It’s World Photo Day!

August 19, 2016

Yay!! World Photo Day.

Things worth celebrating

Morning beautiful people!

Did the sunrise meet you well?

Have you had your coffee?

Today I woke up with a craving for disgusting instant coffee

Now the only instant coffee in the entire world that gives me a kick is that local one – Nescafe. The one made in Nigeria. Not the one made in England. Not Nescafe Gold, Silver, Green or Blue. Not Nescafe Espresso. Not even the one made in Ivory Coast. Nescafe Classic Made in Nigeria.

I recall with nostalgia my blissful days of ignorance, the days before I had my first cup of brewed coffee. (Bongo coffee didn’t count. I never learnt how to make it anyway.)

I became a caffeine junkie in boarding school. I was 13. I tried someone’s Nescafe. Probably because my Pronto was finished. I couldn’t stand Milo and Bournvita or that awful one in the orange tin, what was the name? Ovaltine! Shudder. Meanwhile, Ovaltine was considered the Bentley of chocolate drinks.

Anyway. I tried someone’s Nescafe, liked it and bought it the next time I was buying provisions. I knew I wasn’t supposed to drink coffee YET. I knew my mother would never allow it but she wasn’t around and my father, well, what did he know about things like why growing children shouldn’t drink coffee. It wasn’t his field of expertise, lets just say.

I felt so wicked. And so grown up.

Within a year I graduated from buying the small tins to buying those big tins the size of my Nido. Back in those days I drank my instant coffee with instant milk and felt like a ‘big girl.’ Ewooo. I laugh in French.

I didn’t have brewed coffee till I moved to Lagos from my village in Imo State.

“This is Lebanese coffee. Its very strong.” my new friends warned and gave me a thimble of coffee. I watched them sip it delicately. They watched me as I sipped mine.

“Are you alright?”

“Yeah.”

I wonder what was supposed to happen? I waited for that caffeine buzz.

“Can I have another cup?”

I didn’t understand this drinking coffee in toy tea cups. I was more used to big fat mugs the size of teapots.

My host looked surprised. I worried I was being rude.

“You have a strong head” she laughed. I laughed. She gave me another cup. I’m still waiting for it to kick in. I wasn’t impressed. Next time they asked me “Lebanese coffee or Nescafe?” I said “Nescafe.”

I eventually figured out I need a whole pot of Lebanese coffee to get a buzz.

Then I finally had some good old percolated American coffee. It tasted like crap. It was strong but it tasted like crap. There were no coffee shops back then. Those were the Dark Ages in Nigeria. The only place you could get crappy brewed American coffee in Lagos was Eko Hotel and Sheraton. Ikoyi Hotel and Federal Palace Hotel served Nescafe. I kid you not.

They tried to teach me how to make Lebanese coffee. When I bought my first percolator I used Najjar the Lebanese coffee in it. Nirvana. Flavour, strength and volume. Unfortunately filters and coffee weren’t sold in my neighbourhood so I always had a tin of Nescafe too.

I used to drink up to twelve cups of coffee a day. I had long stopped taking it with milk. Then all those reports about the adverse health effects of coffee started coming out. Friends and family began to comment and throw around big words like ‘caffeine addiction’ and ‘intervention.’

So before they could organise an exorcism I stopped. I woke up one day and just stopped. Apparently my withdrawal symptoms were so bad one observer swore never to touch the stuff. I can’t remember.

Three years later during a routine medical my doctor tells me I have clinically low blood pressure and thats why I was always tired especially in the morning. He recommended I take a cup of coffee, just one cup, in the morning to ‘pick you up’ he said. I know.

‘A pick me up just when you need it most’ Nescafe advert circa 1980.

Uncanny.

One cup? Well. I tried. But as I always say – my mother had two breasts. So I take two cups in the morning.

It was during my globe trotting albeit brief career with international development that I really got to know coffee. And as usual for me when something catches my fancy, I became quite obsessed for awhile with my new found love. And disdained and rejected my humble, ever faithful and beloved Nescafe.

Alas, how cold and cruel of me. Surely the god of Nescafe must be angry with me. I repent! I am full of remorse! I grovel and beg for mercy and forgiveness. Henceforth, let it be known that a tin of classic Made in Nigeria Nescafe shall always have pride of place in my pantry. Even if I don’t drink it every morning.

And as an eternal tribute the theme of my next photography project will be ‘Nescafe.’

 

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A poster advert from Nigeria in the 1950’s

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Golliwog drank Nescafe? Who knew? 

SUNRISE HOTEL

August 13, 2016

 

There is a hotel in the Village on the way to the stream; at least it calls itself a hotel. It’s a small concrete bungalow with a tin roof and a concrete courtyard.  A dented oil drum sits at the corner of the building to catch rain water. Dingy curtains cover the open windows and doors. Outside a big signboard says ‘Sunrise Hotel’ above badly painted pictures of green beer bottles and a goat head. At night red and blue light bulbs glow surreally in the surrounding darkness like Christmas lights.

