Do Africans have an Inferiority Complex?

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3Here’s the thing, I’m Nigerian and I’m not going to make the mistake of assuming all Africans are the same, but we do have a lot in common. Our culture, beliefs and traditions are similar and these days it seems something else is as well: we have a tendency to over imitate and over assimilate.

After having lived in the United States for almost eleven years, I’ve seen many Africans make a total turnaround once they move here. They literally adopt some weird behaviors along the way. I get it, some Americans like to sag their pants, tip their hats to the side, some like “grillz,” others like to shout out a curse word in every single sentence, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay for us to do it. Sure, “when in Rome do as the Romans do,” but you have to tread with caution. Even in Africa, it looks like we are forcing ourselves to become westerners. Why are we doing as the westerners do in Africa?

The last Nigerian film I watched was filled with American music. That was the film’s soundtrack!! American music. Nigeria is the rhythm of Africa. We have so many talented artists, yet our movies have American music in them? I don’t get it. It’s like there’s this belief that anything western is better. We abandon the beauty in our culture for what many of us see as modern.

2For example, many Africans have a traditional wedding and a “white wedding.” A “white wedding” is the everyday wedding in western nations. The bride wears a white dress, the groom wears a tux. The traditional wedding, on the other hand, encompasses the couple’s culture. They wear traditional clothes and the music, food and everything else is just that–traditional. The whole celebration is colorful, cultural and beautiful.

4As a child, I often wondered what the “white” in “white wedding” represented. Did it stand for the white dress the woman wears or the idea that we are borrowing the celebration from the “white man’s” culture? I’m not saying there’s something wrong with a “white wedding.” My sister had one. Still, there’s a problem if that’s all an African couple does for their marriage celebration. There should be some traditional aspect to any African’s wedding, but some Africans now only have a “white wedding.” That’s disturbing.

5The problem is that we Africans are throwing away our culture in the name of modernity. We don’t need to do that. Many in third world countries believe the only way to grow or be competitive is to forgo the ways of our forefathers, to become more western. That’s wrong. We are unique because of our culture, our heritage and our traditions. I’ve seen and know Americans and Europeans who admire the African culture. We should too.

Think about it, when it comes to Africa the world is ignorant. Many see the images in the National Geographic or the Travel Channel as a model of what Africans or Africa is about. We can teach the world. We can teach them about us, about our customs, but we can only do it by first upholding and representing those customs–wherever we go. It’s time for Africans everywhere to promote, build and take pride in the motherland. We are not inferior, and we don’t need to change the core of who we are in order to grow as a nation or continent.

There is beauty in a gap-tooth!

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America’s Next Top Model Cycle 6

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder–at least that’s how the saying goes. I met a beautiful woman at work last week. For me, the feature that made her beautiful is something so deeply rooted in my culture. That thing was in her smile. When I told her I loved it, she laughed, thanked me then exclaimed that she hated it. “It” was a gap-tooth.

In many parts of Africa, including my birth country Nigeria, a woman with a gap in the middle of her teeth is considered a beautiful being. Women wish to have her smile, men love to see her smile. It is believed that such a woman possesses some sort of sexual appeal and beauty. There’s apparently something about that tiny space in the middle of the upper teeth that makes many Africans go wild.

My sister happens to be blessed with a gap-tooth. As a child, I noticed that people loved and complimented her smile. From young guys with piereced ears to village elders in traditional clothing, everyone just seemed to smile when she smiled. It was as if there was this force that drew people in. Of course I’m willing to bet her beauty played a part in this, but I’m also convinced that the gap in her teeth had a certain magic of its own. After hearing “your sister is so beautiful” over and over, I soon started to wish I had that gap. Actually I remember wishing I looked exactly like my sister.

In United States though, having a gap-tooth is not as appealing. An American friend of mine once refused to date a guy for this reason. It’s fascinating that something seen as beautiful in one culture is considered a turn-off in another. I don’t know. I guess that’s the beauty of cultural diversity: one man’s trash can be another man’s treasure. For what it’s worth, I happen to be a fan of the gap. I think it’s just as beautiful on a woman as it is on a man or a child. Then again, that’s the Nigerian/African in me speaking.

Beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder and for me, a gap-tooth is the epitome of beauty.

African-ness: it’s what my wedding will have…someday

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“When I have my wedding, it will be simple. It will be me in a white dress and my husband to-be in his tuxedo. There will be no African clothes or whatever.” That’s what I have always said to myself after seeing my fellow African acquaintances wearing traditional attires during their wedding celebration.

