Hello again! It is so exciting to be here, writing to you all once more. This issue is all about HOME. Where the heart is, wherever I’m with you, whatever you make it etc... It is elusive, sometimes terrifying to consider, but when it shows up in little pockets of life, it is so comforting. “The house of course, is unchanged. It is smaller only in memory” - Open City by Teju Cole HOME is about power and (be)longing. I have been desperate for home for most of my life. It’s less of a place that I can “call my own,” because I’ve always had that. I’ve always felt different enough to generally inhabit a space that was isolated, and “my own,” in that sense. It’s a space that I can call my own, but that is also filled with community. This issue is about searching and building and transforming in order to create spaces that ensure us that we belong, and are not alone in our belonging. In this issue, artists explore these spaces, whether physical, literary, or emotional. “And then I’ll find some peace of mind in the land I left behind” - Home Again by Boris Gardner In my life, I’ve been finding myself moving towards an axis of uncertainty, striving for somewhere where I don’t know all of the questions, let alone all of the answers. Being able to edit Wahala has been a major contributor to this. I used to fixate so often on certainty, on knowing who I was and where I belonged, that I was unable to appreciate the beauty of the ambiguous. But, thinking about the infinite ways that the contributors to and readers of this zine can imagine HOME has made me so much more comfortable with not knowing. In a way, I love getting tangled up in the questions. I am no longer striving for perfection, or neatness— instead I’m working on embracing the fluidity of HOME, and I hope that this issue helps you all do the same. <3 - kanyinsola anifowoshe THIS ISSUE IS DEDICATED to the approximately 10,000 people who’ve died since 1994 crossing the border to the United States, the country I call home in many ways. To those incarcerated in the largest immigration detention system in the world, in the country I call home. To the various Native American tribes whose land I occupy in my home in Chicago. To my birth family and my chosen family, where I’ve been lost and found over and over again.
Images c/o Melville J. Herskovits Library of African Studies, Northwestern University.
featuring: Adesewa Awobadejo • Lethbridge, Canada Ife Olujobi • Brooklyn, USA Jochebed Peace Airede • Abuja, Nigeria Laila S.H. Judith Ugwuja • Drogheda, Ireland Mayowa Adewola • Chicago, USA Nneka Nnagbo • Ottawa, Canada Olawunmi Faleti • Chicago, USA Oseremen Irete • Ireland Sophia Zarders • Long Beach, USA Victory N-Ekeoama • Ireland*Glasgow*London Zoe Vongtau • Pittsburgh, USA
editors: Grace Mecha • Boston, USA Dawape Giwa
Words Where I Find Home
Half of my childhood was spent with a book. I read in my bed, on the school bus, in obligatory car rides to cousins’ houses and at the dinner table (largely to my mother’s chagrin). Books have always been home for me. I leave a part of myself in the books I grow attached to. Growing up, I read a lot of books by white authors, less by black authors, and way fewer by Nigerian ones. As I’ve gotten older I’ve grappled with being a diaspora kid, often stretched between two “homes” - Nigeria and the States - and feeling like neither is really mine. It’s an odd space to straddle, growing up Black in the U.S. but knowing that the bus boycotts and marches aren’t a part of my lineage. It’s also odd to straddle a culture that is mine to claim, but feels simultaneously distant; a culture that I am only truly enmeshed in with dizzying visits to Lagos every several years.
Words are the space that have always remained familiar. That’s why it’s become important for me to discover other Nigerians who find home in language — colonizer’s or otherwise. There’s such a plethora of incredible Nigerian writers, and this list merely skims the surface. Here are some Naija wordsmiths who remind me of the culture I know, the culture I’m unfamiliar with, and the culture I subconsciously yearn for.
Teju Cole - Every Day is For The Thief
This Kalamazoo, Michiganborn writer is best known for Open City, which I can tell you very little about - other than the fact I tried to read it the summer before college and couldn’t. Every Day is For the Thief is the book that drew me to Cole. The main character is a disillusioned Lagosian who returns home from New York for the first time in ten years. He grapples with his disappointment and, at times, disgust with Lagos. The book is scattered with pictures the author has taken. I read this book six months after my own trip to Lagos, the first in eleven years, and found comfort is his descriptions of the bustling city, the everyday hustlers, and the inefficiency of bureaucracy. There are times I feel Nigeria’s qualms are not mine to complain about, since it’s not a land I grew up on. But I know the feeling of wanting to love a home and having it break your heart time and time again.
Bassey Ikpi - Homeward
I found Bassey Ikpi through Def Poetry Jam, and only recently learned that she is also Nigerian. Her poems grapple with losing a native tongue in the transition to America. Woof. This is a sensitive topic to me, as someone who never learned to speak Yoruba. I am forever envious of my other first-generation friends who know their parents’ languages, who can communicate with non-English speaking relatives. I think of my grandmother, now my last living grandparent, who only speaks Yoruba. I wonder about the language of love, how much of it is spoken and how much is transmitted through the body, through blood. Reading “Homeward” unearths the root of all my deepest insecurities, but lets me know I am not alone in them. Ikpi reminds me I must remember what America wants me to forget.