Chidimma passes the hotel on her way to the stream every day. It looks modern and inviting in a village of mud huts and colonial buildings.  She wants to go in and maybe stay in one of their rooms. The hotel rooms she sees in Drum magazine have nice beds with head boards, closets and bedside lamps, not like the iron bed she sleeps on in a stuffy room with clothes hanging on pegs in the wall lit only by a dim kerosene lamp.

She asks her half-sister Eunice if they can stay there. ‘Only prostitutes stay there’ Eunice answers disdainfully. Chidimma read about prostitutes in the Bible, they are bad women that make men do bad things and go to hell.  She doesn’t understand what they do but she understands that they are paid to do it and they do it with lots of different men and that was really really bad. She’s been told that good women only do it with one man, they marry him and they never get paid for it.

Chidimma doesn’t want to get married. Married women always look unhappy. They talk different when their husband is around and they behave different too.  They look wary, like children trying to behave well in front of adults. And when they don’t behave well they get beaten or punished just like children too. Chidimma can’t wait to grow up, she doesn’t want to be a child and she doesn’t want to be a wife.  She doesn’t want to be a good woman.

Good women get up before sunrise to fetch water or strain cassava meal at the stream, sweep the compound, feed the men and children, weed the yam farms or go to the market to buy and sell with babies strapped to their backs or hanging on to their breasts. At sunset they come back to feed the men and children again and put everyone to bed. Sometimes there is a wedding or a burial feast to attend and break the tedium.

Chidimma feels a familiar wave of darkness threaten her as she imagines a life time of drudgery.  The darkness comes more frequently now.  She day dreams of life as a prostitute in Sunrise Hotel instead, of wearing nice clothes, of men who will love her, of sleeping in a proper bed, of having electricity every night, of watching television and having a drum full of water in front of the house.

###

Charlie doesn’t propose. He just starts calling Chidimma his wife every time he sees her. Soon everyone is calling her his wife too and she almost starts to believe them. He is a handsome and popular student at the only high school in the village. It is for boys only so Chidimma can’t attend and her father can’t afford to send her to a girl’s boarding school. The way Charlie looks at her and smiles makes her squirm but he doesn’t pinch her breasts or try to kiss her when no one is looking like some of the old men in the village.

Charlie and his brothers visit her brothers, their friends, often. Chidimma’s brothers make her sit with them while Anayo, a bus conductor, tells wild stories of the witches and magicians living in the cities he visits.

When the sun goes down they set up a portable turntable powered by a car battery and play music. They remove the speaker from the casing and suspend it over the mouth of a clay pot to make it reverberate like a woofer. A single bare bulb lights up the dingy room and their eager teenage faces. They sing along to Nico Mbarga’s ‘Sweet Mother’ .

Sweet mother 

I no go forget you 

For the suffer wey you suffer for me yeah

 

Chidimma’s mother died when she was born. She listens to the words of the song and wonders what a mother’s love feels like. She flips through her brothers record collection. He has about a dozen albums. His most prized possessions. He saves his kobos to buy records and music equipment. He’s in demand as a DJ around the Village and makes some extra money too.

Chidimma reads the names of the bands absentmindedly; Bunny Mack, Black Children, Ofege, One World, Wings, Semi-Colons, Comrades, Actions. The male bands look modern in afros, dark glasses, tight shirts, flared trousers and platform shoes on the covers. She flips to an album with a woman on the cover. ‘Nelly Uchendu’ ‘Love Nwa Nti Nti’ it says. The woman gazes into the distance wearing a traditional costume.

Anayo changes the record.

My sweetie my sugar my baby my lover 

So honey let me love you 

Let me love you forever wo yeah

Charlie comes over, sits next to Chidimma and holds her hand. Suddenly her father rushes in with a machete. He threatens to kill Charlie for defiling his daughter but everyone escapes through the window. A few days later her father’s half-sister Ahuekwe comes from Town and takes Chidimma away with her. She says Chidimma needs a woman to raise her now.  She promises to send Chidimma to high school and  to look after her like her own daughter.

Chidimma is excited. She’s never been to Town before but she’s heard it has tarred roads, electricity. and houses bigger than Sunrise Hotel. She packs her Sunday best in a plastic bag and waves good bye.

Chidimma is faintly disappointed to find Ahuekwe doesn’t live in a big house but rents a garage and two small rooms with a lean-to kitchen, a bucket toilet and a shower stall out back of a modest old building but its better than the Village. Ahukwe lives with her teenage son and daughter and runs a beer parlour in the garage. The garage is lit with red and blue light bulbs just like Sunrise Hotel. At night men bring beautifully groomed women wearing short dresses and high heels. Chidimma serves them beer and pepper soup.

