MEET THE BATAMBUZE FAMILY
Swetha Maddula Batambuze, age 36
- Indian-born raised in the U.K.
Jonah Batambuze, age 37
- First-generation Ugandan, U.S. born
Iyla Joy (daughter), age 2yrs 11-months
- Mixed Ugandan/Indian born in U.K.
Ajani Jagan (son), 8-months old
- Mixed Ugandan/Indian born in U.K.
WHERE DO YOU LIVE?
We live one hour north east of London in a town called Peterborough.
HOW DID THE TWO OF YOU MEET?
My husband Jonah was studying abroad for a semester at University College Dublin, and I was visiting a childhood friend who happened to be living in the same dormitory.
WERE THERE ANY SIGNIFICANT OBSTACLES IN YOUR RELATIONSHIP CORRELATED TO YOUR BACKGROUNDS?
Yes. I’m a first-generation Hindu from a semi-traditional family, and my husband is first-generation Ugandan from a Christian background. Not only did we come from different religious, and ethnic backgrounds, but I come from a family of doctors, and my husband wasn’t set on a similar career path. Since my parents didn’t have any experiences of socialising with Africans or Ugandans they felt uneasy about our relationship. What I’ve learned is it’s easy to form generalisations when you’re not familiar with different cultures.
WHAT TRADITIONS DO YOU CELEBRATE IN YOUR HOME? ARE THEY CONNECTED TO YOUR INDIVIDUAL CULTURES?
We celebrate common Hindu South-Indian festivals, and we also have the kids participate in Christmas and other Christian festivals from my husband’s side. With my husband being from the United States we also participate in festivals/holidays that are celebrated in the U.S. that aren’t as big in the United Kingdom (Halloween, Thanksgiving.)
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CULTURAL FEATURE/TRADITION OF YOUR SPOUSE’S RACE?
I really enjoy the rhythm of Ugandan music along with their dance. We’ll oftentimes play the music aloud in our house and dance with the children and have a good time. Music and dance can reveal so much about cultures once you investigate the deeper meaning.
IS THE COMMUNITY YOU LIVE IN DIVERSE?
Yes. The city we live within has people of various colours and religious denominations. And, is much more diverse than the communities that I or my husband grew up in.
DO YOU OR YOUR PARTNER SPEAK IN MORE THAN ONE LANGUAGE IN YOUR HOME?
I speak Telugu, which is a South Indian dialect, (fluently) and I also speak English. My husband speaks English, but is not fluent in his mother tongue which is Luganda. We both want our children to speak multiple languages, and have textbooks to teach our children the basics. We both feel that our children knowing our traditions and cultures is important.
ARE YOUR EXTENDED FAMILY SUPPORTIVE OF YOUR MULTIETHNIC RELATIONSHIP?
Both sides of our extended families are extremely supportive of our relationship, and have been since our wedding.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT YOUR PARTNER’S ETHNIC-CULTURAL BACKGROUND?
As well as the music, and dance listed above I love the textiles and fashion from Ugandan culture. I love the use of bold colors and how the fabric is a true reflection of the culture. It feels as if there are 1,000 stories locked into each distinct piece of fabric.
DID YOU FIND BIG DIFFERENCES IN THE WAY YOU GREW UP VS. YOUR SPOUSE DUE TO DIFFERENCES IN RACE?
Growing up Asian my upbringing was heavily focused on my education and academics. Extracurricular activities like music, and anything which could build up my CV for medical school applications was the first priority. I noticed my husband was given much more freedom to explore other interests and extracurricular activities when he was growing up.
WHAT IS THE MOST SURPRISING/UNEXPECTED THING YOU’VE LEARNED ABOUT EACH OTHER’S CULTURE?
The most surprising thing we learned about each other, is how similar both of our cultures are. Both cultures share similar ceremonies, with a heavy focus on respect for family.
ARE THERE ANY COMMENTS YOU ARE REALLY TIRED OF HEARING FROM PEOPLE IN REGARDS TO RACE/CULTURE?
There’s a complex within Indian/Asian culture regarding skin complexion, with lighter skin being seen as pretty. When our daughter was younger, I oftentimes heard relatives commenting on her skin tone which got under my/our skin.
WHAT ACTIONS HAVE YOU TAKEN TO TEACH YOUR CHILD/CHILDREN ABOUT EACH OF YOUR BACKGROUNDS?
We have made sure to take our children to both of our respective homelands (Uganda, India) to meet our respective families and experience our countries. We have also exposed them to our different religions by visiting places of worship (temples, church) and participating in festivals specific to our cultures
HOW DO YOU PLAN ON SPEAKING TO YOUR YOUNG CHILDREN ABOUT RACE IN THE FUTURE?
We’ve done a fair bit of traveling so far and our younger daughter is already becoming conscious of other countries, and geography. Our approach would be looking at a world map, and using flashcards to teach our children about the diverse religions and cultures.
WHAT UNIQUE CHARACTERISTICS DO YOUR CHILDREN HAVE FROM YOU AND YOUR PARTNER?
I am quite outgoing, outspoken, and loud, while my husband is much more reserved. Our daughter has both of our characteristics and can be found running around yelling one-minute, and bashful the next. Being South Indian I naturally have thick, black, wavy hair. My husband has kinky afro-hair which makes for a perfect mix of our genes.
HOW DO YOU PLAN ON TEACHING YOUR CHILDREN TO BE PROUD OF BEING MIXED?
By continuing to show both of our children the positives of both our cultures.
WHAT IS YOUR DREAM FOR YOUR CHILDREN’S FUTURE AND THE FUTURE OF AMERICA IN REGARDS TO RACE?
That our daughter is confident and successful in what she does, and always remains respectful of others differences. My dream for America is that there is less prejudice and that different races join together vs. fighting.
ANYTHING ELSE YOU WANT TO SHARE?
In 2014, our daughter Iyla was born, and we struggled finding vibrant products with stories which reflected our cultures. In the absence of finding these products, we created our own and KampInd was born. The name KampInd reflects the merging of our Ugandan and Indian heritages. Teaching our children about our cultures comes natural, and we want to share these stories with the world.