Kemi Alabi - Crusty Midwest Demi Femme, Mapped
I always want to learn about the experiences of diaspora kids who navigate two cultures, balance two sets of expectations, and wonder where they fall in their own lineage. I love hearing about
the outsiders, because I often feel like one, even when I am around my own people. Kemi Alabi explores a perspective I don’t read often enough - that of the queer Nigerian. It would be a lie to say that Nigeria is not plagued by homophobia. Or that it isn’t settled in the culture and enforced by the society. But Nigerians that identify outside of heteronormativity exist. Alabi’s writing loads us with intertwined images of blackness, Nigerianness and sexual identity. I don’t remember how I discovered Kemi Alabi, but I’m glad I did.
They write poems and essays, and have so many good ones— but I’ll leave a sweet, small morsel of their work with this poem.
“Words are the space that have always remained familiar.” Taiye Selasi - The Sex Lives of African Girls
British-Born Taiye Selasi is from a little bit of everywhere. Raised in Brookline, Massachusetts by a Nigerian mother and Ghanaian father, she claims no country as purely her own. Ghana Must Go is her debut novel, one that I swallowed in two days, red-eyed from lack of sleep and crying. It’s worth reading, for sure.
But if you’re looking for something shorter to digest, “The Sex Lives of African Girls” packs an equally hard punch. There’s no singular African female existence. This story actually takes place in Ghana, but the description of the women in expensive geles, full makeup, and faces bleached lighter than their hands feels too familiar. I was often equal parts awed and intimidated by the way Nigerian women wear their femininity so well. I’ve never been one to wear makeup. I’ve never cared for the ritual of getting dolled up, putting on my best stilettos and so forth. I can relate to the main character in this story - a young girl at a party with clothes too big for her, who knows she doesn’t belong.
Buchi Emecheta - Kehinde
Who would I be to not mention the mother of modern, feminist Nigerian literature? I have found home in all of Buchi Emecheta’s books, but Kehinde has special meaning because I know so many. My father is a Kehinde, and I have multiple Kehinde relatives. Kehinde is the name given to second-born twins, most popularly among the Yoruba people. Though Kehinde is born second, they are technically the eldest, as elder siblings send their younger siblings to run errands. Taiwo is the first-born “younger” sibling, sent out by Kehinde to make sure the world is in order. In Kehinde, the titular character’s twin dies at birth but remains with her in spirit. Taiwo is there when Kehinde’s husband moves back to Nigeria from England, and takes on a second wife. Taiwo is there when Kehinde refuses to yield her power for the sake of her husband’s pride. I love Buchi Emecheta because of her impeccable way of describing human subtitles. Do not ever let anyone tell you that African people are monolithic or simplistic. If they do, just give them this book and walk away.
Helen Oyeyemi - The Icarus Girl
If I could write like any writer, it would be a) Arundhati Roy or B) Helen Oyeyemi. Oyeyemi is an Ibadan born, London based author who made a mark with her first book, The Icarus Girl. Oyeyemi has a knack for turning fantasy into sinister, and The Icarus Girl draws on Yoruba twin (Ibeji) mythology to do so. I find home the most in Oyeyemiâ€™s description of Jessamyâ€™s mother, specifically in the scene where the family takes a trip to Nigeria. Her mother is immediately in her element of soliciting a cab, bargaining with street hawkers, adopting the veneer that only comes out when Nigerians are in Nigeria.
I have seen this transformation in my own parents, and it never fails to astound me. It reminds me that they have multitudes that, in so many ways, are so unknown to me.
As I redefine what home is to me, I go out of my way to seek out authors of Nigerian diaspora. Home is becoming less of a place and more of a space that my mind inhabits. I love finding creatives that make shelter with their art. It reminds me that I donâ€™t have to be in Nigeria or with my parents to remember the smell of burning kerosene, or the sizzle of frying plantains. These senses will live in my head, forever.
home th g n i ro nd
hairstyles Adesewa Awobadejo It’s passion with creativity. It’s harmony and spontaneity. It’s boldness with beauty. It’s home. Whenever I think of Nigeria, I think of hair. Images and memories to do with the creation of hairstyles saturate my mind. I remember browsing through hair magazines filled with endless hairstyles and being told to “pick a style.” I remember overcoming feelings of discomfort with certainty.
I was certain of the new beauty each hairstyle would bring. Even on the days when I wasnâ€™t pleased with the outcome, I remember embracing each style while finding a way to not allow patterns of braids to define me. Even now, Iâ€™ve found hair to be a passion of mine. It must be something to do with my passion for hair that inspires me to experiment with new styles. Thanks to the images of hair that surrounded me as a child, Iâ€™ve developed a passion for creating and recreating styles on myself and on others.
Iâ€™ve found hair, particularly traditional hairstyles, to be so much more than trivial patterns. Iâ€™m able to see beauty, grace, and originality in different hairstyles, but most of all, I see boldness. Thereâ€™s a perplexing boldness to them that breaks conventional beauty barriers.
These characteristics of different hairstyles are everything the notion of home embodies. We begin to dismantle the idea of home being insignificant and instead find beauty and grace of home. We find boldness from knowing where our home lies and basking in the strength of that revelation. It gives us originality and a unique beauty. All is to say, home is a theme that can be explored by exploring hair. Through which we see the intersections home has with our appearance / identity.
