What Came Before?

what came before

Incidentally, in a conversation just a little while ago I had to explore some history to try to reach some clear understanding of a cultural matter. The culture of people are a practical demonstration of their identity. A loss of their cultural history often results in the kind of vulnerability that we witness in Africa today: a vulnerability that shows itself in our embarrassing efforts to acquire and display foreign accents, in our dash to buy all things Western, in our speed to bad-mouth Nigerian ways and things. It is easy to sell any narrative about Nigeria to Nigerians today especially because we have no idea what we once were and where we once headed. We are like sheep without shepherd without our history.

In a personal experience I saw another side to this issue. History may not be lost but it may be so painful that you wish that it was. Every time you come up against it you want to avert your eyes and pray that by the time you look up it would have dissolved like mist before the rising sun. And yet without facing that history squarely and bravely but intelligently dissecting it, that fear that it always inspires will be the baggage you carry everywhere with you.

My secondary school and university days carry their share of history. I can often hold my own when embarrassment comes at me in public. I don’t know where I picked up the skill but I actually know how to take an embarrassing moment and make it a memorable one. Or at least I used to. But memories are a whole other bucket of fish. Sometimes you remember and shudder at what you did and hope nobody else does. History may be embarrassing.

How we understand the past is the most important element determining the future — James Carrol

But without history, how can we know our own selves and plot a course for the future? What you do not face squarely and clearly sort through is likely to haunt you into repeating the same mistakes. History says a lot about who we are. As a matter of fact, without it, we are ships adrift on the sea. We need it to guide our paths into the future.

The question “who am I?” begins its answer in “what came before?” History may be scary; it may be embarrassing or it may be unknown but it should never be ignored. Discovering it is key to discovering ourselves, understanding it is key to understanding the decisions we have to make and the paths open to us. Owning it takes the power of definition away from possibly malevolent or dubious elements and gives it back to us.

 

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Odii is an entrepreneur. Figuring life out and sharing his discoveries is business he enjoys doing. You can find him @ Panorama

Don’t Buy Her A Gift…

gift

According to the movies and stories passed down over the decades, courtship in Africa, specifically Nigeria was rather a funny and awkward exercise; one that still influences how relationships pan out in present day society. In those days when a man became of age and his elders deemed it time for him to get married, he would be ‘let loose’ on the community to scout for a suitable maiden to wife.

Now, what made a maiden suitable you ask?

  • A broadened hip believed to make childbirth easier and also strong enough to ‘back’ the child when it cries.
  • An ample bosom to nurse a child.
  • A thin waist line to showcase an hourglass figure (they loved their amazons)
  • A good stock line to ensure children had no evil traits likely to rear up its ugly head.
  • And let’s not forget, the gift of preparing and serving meals in a manner that would rival Nigella Lawson.
  • Throw in a pretty face and the said scout had reached utopia.

Basically, he went about the process with the mannerism of a prospective buyer at a cattle market. And when our scout spots the right maiden does he personally take her a gift or try to interact with her? No. He interacts extensively with her family, including distant relatives, but rarely spends any quality time getting to know her as a person.  He bestows gifts on her parents, her relatives as a token of his interest. Any gift that makes it to the bride is delivered by a relative, not directly by our scout.

The maiden is seen as something you acquired after making a reasonable offer by way of a gift. There was no need to appeal to her emotions; it was more or less a business transaction.

Fast forward to present day society, not much has changed. Man still hasn’t mastered the act of gift giving without strings as a sign of intimacy and friendship.

Our modern day checklist will look something like this:

  • Does she have a job, is she hard-working?
  • Is she devoid of illness (this includes her bloodlines)?
  • Is she well known in the community? Hmm, this might be a sign that she flirts.
  • Is she prayerful? I have gathered a lot of demons and I need a stand by the exorcist.

And the list continues.

History has made it almost impossible for men to approach gift giving from any other angle other than as an investment that indirectly benefits him.

He gave gifts to her father, he got her. Business deal sealed and delivered.

However, today the woman has a choice and sadly that has thrown a spanner in the investment wheel of many scouts. Some have invested and lost heavily; some have played cautiously and still ended up cheated.

sheldon-cooper-quote

I know some of you are thinking, but we should invest in the ones we love. Absolutely true, however, investments are expected to yield returns; gifts are designed to please the recipient. A gift performs well under the atmosphere of love; selfishness on either side turns a gift into an investment tool for manipulation. Expecting to receive sexual favours or commitments because you gave a gift is totally opposed to the true meaning of gift giving.

 Most people give gifts to children simply to make them smile; to let them know you thought of them and you love them. If the lady in your life does not stir your feelings on gift giving the way a child would then I don’t think you should be together. Begrudging your partner a gift for any other reason other than you can’t afford or it feels inappropriate at the moment, is an indication that you evaluate your relationships based on what you expect in return from it.

Gift: something voluntarily transferred by one person to another without compensation.

Don’t buy her a gift this valentine because you see her as a potential ‘cow’ or ‘investment’ ready to yield an emotional, physical or spiritual bounty. Buy her a gift because she’s the girl who makes the sun feel brighter when she looks at you. Buy her a gift because your relationship is worth investing everything good into including gifts. Buy her a gift because you love her and respect her needs as a person.

