My Type Of Feminism. It Has To Be Fun. 

October 24, 2016

Michelle is the star of the Obama’s last weeks in office. The media focus has been on her.The accolades have been perfuse. I’m not sure how I feel about her image tough.

“(S)he had to flatten herself to better fit the mould of first lady.” Chimamanda Adichie says.

“Because she said what she thought, and because she smiled only when she felt like smiling, and not constantly and vacuously, America’s cheapest caricature was cast on her: the Angry Black Woman. Women, in general, are not permitted anger — but from black American women, there is an added expectation of interminable gratitude, the closer to grovelling the better, as though their citizenship is a phenomenon that they cannot take for granted.”

Michelle is my Stereotyoe of the Cool Mom. She’s cool like that but she’ll NEVER get drunk and dance on  the table at your 21st birthday party (thank god!). Or do anything to shock your friends like walking around the house in her lingerie or bringing out a bong when your friends come over. She cast herself as the Black Mother – solid as a rock. Even with the world on her shoulders. She’s got a strong back. And she has fun doing it.

She is so different from the stereotypical White Mother. And the White Feminist. Whose feminism is a performance. Black women never had to perform feminism.

‘Ain’t I a woman?’ Sojouner Truth asked.

Michelle is everything I fantasise a Black Madonna to be. I can’t help think of the Mammy in ‘Gone With the Wind’. A vegetable garden in the White House? How much more Black Mother can you get? Thats the sort of thing your Aunty Ngozi or your Aba grandmother did when they visited you in America (Much to your mortification. Gardens are for ornamental flowers. Duh.) But it’s poignant to see a vegetable garden in the White House built by slaves. The legacy that black Americans have to live with is heavy indeed.

Will Obama be the 44th President of the United States of America or will he be the 1st Black President of the United States of America? In 100 or 200 years time what will that mean? How will we keep score? Who will keep score? Why must we keep score? Because if we don’t we will be excluded again? Is that like saying that breaking the glass ceiling really doesn’t break anything at all because you have to come back next year to break it again? Why do we still have to fight for the 2nd, 3rd, 4th – black, female, or gay CEO/president/princeling?

Is there a point at which we’re good and have achieved the equality we seek? Then what? Consolidate? Hold on to gains and ground? Sounds exhausting. And never ending. If we were hoping to reach a tipping point of enlightenment by now Buhari’s and Trump’s emergence as leaders proves that there are still way too many ignorant mischief makers in the world.

Suddenly this whole fight within feminism seems tedious. Why are we differentiating feminisms? I love Chimamanda but as soon as I read the headline of her other story – My Feminism Is Different From Beyonce’s – I skipped the article. And didn’t come back to it till it had caused a shit storm online.

‘Feminism is the belief in the equality of men and women.” – Chimamanda Adichie.

It doesn’t matter if we preach this equality in the 20% of the moment we are not talking about men. It doesn’t matter if we do it while showing our crotch to a room full of paying gawkers or wearing elegant  block colours and addressing the UN. Nobodies feminism is the same. Even our personal feminism can and should change and evolve during your lifetime.

I’m also ambivalent about this new ‘feminism lite’ category that apparently puts men so centrally in women’s lives. My own brand of feminism used to be ‘feminism lite’. When I was 15 in between reading of James Hadley Chase all I could think and talk about were boys. (And the sort of bad boys I was reading about in James Hadley Chase. They just had to have that attitude.) And when I wasn’t thinking about boys I was thinking about sex.  (It’s what teenagers do, including your own.)

So I educated myself about sex. I read ‘Every Woman’ by Derek Llewellyn-Jones. Some progressive student sneaked it into my Catholic  boarding school. It made the rounds, it was so dog eared. I read it twice. And then bought my own copy. Boys and sex were about growing up and we were all in a hurry to grow up. The principal, Mrs Okonkwo, heard about this subversive book and gave fire and brimstone lectures during morning assembly on its dangers, the dangers of sex and especially the dangers of mkpokopi (homosexuality).

