The Nigerian Woman| Then and Now

Iquo Ukoh

Hey guys!

As promised here is the first in my Nigerian woman series. To start off I decided to gain some perspective by asking my mother. She was the perfect go-between as she has the benefit of time and consequently has had a fuller experience than I have of being a Nigerian woman.

Iquo Ukoh-Begin
          Mrs Iquo Ukoh

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

A wife , a mother, a career woman and a mentor to many young women.

I am a woman that is driven by excellence and a passion to succeed no matter the odds. Even though I did not study marketing in the University but I have become one of the names in marketing to be reckoned with in Nigeria.

In recent years I have decided to channel my creative passions via food blogging, creating new recipes and educating my followers on healthy lifestyle options.

What do you feel it means to be Nigerian, especially a Nigerian woman?

Nigerians are passionate and expressive people. The determination to succeed is one of the most salient characteristics of the Nigerian people. No wonder many Nigerians stand out wherever they are found around the world. A Nigerian woman no matter her social status  is one that is ready to challenge the status quo and dare to try in a man’s world. Cultural and religious limitations continue to place impediments in her path but the Nigerian woman is finding her way around this. It’s not been easy but a certain level of progress has been made

What changes have you noticed in your perspective as time has gone on?

Whilst my mum’s generation were mainly sit at home mothers, today a lot of mums are economically active one way or the other. The limited opportunity for employment has necessitated that women go out to generate income for their households. More women are heading organizations which heather to were mainly the men’s domain . We see women in previously male dominated professions like engineering and  architecture. I am seeing many more women taking charge of their lives and really challenging dominant ideas regarding their abilities.

What are your hopes for young Nigerian women?

The sky is the limit for young Nigerian women who are ready to work hard to achieve their set goals. The road may not be easy but the opportunities are limitless. The average Nigerian man has not quite shifted in his perception that the woman should be seen and not heard. This stance is more apparent in some cultures than others. However, when I see the giant strides young Nigerian women are achieving today  in areas previously dominated by men, I am hopeful.

Where can people find you?

My blog, 1qfoodplatter

Picture by willyverse

The Nigerian Woman|The Introduction

 

 

begin-shift dress

Hey guys!

I know it has been a while since I’ve been on here. I have been working on a small series about Nigerian women. I’m Nigerian, a Christian, working on being a grown woman, a creative with a head of curly hair that isn’t always cooperative and I love a good debate. I lived in Nigeria all my life till I moved to Canada for school. Every now and again when I meet people they ask if I’m Nigerian, you know “really” Nigerian. Sometimes I wonder what that means, what it means to be “really” Nigerian. What validates one person’s nationality over another. More than that, I wonder what it means to be a Nigerian female.

On the one hand being a female in Nigeria presents a host of patriarchal issues. There are more than enough people ready to tell you how you need to look and act and talk, where you can work, what you can be, when you should be married and how you should keep said marriage. With the host of do’s and don’t’s, sometimes we lose sight of how actual Nigerian women see themselves. This is why I decided to do this series; to remind myself and learn a little bit more about what it really means to be a Nigerian woman.

I found a few truly amazing women to share their stories with me and I will share those with you over the course of the next few weeks but before I do I thought I’d ring you in with this little introduction. Hope you enjoy!! 🙂

Watch your tongue

Language, Culture and Colonialism.

sew-willyverse-Ibegan

okay so I had originally planned to post my year in review next but life happens so I have a whole new post that I hadn’t really planned to write. Now this might not appeal to all people so if you’re reading this and getting really angry or bored well, not really sure what to tell ya buddy. Oh and you should know this is going to be a long one 🙂 .

Anyhu, a while ago and well every so often this argument bubbles up within my Nigerian circle “why don’t people our age speak their native languages?”. Usually this question is followed by a huge eye-roll from some people (*cough* me) and then the never ending back and forth of how we’re letting our languages die and what shall we do. Now don’t get me wrong I wish I had the diversity of tongue that my parents do. I wish I could sashay between languages without even realizing it and I certainly wish I had a stronger command of my language than I do but somehow it just didn’t happen for me as with many of my peers.

