What The World Cup Means To Women Of Dual Nationality

Jess Commons

The 2018 World Cup has started and, whether or not you're a football fan, it's impossible not to get caught up in this global celebration that brings people and nations together – even if it's just for a moment.

Britain is more diverse than ever. In 2018, we're a melting pot of traditions and cultures from all over the globe. But what is it like during the World Cup if you come from more than just one country? As it is, British-born descendants of ethnic minority immigrants represent over a third of the country's ethnic population, meaning there are plenty of people out there who find themselves in this position.

Creative director and visual storyteller Dami Khadijah was born and raised in London. Her parents were born in Nigeria and her dual heritage means she "consolidates and entwines the two countries to create the perfect synergy in the ideas behind her work and style."

She does, however, struggle to find stories of second and third generationers in the media. This group, she explains, get identified by their ethnic background in the UK (even though some may have no real connection to it) while in their parents' homeland they can be seen as outsiders. Every day, she says, young ethnic minority women in the UK navigate their dual cultural identity and try to balance their cultural heritage.

It is this sentiment that inspired her latest project: Born in the West, Raised by the East. Focussing on the five African countries taking part in the World Cup, she photographed women who hail from Nigeria, Senegal, Tunisia, Morocco or Egypt plus another country.

"This is a moment I wanted to intentionally exploit," she says of using the World Cup as a catalyst (all the women were shot wearing a mix of national football kit and traditional dress). She wants to challenge narratives about women and football, something especially pertinent considering FIFA's female secretary general, Fatma Samoura is Senegalese. Other themes include disrupting beliefs about differences between the north and the south of Africa.

"In the end," she says, "I created a visual story that celebrates these women showing how cultural heritage is intertwined with being British and how they both live as one identity."

Click through to see Dami's pictures.

Mariah Idrissi – Morocco

Nominated in 2018 as one of the Most Influential People of African Descent Under 40, Mariah was born in London to a Moroccan father and works as a model and activist.

She was the first hijab-wearing model for H&M in their Close The Loop campaign after being scouted in Westfield.

Growing up she was told she was "not African enough to be African, not Asian enough to be Asian and not Arab enough to be Arab." Which, she said, made "fitting in" a challenge. "So what did I do?" she says. "Simply not try to fit in. One of the great things about being of mixed heritage is the ability to be adaptable to so many different cultures and backgrounds because you've always had to be starting from home! I learned that I don't need to fit into one box, I fit into many."

"The World Cup makes me feel so proud when I see my country of origin represented," she continues. "The fun thing about having mixed nationalities is you just support whoever's winning!"

Photographed by Dami Khadijah.

Marilyn Okoro – Nigeria

British track and field athlete Marilyn was raised in London to Nigerian parents. She won bronze in the 800m at the 2007 and 2008 IAAF World Athletics Final and was on the bronze-winning team for the 4 × 400m relay at the 2007 World Championships in Athletics.

"I am British," she says. "I feel it in my upbringing and I am a true reflection of what this means."

She continues: "I love my Nigerian culture and I fully embrace it all. My first language was Igbo, I love, love, love the food and enjoy cooking and preparing traditional Nigerian delicacies such as jollof rice, egusi soup, rice and stew."

Marilyn says that British fans are amazing but she has always been aware and vocal that it's her Nigerian genetics that make her the athlete she is. "Being part of the British track team I was joined by several of my fellow Naija sisters and teammates such as Christine Ohuruogu, Anyika Onuora and Samson Oni, and it was nice to be able to break into 'pigeon' whenever we wanted!"

When it comes to the World Cup, Marilyn is rooting for both England and Nigeria. "Sadly I don’t know much about football but I do know championship competition; I enjoy watching the game played at the highest level by the best in the world."

As for the team she thinks will do best? "Team Nigeria will always have the edge over England for me because I know they will always bring the hunger, incredible athleticism and of course the party!! #naijastyle!"

Photographed by Dami Khadijah.

Alya Mooro – Egypt

Alya is a freelance journalist writing about culture and social commentary who was raised in London to Egyptian parents. She was also featured in G-Star RAW’s film The Society which celebrates women working together. She is working on her debut book, which will explore dual nationality as an Arab.