“You know, I’m not so sure what the big fuss is about – they all look the same anyway.”
NIGERIANS IN THE ABROADS by Jochebed Peace Airede
Nah, bruh, because I’m pretty sure, if there’s one thing all 180 million Nigerians have in common, it’s the ability to recognise our own from about a thousand kilometres away. Yep – we’re that good. The art of recognising a fellow Nigerian doesn’t come from how we look (well, not completely), but our unforgettable idiosyncrasies – especially, when we’re abroad. And the drama begins way before we step foot into the country. Luggage Limbo
Illustration by Sophia Zarders
Before we even leave the airport, our Nigerians identity has already manifested, as you can always count on us to either have three bags over the allowed number, or to have all six suitcases 10 kilogrammes over the weight limit. Most of the time, half of the stuff isn’t even ours. Whenever my grandmother travels to America for the summer, over three-quarters of her suitcase is filled with gifts for people she’s guaranteed to be visiting: “And this dress is for Daniella, my Pastor’s niece and this suit is for Pastor David, who lives a few minutes away from Peter’s house, and this is for Leila, who does my sewing!” And it would be impossible to forget the unforgettable battle with Immigration when the offending bags are fatefully weighed, and the verdict passed on their status: “Ma’am, not only do you have too many suitcases, but they are much too heavy to allow unto the plane.” There’s a silence as our Nigerian sister glances at the bags around her and pauses to think. She glances up at the stern face of the Immigration officer, in demise, until she sees his name tag: Adewale. “Brother, help me.” My mother always wonders why people bring in so much when they plan on shopping when they get there and filling their suitcases with even more stuff. This of course, leads us to the next field of Abroad-Nigerian traits: Purchasing Palaver I’ve never been one to bet, but if I were to put my money on anything, it would be on the probability that there are more Nigerians shopping in Primark stores all over England during the summer, than there are people on many islands, because if there’s one thing a Nigerian loves – awoof, a great sale. We’re at every rack, every counter, whizzing through the price tags and snatching bottles of Bio-Oil off the shelves (that bottle’s super expensive in Nigerian pharmacies, and it’s like, what, ten pounds in Primark?).
Plus, we never forget to use the street-intelligence gained from living in Lagos to ensure we get the best deals: hiding that discounted suit under piles of shapeless maternity clothes because you know no one is going to come looking for a suit there, or grabbing a pack of obscure pink socks to bury your favourite shade of lipstick in, because you need to pop down to the ATM and there’s no way somebody else is wearing that colour to their wedding instead of you. We even eat cheap, prioritising Burger King over a three-star restaurant, because at the end of the day, if it isn’t home-made 9ja food, why on Earth should it be so expensive— it’s not like it’s going to make us fly. While we’re on the topic of food, it wouldn’t be too much of a tangent to dip down to our next (but ever so present) Abroad behavioural trait: Food Fight!
For Nigerians who’ve lived abroad for quite a long time, the craving for Nigerian food is super understandable because let’s face it— yam and plantain is much more expensive in British West-African stores, than it is in Wuse Market. Partnered with electricity and water bills, you may not be ready to have that increased dent in your finances. But when that Auntie, whose cooking is the only thing you remember, pops by and offers to transform your entire house into a Nigerian wonderland, it’s like your prayers have been answered. The funny thing is, that Auntie who’s just come from Nigeria? She also wants to chop the food as well. Leaving less for you, someone who’s been living off on basically chips and bread. Chai. Life’s not fair, is it? It would make sense that if you visit a new country, you would immerse yourself in the culture for the short while you’re there, just for the experience of it. Try Chinese, Italian, or even the regular McDonald’s just so that part of your life’s been ticked off the bucket list.Maybe you even want to associate with your relative who’s been abroad for awhile and hasn’t gotten the chance to eat jollof rice for ages. Nonetheless, I know Nigerians — we abscond from sense and do whatever the hell we want to do, because that’s the kind of people we are. And originally, it’s frustrating, because the hassle of preparing pounded yam (where does one even start, self, when you’re unprepared?) and soup is something you aren’t ready to deal with. However, just like every other oddity of Nigerians, it becomes hopelessly endearing, and whenever that one Nigerian relative calls that they’re coming to visit, you traipse down to your neighbourhood West-African food supplier, ready to use those haggling techniques you learned from the Lagosian side of life.
Culture Crisis? Count ‘Em Out
When Nigerians travel to the Abroads, the Abroads cease to be just that – it becomes Nigeria Lite. And I love it. Last year, my mother and I were walking in some gardens in Aberdeen, when we heard some men, who were walking on the opposite side of us, speaking Hausa. Instantly, I felt like shouting: “Brothers!”, but I didn’t even need to; the sense of a familial connection had already been established, as all three of our heads swivelled to the men, and we slowed down to watch them, ridiculous smiles on our faces. Not only were these our Nigerian brothers, but they were speaking their language unabashedly. This made me feel as if I had known them my entire life. It took them awhile to notice us staring at them – rather creepily, now that I think about it – and when they did, one of the men said: “Hi,” to which my mother replied, “‘Hi’, kwa? Senu*!”