———

It is late in morning and the rooms are stifling in the tropical heat. The beer parlour isn’t open yet. Ahuekwe has gone to the morning market to buy ingredients for her famous Chicken Peri Peri and Goat Meat Pepper Soup.

Chidimma sits outside and watches people go by on the busy street. The same people pass every morning. One is a young woman the street children call ‘Fela’. She is dark and skinny with a buzz cut. She wears chic clothes with flip flops and a mad expression on her face. They say she used to dance for Fela in Lagos. Chidimma saw a picture of Fela and his dancers in Drum magazine once.

Friday, Ahuekwe’s seventeen year old son comes home from school unexpectedly and calls Chidimma into the bedroom. He smiles, she smiles back. He’s a day student at a local high school.  She doesn’t expect him to pull her to him in a bear hug or to start grinding his erection against her.  She stiffens and tries to pull away but he holds her tighter. He only lets go when he hears Ahuekwe’s voice outside. Ahuekwe doesn’t ask why Friday is home from school or why Chidimma is trembling and shaken.

Every day after that Friday comes back from school when his mother is at the market. Chidimma tries to avoid him but he stalks her patiently. When she tells Ahuekwe she is accused of lying and punished. Anna, Friday’s sister returns from boarding school  and Chidimma tells her too but Anna just laughs. ‘Don’t you want to be a woman?’

The beer parlour is always busier when Anna is home.  She is beautiful with velvety chocolate coloured skin. She sits and drinks with the men that come alone.  Anna invites Chidimma to sit with them once in a while. Chidmma crosses her legs, smokes a cigarette like Anna and tries to look grown up.

Sometimes Anna leaves with one of the men and she doesn’t come home till the next morning. Ahuekwe doesn’t say anything till it’s time for Anna to go back to school and she asks her mother for money. Ahuekwe is livid. ‘Have you been sleeping with that man for free? Go and collect money from him. Foolish girl.’

Anna takes Chidimma with her to see him later and asks him for money but he says he doesn’t have any. They argue. Chidimma asks to use the bathroom. He gets up to show her the way. As soon as they are in the hallway he pushes her up against the wall and puts his tongue in her mouth. She struggles. Anna watches. When they leave he gives Anna some money.

——-

Next time Anna comes home from school she has a new friend called Nkeiru. Nkeiru is very glamorous. She looks like the models in Ebony magazine. Anna begins to dress and look just like her. One day Anna and Nkeiru dress Chidimma up and take her out with them. They go to another beer parlour and meet a man. They drink lots of beer and pepper soup and then they all go to a hotel together.

Its not like Sunrise Hotel. This hotel has four floors and many many rooms. The wood panelled reception area is five times bigger than Ahuekwe’s two rooms and garage. A cheap dusty cut glass chandelier hangs in the centre of the lobby, only two out of 12 bulbs work. The carpet is encrusted with dirt, thread bare in high traffic places and frayed at the edges near the wall.

The cracks in the over stuffed imitation leather armchairs to the left of the entrance make them look like giant turtles in the gloom. Plastic plants and flowers sit on coffee tables. Chidimma looks around in awe. They go into the bar. Uniformed waiters serve them ice cold beer in tall fragile glasses that aren’t chipped.

Anna tells Chidimma to go upstairs with the man. She tells Chidimma he will give her money to buy new cloths. He is middle aged and fat. He lounges in an armchair like a toad. His belly sits around his large frame like a barrel. His lips look thick and slack. His eyes are flat and cold. His face gleams with sweat and grease. He breathes with difficulty. Chidimma shudders and looks at Anna with a plea in her eyes but Anna ignores her.

She lies frozen with revulsion under him on a bed upstairs her face averted while he heaves, grunts and sweats on top of her.  She doesn’t let him kiss her. She thinks of the money he will give her but when they leave he gives the money to Anna and Nkeiru. They don’t give Chidimma any.

Nkeiru knows a lot of rich old men. She takes Anna and Chidimma with her to visit them. A lot more men come to Ahuekwe’s beer parlour too. They buy lots of pepper soup and beer and try to get the girls attention. Ahuekwe smiles broadly as she counts her money. Everybody is making money except Chidimma.

Then Chidimma gets pregnant  and Ahuekwe sends her back to the village.

—-

Chidimma’s father and brothers are mad. They beat her to make her tell them who got her pregnant but she doesn’t know and doesn’t say anything. Ahuekwe watches and listens, urging the men on. She calls Chidimma a stubborn, wilful and ungrateful child. When Chidimma, one eye swollen shut and bleeding from the nose collapses at Ahuekwe’s feet, she moves away with a scornful look on her face. “Stupid girl. I told you not to be moving about with men! Where are they now?” Chidimma tries to speak but Ahuekwe kicks her in the mouth.

