Black Mzungu (Osborne)

The Black Mzungu 
Alexandria K. Osborne, 2015
Niyah Publishing
222 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780982221570

When Alexandria "Nur" Osborne applied for a short fellowship in Tanzania, she never imagined that 6 months would turn into a lifetime; and that the bush of East Africa would teach her about love, identity, and courage.

The Black Mzungu is the vivid, candid account of how Nur, an African American Muslim expat, and Saidi, her Tanzanian husband whom she met during the fellowship, breathe life into a beautiful 92 acre homestead vacated four decades earlier by Saidi's family.

Living there on the coastal southern region of Lindi, Tanzania, Nur's perceptions of how things "ought" to be are often challenged. From the dangerous natural wildlife to locals who view them as outsiders, she and Saidi must learn to navigate both natural and man-made obstacles. Still, through personal triumphs, they forge a way to give back to the land they now call home.

Mzungu is derived from the Swahili word "kizunguzungu," which means dizzy. When Europeans came to East Africa they were always getting lost and wandered in circles. Indigenous people gave them the name "mzungu" because they wandered in circles to the point of making someone dizzy.

Mzungu has evolved to mean the "wanderer."  Now it is used to mean someone of European descent. However, it is also commonly used to refer to any non-Swahili speaking foreigner. As an adjective it is used to mean a certain lifestyle (e.g., that mzungu house or "do not charge me a mzungu price").

Recently I have been feeling more like a real mzungu; that is, a wanderer. As friends and family from the life I had known for 5 decades move, change jobs, or even die, I wonder "where is home?" As an African-American residing in sub-Sahara Africa I had resisted the term mzungu, even sometimes feeling insulted. Now I realize I am mzungu, the WANDERER, looking for a place to call home. (From the author.)

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