Funny thing is when a girl senses she has your heart the benefits just keep giving ♥

 


 

Chioma is an avid reader and a non-biased writer. She writes to explore and change outlooks to life, while mothering and maintaining balance wherever she calls home. Visit her blogLifehomeandaway

A Long Way Home

I watch the bus make its last turn and come to a halt. The ride may have been a long uncomfortable one, but the early flutters of hope has my heart thumping in anticipation. The streets are full of people—old and young alike; some heaving bags out of boots, welcoming their loved ones with warm hugs; others chatting as they walk past. Rows of shops now replace a long line of familiar trees, sporting pepper soup restaurants with the promise of assorted meat, Continue reading

Dear Authors, Why Are Academic Texts So Boring?

I’m a reader, have been for as long as I can remember. One day I opened my really beautiful eyes (oh please check my picture) to behold a new world. It wasn’t one of amniotic fluid and echoes from mama’s vocal cords. I saw a brighter world. A noisier world without the natural filters I was used to; a world with lights, colours, textures and books. Continue reading

Religion, Faith, And The Ministry Of Fear

Photo credit: christianfunnypictures(dot)com
Photo credit: christianfunnypictures(dot)com

How strange is it that those who should have the greatest weapon of war, turn out to be the most fearful?

Few weeks ago on my way to work, I mounted a bike that left my trouser legs begging for a wash. On alighting I asked the driver for permission to use his rag to wipe my mud stains from my cloth. On finishing a middle aged man called my attention and said, “Next time use your own handkerchief.” When I inquired as to why he would suggest that, his response bordered on some fetish practices peculiar to the people of Western Nigeria (well, all of Nigeria if I may say, but I happened to be in the West).

This got me thinking. Continue reading

So Women Like Money……

So women like money.jpg

Over the years I’ve listened to Nigerian men whine about how impossible it is to get a woman who will walk into a relationship with them when they are still struggling with their finances.
I have heard so many others term this ‘gold-digging’ and more so that women are not loyal (thank you Chris Brown).
This isn’t me saying that is an unfair generalization…by no means. It’s just a basic rule men do not understand and women are not willing/ready to admit. Continue reading

The Queerness That Is Africa

 

the queer Africa

I am African, but more brown than black–the kind my people like to call ‘chocolate’, even though those are traditionally of a darker shade. Perhaps we are colour blind, or maybe the word ‘chocolate’ just sounds very cool.

Continue reading

Raluchukwu

No_title(144)[1]When you made your first million, the world rejoiced with you. You were in you mid-twenties and that was a huge achievement. Your mother was ecstatic,  now she could tie all the expensive wrappers to the next August meeting and climb the social ladder. You were not bothered, the woman had done so much for you and no amount of wrappers could equate that. Your only regret was that your father wasn’t here to celebrate this day with you. There were tales of his suffering from a mysterious sickness that defied medical attention. Your mother always seemed upset when you asked about him, what kind of things he liked to do, that eventually you stopped asking. Time and again, you would visit his grave at the back of the compound and talk about all you’d accomplished over a short time. Continue reading

Excuse me, I am African

identity 2

“What’s your name?” Uju
“Your English name?” Still Uju
“Why don’t you give yourself one?” I like this just fine
“You can be Anita, Isabella, or Melissa” No, thanks
“Why?” Because it isn’t Nigerian

“Is that your natural hair?” Yes
“Why didn’t you braid it, or use extensions?” I am not bothered by my looks, you shouldn’t be
“Why?” Because I love my hair

“Are your nails natural?” Yes
“French tips will look good on you, with a bit of color” No, thanks.
“Why?” Because my nails are fine

“Your skin is so beautiful” Thanks
“You look like a black American” I’m a black Nigerian
“But you’re more brown than black” Call me black anyway

“Why don’t you speak funeh when your cousins come home” It’s not my accent
“But they won’t understand you” I don’t understand them either (not true)
“They’ll say you’re a bush girl” This bush is home. I’m teaching my cousins to be more African

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What’s the African craze to conform to Western standards? I wonder if we are so ashamed of who and what we are, that the first chance we have to leave home, we become someone else.

They say racism is gone, but is it really? Or are we free men who have been genetically impaired by years of ancestral white-black slavery, that we are stuck in a cesspool of Western indigenization? Now even back home people want to be American/British Africans.

I got a call from a total stranger who picked my number off my facebook page some months ago. For the first few minutes of our conversation I had my jaw hanging open, so I asked, “Excuse me, what’s your country of residence?”

Seuth Erfriceh” he replied.

I hung up and spent the next couple of minutes pondering why a South African based Nigerian who hasn’t spent up to a year there would be speaking like an American. That’s just pitiful. I’m sure there are a lot more out there who do the same.

My question, is this sudden change borne out of a need to blend with the society we find ourselves to gain acceptance, or is it out of a feeling of inferiority? I can’t say I have much of a problem with the former because people have a choice to do what they wish if they feel it will make their life better. However, in such a situation I’d most certainly live fully African than be plagued by a loss of identity at some future date; something the Westerners would most certainly call depression.

If it’s the latter, then—this might be a tad judgmental—shame on you. Shame on you for feeling less than beautiful; for thinking your bronze skin is less attractive than the pale white. Shame on you for thinking that your kinky hair must be constantly substituted for more silky strands. It’s quite OK to want to switch your style, but when that becomes an absolute necessity—up to the point where no one knows what the real you looks like without all that ‘layers’, we have a problem.

We don’t always have to bend to society’s Wills, we are society. If we start a trend, it picks up from there. If the rest of the world thinks us queer, tell them we are beautifully quirky. If our brothers, our own African family expect something more ‘refined’, tell them to take a dip in the Atlantic.

There is only so much one can hold on to in our ever industrialized and globalized world, but those basic culture—our delicacy, dressing, names, speech– ourselves in its most primal form, the things no one can take away from us but ourselves, lets grab on to it or we lose everything. Be African and proudly so.