My American story – Nathasha Pemba


The amazing stories of Africans living in Canada are hardly told in Canada where most people in the news are often white. Kids who grow up watching television or browsing news sites often end up believing the world starts in Toronto and ends in Montreal. They may also end up believing that success, peace, care, love and intelligence are all white while failure, chaos, terror, ignorance, anger and violence are all black. TODAY NEWS AFRICA USA knows that’s false. Our popular segment “My American Story” highlights the perseverance, tenacity, intelligence, sophistication, struggles and successes of Africans in the United States and Canada – Simon Ateba, editor-in-chief of TODAY NEWS AFRICA USA, Washington D.C., August 18, 2018.

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Nathasha Pemba

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Nathasha Pemba has a really long African name when written in full. In all, it has 30 letters and two hyphens or dashes. But Pénélope-Nathasha Mavoungou-Pemba hardly uses her complete name. For her novels, she goes by Nathasha Pemba while for her essays or scientific articles where she has to be more official, she’s known as Pénélope Mavoungou. In her daily life though, people call her Pénélope. For those who cross the colleague zone and become more intimate, she’s simply Nathasha.

Born in the central African country of Congo also known as Congo-Brazzaville, Natasha Pemba who lives in the Province of Québec in Canada studied almost everywhere. 

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“In my hometown in Pointe-Noire, Kinshasa in DRC, and then in Yaoundé, Cameroon, and in Toulouse, France,” she told TODAY NEWS AFRICA USA in an interview in early August.

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In 2013, she traveled to Canada for a dual Ph.D. program with the Catholic Institute of Toulouse.

In all, she has studied philosophy and political sciences, majoring in politics and security. 

Right now, she conducts researches in philosophy and theology. 

“I am working on a project that I cannot publicly address for the moment, but beyond the research’s field, I work in real estate as a designer”.

Ms. Pénélope-Nathasha Mavoungou-Pemba granted an interview to TODAY NEWS AFRICA USA, and gave us a peep into his extraordinary life in Canada.

What’s your name now? What was your name before? What do people call you and what do you prefer to be called?

I am Nathasha Pemba. My full name is Pénélope-Nathasha Mavoungou-Pemba. I go by Nathasha Pemba for my novels.  and for my essays or scientific articles I am Pénélope Mavoungou, because that’s my official name in my work’s place or the research’s field. In my daily life, people call me Pénélope. Being called Nathasha if not among my writer colleagues, that remains very intimate.

What African country do you identify with and what part of that country do you associate with? Where in Canada do you live in? What’s your citizenship?

I come from the Republic of Congo, also known as Congo-Brazzaville (central Africa), so I naturally identify myself with that country, even though as a daughter from Pointe-Noire, I would rather be identified as « ponténégrine » (the inhabitants of Pointe-Noire), because that means a lot to me and it is the best place in the world, and also because belonging to Pointe-Noire is in itself a peculiar identity within the Congo. I live in Quebec in the Province of Québec (Canada). 

Where and what did you study?

I have studied almost everywhere. In my hometown in Pointe-Noire, Kinshasa in DRC, and then in Yaoundé, Cameroon, and in Toulouse, France. What have I studied? I am a philosopher, but I have also done Political Sciences studies with a concentration in Politics and Security. While studying Philosophy, I had the same training as Emmanuel Macron (laughter), though I am not yet in the Office as President (laughter). I like to take that illustration because for so many times, we have confined philosophers into classrooms, while the truth is we can do a lot of different things, and that is the part of the philosophical approach I fight for. My first researches in philosophy essentially were metaphysical (a little bit Aristotelian) and from my Master, I started having more interest in social and political philosophy. I definitely am open to the idea that philosophy is the mother of the sciences, so it gives the room to be able to adapt it almost everywhere and in everything. I also studied Theology, with a degree granted by the Catholic University of Lyon, France.

Where do you work or what type of job do you do?

Right now, I conduct researches based in between Philosophy and Theology. I am working on a project that I cannot publicly address for the moment, but beyond the research’s field, I work in real estate as a designer (design and decoration). 

How long have you been in the Canada?

I have lived in Canada since 2013… I came here for a dual program for my Ph.D. with the Catholic Institute of Toulouse, and I think I will just stay. I don’t know if being a writer is a job, but I am also a writer. I am a blogger, find below the link of my blog. 

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Nathasha Pemba

What has been your most memorable moment in Canada?

I think I have had three great unforgettable moments in Canada…
• The hard cold when you get off at the airport… At almost minus 22F, you know, it lingers with you, believe me.
• My first steps in Saint-Jean Street, it is like love at the first sight that resists the time. In one word, I fell in love with the city of Quebec and Saint-Jean Street remains a very important place in my story with Québec.
• An encounter… it was in 2018,  I have made a very beautiful encounter. And I know that is an encounter that will last for eternity to me…And it happened in Quebec…in an absolute silence.

What has surprised you the most in Canada?

People from Quebec love Quebec, and that sense of this-is-my-home is what made me love my country. They are very friendly, and the biggest part of my experience in Quebec, for now, was at the University of Laval. If I were to do it again, I would. And then, there was the « Musée du monastère des Augustines » where I have worked for three years… A family indeed. You can’t forget all that!