In my 20’s I got my sex education and feminism from Helen Gurley Brown and Cosmopolitan. You could describe it as feminism lite but it helped me negotiate the demands of my emerging personality.  I knew I had to work, no question about it. And not just anyhow work. Ambitious change-the-world kinda of work. I wouldn’t even think to be with a man that thought otherwise but even the most progressive men I met wanted to be ‘cared for’ – it was their definition of ‘love’. And whats wrong with that? I wanted to feel ‘cared for’ too. Who doesn’t? Its our most primal need and goes back to infancy.

In my 20’s and into my early 30’s I also spent a whole lot of time resisting all attempts to brand me a feminist. I was increasingly being called a feminist, usually by men that felt disturbed by something I had said or done. I didn’t know that much about feminists except the stereotype that they were butch, didn’t wear bras (Abomination!) and from some of the pictures I saw didn’t wash very often. So I always denied being any such thing. I had been a tom boy but now I wore bras, I had manicures and pedicures, I wore make up, I wore sexy clothes. I objectified women including myself. I was having fun discovering myself, exploring my femininity.

Then one day soon after the advent of the internet into Nigeria I decided to google feminism. I was 35. Wow. What an eye opener. Fortuitously I lived in Owerri at  the time and had access to two outstanding Igbo-Nigerian feminists – Rose and Catherine Acholonu.  Not only did I discover that indeed, I was a feminist, I discovered that feminism existed in Nigeria and in Africa long before I made that discovery.

Apparently I been a feminist since I was a child. The memo I got said “ Anything boys can do girls can do better.” I believed in male female equality with all the simplicity of a child. Even as a 5 year old I climbed trees, swam the deepest part of the river, did wheelies, jumped off cliffs, rode down impossibly steep hills and generally risked life, limb and sanity to prove that “Yes I Can”.

I took that attitude with me into adulthood. And met real social resistance to what I could or could not do. As a child I just did it, no one stopped me.  As a woman I was suddenly blocked in every direction. What I now heard was – “You’re a women, you can’t, and I won’t let you. Because I can stop you.” Like hell you can stop me. I used to fight a lot. ) You can see the type of problems this could present in a traditional relationship or marriage.

In my 40’s I lived feminism. I was a feminist. I performed feminism. I had a high flying job in international development he bastion of gender equality and evangelised across the globe. I wrote thoughtful posts about feminism and African feminism. I supported more women. Made more women friends. Even my style evolved. I started reading Esquire for fashion tips. Explored a more androgynous aesthetic.

Now in my 50’s I’m still evolving and so is my feminism. I’m back to that childhood attitude. We’re equal. Full stop. I’ll just sit over here and get on with it. And now I’m big enough you can’t stop me anymore. And yes, it still has to be fun, just like the rest of my life.

Sorta like I learnt I was a social entrepreneur from Ashoka. I’m just there being my awesome self and someone gives me a label and a roomful of theories and academic papers to study. Well it was all very empowering since I got to explore and test the boundaries of what that means. So it definitely broadened my horizons. Thank you. Now I’ll just go back to being myself.

I think thats why so many people got mad with Chimamanda. Women love talking about men. And sex. And heart break. Men ARE central to women’s lives. The same way men say we are central to  their lives. They are the reason we wake up in the morning put on our makeup, our heels and hustle. And build empires. And dynasties. And kingdoms. Some of us anyway. And maybe we used to. When we were younger. Maybe our biology has something to do with it too. Think about it, for 30 – 35 years the female body is primed for pregnancy EVERY MONTH. She is literally a walking talking hard on.

I do not believe we are or should be slaves to our biology. Our humanity is our capacity to override mere biological urge  (or you would still be a monkey, I promise.) But people must be allowed to make an informed choice, all choices have consequences. You can’t tell people what to do. You can’t make choices for them. What gives anyone the privilege? There are no hierarchies. Hierarchies and privilege are part the problem, not the solution.

So, yes. Chimamanda can say that her feminism is different from Beyounce’s, so is her lifestyle and probably her core values. People are different. All our individual feminism are different. But I’d rather she didn’t use the 20% yardstick. Or her feminism for that matter.