To other people, it may have seemed like a very simple exchange — it’s not like we had a full-length conversation about the state of the nation— but a simple “Hello” in my mother’s language, made it seem as if we had known those people forever. It was an instant connection, a link to our home that enabled us to call them “brothers”, even if we didn’t know their names. And it was glorious. Temper Tantrums, kwa? You Better Respect Yourself.
On television, we always see all these American and European toddlers throwing tantrums and kicking up a storm when they’re told they can’t do something they want. Usually, I’d imagine what would happen if I threw a tantrum after not getting a toy I wanted from Hamleys. That would be a smashing version of Murder She Wrote. Nigerian parents don’t play with respect and discipline – and that doesn’t change abroad.
Even when in public, a Nigerian child knows better than to challenge their chi to a wrestling match**, because every Nigerian adult knows just how to communicate the words: You better respect yourself, with something other than their hands. When I used to get particularly difficult because I really wanted to buy ice cream, and my mother just wasn’t in the mood for my drama, she used to shoot me some dangerous side-eye that could rival the likes of Jenifa (you know, “My name is Jenifa”, from the smash-hit Jenifa’s Diary?). She didn’t even need to speak, as her eyes said enough: “Don’t test me”. Now that I’m older and much less pouty, my brother and I always laugh at the sharp glances and quick, “Be quiet, my friend!” that mothers shoot when their children start to whine, because we’ve been there before. “Na wa, o! So, they jump queues even in America?” A while ago, some people had gone for a sports competition and they were booked into a horrible hotel. They were clearly upset, and were going to work up a storm, when one of them just waved a hand to calm them down, saying: “Don’t worry – just let the Nigerians come.” That’s right people; because if there’s one thing any Nigerian has no rival in, it’s the Art of Complaining. Nigerians rarely banter with our rights, which means that if you’re itching for a fight on a cool Saturday afternoon, just do one thing: traipse to the front of a queue with a Black woman in it. By the time you’ve become acquainted with the cutting insults of a Yoruba woman, your life will change forever.
9ja Forever Sometimes, the news on television is enough to make me ashamed to be a Nigerian: the missing dollars, the terrorism, the scandals. Even the way some Nigerians behave toward each other, makes me question whether I’d write “Nigerian” or “Wakandan” on a form asking for my nationality. Then, we travel and the aforementioned behaviour is on display over and over again for me to see. Quickly, I nudge my brother, sharply whispering: “That’s a Nigerian”. And of its own accord, the shame flits away.
*Senu – Hausa word for ‘hello’ ** ‘challenge his chi to a wrestling match’ – Ibo proverb. In Igbo, chi, is ‘personal God’. The proverb basically means, that you do not fight with the person who is supposed to help you/ there are some battles you do not fight out of sense.
at home on the dancefloor
Living in Alberta, a Canadian Province colloquially referred to as Texas North, you grow accustomed to being the only black person, or even person of colour in a lot of spaces. This was
noticeable from the minute I moved to Lethbridge, Alberta to start University six years ago. There were about eight black students out of the 300+ students in first year residence halls. However, over the years there has been an increase in the number of young people of colour in the city. This is in line with the general immigration trends across the country. Canada has become a prime destination for international students because it is a relatively cheap alternative to the United States and the UK, and provides an easier path to Permanent Residence than either. Lethbridge in particular attracts many African Students because of it’s cheap cost of living, relatively low tuition at the University, and the University’s (not completely undeserved) reputation as being easy to get into.
The University of Lethbridge also has a reputation for being a party school across the Province. MacLean’s magazine conducts a yearly survey of the biggest party schools in the country based on hours spent partying, and the University of Lethbridge is consistently at the top of the list in Alberta (Go Pronghorns!). But with an increasingly large population of black students many of whom are students of African and Caribbean descent, it became clear that the party scene was not accomodating the needs of the changing demographics. There are four clubs in Lethbridge. Yes, there are a few bars with dancefloors but I won’t even give those the dignity of being called clubs. One is a Country club, and not the type with argyle vests and khaki shorts. The type with cowboy boots, two stepping and yee haws -- I was serious when i said Texas North. The rest are studies in populism. You will hear flavour of the month Top 40 hits, whatever generic EDM songs are making the rounds, country songs, and a sprinkling of new hip-
hop songs, as well as some well worn classics (if I have to listen to The Real Slim Shady one more time I swear to God...) Some of the more forward thinking DJs play the occasional Afrobeat, Dancehall, or Soca song but at the end of the day these clubs try to cater to everyone at once.Increasingly, some DJâ€™s like Dami (@dj.carpel), who organizes the parties these photos are taken at have taken it upon themselves to provide an environment where young African and Caribbean people are represented by renting out spaces and throwing their own parties. Parties where hearing the words Shoki and Shaku Shaku doesnâ€™t surprise anyone. Spaces where young Black people are free to dance as they want. Nights where they can express themselves in the ways that they consider natural. These parties have given many Black students a space that is theirs. The music is warm, and inviting. Sounds of home envelop bodies in a warm embrace. For these nights a small nondescript hall becomes a piece of home that they can cling on to in a foreign country. Or a place where they can connect to their roots in ways that are as dynamic and vibrant as the cultures they come from.
Parties where hearing the words Shoki and Shaku Shaku doesnâ€™t surprise anyone. Spaces where young Black people are free to dance as they want. Nights where they can express themselves in the ways that they consider natural.