Her father picks up a large log and takes a swing at Chidimma’s head. She scurries away just in time, gets up and runs out of the compound. “Don’t you ever dare to come back here again unless you are coming with the man that got you pregnant. Useless girl.” Her fathers words pursue her. She runs past a sea of faces gathered watching the drama.  Some came out of their huts to watch and listen, some stopped on their way to the market where they will tell the story later to those who missed it.

No one comes forward to intervene. No one wants their daughter to get pregnant before marriage. Its a disgrace, a sure sign of a bad upbringing and poor pedigree. So no one wants to interfere when a man disciplines his daughter when it happens. Within days Chidimma’s disgrace will be whispered all over the village as an example of what happens to bad girls that have sex before marriage.

Chidimma disappears down the footpaths that criss cross the village farmlands till she collapses near the edge of the forest that surrounds the village. Sobs rack her body for a while then she is still. She jumps when a hand touches her. A soft voice asks ‘What is it my child?’. Her eyes focus and she stares into an old woman’s kind weathered face. Chidimma recognises Alumma and collapses gratefully at her feet.

Alumma is a poor, childless spinster who lives in a small mud hut all by herself near the border of the village. Everyone calls her a witch. She is always quick to point out an injustice and she always knows whats going on in the entire village. She heard Chidimma’s story in the market.

Alumma takes Chidimma home and nurses her till she is strong enough to help her around the hut and on the farm. Four months later, just before the first harvest, Chidimma gives birth to a baby boy attended only by Alumma in their small mud hut. The rain hits the thatch roof and muffles the babies cries. Neither the spirits nor the people hear him arrive.

“The deities be praised. The vampire witches and wizards that prey on women at child birth cannot fly in the rain.” Alumma says as she cuts the umbilical cord with a knife.

Chidimma and her son recover well and quickly. She is so grateful for a speedy and strong recovery she calls him Ekene. No one comes to visit Chidimma and her baby. No one brings her fish and yam for her confinement. Soon she is back on the farm with Alumma, her baby strapped to her back.

Each morning when she goes to the stream she passes the Sunrise Hotel. Each night asleep on  a raised platform near the cooking pit she dreams of a big house, with a large busy kitchen, a tank full of water nearby, and plastic flowers decorating the coffee table in the living room.

—-

When Ekene is 18 months old Chidimma weans him. He is a strong stocky baby and loves to run around kicking a football. He calls Alumma ‘Nne’ and she dotes on him. Chidimma leaves him with Alumma and moves into the Sunrise Hotel. It took her a whole year to save enough money to buy a nice dress and a pair of platform shoes.

Alumma doesn’t stop her and Chidimma ignores the sad resignation in the old woman’s eyes as she leaves. They don’t speak about what she is about to do. They both know it has to be this way. For Chidimma there is no other way. Her desire for a better life flares into an overwhelming burden of ambition each time she looks at her son.

At the Sunrise Hotel she quickly learns to please the clients and ignore the taunts of the self righteous and soon has enough money to move back to Town. She rents a room in one of the numerous brothels. She is popular, vivacious and kind, she builds a long list of regular customers and the other prostitutes come to her for help, advice and counselling.

She sends money to Alumma and Ekene regularly and lives frugally. When she opens her own brothel the other girls rush to rent with her. She is always fair. She takes in only the highest paid most popular girls. Business is good and she treats the girls well. They make her President of their association. Chidimma is a long way from Sunrise Hotel.

In a few years she builds a big house in the village where Alumma’s small mud hut once stood and buys Alumma a ladies motorcycle to replace the bicycle she bought for her earlier. Alumma never  actually rides the motorbike unless she goes pillion with Ekene. She says she’s too old to learn but she likes to see it parked in the hall way of her new concrete and zinc bungalow.

Chidimma threw a lavish feast for the house opening. Villagers and relatives came from all over the state to see with their own eyes the house that Chidimma built.

—–

They all came back for her lavish Igba Nkwu wedding five years later too.

Chidimma met John at the Oriental Hotel in Town. She was sitting at the outdoor bar alone. Her pampered skin glowed in the light of the setting sun. As soon as John saw her he knew he wanted to marry her. John was a trader. He owned many shops in many Towns across the country and more than 150 apprentices and employees worked for him. He sold motor spare parts he imported from Taiwan.

He walked up to her and told her he loved her. Just like that. She laughed. ‘Love? I am a prostitute. Do you want to buy me a drink?”  He started seeing her every day, he paid to be with her all day and all night and wouldn’t let her go out with any other man. He bought her expensive presents. When he asked her to marry him she laughed him off but he kept on asking till Chidimma finally said yes.

But first she tells him why she didn’t want to be a wife, she tells him about the married women in the village. And he promises her they will never live in the village. He promises they will live in Lagos far away from the village. Then she tells him about her family. Her son, Ekene, Alumma, her father, Ahuekwe and her children. He promises to make her family proud of her.

