The Nigerian Woman | Rooted

Yosola Paul-Olaleye

Hi Guys!!

YossiePaul

Back again with another amazing Nigerian woman! I remember growing up how the instant rebuke for doing less than your peers was “do they have two heads?!”. I am however convinced that Yossie does! 😀 How else do you describe someone who is a published author, working on her Masters degree and gearing up for a PhD. and of course maintaining the daunting responsibility of being entertaining on social media!! Always true to her Yoruba roots and an all round pleasure to talk to and learn from, I know you would enjoy reading about this Nigerian Woman just as much as I did!

Who are you (What are the things that make up your identity, likes, interests, quirks)

You’d think people would be comfortable with this question given that we are supposedly self-obsessed, but I still struggle with it. In any case, I’m a 22-year old wearer of many hats – at least, I try to be. I feel it’s my duty to be able to do many things for myself, and this is probably to my detriment.

At the moment, I am studying for a master’s degree in Communication Governance at LSE. In my spare time, which is technically no spare time at all, I work on an online publication with friends and I try to build platforms that will potentially change the way we discuss issues concerning Africa and ‘development’.

I am also an aspiring writer, and I published my first book in September 2015. It is a collection of essays and poetry about home and various experiences of womanhood. It is dedicated to my grandfather, the man whose influence shaped my life and work.

Two things make up my identity, really, and those are books (by which I mean words and everything about them) and Nigeria. This is because everything I do finds its way back to my love for words, language, and literature; and whenever I think about my work and my goals, I think about ‘home’.

What do you feel being a Nigerian woman means?

On a very simple level, I think of it merely in terms of our places of origin, our names, our histories. But I am also interested in how the above shape our identities and influence our character.

Being a Nigerian woman for me is about knowing where I have come from – which I understand as my name and my family’s lineage – and leading a life that glorifies that history. I come from a long line of women who have changed their environments and the lives of the people around them, and I feel it’s important for me to follow that path and do something meaningful for Nigeria/Nigerians, especially girls, perhaps in education.

Maybe being a Nigerian woman, for me, is about contributing positively to the growth of our home?

Has your identity as a Nigerian ever been questioned? Why and how did you respond?

No, it hasn’t. If anything, my identity as a Yoruba woman has been questioned, but that’s because I don’t like pepper (read: hot food). Sometime last year, a friend generously went out in the night to find some food for me. He came back with Nando’s and I didn’t think much of it because I figured we couldn’t go wrong with chicken. Wrong. At some point, I realised my mouth was burning and so I asked him if he got extra hot. He turned his face away from me and said, “You have a Yoruba mother.” I was like: Yes, and so? That I have a Yoruba mother doesn’t mean I eat pepper, please. So I had this dramatic moment of, “Please don’t kill me o!”

It was quite hilarious. I actually love the look on people’s faces when I say I don’t like super hot food. It’s like, “ah ahn. You sure sey you be omo Naija like this?” Yes, I’m sure. I don’t understand what people enjoy about tapping their heads while eating because of pepper.

When did you become conscious of your identity as a Nigerian woman?

I think this happened sometime last year – I think I fully came into myself in 2015. I had always known that I was ‘Nigerian’, insofar as I was born and raised in Lagos. I had always known my full name, and I had always been aware of the influence my childhood experiences had on my person. But, last year, I started to think about my childhood, and my relationship with my grandfather, who, in many ways, tried to make us all aware of where we came from, of our names, of our history. This is why I dedicated my book to him and why I wrote the short essay about home and my grandfather.

I started to think about what my name means, and how to make sure it drives me, and that’s when I started to feel strongly ‘Nigerian’. That said, being away from home makes me feel somewhat removed from the reality of Nigerian living.

What are you most proud of when you think of Nigerian women?

Ooh, the fighting spirit! I mean, it could also be described as shakara (especially if you’re Yoruba), but I think it’s wonderful. And it’s also not restricted to Nigerian women. I think African women all over the world share this, and it’s what makes us – our grandmothers, our mothers, all of us – remarkable. Don’t worry, no feminist propaganda here (although that wouldn’t be amiss). 😉

Where can people find you and your work?

All over the web, literally. I have placed all my digital footprints in a central place for ease: www.about.me/yossiepaul

 

 

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