Wednesday, July 3, 2013

What "Afro-European" & "Afropean" Mean

Edited by Azizi Powell

This pancocojams post provides information & commentary about the group referents "Afro-European" and "Afropean". Links to additional posts about this population & two videos that feature persons from this population are also included in this post.

The content of this post is presented for cultural, sociological, educational, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Disclaimer: As I am an African American living in the United States, I wouldn't dream of speaking for Afro-Europeans/Afropeans, although, according to my understanding of the definitions of "Afro-European" and "Afropean", if I were to move to Europe, I would be considered a member of that population.

Additions & corrections to the information & commentary that is presented in this post are very welcome.

"Afro-European" is a referent for persons of Black African descent who were born in or who live in European nations. A second definition of "Afro-European" is that it refers to mixed racial persons of Black African & White European ancestry.*

"Afropean" is a shortened form of that same referent.

The term "Afro-European" follows the same structure of such population referents as "Afro-American", "Afro-Cuban", and "Afro-Caribbean". Each of these terms are formed by combining the prefix "Afro" (meaning "African") with the word "European".

*I wrote "White European" because I think that the world is moving away from a time when the term "European" is a synonym for "White".

Some could maintain that "African American" could be a referent for a person of any race from Africa who now lives in the United States of America [notwithstanding the fact that "America" actually refers to much more than the USA]. Therefore, I suppose "Afro-European" could also refer to White people from Africa who now live in Europe. (Or maybe the referent for White Africans would be "Euro-Africans". However, I've never seen "Euro-African" used & I'm not promoting its use.)

But defining "Afro-European" as a person of any race from Africa now living in Europe" doesn't appear to be the usual meaning of the term "Afro-European". However, it's the reason why in the definition above I added the word "Black" before the phrase "African descent".

And would "Asian Africans" be a generalized referent for Asians living in Africa or who were born in Africa? There are, after all, White people and other People of Color besides Black people living in or who were born in most African nations. I wonder if there are any generalized, pan-African referents for that population which includes those who are racially mixed and/or who aren't racially mixed. Given the rising number of Chinese in Africa, it seems to me that such a racial referent may be needed now or in the immediate future.

Here are two definitions of "Afropean" from : (Note: These examples are presented in chronological order with the oldest date first.)

1. Afropean
Person who relates both to Africa and Europe. Usually a person of African descent who lives in Europe and has European tastes and tendencies. Also children of both African and European parentage.

"English is your first language and you don't speak an African language, not even your mother tongue? You're so Afropean!"

"Khaki pants? This is a city not the bush - you're not African anymore. You're Afropean."

"His father's Dutch and his mother's Namibian, the boy's Afropean."

by Mutaleni Nadimi Aug 9, 2006

2. Afropean:
Term to describe the trans-cultural influences of (..usually...) mixed race individuals, or members of the black diaspora living in Europe. First coined by Talking Heads singer David Byrne, to describe the music of Belgo-Congolese group 'Zap Mama'.* Later popularized by Afro-French sister duo Les Nubians.

"They burst onto the international music scene more than a decade ago, with a blend of European and African styles they call "Afropean."**
-An Afropean, Feb 25, 2012

*Read more about Zap Mama & David Byrne in the online examples section below. I'm not certain whether Zap Mama or David Byrne coined the album title "Afropea" or if that form of the referent "Afropean" was used prior to the involvement of Zap Mama with David Byrne's record company. Also, click to find an example of a later Zap Mama song entitled "Bandy Bandy".

**This is a quote from a 2011 NPR program about the duo
“Les Nubians”.

A video of "Les Nubians" is found below.

Additional definitions of "Afro-European:/"Afropean" are found throughout this post.

Note: My sincere thanks to the editors & authors of these blogs, websites, facebook page, and other online examples.