I’m a mother of men and a leader of men. And women. I say to girls and young women the same thing I say to boys and young men – don’t spend ALL your time and energy on girls/boys and sex, focus on career and life and the right girl/boy will come along. And if you decide to spend all your time talking about sex or marriage remember 1. you’re an adult and adults are self sufficient and can take care of themselves 2. the ability to take care of yourself is the highest form of good 3. co-dependency can be financial as well as emotional and 4. you can do anything you want but there is a price to pay.

Just be good at whatever you do. Be an Amber Rose, a Chimamanda Adichie, a Funmilayo Ransome Kuti, A Tiwa Savage, a Beyonce, An Okonjo Iwela. Just be your god damn self. Your authentic self. Just be your best YOU. Because that takes courage. It takes a ‘Yes I Can.’ And that makes it a feminist act.

Be A person. Not a woman. A spouse. Not a wife. A parent. Not a mother.

And that brings me back to Michelle Obama. That stereotypical Black Madonna. She reminds me of my Russian grand mother. She’s even handling the transition better than Barry. I detect a certain ruefulness in him, a disillusionment. And a nostalgia. She shows an appropriate measure of nostalgia and gratitude (very important for the niggers to be grateful) but relief the Road Show is about to end and maybe now she can go back to some semblance of a normal life. Barry looks like he’ll miss the attention but more importantly that he will miss the power to make things happen. I wonder what he will be next?

Michelle will continue being Michelle, Mother in Chief. Black women (like Russian women) don’t have the privilege of a nervous breakdown. We just get on with it.

Happy Independence Day Nigeria! 

October 1, 2016


I like this #HeroesandHelmets initiative. Its a feel good initiative. And we need some feel-good on this day that is the 56th year of our Independence from the white man in Nigeria.

Perhaps we have lost the real meaning of Independence. I have read curses on Nigeria, blessings, wishful thinking, deceit, lies and plain old grand standing.

“There is nothing to celebrate. We are hungry. We are angry. We are poor. We are BAD.”

We have forgotten the real meaning of our Independence. We have forgotten that what we celebrate is not the creation of a nation called Nigeria. (Techinically that was created in 1914.) We celebrate the formal end of colonial administration over the indigenous (black) peoples of Nigeria.

if you think that’s not something to celebrate think for a minute about the many black brethren gunned down like common criminals by the police in the United States of American – that flickering beacon of freedom and democracy. Black people gunned down doing things you take for granted here in Nigeria – selling bootleg DVDs, driving without a taillight, taking a corner without signalling, having a psychotic incident in the market place, walking down the street after dark.

In 2016, today on our 56th Independence Anniversary more than on any other day before I am soooooo happy that our forebears triumphed in their fight for freedom. Today more than any other day I am happy that my sons grew up free men in a free (albeit imperfect) nation. They’re not yet safe from institutional bullying but that is the fight if the NEW GENERATION.

We build a wall brick by brick and it is not any one person’s portion to build it all. We build on what’s come before.

Put this day in the context of slavery, colonialism and Jim Crow and then tell me again there is nothing to celebrate. Fifty-six years since Independence. ONLY. Less than a lifetime. Less than a lifetime ago our black and brown parents and grandparents were treated like a lower form of animals AS A MATTER OF OFFICIAL POLICY.

At least now we can resist such dehumanisation. At least now we can resist – at the UN, the ICC, at the ACHR, at the polling booth, in court. Whether they listen to us or not we can resist LEGALLY. And we can call upon the state to uphold, protect and enforce our right to resistance.

Who told you it was supposed to be easy?

The struggle did not end on October 1, 1960 when the Union Jack came down for the last time.

The struggle did not end in 1999 when we finally held held elections. The struggle did not end in 2015 when the party in power handed over to the opposition. The struggle does not end and each generation must inherit its own struggle. There is no UHURU. Except in Death maybe.

Happiness isn’t a state. Happiness is a fleeting moment of content in between depressingly mundane daily struggles. Happiness is stumbling upon a rose in the midst of thorns. It is festivals and dances in between reaping and sowing – rituals to remind us what we struggle for and renew our spirit.

Success is winning those daily struggles. Don’t lose sight of the forest for the tree. Do something inspiring. Go find one of our brethren in uniform and take a selfie. Support the troops. Hold the government accountable.

Good leaders will understand the meaning of this.