National Geographics: This collage is a National Geographic inspired magazine cover on my homeland, Nigeria.
Support: This piece is
about the lack of emotional support us Nigerian children can experience with our immigrant parents. This piece shows two hands, one being mine and the other being my significant-other’s, and represents outside relationships I’ve created to compensate for my parents lack of emotional support. The background was inspired by a pattern on Ankara fabric that reflected connection and relationship to me because the lines curve in relation to each other. I used black and white to show how my parents don’t always see a gray area and I made a contrast with the colors in the hands to show the need of understanding and fluidity in a relationship.
Gratitude: This piece is about the things we take for granted, like
air conditioning heaters and fans. In Nigeria, I remember it was always so hot and I had no idea that there were such things as A.C. Living in America for very longs has made me take things like this for granted and this piece is physical gratitude for the simple things I can enjoy in this country, but my people back home may not be able to enjoy.
to write home: letters to another self
SCREAMING AROUND THE EDGES
I find it difficult to disarm myself sometimes. Sometimes I really want to scream. But screaming is what they want out of me. They want to see a black woman in the streets in distress in complete, sincere insanity.Â So, I write insteadâ€”to keep from screaming. As a black woman, I find, I am constantly screaming around the edges of things.
As a black woman, I am constantly screaming around things rather than at them. The essence of screaming in itself is cathartic; a form of release. So the very act of screaming within oneself; that is, to keep oneâ€™s scream contained, internally, is somewhat repressive, verging on baleful, approaching folly. The edges of microaggressions are razoredged and taunting. Coaxing me constantly to snap and crack in an outburst of great offence and outrage. So to merely scream around these microaggressive extremities is an art, one that takes great restraint, and is, at times, a necessary end. To scream around the edge is to toe the lines of balance and composure. It is to release while repress. It is to express while suppressing. It is to vocalize yet internalize. It is to scream while not screaming at all. There are one million storms brewing within me at all times. But my outer form mirrors an unperturbed demeanor.
I am the dichotomy of internal conflict and external calm. A charming, unassuming ruse. As a black woman, I know I cannot fight all of my battles. I must carefully choose to let things go. As a black woman, I must take great care, constantly, in this Western world that I still feel I am a mere guest in. I must turn a blind eye (or a squinting eye at the very least) and a (partially) deaf ear to lukewarm racist remarks, cultural insensitivity and appropriation on a daily basis. I am a black woman, and I am often frustrated and tired. Rather than screaming at these things, and being labeled as the â€œAngry Black Woman,â€? I choose to recoil into myself. I choose not to speak on certain things that a non-black-woman can speak on freely without fear of subsequent labeling. I carefully choose not to raise my voice or mirror anything resembling a woman on the verge of losing composure.
But if one were to hold a stethoscope up to my chest, they would hear the faint echo of fervent screams catapulting off the walls of my innards.
I must have been somewhere between birth and six years old. Some of my greatest memories of Nigeria are of the star spangled cool nights, when I would lie on my back on the balcony of our home with my arms folded behind my head, listening feverishly to the stories of the cunning and allusive ‘mbe’( tortoise) and his mischief with the other animals. My siblings and I would form a scattered crescent around my mother, wide-eyed and slackmouthed as we listened to her telling these tales in my language, Igbo.
the songs we sing judith ugwuja
Fables and folklore were my absolute favourite things and these are the memories from my childhood that continue to resonate with me. I probably couldn’t tell you the colour of the walls in my room in Nigeria, or how long it took me to walk to school each morning or all the names to the faces that my mind intermittently clings to-- but I know why the tortoise has so many ‘cracks’ on its shell (quite a magnificent tale of greed and falling from the heavens), I know why babies cannot speak, and I know why the lion is the king of the jungle.
Now, I am 17 and living in Ireland, but through these stories and others told to me about life in Nigeria, I am able to feel connected to our country. How do you feel connected to Nigeria? Is it on the 1st of October, when you post ‘Happy Independence Day’ on your Snapchat story, adorned with emojis of the Nigerian flag? Is it at those African parties where the music is too loud and the jollof has gone cold and aunties are breaking it down on the dance floor to Wizkid? And what about those new Nigerian jerseys that sold out in minutes, how we all joined the voice of complaint that non- Nigerians had been the reason we, Nigerians, could not get a hold of them? Is that when you feel it most? Until very recently, my only way of discovering (or rediscovering Nigeria) had been through memes on Instagram (generally mocking the economy and fuelling the never-ending battle of the jollofs) and excruciatingly long-winded but much appreciated stories of my parent’s childhood. While it is important to submerge ourselves in Nigerian culture through Afrobeat or Instagram memes and football jerseys,
I also feel that it is crucial to retain memory and history of Nigeria on a larger scale. I always resent the fact that I had not been able to learn Nigerian History in school as a subject when I lived in Nigeria, and I wish that I had gotten the chance to learn of the great empires, the ravaging wars and how the slave trade directly affected us. But it’s never too late. Maya Angelou, an African American poet, singer and memoirist said that, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” Stories and storytelling are like songs of the soul, they are a powerful way of retaining memory and history. With words, a story captures a single moment in time: a feeling, a belief, an emotion,and makes it infinite. I loved the fables that I grew up with, not because I harboured dreams of becoming a zoologist or because they were (to 6 year old me) literary masterpieces, but because they captured the moments in my childhood. The memory of the shallow open air and dark blue night sky that seemed to stretch on and on and on. It taught me that my ancestors, who told these stories, were not just some hut-dwelling savages (as African tribes are often depicted) but that they were creatives, capable of quirkiness, of humour and imagination. This creativity ties our generations together.