What do you like the most about living in Canada?

In my life here in Quebec, I just like the fact of being here and to take advantage of the splendor of the landscape and to enjoy people’s kindness.

What do you miss the most about not living in Africa?

What do I miss about Africa? Almost everything because it is where I come from. But I think that we must make our choices and live without being led by both nations… We necessarily are losing something. We have to keep living.

What’s the biggest lesson you have learned about being in Canada?

My big lesson remains to acknowledge how humble people are wherever I go. In my journey, I have met several big guns in this world, as they say… But I think, what makes us keep a good impression of them is their simplicity, and the love they display for people. And here in Quebec, I was shocked by the simplicity of my teachers at the university. I keep a great memory for the rest of my life, and some of them are my role models. 

What’s your biggest challenge in Canada?

My biggest challenge in Canada… I think is to live and to accomplish myself in what I like the most. That is my biggest challenge.

What’s the biggest misconception about life in Canada that people in Africa have?

The misconception? (laughter)… I think that immigration whether it’s chosen, forced or imposed to someone can sometimes make us dream about stuff that does not exist elsewhere. In short, I hope I will be able to write a book about Africans’ immigration here, it would be a novel… There are a lot of myths. We have to break them. As a student, you have to do almost all kind of job to survive, and within the deepness of those jobs, you will find a lof of immigrants… and you start to understand many things. However, if we immigrate here and even though our immigration for the start go might be economic immigration, we definitely need to do our best to be «integrated » into the society and not be «assimilated ». I do believe that the day where the Africans would understand that the economic immigration does light us up only and only when we lin kit with cultural immigration, then they would be a different perspective, and we will be feeling less strange in those countries that we choose for our well-being.

They say that everyone has a book in them. What would your book be about?

My book will speak about love. I can’t see anything else in this world more beautiful than love… For me, love is All. That’s one of the reasons I really enjoy Frédéric François. He sings about love and love is never outdated. And a piece of music that exalts love is timeless. Since I was a teen, I tirelessly have been listening to him … And if there is something constant about him, it is that strength that one can see coming out of his heart. Frédéric François does only not sing about fleshy love. And that’s what makes him peculiar. To him, love is a great feeling, the greatest, the strongest… Love crosses nature and holds the whole world together. For illustration, when I listen to him sing “Et si l’amour était la clé” [« What if love was the key »], I bow down before his genius. And « Il faut dire je t’aime à ceux que l’on aime » [« Let us say, I love you to all that we do love »], is an ode to love. It is true that you never say it enough. And his last one, « Just a little bit love, only a little bit love and not long discourses ». In one word, I will write about love because we all need some love. 

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Nathasha Pemba

What do you spend the most time thinking about?

I do write a lot. More and more, getting out there to meet people and spotlight people through my blog is my source of joy. I love to discover people in what they are doing, especially when they can be a source of motivation for others. The question of the « BEING » always stays in me in one way or the other. Metaphysician one day, metaphysician all days.

What is something you will NEVER do again?

Never say never… But to avoid foolishness the nonsense is possible. Always respect the other. I really like this Latin’s saying, « errare humanum est sed perseverare diabolicum est ».

What are some of the events in your life that made you who you are?

The human being is a multiplicity of possibilities and discoveries. He incarnates a large dimension of the cosmos. Many things have done me what I am…but the encounterings with others are fundamental in my life. I don’t take any of them for granted. For almost a year now, I am aware of the spirituality of the signs that is, to consider every encounter as a sign of something that would be or would not, yet it always remains a possibility of the togetherness… The encounters make us.

What are you addicted to?

I am addicted to reading.

As you get older, what are you becoming more and more afraid of?

I am afraid of not being able to realize a dream dear to my heart…

What song or artist do you like but rarely admit to liking?

Everyone tells me that I am kind of old with my choices but… I would spend my life listening to Frédéric François or Cabrel sometimes. I also do listen to Koffi Olomidé every morning.

If life is a game like some people say, what are some of the rules?

– The freedom à la Augustine that is, « like and to do whatever you want »
-The respect for the dignity of everyone
– Looking for the best 
My motto, I took it from the Cardinal Malula: « Ad Majora natus sum ».

What’s the most surprising self-realization you’ve had?

To finish and defend my Ph.D. in Philosophy.

What do you regret not doing?

I still am alive… so anything can still happen.

What gives your life meaning?

To love, help, appreciate…say good things… to drink a glass of wine, read a good book, take a walk, travel…to be true.

What are you most insecure about?

Hypocrisy and lying, manipulation and instrumentalization.

How do you get in the way of your own success?

I work and remain patient.

What are you afraid people see when they look at you?

To regret nothing is an important principle in my life because I am convinced that every experience or encounter teaches us something. The failures remain a bulwark in everything I do. The philosopher, Charles Pépin, wrote a great book that we all should read, « Les vertus de l’échec » [The Failure’s Virtues]. There are some failures that make us combinative… « I never lose, whether I win, whether I learn », says Mandela.

When do you feel truly “alive”?

When I make someone happy.

What do you like most about your family?

Many things like the spirit of unity or the great moment of meetings.

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