MEET.

NKECHINYERE ANELE

Co-creator, Singer & Radio Presenter

meet_thepin_nkechi_giulia_mcgauren_ponyo_australia

Better known as 'Nkechi' (pron. ket-chee), music has been an enormous part of Nkechinyere Anele's life. Starting her music career in 2011, Nkechinyere Anele fronts the Australian band Saskwatch. Through Saskwatch, Anele has toured all over Australia and playing at popular festivals all over the world including; Splendour in the Grass (AUS), Byron Bay Bluesfest (AUS), WOMADelaide (AUS), Groovin' the Moo (AUS), Glastonbury Festival (UK), Edinburgh Fringe Festival (UK), Back in Black (ESP) and CMJ (NY, USA).

In 2016, Anele started guest presenting Triple j radio's Roots N All show becoming it's full time presenter in 2017.

Nkechinyere Anele along with Lucille Cutting co-created The Pin in 2016 in order to address their questions around race, identity and culture of biracial and bicultural people in an Australian context. In 2017, The Pin broadened it's scope presenting live events called Where We At? in Melbourne.

MEET NKECHINYERE ANELE


THE PIN. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood and where you grew up?
NKECHINYERE ANELE. 
I grew up in Melbourne. My first years were spent in Melbourne's west before we moved to the eastern side of the city, which is where majority of my childhood/life has been spent. My parents split when I was 6 or 7 and I spent most of my life darting from house to house being brought up on 50/50 parenting until I was 17. The one constant in my life has been my little (or rather younger) brother who is four years and four days younger than me, which is seemingly a random fact but, we were meant to be born on the same day and having that closeness is something I think we both find special about our relationship.

My childhood was the happiest when I was in kindergarten it was the time when issues of race and difference didn't seem to exist. I think these were also the best times because the kinder I was at was ridiculously cool when I think back on it. It was before the time of strict OHS, so we had a little more creative freedom to do fun stuff like turn the sandpit into a pool, have teachers do our hair or make ice-cream.

I think my confidence and realisation that I wasn’t like everyone else took to a dip when I went to primary school and when my parents split. I really was made aware that I wasn’t like everyone else and I found it at time scary and frustrating. It wasn’t until the Spice Girls took over the world that I found myself accepted more widely at school and for me, the music Spice Girls had several life changing effects on my life from making friends and playing netball to understanding how I saw myself as a black woman in a mostly white situation.

I went to two high schools starting off at an all girls school that sucked - though I had friends and academically did well I really did not enjoy my time there. I was one of about 6 people of colour in my year and it took about a year before I was really invited to parties and stuff like that. I had some really great friendships there though, one of my friends helped me decide which school to go to when I left at the end of year 9. When I changed school from private to public my social life definitely became more enriched and I felt more myself.

Do you recall when you became aware of race and culture?
NA. 
 There have been many instances where I have become aware of my race and culture but, the very first was when I was about three or four. I woke up, looked in the mirror and thought that my nose had been squashed flat during the night. It was the first time that I think I really realised that I wasn’t white like my mum. When I was little I would also answer the phone by saying “Hello, are you white or black?” and, depending on the answer, I would give the phone to the corresponding coloured parent.

When I was in primary school it was when an islander girl and I both thought that three was pronounced “free” because both that was the way at least one of our parents said it and feeling super aware of being different.

When I was a teenager it would be when I saw my reflection in the mirror. Having all white friends meant that sometimes I would completely forget that I looked any different until I saw myself in the mirror.

Mostly though, I reminded by other people whether it’s the daily question of “Where are you from?” by white people or being told “You are from (insert country)!” by Africans (laughs).

We’ve spoken with people who’ve said that their parents provided them with encouragement or gave them advice when growing up. Was that something that happened?
NA. I think my parents both had their ways of doing this. For my dad it was talking us to Nigerian events or to cultural events and celebrations to connect with our Nigerian side but, I don’t think it really impacted us in the way that our father wanted. His approach I think is more reflective of being brought up in a very communal culture and I am not sure that really translated over to us being brought up here. When it came to understanding myself as a woman, getting me through puberty and dealing with being bullied quite a lot, my mum had more of an impact on me. She gave me her time and though she will never understand what it’s like to be black she made sure that I had more than enough self esteem and knowledge to survive the weight of being a person of colour and to navigate growing up.

Do you think your perception of your identity and the identity that others have given you, and do you think your brother feels like he has the same identity as what you have?
NA.

This interview has been condensed and edited

Photo credit: Provided by Cath Moore