For Yusef, life begins with a journey
Yusef Bushara doesn’t normally get nervous about public speaking but he admitted having a few butterflies at his TEDx talk.
The 15-year-old had picked a topic he was only just beginning to understand — his African and Middle Eastern heritage.
His father, Bushara Bushara, was born in Omdurman, Sudan and descends from the Arabic speaking Ja’alin tribe.
Civil war drove the family to Bahrain in 1966, when he was 2.
“I’d been wanting to know more about that side of my family,” said Yusef, whose father moved here with his Bermudian wife, Anita, 25 years ago. “My father used to take trips back to Bahrain to visit family and he’d come back with trinkets and a traditional outfit called a jellabiya.
“I’d put it on, but I didn’t really understand the cultural significance. It wasn’t until I got older that I realised they weren’t typical of the West.”
He began to question his parents, and everything he thought he knew about himself.
When it came time for him to create a final project for his class at Somersfield Academy, he decided the island’s first TEDx Youth event would be a great way to show off his organisational skills.
Teachers advised that he choose a subject that was important to him.
As part of his research, he and his father took a trip to Bahrain and Sudan in December.
It was Yusef’s first visit to both places and his father’s first trip to the North African country since his family left.
“On this trip, we spent a week with family in Bahrain, then spent a week and a half in Khartoum, Sudan, and then went back to Bahrain for a week,” said Yusef.
His paternal grandparents have passed away but he has two aunts living in Sudan and numerous family members in Bahrain.
The teenager was a little surprised by how warmly his family welcomed them.
“I felt an instant connection with them,” said Yusef, whose father served as translator for the Arabic-English conversations. “I loved hearing the family stories.
“If I ever go back I’d definitely like to have the Arab language in my pocket.”
He was a little shocked by the level of poverty he saw in Sudan.
“I definitely didn’t feel at home when we first got there,” he said. “There were a lot of people there who had experienced famine.
“I never saw a computer for the whole time I was there, and they did not take debit cards. I have been fortunate to visit other countries, but this was like nothing I had experienced.”
The visit helped him make sense of certain things he’d observed about his father over the years.
“When I was a child he’d often say ‘halas’. When I was little, I didn’t know that was Arabic but I knew he meant ‘stop’. And my father loves hummus. He eats it on everything. He’ll even eat chickpeas out of the can.”
As he found out, this was something typical in Arab culture.
“I still have a lot more to learn,” he said. “The primary takeaway for me was that my heritage, culture and identity extends beyond the confines of Bermuda.
“Bermuda doesn’t limit who I am. I tell people this is my journey of self-discovery.
“There is still more I have to find out about myself. This does not now give me a holistic picture of my identity, but it definitely helps.”
He hoped his talk last week Saturday at the BUEI inspired other youngsters to explore their cultural heritage.
“I didn’t have an intended message, but I wanted people to understand that there is a heavy relationship between their culture and identity,” he said. “If you don’t already know what it is, try your best to identify it.
“The talk was far from flawless but with the amount of work, blood, sweat and tears I had to put into trying to get this event together, it was definitely one of my crowning achievements.”
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