Finally one day as I was thinking in the shower, it finally made sense! We have been discussing the symptoms and completely ignoring the real issue. Language has no basis without culture. No really think about it, has anyone ever told you that in order to learn a language you need to visit the place and truly be immersed in the culture? Same concept! So by this am I implying that Nigerians are losing their culture? Yes and no. Of course as Nigerians I feel most of us can attest to having an undeniable “nigerian-ness” that you just can’t shake, whether it was in your upbringing, your craving for spicy food or the way your body moves when the beat drops and you just can’t deny the gbedu. However how many of us know our history? No I’m not talking about the history we learned in high school that starts at slave trade and continues through colonialism and lands us in this present day confuffled political collective. I mean the history of your people before they ever saw a white man.

Yea its a little more foggy isn’t it? Oh I’m so sure someone is reading this and thinking “well its not like they wrote us a diary to preserve that history” and I would ask you; have you become so heavily dependent on your colonial education that you completely disregard traditional ways of knowing that very effectively passed down knowledge up until a few generations ago? Language is simply the medium through which we tell our stories but if we don’t even know what those stories are then language is nothing but a strange combination of letters that have no value. In order to effectively partake in the intricacy of language, you must first situate yourself in the culture. So are you Yoruba or Edo or Igbo or Efik simply because your parents have told you that’s what you are or do you see your tribe as a fundamental piece of your identity. The honest answer to this question might explain your language proficiency in your native dialect.

Now seeing as I have written this entire post in English I clearly have no issues with a person speaking English or French or Portuguese or whatever the language of your colonizer was. BUT!!! I am no longer content with this cultural cluelessness. For example, why are different traditional marriages conducted the way they are? What is the significance of some of these practices or are we just all kneeling down and pouring alcohol on the ground cause its cool? Why do we eat the way we do? Why do we greet the way we do? Why do we dance the way we do? Without knowing the answers to any of these, language is really just one more thing that I’m barely holding on to.

Picture by Willyverse

I think of my Country

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Reflecting on Nigeria

I couldn’t count the number of times I rolled my eyes while listening to this young man mouth off about the demerits of Nigeria. By the time he described Nigerians as narcissistic I had just about had it. In his opinion, Nigerians are always quick to remind the world that we’re the “giants of Africa” but what do we have to be proud of? The smug look on his face spoke volumes to me. He was either trying to annoy somebody (eg. Me) or he honestly believed what he was saying and was daring the audience to disagree. I would not honor his desires then simply to spite him but I will speak my mind here.

As Nigerians we love to complain. Its a natural talent that we seem to possess. If we do well, we ask why didn’t we do better? If we fail, we ask why didn’t someone else stop us from failing. We complain about the corruption in our country like we invented corruption. We complain about our diversity like its the greatest curse. We would complain about anything as long as you give us the chance. What we fail to do however, after all this complaining is 1) look at what caused the problem  and 2)work to make it better.

Every time a Nigerian stands before me and tells me that we have no national identity all I see is a lack of understanding for where we as a country have come from. The country we now call Nigeria was a colonial construct that was set to ensure ease of colonial rule. The way Nigeria is set up was not for Nigerians to govern. It is a perfect representation of divide and rule because the people from one place to the next are so culturally different. It is hard to believe, with the sheer diversity of the nation that our people would mobilize to fight for independence; but we did. Our national identity should come in our shared history. We do not have to be Nigerian in the way that Americans are American to claim our national identity.

Every time a Nigerian suggests that secession of either the north or the south of Nigeria would solve all of our problems, I wonder how quickly we have forgotten the pain of the civil war. The lives of many people thrown in complete jeopardy because some people did what “seemed” to make the most sense. The north and the south of Nigeria have become very co-dependent irrespective of what some southern people might think. One would find it very difficult to survive without the other. The lives of civilians living in both parts would be horribly affected, and for what reason? Tribalism is our problem in the way some other countries have to deal with racism. As much as I hate to compare sites of inequity, I find this necessary in order to put things in context. Yes managing the power relations between multiple tribes is an incredibly difficult task but I don’t believe that it is impossible.

