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.

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Summering

Halter Summer Dress

gathered summer dress

Hi Guys!!!

So if you guessed this would be my next post you was right! (go ahead you can pat yourself on the back)

I made this super simple dress at the start of summer and it fast became a wardrobe fave for me. For difficulty, I would rate this a 5/10 mainly because of the braided strap but even at that, this was a pretty basic project.Vingt-Un Enang

I started off with a large rectangular piece for the front and two smaller rectangles for the back. I hemmed the bottom edge and sewed down a one inch loop on the top edge. With all raw edges hemmed, I attached the front piece to the back pieces and stopped 8 inches short of the top for arm holes and so I would be able to get into the dress.

back of summer dress

The next step was making the strap. I made two thin strips, tied them up on one end and twisted all the way down. I say this now and it sounds pretty easy but turning the strips inside out was a lot harder than I though it would be. After about 30 minutes of struggling I finally finished and put the strap through my one inch loop and gathered my dress till I was comfortable with the fit and look.

braided straps

Finally I sewed down the ends of the gathered points so it wouldn’t move around and ta da!!

mini dress for warm weather

I wonder if there is a way to transition this dress into the colder months. Do you guys have any pieces that you wear no matter the season? Also I might have a post coming up on these scrunchies in my hair 🙂

Pictures by Willyverse

Still just a baby

Thoughts on turning 21

Vingt-Un Enang

So its my birthday!!! I’ve made my goals for this new year of my life and I’m generally happy with where I am right now. At twenty I really just wanted to push myself and explore more which I feel I did. At twenty-one, I am realizing to a different degree that my possibilities are endless but I won’t get anywhere without trying. I am realizing that there is a lot that I still don’t know and plenty that I have to learn. I’m not as scared of responsibility as I was a year ago but I’m happy to have the support systems that I do. I am acknowledging my weaknesses and building my strengths.

I am excited for the year ahead and hopefully a year from now when I look at myself I would be a significantly better person than I am today.

ps I dropped a hint for my next post just in case you didn’t notice :p

Picture by Willyverse

Staples

Black pencil skirt

Black pencil skirt-BeginHey guys!

Taking a quick break from the Nigerian Woman series to bring a style post cause I feel I haven’t done one in a while!

So I made this skirt ages ago and took the pictures a long while back but for some reason I just have not posted it until now. You know how you buy a ton of stuff but you only end up using a select few on a regular basis, same thing happens when you sew. I’ve made a lot of things but this is one of the few that I have worn A LOT! That’s possibly why I hadn’t posted this yet because I got so used to having it in my closet that I forgot to blog about it.

This was pretty easy to make. I started off with stretchy fabric; if you’re going to replicate this I suggest using something thick just so you don’t have to worry about lining it or how it clings to every bump and crevice -_-. I cut out a rectangle with the length of the skirt and the breadth was wide enough to go around my hips. From that point, I just added darts to taper the waist and took in the side seams till I was satisfied with the shape of the skirt.

Black skirt-Enang Ukoh

Now this was probably not the most efficient way to manage the fabric but it definitely seemed easier. When I had finished the skirt I cut out another rectangle which was 4 inches wide and the length of my waist and used that to make my waist band. For difficulty, I would rate this project a 3/10, it really was that straightforward and I’ve gotten so much use out of it!

I’m thinking of giving more details of how I create certain pieces, almost like an outfit recipe…we’ll see how that works out 🙂

 

Pictures by Willyverse

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

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.