Archive for August, 2014

The Story Behind the Pictures

August 25, 2014

Let me tell the story of these picture.

I wanted a professional studio shot for my LinkedIn profile and other social media. Some thing that didn’t say ‘selfie’ or ‘office Christmas party’.  So while I was in England last year I decided to do just that. I had done a couple in Abuja a few years ago but they didn’t give me digital copies so they kinda got lost. Sad, they were quite nice.

So when I saw a deal on wowcher offering a full makeover studio experience  worth  well over £399 for £9 I rushed it of course.  The hook was perfect. For this price they do your hair and make up give you pretty much all you can drink champagne and take your picture in 5 different outfits (and dozens of poses) and give you one digital print. After the appropriately staid media shot below I got a bit adventurous.

linkedin profile pic

See – THAT’S what two and half hours of hair and makeup look like.

I’ve never spent more than 10 minutes in the morning on hair and makeup. Who had the time? I was a  single working  mother. Now that I have the time I lack the interest. I didn’t recognise myself after two and a half hours of hair and makeup.    It was an amazing experience. I recommend it.

After 3 glasses of champagne and 2 hours with the broodingly handsome Italian photographer called Sergio I had to chose my Top 10 shots out of over 400. As I flipped through the shots I just dey wonder -“Who be dis chick? Na me be dat?” Some of those shots only but ever gonna be seen on my bedroom wall o!

I don’t look like this everyday.  I can’t, I wouldn’t know how to but it was a rich experience and I enjoyed it. And its nice  to know I could look just as hot as Halle Berry and Jada Pinkett  if  I could devote 4-5 hours a day. And I would if I was getting paid  for it.  We women are socialised to feel so insecure about growing up. This shoot was just what my ageing self esteem needed to fight the media images of perfect size 0 women aged 14 – 22.

The only thing that’s changed since the photo shoot is that I wear lipstick now. Well, sometimes. I’m still 10 kg overweight. I’m still a size Large (horror!) and my hair more often looks like a bird nest than anything so sleek and groomed but just for a few hours I was George Eliot’s ‘Lucy Deane’ instead of ‘Maggie Tulliver’.

I’m sure I’ll look at these pictures in 10 and 20 and 30 years time and be just as amazed. And my grandchildren will probably gasp in wonder  and say “Babs! You used to be young!”.

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Yeah, those ARE fishnets

 

 

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My Sister, Africa Man Go Jump You

August 23, 2014

They call me a feminist. Well feminist this…

If you like be a liberated progressive woman secure in your own self worth and so self confident you insist wearing short skirts is a human right. If you wear a short skirt or show cleavage, African man will jump you with the regularity of a rat jumping into cheese. Its how they’re wired.  They react to the sight of a short skirt or some cleavage like bulls react to the capote de brega.  They will charge with all the finesse of a pile driver.

He’s usually unapologetic about it too. He insists you’re dressing to attract and distract him. He argues that its sexual harassment.  “I’m flesh and blood now! What do you expect”. If you point out to them how ridiculous his reaction is considering less than a hundred years ago most of us still ran around naked (and presumably didn’t spend all day aroused) he might laugh and proudly tell you about a grand father or great uncle that had 100 wives. He is usually from Sapele or Lafia.

Do you remember  Zuma’s  defence to the 2009 rape of a younger female colleague?  He said her short skirt was a challenge a zulu warrior  like himself he could not  ignore.  That’s the African man talking right there.  It’s ‘invitation to treat’ or ‘provocation’ depending on who he’s trying to convince he’s innocent.  Every body else is guilty of course.

Because the same African Man doesn’t believe that a man and a woman who are not related can have an intimate relationship devoid of sex. He expects that all intimacy between a man and a woman will lead to sex.   If it doesn’t then someone must be gay. Or retarded. Or lying.  Or just a loser.

So whether you like it or not how you dress is about more than how you feel. I heard about a Nigerian woman that wore short figure hugging outfits to work. I think it made her feel sexy and powerful. She insisted it was her right and she was within organisational dress code regulations. She had filed more sexual harassment complaints than any of her other female colleagues.  Must have been exhausting.

I am not suggesting control of how women dress, or control of how men react to how women dress (no, you cannot have your cake and eat it).  I’m just informing sisters of what happens when you wear a short dress in Africa. If that’s what you intend to happen, that’s cool. If not be ready to fight for your honour and your rights.

 

What I Learnt At Brighton Pride 2014

August 22, 2014

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I went to watch the Brighton Pride parade on August 2. Coming from Nigeria where homosexuality was recently criminalised and many homosexuals live furtive double lives, I really needed to witness gay people openly and proudly proclaiming their right to breath the same air.

I used to read about Pride events in the Newsweek and Time magazines my father bought every week when I was growing up in Umuaka.   I knew what the Bible said about homosexaulity and I knew what the school said about it but I also knew that discrimination was wrong and the Bible wasn’t always right.

I didn’t know any openly gay person back then but I did know that there was a whole lot of consensual same sex shagging going on among pre-teens and teens especially girls. I went to a convent school. The sisters said ‘kpokokpi’ was a sin. It did’t stop it from happening. I also heard rumours about a lot of non-consensual same sex going on especially at boys schools.

Then AIDS happened. Religious fundamentalists sold it to their followers as special retribution from God against homosexuals and later fornication when infection rates among women soared ahead of rates among gay men.  Many seemingly enlightened men and women expressed un-informed homophobic views so anachronistic I had to check the date and pinch myself to be sure I wasn’t dreaming or time travelling.

Then in 2006 I met Oludare Odumuye while working at Ashoka, he was made an Ashoka fellow for his ground breaking work for gay rights in Nigeria.  We talked. We became great friends. I used to challenge him to organise a Pride event in Nigeria.  He always insisted the time wasn’t right.  Or that he couldn’t get the funding.

Have you ever heard of the Stonewall Riots? I never had. According to this first hand account  it was the inspiration for the first gay pride march in New York 1970.  This documentary tells the story.

Gay Nigerians and human rights activists act like the agitation for gay rights ended in the United States (where it started) and is a foregone conclusion every where else. No my gay brothers and sisters you have to fight and hit the street and some of you may even have to die. But hey, you are dying now at the hands of the gay bashers.  Being lynched even. And the mobs being led by the leaders you elected.

What I saw at Brighton Pride was community, business and government coming out to say we accept and respect diversity. It took a whole lot of work to get there.

Brighton 2014

Brighton 2014  – Copyright Lesley Agams

 

 

 

The Lovers

August 22, 2014

They sat on opposite ends of the room, two twisted bodies.  Twisted from many years of  many bad relationships that did not work, twisted into a protective ball, twisted in on themselves.

Guarding their pain, shielding their wounded hearts. Closed to feelings and emotions. Yet she wanted to tell him how much she loved him. Yet he longed to hear her say the words but they were closed and twisted.

She opened herself up hesitantly like a rose blossom opening itself to the sun.  Beyond the beauty and radiance of those soft petals all he saw was the memory of the thorns. And so he twisted himself into a tighter ball and roared like an old lion from his sanctuary for her to stay away, stay away.

The rose trembled in fear and withered before the furnace of his hostility. She retreated into a ball of safety, protecting her belly and her heart. And then she roared – in pain and frustration. And he retreated further into his pretzel.

He was a man. She was a child.

Francis Bacon - Man and Child

Francis Bacon – Man and Child 1963