“My dad left us when I was a baby”: Interview with German-Gambian, Jennie Conan

Written by Alieu Khan

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Daughter of a German mum and Gambian dad, Jennie Conan was abandoned by his dad as a toddler. Read below our interview with her:

What’s On-Gambia: Tell us briefly about yourself and your family.

Jennie: My name is Jennie Nene Sinchou Conan. My mother is from Germany; my dad is from The Gambia. He left us when I was a few months old for his "other" wife, who was giving birth to my brother two months after I was born. They have six children now and he has three others with his other wife in The Gambia and another with another woman in Germany.

My mother married again, also a man from The Gambia, and they have one child together, my brother Alieu.

How comes you are not using your dad's family name?

I am not using my father’s family name because I don't feel any connection to him the way I should. He left us; I never had the chance to have him as my dad. So why take his name when he isn't even there for me?

Is your father still in Germany and are you in contact with him?

Yes, he still lives here, in the southern part of Germany. I used to visit him or should I say my siblings once in the year until two years ago. I got a dog and I am no longer allowed to come to their place. They don’t want the dog in their apartment.

When was the first time you visited The Gambia and what struck you most?

The first time I visited The Gambia was in 2008, I was 12.  What I remember the most is how we walked five hours to my father’s village to visit my grandparents.  But what struck me the most was that everyone thought I was white.

How are mixed race people perceived in Germany?

There are not many mixed race people I know personally, but I think we are perceived like any other people. If people ask me about my background, they are normally interested because they think I am so much different from them.

Did you ever face any difficulty because of your background?

Yes, I did. These days we have a huge debate over accepting more refugees in Germany. Some people think, we should close the borders. Racism is a big problem these days and the government is doing nothing. So, because I am light skinned, some people think I am a refugee from Ethiopia or Somalia.  And they would say to: “hey, go home!” Or “fuck refugees!”  One woman once spit on my feet when I walked passed her. That's how it is right now in Germany.

Are you close to the Gambian community in Germany?

The only Gambian community I know is my father’s family and my step father’s family. We are not that close.

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Would you marry a Gambian?

I am engaged to a German. So if I ever divorce him, I don't care where my next husband is from. But I don't plan divorcing him (laughs).

You are about to visit The Gambia again. What are looking forward to most?

I'm looking forward to getting married to my fiancé in The Gambia. Also, I want to get to know the rest of my family. I also love the beach!

Why are you having your wedding in The Gambia?

Because I want a beach wedding and The Gambia has a beautiful beach!

Why are you on What's On-Gambia and how did you find it?

I am on What's On- Gambia because I want to stay in touch with The Gambia and I want to know what’s going on there. I just typed Gambian news in Google and What’s On-Gambia appeared.

Any favourite Gambian musician?

I don’t know any Gambian musician.

Food?

I love benachin!