I would like to wish all of you a reflective and inspiring Independence Day.




When You Are Writing, You Are God & Other Lessons | A Farafina Workshop Memoir

September 15, 2016


When you are writing, you are God.
—Aslak Sira Myhre


June 21 – Day One

“Tell us one thing you like and one thing you dislike?” she said. I lied. I said I liked history, art and culture. Actually I like sex, loud music and dim smokey bars. But I wasn’t ready to say that to a room full of strange Nigerians. What if they misunderstood? Or laughed? It’s not the sort of thing a Nigerian woman my age says.

If it comes easily to you, discard.
—Chimamanda Adichie


Diversity and Identity

Age. I try not to think about it. Not in that I’m-this-age-and-should-therefore-behave-like-this-or-be-treated-like-that” way. I hate being called ‘ma’, ‘mommy’, or ‘madam’. I feel pressured to perform age. I do not want to perform age. But I do anyway. Another loaded feminist issue? Or a race issue? Or maybe a class issue? Or an intersection of the three? Someday I will write about it.

“Please call me Lesley.”

“You remind me of a South African woman I met at my last workshop,” one of the participants says to me.

And Aslak keeps calling me Sheila.

I really wish people would get to know Lesley.

The age of the Farafina 2016 participants didn’t cross my mind till I sat down with them and looked into their faces. Most of them are young enough to be my children. Some so young that I would have a word with my sons if they brought them home.

Listening to these young people reminded me of the obvious clichés.

‘Age should be a bridge,’ I think. ‘Not a gap.’

Nevertheless, the workshop is a safe space and we are asked to suspend our judgments. We name it Sacred. We also have a young woman that escaped the 2014 Chibok abductions with us. And an undercover reporter. Young people discovering their sexuality. People constructing their identities. Living stories about surviving, healing and becoming.

Go where it hurts because then it matters.
—Aslak Srye Myhre


Farafina Insomniacs WhatsApp Group Chat

Someone sets up the Farafina Insomniacs group on WhatsApp. It makes group communication more relaxed and open. I’ve avoided group chats so far. The constant notifications while I’m working and the drain on my battery were not worth the poor quality of conversation and information.

WhatsApp Group Chat –

25/06/2016 12:37: Feisty: why are we starting a new group?

25/06/2016 12:37: Foxy: Touchy is in the other group

25/06/2016 12:38: Feisty: is it necessary?

25/06/2016 12:38: Missy: Feisty please it is…we don’t want to trigger her

25/06/2016 12:41: Sisi: Btw, Touchy is my friend o

25/06/2016 12:41:Sisi: She’s been so sweet all day

(12/07/2016 10:19: Squeaky: I’m realising I might never use the word ‘trigger’ again in anything I write because of you guys, and I kind of don’t mind.)

What isn’t made into narrative isn’t part of the world.
—Aslak Syre Mhyre


Karaoke Night Out

On Saturday night we went to a karaoke bar. Kunle sang ‘Stay’ with so much heart. I took a chance and sang the only song I really own, “Bohemian Rhapsody.” I sing as if I’m a 7 year old standing on a stool, in front of the heavy dresser mirror in my parent’s bedroom singing ‘Fly Robin Fly’ into a hair brush. Or standing on the coffee table and singing along with Sony and Cher on the TV. As if no one else is there. This is how to write. Belt it out.

“You can’t pander to anyone’s expectation when writing,” she said.

WhatsApp Group Chat –

25/06/2016 23:03: Feisty: Please who is singing and killing it?

25/06/2016 23:09: Titi: It is Lesley o.

25/06/2016 23:09: Tricky: Lesley Yaaay!

25/06/2016 23:09: Tricky: Mimi be killing everybody at the Mortal Kombat game!

25/06/2016 23:14: Titi: Cocky was the bomb too.

25/06/2016 23:14: Titi Beautiful night.

25/06/2016 23:14: Titi: Can we all go back to the hotel now, please?

25/06/2016 23:14: Tricky: Yes ooo

25/06/2016 23:15: Titi: Akintunde be scattering game anyhow.

25/06/2016 23:18: Feisty: Oya come back home. I have milzed you all.

