Firstly, I’m so thrilled at the response to the first post in this series! Thank you so much to everyone who read and commented! Here’s the second piece in the series. I was particularly interested in her story for a few reasons; 1) Shully is smart and awesome and hearing her opinion is always great! 2) Being biracial in Nigeria is a pretty unique experience.
As someone simply observing, being biracial seems to draw so many different reactions; bullying, admiration or indifference and often times all these reactions could come from a single source. Shully pulled me into her thoughts and experiences and I hope you enjoy this as much as I did!
Who are you (What are the things that make up your identity, likes, interests, quirks)
A while ago I read a tumblr post that said “’I’m having a conversation with one of my friends and I ask him, “What defines you?” and he responded with, “Nothing. A definition excludes the possibility for change.” When I think of my identity, I think of that statement because I feel I am constantly negotiating what it is. That being said I will say the things that currently make me “Shully” lol. My names, my Israeli name and my Nigerian name define me. Shulamit means peace and Temitope means “I’ll always have something to be grateful for”. I am not somebody who people typically think of as peaceful and for a long time I was laughed and told I was named wrongly and so I stopped telling people the meaning of my name. It took me a long time to understand the significance of the name and now I can say without any hesitation I was not named in vain. Temitope reminds me to pause and look around, to be thankful and to recognize the little and big things. After that rant lol, other things that define me would be reading,most especially works of African authors, developing my writing craft, my somewhat obsession with cleaning, extreme organization and arrangement. I also need to be early to everything or I freak out internally. And finally being an introvert but also a weird person according to my friends.
What do you feel being a Nigerian woman means?
I think being a Nigerian woman means different things depending on where you are from in Nigeria. I think it has a lot to do with understanding the history of women in Nigeria, in your family, culture and understanding the relation to you. I think of strength and perseverance when I think of Nigerian women, of survival, of many lives lived. I think we carry a certain level of pride with us, a Nigerian woman is complicated but wonderful lol. I think of the relationships with sisters and aunties, female friends of the community of women and strength of sisterhood whether in churches or markets
What was it like to be bi-racial in Nigeria?
For me this is a complicated question because I often find I had a different experience than most bi-racial kids in Nigeria. I was bullied for most of elementary and middle school for the reason of being bi-racial. I was also extremely religious, like go to church 4 times a week-earlier-than-service-starts-and-leave-2 hours-after-it-ended religious. My sister and I were always the two “oyinbo” children, easily noticeable and always talked about in church. When I was in Nigeria, I found that I always claimed Israel more, my Nigerian-ness needed no explaining although between my sister and I, she was the one that “looked” more Nigerian. My blond hair and green eyes constantly attracted stares and comments
Has your identity as a Nigerian ever been questioned? Why and how did you respond?
I think this is kind of related to what I was saying before about looking less Nigerian than my sister. In that regard, people are always shocked when I say I’m Nigerian and often people ask if I have been there and are surprised when I say I lived there all my life. Then they ask if I can speak pidgin or where I lived in Nigeria. Almost like a standard test to verify my Nigerian-ness. I usually go through the routine with them, answering questions, laughing at surprises. It only thoroughly bothers me when my experience is questioned and dismissed but mostly I am used to interrogations lol.
What is your favorite thing about Nigeria?
It’s the jokes, the comments, the slangs that make you laugh. Being able to see a meme or a comment or a status and be transported back to a time it happened or remember several experiences. Even to show it to another Nigerian and have them share in that with you. To be miles away from home but still the ability to experience a homier you, that is what I love. Food. Strength and laughter in people, families and communities.
What would you change about Nigeria if you had the chance?
I would change the dependence and crutch on churches. I think people in Nigeria are taken advantage of by the churches. There is too much money going in to churches and too little being put back into taking care of the people you see on the way to your church. It needs to change.
Where can people find you and your work?
You can find me on tumblr – forshalom is where I post up most of my work. Visit, tell me what you think.