Back with another one! (Shout out to DJ Khalid still). Nneoma is one of the first friends I made in life (not nearly as dramatic as I just made it seem). She was in my age group in church so we just kinda grew up together. Needless to say we were cool kids :p. We have both evolved immensely since those days in our afro-puffs but this young woman here continues to make me so happy! She’s a true inspiration and I hope you all check out her work and see all of the amazing things she gets up to.
Who are you (What are the things that make up your identity, likes, interests, quirks)
“Who are you” is such a difficult question! I’m Nneoma, and my name means Good mother. I’m really extroverted, so I enjoy being around people. I listen to music in African languages I don’t understand, particularly Amharic, Xhosa and Tamasheq. I can sing the songs literally word for word, but I have no clue what they mean, and I’m fine with that! But of course, I love my Nigerian music, Reggae, and Dancehall. I study Political Science, and Urban Planning, and I conduct extensive research on Menstrual Hygiene. I write poetry and fiction also, and I’m a scribbler–so I have couplets and unfinished story plots in the margins of all my Politics and Law textbooks. In my group of friends, I’m definitely the loudest, because I love making people laugh. I worry that I’m too pushy sometimes, because I’m the one in the group that’s like “Apply to this program! Send your paper to this conference!” but my friends love me anyway, so it’s fine. I have been really blessed in life: I have an amazing family, wonderful friends, and great opportunities. I can truly say that I’m immensely happy, and as much as I can, I try to ensure that people around me feel the same way.
What do you feel being a Nigerian woman means
When I think of Nigerian women, three words instantly pop into my mind : humor, resilience and ambition. Almost every Nigerian woman I know is hilarious, we innately relate to everyone with humor and wit, and there’s always a way to ease up any mood and create a loving atmosphere with the way we talk and crack jokes. Although it’s starting to change (or get better), the Nigerian society has looked down on women as less than men for the longest time, and resilience is necessary to deal to with it. Furthermore, Nigerian women around the world are breaking down barriers, and really doing amazing in all fields, from entertainment to finance to politics. It’s amazing–I cannot imagine being anything but.
Has your identity as a Nigerian ever been questioned? Why and how did you respond?
I don’t think I ever had my identity questioned, until I started university in America. Even then, it was not so much being questioned, as being clarified by others who identified as Nigerian also. They were trying to “make sure” that I was a “real” Nigerian, you know, like “Omo, are you experiencing this culture shock? You fit cook jollof? Wetin dey happen na?” So my Nigerian-ness wasn’t so much being questioned, as it was being authenticated. I don’t think the purpose was to isolate Nigerians raised in America, or Americans of Nigerian descent, rather to find Nigerians with more similar experiences, and to build relationships with them.
When did you become conscious of your identity as a Nigerian woman?
I have always been aware of my identity as a Nigerian woman. I grew up in a household where Nigerian female icons were very celebrated, like I vividly remember the day Agbani Darego won Miss World, and I remembered it was important because she was a Nigerian woman, just like me (even though I was 6 years old at the time). I remember when Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was rising through the World Bank. My Mom actually wrote a wonderful book called “Gender Equality in Nigerian Politics,” and then became the first Nigerian woman to win an Oxford Reuters Fellowship. So even as a young girl, I was positively hyper-aware of my identity as a Nigerian woman.
What bothers you the most about Nigerian women?
I hate to make a sweeping generalization of both Nigerian men and women; but I’d have to say I hate that mentality that there are just things that men do, that a woman will have to put up with, especially in a romantic relationship. So like a man is cheating, hitting a woman or verbally abusing her, and it’s like, well, he’s a man, and that’s how they behave and just pray about it. I refuse to believe that somebody is (un)intentionally being terrible to me, and I should just sit there and take it (quietly) because he’s a man. Whether he is a boyfriend, a father figure, or just a male friend, if a man consistently mistreats me, I will permanently remove him from my life. Thanks to my parents’ marriage and my brothers and all my male Nigerian friends, I know what loving relationships between men and women should look like, and in the words of Lauryn Hill, “respect is just the minimum.”
What are you most proud of when you think of Nigerian women?
Honestly, I cannot even quantify how much I love Nigerian women. I think of my different Nigerian female friends, and they are so diverse in ethnicity and religion, but the bond is fantastic. Nigerian women have this great way of keeping our heads up, and forming beautiful relationships with each other. I think we are the most hilarious group of people–and where there is laughter, often that’s where you will find love. I am most proud of the drive that Nigerian women have–if we say we are going to accomplish something, good luck attempting to stand in the way of us and our goals.
Where can people find you and your work?
My professional Twitter: @nneomaen (!) I share there whenever my work gets published, or whenever something interesting happens in my life, which is everyday, if you ask me 🙂