The first use of a form of the referent “Afropean” that I found was from 3/1991 (the title of a Zap Mama album). "Zap Mama" is a Belgium neo-soul singing group & also the stage name of its lead singer Marie Daulne who is of Belgium/Congolese ancestry:
"....In 1989, she [Marie Dauline] founded the group Zap Mama to merge the African and European aspects of her identity.[15] Daulne auditioned scores of female singers looking for the right combination of voices for an a cappella ensemble.[16] "When I did my first album, I was looking for girls that were the same mix as me--African and European," she says.[10] "I wanted to put these two sounds together to prove that to have blood from white and black was perfect harmony on the inside."

In 1992, Zap Mama came to the United States for the first time to perform at New Music Seminar in New York. There, they met David Byrne and agreed to let him reissue Zap Mama's first recordings as Adventures in Afropea 1[9] on Luaka Bop Records.[17] By the end of the year, Billboard announced it was the top seller for "world music."-From


“The project Afroeurope@ans: Black cultures and identities in Europe funded by the Spanish Ministry of Science & Technology, is pleased to circulate this call for contributions to its exciting new project – the creation of the first online multilingual Encyclopedia of Afro-European Studies. The Encyclopedia constitutes a seminal step in a series of activities undertaken by the Afroeurope@ans Project since 2004, including the organization of biannual conferences, the publication of the e-journal AFROEUROPA: Journal of Afroeuropean Studies and a collection of essays Afroeurope@ans: Culture and Identities (Cambridge Scholars, 2009) and expanding the network of scholars, artists, and activists through academic exchange and cultural events.

The Encyclopedia will cover a range of topics related to the presence of Africans or people of African descent throughout Europe from the shores of the Atlantic to the Ural mountains including Spain, France, Italy, Portugal, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Russia, the Nordic countries, etc".

“Welcome to the Afro European Sisters Network (AESN). A site that focuses on networking black women in and outside of Europe. As women tell their stories it allows others to learn lessons from their lives. Sharing this knowledge will also empower women with the ability to become one.”

**** "What is Afro-Europe? Who are the Afro-Europeans or black Europeans?"
Tuesday, September 1, 2009 by Sibo Kano*

*Pancocojams Editor's Note: Sibo Kano is Afro-Flemish [from Belgium]

"...The central question is what a Nigerian in Italy, an Angolan in Sweden, a Jamaican in the UK and a mixed race Congolese in France or Germany have in common. Europe is not even united so how would black people coming from different nations feel united within Europe? We don’t even have a common language. Below I will give my opinion on this issue.

...What we have in common is the western and European experience, and the way we are categorized within Europe as a certain kind of people. Whether you are in France, Germany, Italy or any other European country, the majority white people of Europe perceive people of African ancestry in quite the same way. This categorization isn’t entrenched in the laws of European nations, but for centuries in the past it was. It isn’t something we can easily describe nor can we demonstrate it through clear facts and figures. However, through a history of relations between Europe and the darker peoples of the planet, the ‘black man’ has received a certain place. Although racial slavery has been abolished, and racist laws eradicated from law books, the concepts and ideas inherited from more than 5 centuries of African-European relationships are still there. Whatever the colour of our skin, we are part of this history...An anomaly

Black people in Europe, whether with brown or black skin, whether born there or not, whether having a white parent or not, whether adopted or not, whether they speak the national language or not, whether integrated or not, ...are all perceived as a certain kind of foreigners. They are not supposed to be there. But in reality most black people in Europe have built their homes in Europe, have adopted European cultures as their own and are perfectly integrated. If not the first generation, then certainly their children...

This experience; being perceived as foreigners from a common continent (whether being really a foreigner or not), is central in the creation of our identity. Identity is based on the relationship you have with others. I do think that most Europeans of African ancestry, i.e culturally integrated black people, would prefer just to be seen as part of the country where they are living, fully accepted as members of that society. In reality it is not so. Even when they have actually forgotten the cultures and languages of their ancestors and only know the Western world as their world, they will still be seen as an anomaly within the Western world, even after generations...
The presence of black people in Europe is a logic consequence of the African-European history. Europe seems not to accept this logic."...