The wedding party lasted well into the night. The whole village came to witness the nuptials and eat plenty jollof rice. A high life band played Ebenezer Obey’s hits. People danced in her fathers compound under the naked light bulbs strung across the fore yard for the occasion. He was the official host. And very drunk. He pointed at Chidmma with pride;

‘That is my beloved daughter. She is a great lady. She has brought great wealth into my compound.” he boasted with a wide toothy grin.

Chidimma and John, dressed in rich lace and brocades and traditional ivory and coral jewellery sit in plush winged armchairs on a raised dais at one end of the compound. John’s prosperous friends and business partners come up and present them with gifts of money, drinks, home appliances, fabrics and even a car.

———

Chidimma’s funeral is even more lavish than her wedding.

She was 57 when she died. John was inconsolable. Their five children were inconsolable.    Their three children-in-law were inconsolable. Their seven grand children were inconsolable. Alumma had passed away the year before. Chidimma had given her a befitting burial, feeding all the village groups and erecting a tomb stone for the old woman, something she was not  entitled to as an unmarried childless woman. She would have been buried in the garden.

Chidimma was buried like the grand lady that she was. She had made many friends and belonged to many social groups. In Lagos she had become a renowned business woman with John’s support and many of her partners, associates and clients, past and present, came to pay their respects and condole John and her family. Some just came to see the woman they had heard about. The great woman that was once a prostitute. They came in their colours. There wasn’t enough parking space and there wasn’t enough sitting space but the crowds kept coming.

“She died too young” they lamented “May those that cut short her life never know peace”

In the village her legend lives on and little girls still dream of being a prostitute and escaping to the city.

 

That African Boy

August 2, 2016

As soon as I saw him I knew. I knew he was an African boy.There was a way he walked that reminded me of my father. I stalked him for the rest of the day, watching him walk, his feet slightly turned out, to convince my self. Finally I picked up the courage to say hello and ask him where he was from. I was right. He was from Africa. From Nigeria too. Just like my dad, the only other African man I knew.

He was as excited to find me as I was to find him. He took me home to meet his parents right after school. For a while after that I would get down at the bus stop before mine to walk home with him and hang out at his house for an hour or two before going home. His mother was always at home after school. Always had a hot meal of Farina and soup waiting for him. They always invited me to eat. i always refused. I didn’t like Farina and soup. 

One weekend I was out riding bicycles in the shopping mall parking lot with some other friends of mine. He eagerly rode up on a girls pink bicycle. It had a girly pink basket adorned with pink flowers on the pink handle bars. He looked to me when my friends started taunting him.

“Look at the stupid African boy” they laughed “Don’t you know that’s a girls bike?”

“Yeah. Stupid African boy.” I shouted at him, as someone tore the flowers off the basket.

He was in tears as we rode away. When I looked back he was quivering still astride his bike watching us ride away, his eyes round and confused. Pink flowers strewn around him on the black asphalt.

When I went back to his house later that day to apologise, his mother answered the door. I didn’t understand the stream of Yoruba that she hurled violently at me like a tsunami but I understood that I wasn’t welcome there anymore. I saw him sitting at the dining table behind her, staring at me. His eyes still big and confused. And I saw something else lurking behind his pain. He never spoke to me again.

Not long after that I moved away. It’s been many years. I can’t remember what he looked like or his name but I will always remember how he walked. And when I think I see someone that walks like him I still ask if they were that kid because I still need to apologise.

 

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She Thought Her Pussy Would Take Her To Heaven.

July 30, 2016
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The Sprout by Wangechi Mutu

 

She thought her pussy would take her to heaven. That’s what she had been taught and that was what she believed but her pussy is a wasteland. Carrion birds peck away at it. Things grow in it. Nasty things. Dead things.

The beauty industry failed her. Ebony, Vogue, Essence, Cosmo are all full of advice and tips on taking care of the face, the neck, the skin, the hair. But no one told her how to take care of her pussy. No one told her it will shrivel up and die. The experts said “Ignore it till it starts to smell bad” and she looked away.

Her hands are the roots holding her to the barren earth, immobile. The world is upside down! The tree of life is inverted. The tree of knowledge of good and evil. What is good has become evil. What is evil has become good. There is no harvest. There is famine across the earth as Demeter weeps and Ani withholds her bounty.

Who is this impostor? What is this subversion? Hands work, feet walk. Her hands hold her hostage.

At least her feet still sprout new leaves. Her feet remain eager to reach heaven. And fly away with the butterflies. While her head rots. While her pussy reaches for heaven. Not her head. Never her head. Because if she thinks about it her head will explode. Her head rots and her eyes rot and vermin climb out of her mouth. The shit she says. The shit that comes out of her mouth. The shit that comes out of her rotten brain.

Reaching. Reaching for heaven with her pussy.

This is how a girl becomes a woman. Her brain rots. Assaulted with shit in fashion magazines, movies, religion, at home till her brain rots.

When a girl starts to bleed she goes skipping to Mbede, the boot camp in the middle of the forest where girls go when they start to bleed. Dancing on the way to womanhood. It is a deep secret and a shallow promise.