"I got into an Uber the other day and the driver asked me the inevitable 'Where are you from?' He was shocked when I said Egypt, he said he thought I must have been Spanish because all Arabs are veiled," Alya says. "I think that's the thing I'd like to educate or enlighten people on most – that no matter where you're from you're never just one thing; that the things that make us similar are far greater, and far more important, than the things that make us different."

When it comes to the World Cup and who to support, Alya says it's not always straightforward for Middle Eastern people. "I read something recently that said you can tell what country someone is 'really' from by who they cheer for, whether they cheer for England or their 'home' country'. For Middle Eastern people though, it feels like it literally runs in our blood. I am over the moon that Egypt made it into the World Cup this year, I was in Cairo when the news was announced and it felt like the entire country burst into cheer."

"It's been a hard run for Egypt between the revolution and the state of the economy, and this has brought joy to the whole country. I hope we win! Or at the very least put up a good fight."

Photographed by Dami Khadijah.

Tako Thiam – Senegal

Born in France to Senegalese parents but now living in London, Tako works for a pharmaceutical company where she manages key campaigns about female-forward issues such as the gender pay gap and more.

"I'm so excited for the World Cup. I grew in an environment where you can't hate football!" Tako says. "I sometimes play for the fun, and when I was younger I did a special football holiday camp. It was AMAZING."

Tako says what she loves in the competition is the diversity. "You have all these nations competing for the love of their countries, it's the same rules for everyone and there's no inequalities once they are on the pitch. In the stadium there's all the supporters representing their countries with their flags up, makeup, clothes, music..."

She's a little torn having France and Senegal competing at the same time, and says she supports both teams. What happens if they end up playing each other? "It happened in 2002! It was the first time for Senegal in the competition so I decided to support them as the 'little team' because I know that in Senegal they really love football and they were so proud to make it for the first time."

If you don't remember the game, Senegal actually won. "I was so proud of the team!" says Tako. " Allez les Bleus, allez les Lions de la Teranga!"

Photographed by Dami Khadijah.

Sarra Amdouni – Tunisia

Raised by Tunisian parents in London, Sarra is a co-host for Youceful TV which champions conversations within the Maghrebian community in the UK. She is also a full-time student at King's College London, studying medicine.

"Being a British Tunisian is a rarity. There really aren’t many of us, hence why I take extreme pride in both my nationalities. Having been born and raised in London, I’ve grown up around two of the richest cultures; I take as much pride in being a Londoner as I do being Tunisian," Sarra says.

Sarra says she identifies more as Tunisian because it's her blood, and because the country is far away, she feels the need to hold on. Thankfully, her Tunisian parents did what they could to create a mini Tunisia for her to grow up in. "Only Arabic was spoken in the household, our diets were Tunisian and Tunisian TV was on 90% of the time, not to mention annual trips back home which ensured we would not forsake our ethnic origins."

"When I am back home (Tunisia), I’m labelled and identified as the 'British' one, which is hilarious to me as I’m labelled as the 'Tunisian' here! It’s as though us second and third generations were taught two different ways of life simultaneously, which is why the statement "Born in the West, Raised by the East' resonates with so many of us."

Tunisia is one of north Africa's smallest countries and is often overlooked or slotted into the 'Maghrebi' category. Sarra says people don't always know where Tunisia is and is sad that when they do know, it's often for controversial issues in the media.

"We really are a beautifully thriving society and always have been; our history, our culture and our traditions are incredibly rich," she says. "From our cuisine to our music (mezwed), I’m proud to say we are possibly the most unique. Which is why I’ll always go out of my way to inform people of my ethnic background and its fascinating existence. I'm just doing my bit so that in the future, my kids won’t hear the same assumptions and ignorance about Tunisia as I did."

"The World Cup, to me, is a time of unity and celebration regardless of the outcomes. It brings us all together, as far apart as we are physically, and reminds us of the African brotherhood we are honoured with; we should all be rooting for each other."

"Ironically enough, Tunisia’s first tournament is against England so I guess my passports will be battling it out. It’s time to support our courageous national teams and it’s certainly time for me to tape the Tunisian flag to my forehead while sipping on my third cup of tea. That’s the essence of dual nationalities; it’s the best of both worlds."

See more of Dami's work on her website.

Photographed by Dami Khadijah.

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