**** "The break: Blogging Black from the Netherlands and how I became an Afro-European" by Erik K. [lead editor of Afro-Europe International Blog]

" Afro-European element what I perhaps share with other Afro-Europeans is that I want to have a piece of the country where I was born and raised in. It’s position I don’t even have to defend. Being black and European means that I also have an Afro-European connection on issues like race, black success and other specific black issues. But there is one issue that I consider very important, I don’t only have connection with Afro-Europe, but also with Africa."
Note from Pancocojams editor:
In the one year that I started blogging on, I've noticed that there have been some other African American commenters on that site, as well as some South American commenters. For that reason, I think that Erik K would probably now amend his comment above to write "I don't only have connections with Afro-Europe, but also with Africa and the rest of the African Diaspora". That's certainly how I feel.

Update: Afroeurope blog editor Erik K. confirmed my guess in a comment that he added to this post on July 4, 2013.

**** July 1, 2013 Photo book: "An Afropean Odyssey" - A Black European Travel Narrative
This post includes selected photographs and a video of photographs from award winning writer, photographer, and London television host Johny Pitts.
"Video: A photo-montage from my travels around Europe looking at Afropean/ Black European culture with Joy Denalane's 'Vier Frauen' (Sara Tavares, Chiwoniso, D├ęborah, Joy Denalane) as a the soundtrack.


"English - Blackwomenineurope, Afroeuropeans, Expatriates
A place to celebrate women of the African Diaspora living in Europe."

Example #1: Faces of Afro-European people

AfroPrideTV, Uploaded on Jan 14, 2012

Here's the words that are found on the screen in the beginning of this video:
“Black people in Europe (Sometimes referred to as Afro-Europeans), although this term is also used to describe people of mixed African and European descent, especially in the former European colonies, are black people who are residents or citizens of European countries. They include immigrants as well as European-born people of Black African descent.

A council of European parliamentary assembly report on immigration from sub-Saharan Africa gives the number of sub-Saharan African migrants to Europe as between 3.5 and 8 million concentrated mainly in Belgium, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom. The report also notes that these figures are likely underestimated because of illegal migration.”

This video features photographs of famous movie stars, athletes, singers and other famous Afro-Europeans. Most of the examples are from the United Kingdom. This video also includes people of African descent from Turkey.

As one might expect from a YouTube viewer comment thread of a video of this subject, many of the comments about this video are argumentative & racist. Nevertheless, there are some interesting comments on that comment thread:

Warning for public school use: There's a very brief photograph of topless women in this video. Pancocojams usually doesn't include videos of such scenes.

Example #2: Les Nubians- Sugar Cane (What is Black Beauty?)

Nina513, Uploaded on Aug 8, 2010

A video dedicated to the beauty that is Les Nubians has been LONG overdue on youtube. This video is dedicated two these two sisters and the African ancestors who shine through them. They inspire so many people around the world through their music, style and honesty.

This song is off of their debut album "Princesses Nubiennes" and happens to be one of my favorites from them. Play close attention to the meaning of this song and the pictures included.

God bless!

Thanks to all those who are mentioned in this post. Special shout out and special thanks to Erik K from Although that blog's posts & comments will be available for reading and new comments will still be able to be added to those posts, regretfully the lead editor Erik K. has decided that the post by Johhny Pitts that is mentioned above is the last post that will be published on that blog.

I'm glad that I happened upon that afro-europe blog in 2012. My first comment on that blog was in response to a 2009 post by Sibo Kano about being Afro-European. Excerpts of that post are found above, and that comment that I wrote is found in the comment section to this post.


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  1. Here's a comment that I wrote to about the "Afro-European" referent:


    I've just read this 2009 post & the comments and want to commend most of those who have written thus far, but particularly you, Sibo Kano. Your January 20, 2010 11:49 AM post was so on point. It should be required reading and processing for all those people trying to understand the transition Europe and other places in the world are going through with regard to race/ethnicity.

    I'm African American and grew up in the 1950s when "White" and "European" were considered to be synonymous referents. Even in that decade there were Europeans who were People of Color (mixed White/non-White or otherwise). But now as you wrote, Sibo, as a "logical consequence of Western history" and as a natural result of globilization, there are even more People of Color in Europe, some born there and some immigrated there.