“Move like this, move like that. It will make him happy.”

“Be like this, be like that. It will make him stay.”

“Speak like this, speak like that. He will love you.”

“Eat! Eat it! Finish it! Men like big tits and ass.”

“Look like this, look like that. He will never look away.”

Then she finds out that it hurts. She does not know how to complain. She does not know how to say ‘No.’ A king’s ransom in pearls has been paid for her pussy. A king’s ransom in pearls has been paid for her sight.

Her life force soaks into the earth. Manure for another generation. It is a worthy sacrifice. A noble cause. Children are the future. She lies between the three mountains erected to guard her chastity, her virtue and the family honour. Nothing grows there anymore.

Her feet must grow new leaves before she can leave. Before she can break away. But she cannot. Gangrene eats her flesh, it is dying tissue on a living host. This is the cause of her death. This is what kills her.

 

From My Archive: Women Can’t Mange Money; They’re Like Children Like That

July 30, 2016

 

A chance remark by a friend put me to mind of the importance for a woman, women, to learn money management.

As a feminist my demands for equal rights include a demand for equal responsibility. Then maybe I won’t have to fight for the right to participate in family decisions because the Golden Rule is still that ‘He who has the money makes the rules’. Anyway…

Feminist rhetoric aside women need money management skills, every body needs money management skills! Man, woman and child! It is after all a ‘money economy’. While possibly agitating to change it we cannot afford to ignore ‘reality’.

My paternal grand mother and great grand mother too were financially independent of their husbands. They even lent money to other women in the village. Their men did not provide money for food and they did not pay their ‘bills’ what ever type of bills they had back then! Men just ‘contributed’ once in a while and on certain ritual occasions.

Christianity must have seemed like the great revenge for the women of Africa! ‘Finally we can demand that the little pricks take more responsibility for the children.’ And they signed right up for ‘house duty’ all in the name of finding a piece of heaven! Pun fully intended!!! Go figure.

It’s all about possibilities and look it just makes more ‘common sense’. Whose ‘common sense’ I hear you ask, you see that’s just it, I guess for some it does make common sense to sit at home and let the nigger hustle in the sun. Why die early huh?

In which case put up with it and stop asking for equal rights would you already! Its hard enough to make a case for equal rights without the armchair feminists muddying the waters!

You know the ones I mean! The ones whose idea of equal rights is the right to turn a man into a money machine while they mange his money!(Did I say women need money management skills? Hmmm. I think 8 times married Zsa Zsa Gabor would disagree! Accused of being a bad house keeper she says ‘Of course I am a good housekeeper I divorce the man and keep the house’!)

Or the ones whose idea of equal rights is the right to fuck like men fuck. Which begs the question, how do ‘men’ fuck? Like you feel horny and you go and fuck the first person that your hypothalamus responds to? Or is that how women ‘fuck’?

Mind you I have nothing against armchair feminists, heck I’ve been at those stages myself. I have grown and I have learned. I believe it was Alanis Morrissette that sang ‘You Live You Learn’. Next please.

So I guess all the armchair feminists will also grow up and learn so I guess that’s cool then.

Long ago I read ‘The Cinderella Complex’ in which the author argued that women retreat into domesticity to escape responsibility, and the competitive world. ‘The weaker sex…’, ‘the fairer sex…’, ‘the princess…’, Cinderella; as a metaphor.

True or false? In this po-mo world who knows and you know something, who cares? There is such a cacophony of opinions out there all struggling for dominance that maybe your own opinion really is the best right now.

As for me, I think I want to be like my numerous grand mothers, Russian and African; strong, financially and emotionally independent, efficient and self-sufficient women that raised their kids to be responsible adults but with a twist; 50/50, equal rights, equal responsibility.

Now if you will excuse me I got to go get me some money management skills…right after I speak to my significant other about this adorable pair of shoes that I just must have! Oh baby baby,  I will sit at home quietly and bear your children just keep me in the gravy!

No they are not glass shoes…

25 March 2006

From My Archives: African Feminism

July 28, 2016

From my Yahoo360 Archive: April 25, 2006

My friend and I were sitting in the garden having our morning coffee and cigarettes when we noticed a van pull up to the cabin across the street. Next thing a woman gets down and they start offloading luggage; suitcases, blankets, a mop, groceries. Three men have been living in that cabin for almost a month now without any of these things!!!?

It occurred to me how dependent men actually are on women. I started wondering whether we women are really the oppressed ones. These men can’t live well without a woman and that is true for so many men I have met in my life, especially here in Naija, in  America most of the men were actually quite self sufficient in that department at least most of the ones I met and knew well enough to judge.

I can’t deny that women suffer from discrimination and exclusion etc. etc. etc. but it would appear that men are in there own ‘prison’ so to speak. Have you ever watched one of those movies set in a prison and felt amazement at the fact that the prison guards are their own kind of prisoners really, even though they can go home to their families in the evening? And I wondered whether their brutality is a reaction to their situation?