I am not naive. I know that there are many issues with Nigeria. I am often disappointed and frustrated with the people who lead us. I want more from and for the citizens. I expect so much from this country and it repeatedly falls below my expectations but I am not ashamed. I see potential in Nigeria. I am hopeful for a brighter day. Most importantly, I believe we have plenty to be proud of. There are Nigerians within the country and all over the world who are positively impacting the lives of millions. We are a resilient people who still find something to laugh about even in the darkest situations. We are smart, strong and we have such rich cultures. I don’t think that’s being narcissistic, it is choosing to acknowledge the positives when everyone insists on reminding you of the negatives.

picture by  willyverse

Old land, New Vibes

My summer in Nigeria so far

 

Begin- Old Land New Vibes

Hey y’all!! So I’ve been in Nigeria for a couple of weeks now and I’m very content so far 🙂

My first week was plagued with jet lag of life but I wasn’t too bothered about that. My days have generally been easy, sleep, go to driving school, visit a friend or run an errand or two, nothing too exhausting and it feels great! All those all-nighters of last year have melted off and I feel well-rested and happy. This happens every time I come back…an air of absolute chill that I never noticed before overcomes me. Well a good 60% of that chill is cause I’m being fed round the clock. Speaking of food, can we just take a second to appreciate the absolute delight that is my mum’s food? Living with a food blogger is -pass out with glee after every meal- amazing.

With every amazing point however,  there are a few things that still shock/annoy/confuse me.

1) Peeing men.  This is something that I shocks me every single time! I always wonder if I just never noticed before or if more men are just choosing to pee on the side of the road. This is how the scenario plays out most times for me;

me: *sitting in traffic and staring blankly out the window*

Mr pees-a-lot: *strolls to the most public place possible, and starts to pee

me :*notices Mr pees-a-lot and looks away for his dignity’s sake

Mr pees-a-lot: *possibly even carrying on a conversation at this point zips up and walks away like nothing ever happened.

WHY??? I suppose when nature calls and all that good stuff but WHY??? why on the side of the road where everybody can see you? Why aren’t you more discreet sir?

2) Nigerian road users. I say road users because whether they’re in a Jeep, on an Okada (bike) or a pedestrian, Nigerian road users are a truly reckless group. Firstly, what is a lane? A lane is simply a suggestion on Nigerian roads, some people would much rather stay smack in the middle of the road and then abuse you for trying to overtake them. Secondly, crossing an expressway? not dangerous at all :). Go on, run across a four lane road with your entire family cause…why not? Finally Okada drivers and your Keke Maruwa (Three wheeled thingybobs) cousins, the road belongs to you, because if it doesn’t I don’t understand your need to threaten everybody else’s existence.

3). Customer Service. Okay this one annoys me and confuses me at the same time. I call the customer service line to resolve an issue I’m having  and somehow I end up being yelled at. Or the cheerful waitress who found it just as funny as we did that half the things on the menu were not available. Or of course the delightful sales girls who are eternally irritated at the presence of customers in the store, especially customers who ask questions about the product.

Despite my many grievances and frustrations with this country, something about it still makes me happy. Maybe its cause this is where my family is and so it will always feel like home, or maybe it’s because as much as these things annoy you they make you laugh even just a little bit. Whatever it is, Nigeria has a texture to it that makes me feel something that is pretty difficult to explain. There is so much content in this country that is just sitting there waiting to inspire you. *Speaking of inspiration I need ideas for a play so if you think of something please leave it in the comments.* It took me leaving the country to see its potential because when you live in Nigeria  its too easy to get caught up in the redundancy of your daily hustle. Sitting in pointless traffic for 3hrs would suck the zeal out of anybody. Anyhow I’m excited for my next few weeks :D…just taking each day as it comes and trying to enjoy every minute of my stay.

I’d also like to know some of your grievances with where you live 😀 so feel free to leave a comment.

 

Picture by Willyverse

Twirl baby

Twirl Baby_Begin

Hey there!

So I was in Nigeria a few weeks ago, all I’d say about my trip is; food, heat and family. I had an amazing time and got a couple of interesting pieces while I was there. First thing I got done was this skirt. When I first started sewing, the very first thing I made was a circle skirt. I had several glitches but I was and still am very proud of it. Nevertheless, circle2.0 was a necessary upgrade. I didn’t sew the skirt myself but I cut the fabric and well I guess that’s half way there eh?Twirl Baby Begin

This skirt was a bit of a struggle though, because there was a sudden zipper scarcity. We opted for an elastic waist but that  just looked bleh. Then my super styling mama suggested that we add a belt and BAM! we got this baby.Twirl baby.Begin

I love how effortless circle skirts are to make and style. They make me feel extra girly and  being the girly-girl that I am that’s a major plus.

Twirl Baby, Begin

Just had to throw this in there 🙂