25/06/2016 23:18: Feisty: I can’t sleep. I can’t write. I can’t eat.

Feisty stayed in to work on her assignment. It was the best at the next reading. Should I have stayed in too? Writing is always rewriting. Most of the assignments I submit are rewritten once or not at all.

“I know I can do better if I could just rewrite it again,” I think to myself each time I submit an assignment. The lure of the night life kept my performance average most of my life. Because excellence is about going the extra mile.

“How many times did you rewrite Half of A Yellow Sun?” I ask her.

“Seven times.’

To make it art, you have to rewrite.
—Chimamanda Adichie


How A Short Film Got Made by Farafina 2016

We talked about serial kissers, serial quitters and serial killers a lot. We even wondered if all the talk about serial killers might trigger the serial killers among us. You never know what baggage the people you meet carry. Nigeria’s first serial killer thriller is still waiting to be written.


WhatsApp Group Chat –

26/06/2016 10:26: Lofty: So guys, Aoiri wants us to shoot a movie.

26/06/2016 10:29: Lofty: “Let’s use the energy!” He said.

26/06/2016 10:30: Feisty Will there be blood? Can I shoot a gun or just kill someone?

26/06/2016 10:31: Feisty: Oya o. Ideas for script or we have a script?

26/06/2016 10:33: Ducky: If there’s blood, or a stabbing, count me in!

26/06/2016 10:44: Lofty: Keep in mind that we’re not making an epic. The fewer scenes and locations the better “energy” is limited…

26/06/2016 10:46: Mimi: Suggestion: why don’t we pick a ’round’ story or two of ours that we’ve written as assignments and work it into a script?

26/06/2016 10:47: Foxy: Maybe we could all suggest stories to act out during lunch

26/06/2016 10:47: Mimi: A story that’s short but powerful

26/06/2016 10:48: Foxy: So we can go through all that we’ve done so far since Umar mailed them to us. And suggest what to act at Lunch

26/06/2016 10:49: Foxy: But nothing too triggering sha

“Kuku Kill Me” an iconic two-minute Naija Indie blockbuster starred Ifeoluwa Nihinlola, Kunle Ologunro, Miracle Adebayo, Aisha Abiri, Abimbola Ige and Chika Jones. It was directed by Umar Turaki, written by Chika, Aisha, Miracle, and Umar, filmed by Aoiri Obaigbo and screened for a select audience after our last dinner together.


Kenyan Writer Binyavanga Wainana Was There

He introduced us to Kenya-American artist Wangechi Mutu. Wangechi explores the similarities between misogyny and race, and the hierarchy of race and gender through surreal collages and installations reminiscent of Picasso’s cubism. Her visual art inspired some of our most creative work.

Facebook Status: Akintunde Aiki June 27 · 

#Farafina2016 – Binyavanga does this to you: brings out the beast in your writing. The Final Ceremony.

“Technically the story is perfect, but I don’t feel her,” he says to me about Chidimma, protagonist of ‘Sunrise Hotel’, a short story I spent months writing. The same story Chimamanda enjoyed so much she invited me for this workshop. He tells me about a character he used to write when he was still in the closet. ‘Am I in the closet?’ I wonder. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

“You’re still hiding.’ he says.

Twitter @MzAgams Jun 27: When Binyavanga thinks about our submissions before commenting, he moves his lips & jaw like he’s chewing the words we wrote – #Farafina2016

Write what you know.
—Binyavanga Wainaina


That Bridge

In between writing assignments I sit at the upper deck of the Bush Bar of our hotel overlooking the lagoon, drinking coffee in the morning and beer at night. Feeling the ocean. And watching That Bridge. Watching people moving on That Bridge. On foot, in cars, on bikes.

Facebook Status: Lesley Agams June 30 

I took a walk on that bridge.

All the way till I could see my hotel then I turned around.

I do not jog. Who wan die.

As usual I found my self wondering about these people jogging on the bridge in the early morning.

I’m disappointed. The people I see up close didn’t look nearly as good as they looked from a distance. Their eyes are wary and cunning. Their expressions shielded. People drive from all over Lagos to jog on that bridge.