It is important for us, the youth of the Nigerian Diaspora, to hold on to our culture and history. But it is also important for those who have told the stories-for their voices to be heard throughout the ages. I mean, isn’t that what every human wants? To leave a mark on earth, to declare that they were here, and most importantly, to never be forgotten. Christina Baldwin, an American author and lecturer sums it up well with ‘A story is the song line of a person’s life. We need to sing it and we need someone to hear the singing. Story told, Story heard, Story written, Story read, creates the web of life in words’. Ask anybody why they believe that it is important to retain history and culture of your roots and most likely they will give you the clichéd, ‘you have to know where you’re from, in order to know where you are going’ and while this is, in a sense, true, I don’t fully believe in it’s philosophy. You see, Human beings, we are made to adapt to our environment and surroundings. One can, in a sense, survive and possibly even thrive without having a connection to their roots. Although it is arguable that they may end up having a sort of mid-life crisis, however, humans adapt and move forward. When I began planning to write this essay, this cliché was perhaps
at the top of my list of topics to discuss when dealing with the importance of upholding our culture. This has changed, because there is a single point that I believe is possibly the most important reason why it is necessary for us, young people, to make great efforts to connect to Nigerian history and culture: The danger of a single story. I was in Transition Year when I came across Nigerian author and poet, Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie’s Ted Talk ‘The danger of a single story’. In short ‘The Single story’ describes a single sided image of a people,stereotypes. She says that ‘The problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue but that they are incomplete, they make one story become the only story’. The single story she describes, is a story of Africans, told by the west. In this story, Africans are inferior, we lack knowledge, we are incapable of greatness. This story is told and this story is believed. Donald Trump’s ‘shithole countries’ are African and there is the horrible prejudice and stereotype that follows the single story. But the real Tragedy is that, Africans, Nigerians living in the west have begun to accept the single story that has been told to us, time and time again. We have begun to see our home as the single story told by Europeans, and I will be the first
to admit it. I had always thought of myself as a ‘good Nigerian,’ in contrast to the way Nigerians have been painted as scammers, thieves and ‘lazy youth’ with backwards ideals. I nearly forgot who we were. When I moved to Ireland, I met Nigerians who would tell me that they were Irish about three times before telling me that their ‘parents are Nigerian’, almost as if being born in Ireland was a redeeming feature, and I was shocked by the reluctance to admit or even acknowledge their Nigerianess. Being a ‘fob’ (Fresh off the boat, slang for someone who had just come to abroad from Nigeria) was something laughed at, embarrassing and looked down on. The Nigerian youth in Ireland would make fun of your distinct Nigerian accent, your mannerisms and look down on you because of the single story that they themselves had bought into. You were from Nigeria and that meant that you were not as clever or as capable. I met a girl, around my age, a few months back that had just moved from Nigeria at a debating camp in Trinity. I was taken aback when she told me that she had only just come from Nigeria. I looked at her from head to toe, her English was perfect, she was well spoken, confident and I was…an idiot! I was an idiot to be surprised by this and it slowly sank in that… I had made the prejudice that people in the
West are hounded for making. I had imagined that it was impossible for someone from Nigeria to have these positive traits about them. I had imagined a village girl who spoke broken english, who wasn’t as educated. I was surprised and I was proud. Meeting her really opened my eyes and my way of thinking. That, my friends, is why it is so important to me to hold on to the memory of Nigeria and our history. When we know of Nigeria, of the greatness, of the intelligence, of the people with vibrant music and vibrant minds, of our poets, of our scientists, of our writers. When we know of those who have been erased from the story in order to illustrate us as inferior. When we know of this history-- we will understand that our ancestors and our people are filled with sublimity and grandeur.
interviews by zoe vongtau
come on home: edua eboigbe interviewed by grace mecha
photo by nneka nnagbo
Before you officially moved to Nigeria how many times had you been there/how often did you go back? The first time we visited back home was in 2003, I was 9. But.. honestly, we’ve been back 12, 15 times. Do you think that influenced how comfortable you were with moving back? Oh, definitely. The first few times that we went my cousins would laugh at us because of the way we speak and so automatically we had to [pick up an accent]… And children, I think children just pick up on accents and things better than [older people] and so picking up on accents and being able to switch accents and like slang and sound like everybody else around, I think I picked it up at a young age. Definitely coming here often made it easier to adjust when moving. It wasn’t easy, but it did make it a lot easier. Do you feel like a lot of people in the Nigerian diaspora have considered moving back? Have your friends in the US talked about it a lot? Do you know a lot of people thinking of coming back? I don’t. I think my case is special just because my dad moved back here a few years ago for work. So, that brought us here more often. I live by myself here, in a different city than my dad, but it does help that we’re in the same country.
