who I am

Or who to claim


My dad can’t cook, so I don’t really like pap

Maybe it’s the lack of flavor

Maybe it’s the lack of love

My dad wasn’t around, so I don’t speak Zulu

My tongue doesn’t click naturally

And the words don’t make sense


My mother raised me on curry goat

Spices and seasonings singe my tongue

I have to fish out a heart-shaped pepper

So I don’t lose my tastebuds

My mother spoke patois

But me no speak di language

I’m quite bad actually

People have said I have an accent like my mothers

But that’s just me speaking naturally 


My mother worked in nursing 

And my father loved writing 


When I was younger,

I wanted a career in healthcare

But now I’m a writer 


I guess you could say I’m my father’s daughter

I’m actually just like him

I’ve even had his name

But I’m a little less Zulu

Angilwazi ulimi

I don’t know what I’m saying

I don’t know if I could call myself Zulu

My family knows me but I’m vague

My ancestors have seen me but none of me at all

I don’t know my culture 

I guess I’m Zulu by association

Am I even Zulu at all?

The first word I learned was unjani

But Dad, I don’t know how I’m feeling


I’m not American

I’m Jamaican 

My birth certificate is a lie

A thin strip of paper does not define my life


I was raised on F.C. Barnes, Bob Marley, 

and my mother’s beautiful smile

I would have it no other way

The joy of a culture that I cannot live in myself

It’s as close as I’ll get

I can see the beauty of the island in my mother

Her love grows sweet like the mangoes

Yellow hanging off of tall green trees

Enjoyed by all

She speaks kindly like the community

Not one person could hate her

Her soil grew me like a flower


But I’ve bloomed into an anomaly

I don’t know who I am

Or which country is mine


Am I a Zulu princess, unceremoniously crowned?

Or a Jamaican girl trapped in a country that’s not her home.


I stay in the middle

Swimming across the Atlantic Ocean

Salty water hits my eyes 

The lines are blurred 

Jamaica or South Africa

Staying on the line, it hurts


Why can’t both of them be mine?