The Nigerian Woman| Afrolems

Atim Ukoh

Atim Ukoh Begin

Hey Guys!!

This series wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t consider the role that cooking plays in the average Nigerian’s life. Nigerians love their food if nothing else and there is the very vibrantly expressed opinion that every Nigerian woman must know how to cook (-_-). For this post, I spoke to my sister; CEO and creative director of Afrolems. She stays slaying in the kitchen and while I try, real has to recognize real!! I loved reading her post because while we’re sisters, our experiences and perspectives are pretty different plus she made me laugh :P. Anyhow, I trust that you would love reading this just as much as I did!

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

My name is Atim Ukoh. I am in my late 20’s, currently a food blogger and a digital marketing strategist. I like to believe I am generally a lighthearted person even if I end up panicking about a lot of things. I am too stubborn for my own good. In recent times, I have discovered I love travelling and exploring new cultures. I believe in living life to the fullest. I laugh a lot at any thing. Ask my mum. Sometimes I think it’s nervous laughter because hey you might be boring and I am not sure how to fill in the gap of your awkwardness or you just might be genuinely funny. You never know.

What do you feel being a Nigerian woman means?

A Nigerian woman means being very adaptable. Adaptability is generally a trait popularly associated with Nigerians in general. Moving to Canada reinforced this trait in me. As a Nigerian woman who spent 18 years in a tropical country, the Canadian winter was not the easiest situation to adjust to.

The dating scene was also different. In Nigeria, women are used to being chased aggressively, wined and dined even before you truly find out about her. It took a bit of effort to adapt to the Canadian way of dating which involved giving a guy your number and waiting 3-5 business days to get a text saying “hey I still have your number”.

The society has several expectations of you as a Nigerian woman. There are expectations that you would naturally be domesticated, which may not always be the case. In general, there are societal opinions that need to be taken into strong consideration. Now I am personally not a believer of that fact but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s still something to consider. I believe in creatively playing the game and being strategic to get what you want from the society.

What role do you feel food plays in the life of the Nigerian Woman?

Being that I am from Akwa Ibom in Nigeria, there is an additional expectation that I should also be a great cook and it should be a huge part of my DNA. I sometimes believe when Nigerian men see their women, they see a walking pot of soup. There is an expectation that a pot of soup or rice would come out of her being around them for over two hours. I believe food plays a very crucial role in the lives of Nigerian women. Grandmothers and mothers for generations have forced their daughters into the kitchen to learn a thing or two about cooking because they believe the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.

When did you fall in love with cooking?

I fell in love with cooking when I successfully made my first tasty pot of Indomie noodles. I realized that I could walk into the kitchen, climb on a stool because I was too short to reach the stovetop and stir my way to perfect noodles fit for consumption. It was the best feeling ever.

What are you most proud of regarding your Nigerian identity?

I am proud of the fact that we are a resilient group. Regardless of what life throws at us, we manage to smile through it, adapt and keep moving. I love the richness of the cultures that exist within Nigeria. I love the fact that we have unique traits that differentiates us from other Africans and even sometimes makes them a tad jealous. I love the fact that we are an enterprising group of people. I would not trade my Nigerian identity for the world.

What are your hopes for Nigeria in the coming years?

I would like to see Nigeria truly get its act together. Be a place that people want to visit, become a place that is synonymous with great inventions both in the arts and sciences. I’d like the Nigerian woman to have a stronger voice in the rural communities, as that would reduce the rate of poverty within these communities.

Where can people find you and your work?

You can find me through my blog Afrolems or on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @afrolems

Picture by Willyverse

Watch your tongue

Language, Culture and Colonialism.

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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

The most wonderful day of the year

Besides my birthday..that’s usually a pretty good day.

Christmas always makes me super cheery. There are the days and the hours before everybody arrives where we prep and I start bonding with what is likely to be my Christmas day lunch. Then the day is finally upon us and the house is filled with smells of all things fried and beautiful :). Yea I really love Christmas mornings.

Of course when the family arrives there would be a ton of chasing little children around, or should I say waddling after little children cause you’ve eaten yourself silly. and all the laughs (sigh…good times)

Then of course there’s the end of the night with all the cleaning up and goofing around

But at the end of the day when you have time to reflect, the point of all this is to celebrate the great joy that Christ brings

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