When my friends talk about it, they would like that too, but it’s not possible for them because they don’t really have any family members that would be able to support them if need be. But I know of people that have done it. I felt comfortable with doing it because there was a girl who went to my university, a few years before me. I saw her move back [to Nigeria] on social media and do NYSC (Nigerian Youth Service Corps) and get a job. That was really motivating. I had been thinking about [moving back] for a while, since my first year of college. I was like, “Dude, right after this I’m moving back.” Seeing people do it and not die made me realize that I can also do this. So the first time you ever seriously considered moving back was your freshman year? Actually, it was probably during one of my trips. I always loved going back and Nigerian culture, music and artists. I kept up with a lot of Nigerian celebs and was always thinking about how I wanted to be one of them. I’ve just always been attracted to Nigeria. It was probably sometime in high school. What did your family think? Everybody thought I was crazy! After graduation, I was going to do [an internship in Boston] for three months, have a month to chill, and then get out of [the US] and go
to Nigeria. The portal to register for NYSC didn’t open until late October and I was freaking out! I was thinking, what if it opens late? I was supposed to get there in December and I was scared of wasting time. It was a really rough time because I was considering just staying and getting a job in the US. During that time my family was like, “Just get a job! Why do you want to run away to Nigeria?” But no, I needed to go. Everyone thought I was crazy! But then I got a job after NYSC and I was like, “I think I’m gonna stay.” My family was like, “WHY?” My parents have gotten used to it. They’ve adjusted. My dad likes it that I’m here. Were your friends the same way? Yeah, my friends were like, “What are you doing? Can you come back? Stop trying to run away from your responsibilities.” I was not! They just didn’t understand. They still think it’s weird. What are some things you remember being excited about being looking forward to?
Family was number one. It was one of the big things that attracted me to come. And honestly, I just liked that fact that people here could pronounce my name, food that I was different for and made me weird [in the US] was common and normal and everybody ate it, everybody’s black. I don’t have to think about the fact that I’m a black woman here. Yeah, I think it must be really nice to just be. If you were anywhere else in the world, you’d be a minority. In Nigeria, you probably feel like a person, not a black person. Right! I’m just a person. I don’t think I have any stereotypes attached to me here, if people just look at me. Maybe if I talk like this (with an American accent), it’ll come, but I don’t talk like this to everybody. What were some things you were nervous about? For NYSC, not being posted somewhere good. Coming, and it being a waste of time.. That’s everything I was nervous about.
For everything else, I was like, “Let’s do this!” You sound like you went into this with full force. I would have been really hesitant and so scared! You sound like you were just ready to go. Yeah, it something that I’d been thinking about for a long time. When it was about to happen, I kept thinking, “Just happen already!” On that note, I don’t know if you know about this Youtube Channel called “The Returneez”, and it’s dedicated to people who have moved back to Nigeria like yourself. In a video titled “Why I Moved Back to Nigeria”, the host says, Nigeria is limitless.. The opportunities are limitless. You can be whatever you want to be, you can do whatever you want to do. There’s so much opportunity here and it’s a growing country so you can bring your innovation, your ideas, and just start something from scratch and there’s not going to be things to hold you back. Whereas, compared to other countries, your competition is more developed so don’t sleep on Nigeria. Would you agree with that? I would definitely agree with that. I think that there are some barriers…
There are some barriers but there is so much clear ground. There is so much to be done, and so much that can be done. I agree. You can bring your ideas here and have them grow.
Do you think having an American degree sets you apart? It does. I definitely have American privilege. Nigerians love foreign things, and that annoys me because I think we should love our own things. Like, okay, you’re gonna give a foreign grad privileges over people that go to school in Nigeria? Why? I think that there is a troubling mindset around it, because what are you saying? Students schooled in Nigeria aren’t as good as those schooled abroad? Why? If you have a foreign accent, you’ll get more attention. They associate it with white people, and assume you must be smarter. Nigerians just can’t be considered smart by themselves. We have to go and learn from people in the abroad to be seen as smart. That’s my own personal view.
one could see. You know, when you have to get it together you have to get it together. It was daunting at first, just because there were so many new things that I’ve never done before. I just did not know what to do or what I was doing. • Fun: I met a lot of fantastic, awesome people. I made a lot of friends. After the first couple of days, I got it together and started hanging out with people. Going to eat and stuff.
Think about your first month back. What are three words you would use to describe it? My first month, oh my goodness gracious. I spent the first week waiting to get my life here started, and then the next three weeks in NYSC camp in Abuja. It was an experience. How do I even put this into three words? • Daunting: The first night, the lights were out by 10 because we had to get up by 3, to be somewhere at 4am. By 2, everyone is getting up to go and bathe and I’m like, “Oh crap, where do I get water from? How do I even go about doing this?” I was just in bed for a really long time, just thinking. Then I hear someone selling hot water so I go and buy some. People were bathing outside, so I did too— it was dark, so no
• Different: People were from different parts of Nigeria, parts of Nigeria that I had never even heard of. I thought I would learn about when I came to Nigeria, the different ethnic groups and states and people. I found myself saying “Okay, I’ve heard of your state, but I’ve never heard of your people,” a lot. Nigeria is so diverse. There are so many different ethnic groups. I met people and learned about their culture and where they come from, and just got to know different personalities. I had an altogether different experience. You just like, wake up in the morning and march. We spent a lot of time in the sun, standing and marching. It was interesting.