    As an outsider looking in, I suppose that those persons who live in Europe (and elsewhere) who are biologically White/non-White could advocate for a change in the definition of who is "White". But even if that was the path that one wanted to take, it seems to me (again as an outsider), that given the realities of racism in the world, it would be pyschologically healthier and more realistic for those persons in Europe to consider themselves as Black or Brown and as part of the larger referent of "African Europeans" or "Afro-European", with the specific applicable referent such as "Afro-Belgium"; "Afro-Italian", "Afro-British" etc.

    In my lifetime we African Americans went through a number of self-referents before "African Americans" became our largely accepted formal group & individual referent (with "Black American" still being used as an informal referent for the same population, and more people of African descent who live in the USA- not to mention more people of African descent who live in the Americas apart from the USA).

    In the USA, over time, the hyphens are usually dropped in group names so African-American is almost always written as "African American".

    In my lifetime (around the 1970s), the term "Afro-American" was used but was later rejected. I think that was in part because "afro" didn't reference any geographical place like "African" does, and in part because an "afro" was a hair style. That said, if "Afro-European" is the accepted general term for people of African descent in Europe - which it appears to have become - then that referent is the one I will use.

    As was and is the case in the USA, people have "the right and the responsibility to name themselves and speak for themselves rather than to be named and spoken for by others". [That quote is from the "Kawaida" philosophy of Maulana Karenga, the founder of the Black holiday, Kwanzaa.]

    Thanks for what you are doing to make the world a better place for Black people, for Brown people, and for all people."

    Ms. Azizi Powell, June 17, 2012 at 3:38 AM

  2. One example of the significant changes that have been happening in Europe is the fact that in 2012 a Black (mixed race) woman became the second Black woman to be crowned Miss Belgium. (The first such winner was in 2005). Since 2000 a number of other Black (mostly mixed race) women have also been crowned "Miss ____" of their respective European nation.

    Click for a partial listing (with photographs, nations, & dates)of many of those winners.

  3. Great post Azizi and you are right, I meant the African diaspora as a whole.

    1. Thanks for confirming my guess, Erik.

      I appreciate it and I wish you all the best.

  4. Ms. Powell, this is Inna, the creator of the "Sugar Cane" video and I received your comment on Youtube yesterday. I would like to first off thank you so much for featuring my video in this amazing article.

    This was one of my most favorite videos that I created because it was specifically made in dedication to our African ancestors. And to see that you have found it useful for a post dedicated to educating people around the world about Afro-Europeans is wonderful.

    I also really dig this site and the information and topics that you touch on. I will be sharing this post; as well as, subscribing to this site.

    Thank you again!

    1. Thank you, Inna.

      I appreciate your comment & your talent & skill in creating that video.

      Since I have your attention, may I be so bold as to broach this subject with you:

      I struggle with how to honor the positive spirit & purpose of the South African Reed Dance ceremony (Umhlanga) because of the unmarried female participants adhere to the tradition of going topless. I can understand why you added that photograph, but unfortunately that one scene might mean that that video might be prohibited for viewing in United States public schools. For that reason, I almost didn't include your video, but the message of self-esteem was so strong & the fact that Les Nubians are an Afropean duo, swayed me to keep the video that you created in this post.

      Inna, I wonder if you would consider publishing an alternative version of that same video without that topless photograph, of course while retaining your originally created video.

      Thanks again for your comment & thanks for making me aware of your I bookmarked it & plan to be a frequent visitor.

    2. Because I know so very little about the South African Reed Dance ceremony, I shouldn't have rushed to describe it as "postitive in spirit & purpose" (from my point of view of what "positive" means). That is off-the-topic of this thread, but I wanted to add that.

  5. Thanks a 1000 times for this! Great post :-)

    1. You're welcome, Sibo.

      And thank you for sharing with us your experiences & and your understanding of what being Afro-European means.

      Best wishes!