Ireland: The Emerging Place for the African Diaspora

Published on 24 February 2021 at 10:22

A short walk around the Dublin city center might make you observe the growing rate of diversity in the Republic of Ireland, so much so that a subconscious act of eavesdropping on people's conversation is steadily becoming futile due to various language differences.


Just looking back at two decades ago, the closest thing to diversity in Ireland was predominantly the presence of people from the likes of France, Germany, Spain even our closest neighbour the UK.


But the landscape seems to have changed. Simply look to the varience of Ireland's cuisine. Where once it was a rareity to see even other european restaurants, the country now enjoys a vast range small scale restaurants that serve exclusively cuisines from Mexico,China, Brazil and Nigeria, only to name a few, which may indicate the growing population of those from outside of Europe.


Perhaps, If the variety in restaurants does not convince you, the secific grocery shops surely hold some reliable evidence with food spices from Indian, China, South Africa and Zimbabwe, not generally stocked in your local Tesco.


In 2018, the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) reported that Ireland was one of the most diverse EU countries with approximately 17% of its resident population born in another country, however the fast rising number of Brazilians and Africans in the country is gradually evolving to an environment for both cultures to reconcile their heritage and identities.


History proves that the centuries of transatlantic slave trade led to a huge cultural exchange in religion, food, fashion and other ways of life between African and the south American country. 


‘’Afro-Brazilian’’  an ethnic term used to describe an individual of African descent and Brazilian nationality. On the other hand, the ethnic word has reinforced a bond between the Brazilian ethnicity and their ancestry line from countries like Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Ghana, Angola, Mozambique among others.


It is estimated that about 90 million people of the African and Brazilian mix makeup the 220 million population of the South American country. In Ireland there are an estimated 15,796 Brazilians resident, which is an increase of 6,498, since 2011, as reported by the Irish Times in 2019.


Although there is no exact number on how many Afro-Brazilians are currently living in Ireland, the ethnic group seems to have a relatively fair share of the overall population of the Brazilian people in Ireland.


Most individuals from the younger group of the portuguese speaking country moved here to study english, under an educational program managed by various Irish institutions. As much as the language program has empowered the migrant group, it has also gone a long way in contributing to the Irish economy by generating about €762 million yearly  as revealed by the Irish Education Board.


On the other hand, over the past few years, West African countries like Nigeria have yielded the highest number of African people living in the Irish state, perhaps this is mainly due to its citizens interest in Irish educational programs like undergraduate and postgraduate studies.


According to a 2011 census, there were 17,642 Nigerians residing in Ireland, representing a 9.67% change over the 2006 figures, which was 16,300. Meanwhile, the population of other African countries like Congo, Zimbabwe and South African have steadily been rising in Ireland,with their numbers in the mid range thousands.


The progressive increase of Afro-Brazilians and their distant relatives from Africa in Ireland has enabled both parties to hold emotional and cheerful discussions on heritage and subjects that they mostly learnt through media sources. 


Thaís Muniz is an Afro-Brazilian artist and designer, who lives in Dublin city and runs a fashion company and research project called Turbante-se, which she founded eight years ago in Bahia, Brazil. , 


The fashion aspect of Turbante-se involves creation of headscarves and turbantes from prints collected all over the world, she also gives workshops, lectures, artistic performances and interventions. She explained that the idea behind Turbante-se is more than clothing accessories because the turbans and headwraps signifies an expression of African heritage for the Afro-Atlantic diaspora people.


‘’I gain a lot from the lengthy conversations that I have with some of my African friends in Ireland, when we talk about food, marriage, festivals, cuisine and indiginous African religions like voodoo, Ifás, and how they were reborn in Brazil.... It has also gone a long way in shaping my creativity and expression’’. Thaís said.


Another Afro-Brazlian living in Ireland, Cintia Augusta, who is a photographer disclosed that while she was having a conversation with her newly made Nigerian friend, she learnt that there was a Brazilian community in Lagos  (Lagos Island known as Popo Aguda) with Brazilian style of architecture, where the residents celebrated catholic holidays like Good Friday with South American staple food like Frejon and Acarajé.


Meanwhile a Nigerian Omena Anuoluwapo, a student at the Dublin Business School said he used to be indifferent about some African values, especially ancient practices that concern  spirituality, however when I started getting closer to some Brazilians in Ireland, their zeal to know more about the culture and  passion for their African heritage, festivals and deities influenced me to embrace these things.


As the diversity in the Republic of Ireland is moving in favour of both Brazil and Africa, the melange of the African related people might also have the potential to create a great ambiance, where both sides can showcase  their mutual art and culture thus creating an economic advantage to Ireland, Brazil and countries in Africa


For now there are various predictions on when the art and culture sector in Ireland would recover from the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown measure, some economists expect a full recovery of the sector by 2025.

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