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

 

 

The Nigerian Woman| Powerful

Busola Olukoya

Busola-Begin

Hi Guys!!

I’m not going to waste any time on this introduction, this post blew me away!!! Her attention to detail, the way she spoke words straight from my heart and she says it all so well!! I’ve known Busola since we were in Jss2 and watching her grow and mature into this beautiful human being has been such a privilege. Like I said not going to bore you with much of an intro, enjoy!

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

My name is Olubusola Onyedikachi Olukoya and I’m Catholic. While growing up with two sisters in an Igbo-Yoruba household, our parents never made us feel like we were less of either tribe. Despite many distrusting comments from extended family members on either side, we were taught to eat both Yoruba and Igbo variations of Egusi soup, without much preference for one over the other. Thus, I feel that I am Busola as equally as I am Dikachi. My religion, however, is not as fluid. I am Catholic. This was the only identity I could claim in its entirety while growing up, and it has been my anchor.

My parents also tried to expose us to many different environments so that we would know a little bit about everything. Conversations in our home ranged from sports like tennis and golf, to medicine, politics, spirituality, literature and fashion. I took piano lessons at the Muson Centre for a year before stopping. I learned to play golf but never got a handicap. I learned to swim but I never went through speed or endurance training. I learned to learn and to enjoy learning. In this way, I am a dabbler of sorts. I took up knitting in college, I own a gorgeous sewing machine, and I write unfinished poetry on slips of paper that I can never find afterwards. I am the queen of incomplete projects, and I’m realising that I’m okay with that.

What does it mean to you, to identify as a Nigerian woman?

When I think of Nigerian women, I think of my mother, my aunties and my grandmothers. And, when I think of these women, I think of a patriarchal system that has deep roots in our cultural history and awareness. I think of a culture of silence, endurance, sacrifice and the glaring ostracization of outcasts. There are things that are never in a woman’s place to say or do. I was always told to “eat the shit given with a smile on your face” and to “remember that you are a woman”. Something about these constant reminders of my place in society made me never want to be a part of it.

Similarly, while growing up, I was never exposed to an alternative narrative of my cultural heritage. Each side of the family mocked me for not being enough of one tribe. I quickly grew to hate the word hybrid and, while doing so, I created an identity for myself that was stripped of any cultural affiliation. By late adolescence, I had taught myself to fit in just enough to be passable – dropping kini’s and chai’s, depending on the listener – yet I wanted to stand out enough to seem above being either one or the other. I wanted to be just enough of me for my own sake.

In my naivete, I aspired to be American. From afar, it seemed to be the only nation that took pride in celebrating diversity; advocating against the binary system of human expression which I had experienced growing up. Now, I know that there is no such nation, and am learning to build a nation for myself in the cells of my own body.

Lately, while pondering my response to this question, I realized that time and experience had altered my perception of the Nigerian woman. While in the diaspora, I have been exposed to the inherent diversity of any single identity. There is a plethora of narratives of Nigerian people with both similar and differing experiences to mine. The realization that there is not one single definition of a Nigerian woman, coupled with the rising vocalization of the harsh reality of being a woman in any patriarchal society, has made it more comfortable for me to claim this identity. I have come to believe that one’s identity lies in the connection to one’s history. Thus, I am a Nigerian woman because of the identity conferred on me by the line of women before me — from which arises the history that I will pass on to the women I will raise in my lifetime.

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

It wasn’t until I moved to the states for college that I started thinking of myself as a Nigerian woman. As one of three Nigerians at a small liberal arts college in the middle of nowhere, Ohio, I realized that my narrative was the only representation of a Nigerian woman that some of my friends would ever receive. This forced me to re-examine the traits I thought made me “Nigerian” and to consider the many ways those traits would be interpreted — and misinterpreted — in my ambassadorship. I found myself learning to braid my own hair, wearing prints to church (unlike I had previously detested doing), and falling in love with the many ways of recreating the meals that I never imagined I would miss. My best friends at college learned to see sha and abi as essential conversational tools, and I discovered a love for learning the history of my culture and my people as represented in literature.

What challenges do you face in the perceptions of your identity?

I’m most worried about people mistaking my single story for a representation of all Nigerian women, or of all African women. I realize, now, that this is unavoidable, as a majority of the inhabitants of the world choose to remain ignorant about global affairs, and the media is unrepentant in its perpetuation of saving Africa. I think that the only way to rise against this challenge is to be fully and unapologetically myself, without trying to conform to a narrative that seems more glamorous on Instagram. To do this, I know I have to arm myself with knowledge deeper than what can be found trending on the interwebs. I also have to be willing to respectfully — but firmly — present a differing opinion to any broad generalizations that come my way (Yes, I do speak very good English as do most Nigerians. No, there is no such thing as sounding “African”, I don’t think the burden of presenting 66 countries – including the de Facto states and territories – should fall on one person’s lips).

Which Nigerian woman are you most proud of?

I’m proud of my mom, Ezinne Olukoya, for presenting an alternative reality of what it meant to be a Nigerian woman to us. From my mother, I learned to be honest about a messed up situation, but to make the best of it regardless. My mother always joked that she couldn’t work hard in school because she did not understand maths. So she swore to herself that her children would excel at the subject. She took the same approach at every milestone of our lives from the Common Entrance to the SATs.

While most of my friends had mothers who worked at banks, schools and hospitals, my mother was always waiting for me at home after school, and was up early to make us hand-squeezed orange juice and fresh meat-pies before we left for school. This has resulted in a deep friendship with mum, and an even deeper respect for her sacrifice. I think, like any mother would, my mother wanted to give us opportunities that weren’t available to her as a child so that we would be able to succeed in an increasingly globalized world. As she lacked the monetary means to do so, she learned to coach us into developing sound interests, and to support us as we pursued them.

For a long time, to a lot of her friends — and to herself, sometimes — my mother seemed like a failure. We were poor, she didn’t have a stable job and she always put her family first. Growing up, I saw women mock her for not being woman enough to be a strong contender in a male-dominated work field. However, I am yet to meet another woman in her generation that is capable of inspiring trust and conversation in children at different developmental stages. As we’re all leaving the house, my mum has started taking the classes in child education that she has wanted to take all her life but, now she’s the one people turn to when they are confused about the subject matter. After all, she’s now the one with the hands-on experience!

Where can people find you and your work?

People can find my more recent work on my new poetry blog at; http://morohunfolu.tumblr.com/

P.s. because I know she’s going to read this, I love you mum, for giving me the space and the tools necessary to find and do me.

The Nigerian Woman|SSR

Shully Sappire-Rubinstein

Shully T-Sr Begin

Hi Guys!

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.