Adopting a Culturally Fluid Mindset: Mohamedhussein Raza and the Journey to Understanding One’s Identity

Mohamedhussein Raza (Image credit: TEDx Talks)
The Color Purple 2023

Mohamedhussein Raza says his childhood curiosity led him to carefully examine his cultural DNA to uncover the ideal mix of influences that shaped his modern identity.

Raza and his ancestry

Raza was born and raised in Tanzania as a third-generation Indian immigrant, and his struggle with consolidating his native and national identities is all too familiar to many in the age of globalization. His approach to solving this question has been to trace back to his ancestors and learn from how they, as immigrants from India, first settled in Tanganyika almost 100 years ago, leading up to now where he tells his journey of adaptation and cultural fluidity

In a 2021 TedTalk, Raza discusses the early ancestry that ultimately led him to expand upon his curiosities and constantly seek new challenges. At the tender age of 13, Jaffer Ali, Raza’s great grandfather, ran away from his home In India to get a job and help support his mom, dad and many siblings. The job he managed to keep up for several years included selling day-to-day items to local villages, commuting by foot or via bicycle.

Not only did Ali work hard and prove his work ethic but he also brought three of his brothers from India to his work location in Tanganyika, Africa. Ali traveled throughout several locations in Africa, embracing the culture and life around him while he grew up and worked endlessly. Together Ali and his brothers started a business and families.

“This is the story I think of every time someone asks me: how is it that you say you are African?”

Culturally fluid mindset

Flash forward to today and Ali and his family have produced a family of over 1,000 people. All these people are connected back to his passionate journey of what “home” is, having such strong roots in Tanganyika (modern-day Tanzania).

Furthermore, what many people fail to understand is how Ali grew up immersed in African culture and life. Ali and his decendants embraced the culture and learned the Swahili language. Raza himself widens people’s perspectives when he explains how deep third- and fourth-generation Indian immigrants have roots in Africa. Raza is confident in his cultural identity and he is proud to say that he comes from Tanzania. Tanzania is home.

I do not stop and think twice when somebody asks me where I am from … but I do think twice when somebody asks me about my culture.

– Mohamedhussein Raza’s TedTalk

In response to this careful cultural examination, Raza confidently believes in cultural fluidity and how we must adopt this mindset to preserve our cultures for the generations to come.

Born and raised in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Raza has always asked the question “why not?” This simple practice has led him to expand upon his curiosities and constantly seek new challenges.

Eventually obtaining a bachelors degree in business management, Raza went on to join the family business and simultaneously co-founded an accessories brand called SHONA Tanzania.

SHONA Tanzia via Instagram

Inspired by the vibrant culture of Africa and the unique skillsets of its people, Raza and SHONA aim to celebrate the continent’s creativity by creating meaningful accessories that give a sense of identity to those who use them.

In addition to his personal experiences, Mohamedhussein Raza challenges his audience to answer the question of how one can discover the ideal “cake mix” of their cultural identity.

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