It would also appear that the African woman knows her power and for this reason jealously protects her position as mother and matriarch. Could this be why African feminists reject western feminism so vehemently? Could it be that they believe that they are in a superior position of power? Is there a link? I have often wondered whether female genital mutilation isn’t part of this exercise of power, after all the procedure is usually performed and controlled by women and they have actually been the staunchest resisters to it’s abolition in Africa.

Could it be that removing the clitoris as a site of pleasure was initiated not by men to control women but by women to control men? Presumably, after the procedure a woman would be more difficult to arouse and therefore less inclined to have sex for pleasure as opposed to sex for manipulation. ‘You want some? What you gonna do for me?’  Just a crazy thought.

I can’t ignore the fact that sex is very much a transaction in some tribal philosophies that I have encountered. I have heard having sex with a woman and not paying her be in it cash or kind described as a theft and the belief is that such a woman’s curse can ruin a man’s life especially if she prays naked in the middle of the night.

Many incidents of rape and sexual abuse are settled financially. The victim’s family doesn’t always insist on marriage. Outcomes usually depend on the social status of the abuser vis-à-vis the victims.

Chinweizu in his book The Anatomy of Female Power certainly implies as much although he never directly accusses women of sexual manipulation and seems to suggest that its not about the vagina (i.e. sexual pleasure) but more about the womb and man’s need to procreate and beget heirs.

Catherine Acholonu implies that female power is about ‘motherhood’ as an institution and not just a biological function. Motherhood was elevated to a cult in many parts of tribal Africa. The assumption in western feminism is that motherhood only benefits the patriarchy but according to Acholonu C. motherhood also benefits. She argues that in Africa motherhood has a value and that women are far from powerless. She also argues that Africa was not patriarchal in the classical sense of the word.

Rose Acholonu shares the view that motherhood is the power base and is also critical of western feminist ideology for their attitude towards motherhood and family but she is also very critical of tribal patriarchy and traditions unlike Acholunu C. and Helen Chukwuma.

Chukwuma sites women’s power in their use of their collective political leverage in the community, describes how that power is exercised and recommends that those methods be documented, reevaluated, and tested.

All these writers share a firm belief in their status and power as women, mothers and wives.

As Foucalt said, there is no person without power, everyone resists, negotiates or accepts.

What do you think about African feminism or African women and power? What is her ‘power’? Where does it come from?  How does she use it? Is it in the kitchen, the bedroom, the boardroom or the living room? Is it her womb (biological capacity to procreate) or her vagina (the capacity for sexual pleasure)? I’m being a bit blunt because I want an honest reaction.

I’d really like to know your opinion if you would like to share it.

The Trailer for Wonder Woman is Out! And It’s Awesome!

July 25, 2016

 

A stunning beach opening. And blue and orange filter.

“You’re a man” it opens. And raises the expectation that this movie will give us a fresh perspective on masculinity through the eyes of a character that has never seen a man before.

“Have you never met a man before. What about your father?”

“I had no father I was brought to life by Zeus.”

A very long pause. You have to wonder how she constructs ‘man’ in the absence.

“Oh that’s neat.”

An ancient court somewhere high in the mountains. A queen.

“You have been my greatest love.” She says to Diana, the Wonder Woman.

Are they lesbian lovers? Does Wonder Woman leave the love of a woman for he love of a man? Are they going to play that old trope?

 

And then that awesome scene of woman riding horses into battle and employing the sort of aerial gymnastics that Jackie Chang is better known for. At last? A movie that dares to break the stereotypes?

‘I cannot do this” he says to her

“What I do is not up to you” she replies with confidence as the next scene opens with her going into battle. The phrase locks in my head. My kind of woman?

I love that her costume doesn’t look to bright, and her shield looks battle worn, and her hair is loosely curled. I always wondered about Wonder Woman’s lacquered hair. Too cliche.

The cinematographer gives some awesome shoots and the editor works the fight scene of Wonder Woman with some Matrixy slow mo that is effective. It definitely updates the movie, as do the high tech weapons Wonder Woman now has. I love the laser Saber whip.

Kickass goddess!

“What is a secretary?”

“I go where he tells me to go and I do what he tells me to do.”

“Where I come from that’s called slavery.”

BOOM!

 

I Had A Dream. It Became A Nightmare #BlackLivesMatter

July 19, 2016

Me and my son are in a parking lot standing beside my Range Rover. Apolice car pulls up. The cop inside says to my son ‘You look supicious. Get in the car.’

‘Don’t argue with them ‘ I tell him. ‘I’m right behind you. ‘

They enter the traffic as I get behind the wheel start the car and follow them.

As I drive along I see a battered body in the road. My heart lurches in my chest.

‘God forbid. It is not him.’

