general power & power relations travel

travails of (trying) to travel

…with an African passport.

So, I am due to travel for the next 5 months on a programme delving into all things food. Sounds great right? And don’t get me wrong, I am looking forward to it.

Enter all the visa applications I have to make. Alright, a necessary evil.

Enter the consulate people I have to interact with to get this done……not as fun.

This was a recent Facebook post I made after an encounter with a particularly nasty one:

[Institutional racism]’s been my life this week and last applying for Indian and Italy visas. In fact the Indian lady at the high commission outright cursed me out telling me I was wasting her time, and thinking that the Indian High Commission was something to be played with…. smh. I was telling a friend today, I have to jump through hoops, walk through fire and run several miles (through all the thick suspicion) all while being treated like a second class human, and why because I want a damn visa! Who came up with the idea even mscheeeeeeeeeeeeeeew

It is no lie that holders of African passports (and other deemed-unworthy countries’ passports) are subjected to often extra requirements that are not written down anywhere and that are at the discretion of the person you are fortunate or not to be dealing with on that day. Exhibit 1 once I was applying for a South African passport and was told that my Bank of America online statements were insufficient because they had not been signed, yet they bore the logo of the Bank….I was made to ask my host in SA to provide their bank statements. Alright. The next time I go back to apply, I meet a different staff member who takes one look at my hosts’ statements and says I don’t need those, and promptly takes mine. What gives?

It always seems like pulling teeth, and if it weren’t so damn hard, I would create a comic out of all the mad experiences I’ve had attempting to apply for visas to different places.

Someone from the US can rock up to just about any country they want and they will be allowed in. But nope, a Kenyan, no you must be trying something. You must be a chancer. There’s a guy doing some walk around the world on foot exploring thing. He’s American. Yeah, I can never dream of such a thing. Why? Nooooo, you can’t get a visa to x place outside of 3 months, you have to have insurance that has a minimum coverage of $30,000, I need proof of your polio vaccination, I have to see this and that document that was not listed on the website to begin with….the list never ends! Does anyone check the insurance of broke American teens who go on Eurotours living out of their backpacks?


Every single time I have to travel somewhere it’s like pulling teeth. I have to add though that USA visa applications have been for me, although perhaps not for others, the exception. It might be because of the high level of customer service they’re known for, but it seems like even when they’re telling you they won’t issue your visa, they’re not at the same time hurling insults at you, or deciding without having taken so much as a glance at your documents.

The trials and travails of (attempting to travel) on an African passport are many and diverse indeed.

To keep myself sane I’ve been watching and rewatching this video from Afrikan Muzik Magazine; enjoy.

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