Written by MRG
It is December 15, 2030 and Keza Mugisha is planning her exchange at the University of Cape Town. She is so excited, she wants to travel as much as possible while she is on exchange. She is going with her friends Sophie Lee, Malaika Bahru, Afia Smith, James Mutombo and Trevor Dumont. They are all juniors in electrical engineering at NYU.
Keza Mugisha is a New Yorker, born and raised in Manhattan. Her father, Denis Mugisha, was born in London to Albert Nganji and Olivia Kansiime. They moved to California when Denis was 5, he only left California to pursue a graduate degree at MIT and rushed back to work in the Silicon Valley. He met Beza Dia, an Afro-centric poet and painter, in San Alto California and they got married in London, as both of them had many family members in that city. Keza is their last-born; she has one brother: Nganji Mugisha. They moved to New York City a year after Nganji was born, Denis had switched careers to corporate finance and Beza had more exposure for her work while living in the big apple.
Albert and Olivia, Keza’s grandparents, were born in Nairobi. Albert is Burundian and Olivia is Ugandan. Upon high-school graduation, Olivia went on to Imperial College London to study civil engineering, while Albert went to Lyon I, to become a public accountant. After moving to Paris for a couple years, he found an investment banking opportunity in Johannesburg. A few years later, Albert moved to London and met Olivia. They had four children. Denis was their third. Most of Keza’s family lives in the US and very few are in the UK. Her grandparents are the only ones living in Africa. They are the only ones that were born there. Albert was a true Afropolitan, proud Burundian but always lived in extremely cosmopolitan communities across the World. His children decided to settle in the US, but were taught Swahili and the entire house was decorated with art from all across Africa. Keza’s mom is passionate about African history and tries to convey that in her work. She is a prominent member of many artists groups in the African Diaspora, and represents American art in many galleries in the big cities across the African continent.
Keza has never been to Cape-Town, but her friend, Afia, has. Keza often goes to Johannesburg, where her grandparents live, and has fond childhood memories in Sun City. She heard so many fun things about Cape-town, she is eager to go spend a whole semester there. She would love to go to Sun-City with her friends on a weekend, and doesn’t know how she is going to avoid seeing her grandparents in Joburg. She thinks they are such snobs, with their drivers and home security as if it was a prison. But Keza is smooth; she will find a nice way to escape. Malaika and her also have a conference they have to attend in Gaborone, which she is eager to do, but she also wants, to go on a safari in the Serengeti, go hiking in Burundi, party in Durban, visit Axum and attend the MTV Africa Music Awards in Nairobi.
After her exchange term all her friends agreed they would go on a West African tour. She has been to Lagos and Dakar plenty of times with her parents, but never got to visit Gore. Keza really wants to see the place. Some of her friends- Afia and Trevor- have some family in the region. This coming semester sounds like it will be rich in adventure, fun, party, culture and maybe some studying-she does want to graduate on time-. Oh and super costly too. She’s just excited! Yay! The holidays are over she is packed and ready to leave.
The month of January is coming to an end and the team is on there third day in Cape Town. This is a whole new South Africa for Keza. It is truly different from her gated community, all high end family activities holidays in Johannesburg. Now she is on a university campus with other people her age, others trying to become electrical engineers like her, other wild life enthusiasts like her, other big Afro-house fans like her. They had their orientation, started a small workshop before the semester starts. This is summer time in South Africa, so not many students on campus. Classes will resume in a week, but a workshop was prepared for the exchange students….. other details aside, our girl is ready for her conference in Gaborone. Malaika and her really bonded during there trip there. It was their first time in town but they did not get to see anything! The conference was very long, talking about diamond cutting and technology. It was OK , they learned a lot and think they can use some of the hints for their final year project. They also made a lot of contacts who were really welcoming and enthusiastic, hope they will help for the project. Back to Cape Town and the adventure is about to be very very long!
They had fun episodes in clubs, faced unexpectedly tough competition in the classes, ate food that would be exotic even in rural Alabama, got robbed after having drank one too many, had their share of fights and love in the house *cough cough*.
The semester is over, they just finished their West African tour, the gang is taking their flight to JFK from Dakar. Keza is happy, she has stories for her friends and cousins back home, discussion topics for her parents, and good selling points for her resume. Malaika, Trevor and her are now very close, and she officially can not stand Sophie and James- things that happen when people live together for months-. She only got to do half the things she wanted to do, so she definitely wants more trips to the continent with friends, they are totally a different experience from when she goes with her family.
Well all that is for another time, for now she is showing her pictures at the MAMA awards to her cousin, he is very unimpressed. He is more interested in the wildlife, that is what he loves talking about with Keza, as a matter of fact, they are going to Australia next Christmas just for that. Until then, she will be working on having a successful senior year.
MRG lives in Toronto Canada. You can follow her on Twitter at @msmiraiga