You either have to know a lot more or imagine a lot better.
—Binyavanga Wainaina



At The Closing Ceremony

As she gives me my certificate Chimamanda tells the world she will be the first one to buy my book. “Odogwu Nwanyi” she calls me. My only regret is I didn’t ask someone to take a picture of me with her on stage. And I didn’t bother to struggle for a vantage position during the group photograph so I got pushed to the back. If you don’t look well, you won’t see me. And in some pictures, at some angles, you don’t. That’s how I always got the bottom pot of the jollof rice in secondary school.

I’ve been writing since I was 10: journals, diaries, memoirs, poems, short stories, plays, movie scripts, essays, and cheeky articles like the ones in EsquirePlayboy and Cosmopolitan. I remember tapping out stories on my father’s old manual Olympian typewriter. I was even a reporter and women’s editor for a local newspaper once. As I collected the certificate, I knew in my heart this was the first day of the rest of my life.

The first rule of writing: to be a writer, you have to write.
—Aslak Syre Mhyre


That Was Just The Beginning.The Conversations Continued After We Left.

WhatsApp Group Chat –

06/07/2016 08:37: Lofty: The conversation in this group is like a stage play with different acts and different characters at any given time.

06/07/2016 11:55: Tricky: Phew. This is one group you want to read through the “one million unread messages”.

Drama isn’t just people talking.
—Eghosa Imasuen


The Heat Is On

06/07/2016 18:13: Bubbly: Meanwhile, Guys. Do you all feel pressured now? Like the writing community expects your texts to be top notch now that Adichie has taught you herself? Like is it just me. So many book clubs want me as “guest” and I am like why? One even said they will send a Limo. I just feel like the expectation and attention is overwhelming and I don’t really deserve it! What do you guys think?

Insecurity is very important for a writer.
—Eghosa Imasuen


Metaphor Is the Palm Oil We Eat Words With

WhatsApp Group Chat –

09/07/2016 09:10: Cheeky: Lol. My entire Farafina experience is down to music. A team reminds me of Nnamdi, Ama and the Karaoke Night. Strange songs remind me of Lesley. Panda reminds me of Aisha and Naza.

09/07/2016 09:10: Cheeky: Igbo songs remind me of Nwa Nsukka’s dance steps

12/07/2016 08:33: Ducky: Metaphors are how I make sense of this world.

12/07/2016 08:33: Ducky: Some one hiding is pulling a Chisom.

12/07/2016 08:33: Ducky: A funny and curious person is pulling a Pamela.

12/07/2016 08:33: Ducky: A Lofty person is pulling an Umar.

12/07/2016 08:34: Ducky: Someone writing stories populated by fantastic characters is pulling an Aoiri.

12/07/2016 08:34: Ducky: An Nnamdi is self-explanatory.

12/07/2016 08:34: Ducky: Someone who likes money more than life is pulling a Chika.

12/07/2016 08:35: Ducky: An aspirational person wants to be like Monye, wants to cook with stove.

12/07/2016 08:35: Ducky: A prim and proper person is trying to be Muna.

12/07/2016 08:35: Ducky: We all know the Kunles in our lives.

12/07/2016 08:36: Ducky: Bestfren bestfren and Ama enters your life.

12/07/2016 08:36: Ducky: Someone who wants all the good men in a group for herself is obviously a Mimi.

12/07/2016 08:37: Ducky: Like snapchat and smile a lot and you are defined sharply.

12/07/2016 08:41: Ducky: All I’m saying is, I’m always making judgements, ascribing attributes to people. It’s dishonest to pretend like I don’t.

12/07/2016 08:46: Feisty Fierce as fuck, I think describes Lesley

12/07/2016 08:46: Cocky: Fierce as fuck

12/07/2016 09:03: Me: Ife is the Barb of Ogbomosho of No Internet

12/07/2016 09:05: Cocky: Aisha the goddess of Iwale

If you overdo metaphor, it suggests a lack of confidence. 
—Chimamanda Adichie

The Conversation Has All The Elements of a Good Story: Drama, Intrigue And Humor

WhatsApp Group Chat –

11/07/2016 21:14: Shady: We can call it CHIPAM Investigation Services

11/07/2016 21:14: Shady: Or maybe even CHIPAMA if Ama is down

11/07/2016 21:16: Squeaky: Please I want to join. Let’s make it CHIPAMABIM

11/07/2016 21:17: Lofty: I’ve registered.