How much time passed before you really felt settled/ before you realized that you were totally comfortable being there? I think I was comfortable when I got there. What was uncomfortable was NYSC camp. That was uncomfortable for like the first week. After that, though, it’s like, “Whatever dude- let’s get this over with.” But for feeling confident in where I’m going and finding my way around Abuja, I think I would say I felt 100% comfortable after a year. How difficult was it to make friends? I would introduce myself to people and the first two days I was in camp and didn’t know anybody, I was like, “God, please help me make friends tomorrow!” That next morning, I met this girl in our parade thing— I’m friends with her to this day— and started meeting these other people and we formed a little group. For the rest of the three weeks, we all just hung out together. I still talk to a lot of people from there. So, it wasn’t too hard! Nobody really treated me weirdly. So I guess being there, like even if you do have the jitters, you kind of just have to push it aside and be present. Yeah! You just have to.
I was thinking, I can’t just be there for three weeks and be alone. Have you met other people who have returned to Nigeria? I’ve met other people through NYSC but after NYSC they left... mostly back to America. No one else has stayed. What is something that anybody considering moving back to Nigeria should think about/ consider before they make the big decision to move back? Generally speaking, people are going to treat you different if you have a different accent. Not everybody, but there will be some. And prepare to be aggravated over stupid little things. It’s going to happen.
Nigerians, we’re very funny people. When I first got here, I was always arguing with people. I feel like I’ve just learned to shake my head and keep it moving. Especially with customer service and restaurants. For example, I went to Domino’s Pizza with my sister and we heard my dad reprimanding somebody fiercely. I asked him what happened- the person at the door who greets people was saying “Welcome sir” to everybody and then a white guy walked in and he said “Welcome master.” I was like, “what is wrong with us?” That’s one example. Two— There’s this ice cream place that I go to all the time. You try the ice cream flavors before you buy something. I went one day and I’m tasting the different flavors. The lady goes, “I hope you’re gonna buy some.” I was [shocked at the] customer service. People are just different and think differently there. It all just depends on your attitude. You could just be a nice happy-go-lucky person and choose your battles. Focus on the positive. But Nigeria is an awesome place to be and it has so much potential. It really does. I think the situation with jobs and things like that pushes a lot of people to use their brain and think of ideas so they can eat. People need to eat! They’re thinking of these ideas so they can survive. It’s awesome, what can come out of it. If we had the right leaders, I think that Nigeria would be a more awesome place.
What would you say is your favorite thing about living in Nigeria? I think the part about not having to think about being black is my favorite. I don’t want to sound weird, but, truthfully… That’s not weird! I kind of think that’s a big deal. That’s a completely valid thing to be your favorite. I didn’t realize how much it affected me until I got here. It’s like, “Wow, I’m Nigerian just like the rest of you.” It’s like, no one really has any racialized preconceived notions about you. Right! That is, I think, one of my favorite parts. Also, I just feel more confident. Like, this is my home. It’s mine. No one can say that it’s not.
Do you consider yourself an American Nigerian or a Nigerian-American? How would you identify yourself to someone else? In college, I roomed with a girl who grew up in Nigeria and did schooling in America from college. She said that, Nigerian-Americans, who were born in America to Nigerian parents, were not real Nigerians. I was devastated! Nobody has ever said anything like that to me. You know, just evaluating my identity. Who are we… And like, who is it up to? … Thank you! Who is it up to? Nigerians don’t see us as real Nigerians and Americans.. One, it [feels strange] to be classified as Black American because of the history and everything. Two, Americans are like, “Look at your name. You’re African. You’re not really Black.” I think it comes down to who you identify with. I identify as Nigerian-American, 100%. I’m also American, even though I feel a little removed. Do you miss Massachusetts? Or just the US in general? Not anymore. I miss my friends and my family and Chipotle. But, there’s nothing there that I’m too crazy about. I do want to go to other places, though. I want to go to school in
the U.K. I’ve lived in America for too long. Now that I’ve seen Nigeria, I’ve realized there is so much to learn. I feel like I’ve learned so much just about people and my experiences and the way people think. I want to go to more places. And I’m sure you’ve learned a lot about yourself too. Like, how you like to live. Right! And I’m still learning, honestly. Is there anything else you want readers to know? I would just repeat that Nigeria is an awesome country. It’s a place that we should be proud of. I encourage everybody to read up on Nigerian history. There is so much that we don’t get from our parents, the first contacts we have of Nigeria. There is so much more about Nigeria that we can learn from the Internet, and from other people. There are so many different ethnic groups, and I feel like we only hear about the Hausa, Yoruba, and Igbo. There are so many more. Also, learn about Nigerian history and how it plays a part in our current affairs. There’s so much to learn and so much to know about Nigeria, and sometimes it’s just a click away.
other photos c/o edua eboigbe
zine a l a h a August 2018
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cover image + design by nneka nnagbo
Wahala Zine is a creative platform for young people in the Nigerian diaspora. In this issue, artists reflect on the theme of home! @wahalazi...
Published on Aug 10, 2018
Wahala Zine is a creative platform for young people in the Nigerian diaspora. In this issue, artists reflect on the theme of home! @wahalazi...