I avoid the body and drive past. It is him!

I wake up just as I am about to start wailing.

I had a dream. It has become a nightmare.

It doesn’t matter if we tell our son’s not to resist unless ‪#‎BlackLivesMatter‬

In America

In Nigeria

In Sudan

In Rwanda

In DRC

In Haiti

In Brazil

In Great Britain

In Europe

In Russia

On this Earth and Throughout the Universe

ACT AS IF!

SAY NO TO VIOLENCE13669574_878304305631130_1236389984457703318_n

Buhari Admonishes The Judiciary on Their Role in Fight Against Corruption

July 19, 2016

Buhari called on the judiciary to support the fight against the war of corruption yesterday.

Everyone deserves the best defence possible. Even the corrupt. That is the basis of our entire legal system.  Entitled to a legal defence to all accusations. A defence lawyer would not be ethical to do otherwise. And that includes using legal delay tactics.

The judiciary nevertheless has very wide discretionary powers.

However I put the blame squarely on the prosecution, and they are supposed to be the presidents men. A good prosecutor should anticipate and compensate for these delay tactics but frequently deploy their own. It should also hold the judiciary accountable and appeal any decisions that they feel are improperly given.

Our prosecutors lack the modern efficient prosecutorial skills.

An example from my family law practice.

Our client was sued for a divorce. We saw a defect in the form of the petition and asked for the case to be dismissed via a motion. It took 5 adjournments and more than 6 months to get the judgment. The case was dismissed and the petitioner quickly filed a new case in the same court before we could.

On the day we file our response, the petitioner purports to withdraw the case file and file a new one with a motion for substituted service (which we had previously decided to ignore to proceed speedily with the case.) This took another 3 months to sort out. Then we find out he didn’t properly withdraw the first suit, so there are two suits outstanding. Its taking another 3 months.

I see the same kind of unpreparedness in criminal prosecutors. Me and my client just want to get on with it. Its been almost a year. We have not had a hearing on the substantive issue.

I always win my cases because I am over prepared. Never lost a case in Nigeria. When I filed a suit against Shell BP in 2001 the Senior Advocate of Nigeria SAN that came to defend them in the Federal High Court in Umuahia entered appearance without protest. The court workers hail me no be small. They said it had never before happened. Hopefully not so much now.

My rather unscientific assessment is many lawyers are too quick to file a suit without proper research and investigation, do not do enough pre-trial strategy development, and rely too much on rhetoric and connections in the judiciary. After all, they all get paid per appearance. And the overstretched judiciary plays along.

(In 2016 Nigerian judges still record entire trial proceedings in long hand.)

The solution?

  1. Training and capacity building. For the prosecutors and the judges. I wonder what they would say if we asked them the last time they went for training and how/if they apply those skills now.
  2. Upgrade and investment in judiciary infrastructure. This may also require legislation.

Agwubuo Talks About Lesley

June 23, 2016

You are welcome. I greet you. Please sit down, we must break kola together. He who brings kola brings life.  I am Duru Agwubuo, senior member of the Ndi Ozo ruling council of Umuaka Kingdom.

You say you are here to enquire about Lesley. She is a very foolish woman. She married for love. What is love? Who marries for love? A woman marries a man that can provide a good life for her and her children. She could have had any man she wanted, she could have even married the king’s first son. Instead she chose a weak thoughtless boy from a far away kingdom. His family is rich but they do not have a good pedigree. His father was a trader and his grandfather a mercenary.

Just like she insisted on marrying him she insisted on leaving him after two children. But she didn’t marry another man, she decided to live and raise her children alone in The Big City, Lagos. What kind of woman is that? Only immoral women live alone in the city. She said she was still looking for love. Her age mates married the eligible men and she was still looking for love.

It didn’t go very well for her in The Big City. She struggled to raise those boys. She ignored a lot of opportunities to be available for them and what money she made she spent to give them a good city life away from the village where she grew up.  Her aunts used to tell her to send the children back to the family that owns them and stop wasting her money on them. She didn’t listen. Maybe it paid off for her. She and her sons are very close. They dote on her.

As her children grew Lesley focused more and more on her career and she did pretty well for a woman. She was generous to her father, the big family, and the lineage and she was interested in kingdom affairs but as she became more and more successful she became less and less interested. She forgot her promise. Her promise to tell our stories. She convinced herself it was just – her imagination. After all who was she making promises too? She forgot the messages we sent her.

I am one of the ancestors now. Our descendants live in a different time, they have new ideas about how life should be. They say we are old school and out dated. In the ancient belief of the Igbo of south east Nigeria the worst fate for the dead is to have no one to remember their name. This is why men poured libations and recited the names of their fathers every morning and every night and taught their sons to do the same. But the world has changed.

Lesley has remembered me again and promised I will be remembered for ever more in her book which she insists will be in the Library of Congress. She would make me immortal!

 

 


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