11/07/2016 21:18: Ducky: I can see where this naming thing is going, and it’s not good.

11/07/2016 21:18: Ducky: Let Chisom and Pamela just have their company jejely.

11/07/2016 21:19: Snoopy: Bimbo why must you join everything?!!!

11/07/2016 21:20: Snoopy : Chisom I’m down for CHIPAMA lool

11/07/2016 21:20: Cheeky: CHIPAMABIMCHI

11/07/2016 21:21: Mimi: CHIPAMABIMCHIMIM

11/07/2016 21:21: Ducky: This is beginning to sound like a company of chipmunks created to form a monopoly out of nuts.

Comedy: an absurd unexpected outcome.
—Eghosa Imasuen


Bloopers Happen Too

WhatsApp Group Chat –

13/07/2016 12:21: Crusty: Les, of the fierce fuck

13/07/2016 12:24: Me: ‘fierce fuck’???? How would you know?

13/07/2016 12:35: Crusty: Nnamdi gave you the title na.

13/07/2016 12:36: Me: I don’t think he used it in quite the same way

13/07/2016 12:42: Cocky: Please o

13/07/2016 12:42: Cocky: I said ‘Fierce as fuck’

13/07/2016 12:42: Cocky: I’m innocent o

13/07/2016 13:39: Me: Thanks Nnamdi. Kinda like he said ‘children turn him on.’

Words are powerful. You need to be careful using words.
—Chimamanda Adichie



There are no rules if you can get away with it.
—Eghosa Imasuen

Originally published by Brittle Paper on 2016/08/15

The Only Time I Ever Played With Barbie. Once. Ever.

September 12, 2016
I was like 8 or something. I was not included in Barbie play previously because I did not have a Barbie. My struggling immigrant parents did not appreciate the importance of owning a Barbie for a child trying to belong in white middle America. My best friend at the time, Jill lent me one of hers.
So we’re playing Barbie and they make ME the housekeeper or maid or something. Now, I’m not sure if this was because I was coloured or if it was some sort of Barbie hierarchy I didn’t know about. Anyway. I’m pissed off to be the maid, see? Everybody else got to be something and I became the maid? Fuck no. I ain’t no maid. I even argued there are no maids in utopia. But they insisted.
So what did I do? I told those little bitches that they’re all too delicate and vulnerable to come out of their rooms, put them on a strict schedule so they can’t call me in-between and shut them up in the back room of the Barbie house. Then I toke over the rest of the Barbie house and played in it all by myself.
There were four other players all about the same age. At least one of them was a boy who had a Ken doll and liked to play with Barbies. I bullied them like an over bearing governess or nanny or something and made everyone do what I said anyway. That was the first and the last time they invited me to play Barbie.
I wish I could say I was devastated or something but quite honestly I found the whole experience unpleasant. And disturbing. I also felt that they’re insistence had more to do with the fact I didn’t own a Barbie (and must be economically ‘disadvantaged’) than my colour.
On account of incidents like this I hung out a lot with boys. And ended up doing mad things like seeing how fast I could go down the steep hill behind the mall parking lot on my bicycle. I was a sucker for a dare. All they needed to say was ‘girls can’t do that’ to make me go prove that, yes, girls can, even if I personally had not and didn’t really know.
The relief and exhilaration when I made it to the bottom of that hill. Going down my only stubborn thought was that I WASN’T going to crash and burn. I was going to prove that girls could do this. Alas. So young and already the weight of representing ‘girls’ upon my tender shoulders. Then someone would suggest something stupid like we go find the steepest hill in town.
So I mostly just hung out by myself. And read a lot of books. 
And Barbie became a symbol of a whole lot more than just unrealistic beauty standards.

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?”


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.


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.’



A poster advert from Nigeria in the 1950’s


Golliwog drank Nescafe? Who knew? 


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.



She Thought Her Pussy Would Take Her To Heaven.

July 30, 2016

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.