Somehow though, that statement has changed into, “when I have my wedding it will definitely have some African/Nigerian/Kwale/Igbo aspects to it!” This change was born after I saw the beauty in my big sister’s wedding. It was filled with various cultural aspects and that alone added color, variety, culture, tradition and African-ness to it.”

What is African-ness? A word I just made up. Point is, I am an African woman born and raised. It’s my background, my culture and my heritage. As cliche as it sounds, to know where we’re going, we have to know and acknowledge where we are coming from. I love the African in me; I love the Nigerian in me. I know people who wish they had a culture like mine. Why then should I remove it from a day as profound as my wedding

When I saw my sister in her traditional attire I was awed. She looked amazing. Now, of course she always looks amazing but this time when I saw her in that dress I thought, “wow, now there is a beautiful Nigerian woman.” Even as she made her way back into the reception area after changing into the dress, I just wanted to shout out, “yes we’re Nigerians and this is what a Nigerian woman looks like,” to the transfixed American onlookers who couldn’t help exclaiming about how beautiful she looked.

On her wedding day, my sister wore two dresses: one was the usual white wedding dress, the other was the African dress. More than anything the African dress was a symbol of our culture, background and heritage. It was a symbol of the fact that she is and will always be first and foremost–no matter the country or continent she decides to live in–an African woman, born and raised.

When I have my wedding, I will be wearing a traditional African attire and I will incorporate many aspects of my culture into that wedding. It will be filled with “African-ness!”

Flavour Flavour!!

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I don’t want to make this blog all about music, but I can’t help the urge to post the Youtube video for Flavour’s song Nwa Baby. I’ve always liked this song and ever since the DJ played it during my sister’s wedding, I have had it stuck in head/mind/brain. It just won’t go away. So I’m hoping posting it to my blog will be a remedy.

If you’re wondering, I didn’t spell the artist’s name wrong. It’s spelled “Flavour” but the American spelling would be “Flavor.”

The video I’m posting is actually the remix version of the song and it’s the only version I have heard. I like this version way too much and I won’t spoil it by listening to another. Just listen to the song though! You will understand why I just can’t stop pushing the play button over and over in my head.

9ice: Nice name for a talented artist

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I love Nigerian music! I love to dance to it, listen to it, sleep to it, etc. I know of the Nigerian artist 9ice–pronounced Nice–but I had never listened to any of his songs–until now. His song Loni Ni has me pushing the replay button over and over. The song is on my gym playlist, my relaxing playlist, my dancing playlist, my studying playlist–I just can’t get enough of it. Which is why I’m sharing it with you, my blog peeps.

The song is in Yoruba and being that I am Ibo, I have no idea what it means! My sister who understands Yoruba should though. I’ll post an update to this blog post as once as I can get her to do some interpretation for me. For now, just enjoy the beat. If you’re Yoruba and you understand what the song is about, feel free to do some interpretation! Enjoy!!

I bet you didn’t know they were African!

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President Barack Obama

I’m sure everybody knows by now that Barack Obama is of African descent. Okay, maybe not “everybody,” but I’m willing to bet many people know that fact. For anyone who isn’t aware of this, his father was born in Kenya…now you know! So what’s my point? Well, the story goes like this…

A friend and I were talking about my blog and out of nowhere she wanted to know whether I knew of any Nigerian-American celebrities. Without giving me an opportunity to answer her question, she googled it and…wala!! She found some names!!! She’s the inspiration for this post. The only difference here is that instead of  Nigerian-American celebrities, I’m going to focus on mostly British celebrities of African decent. Why? Because England is a country I’ve always wanted and will one day visit. But first, let’s start with this American rapper.

Chamillionaire

Chamillionaire: To be honest, I didn’t even know this, but this Houston born rapper is of Nigerian descent. His parents are Nigerian and his real name is Hakeem Seriki.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Idris Elba

Idris Elba: He is an actor. You’ll most likely remember him as playing Beyonce’s husband in the 2009 film Obsessed. If not, he was also in Takers. His father is  Sierra Leonean and his mother is Ghanaian. I gotta tell ya…this man is gorgeous!!!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

Seal and his wife Heidi Klum

Seal: I’ve always been sure of this one–even when I was in Nigeria. In fact his real name Seal Henry Olusegun Olumide Adeola Samuel. Yes, I know. That is a mouthful. He is a singer and is married to former Victoria Secret model Heidi Klum.

 

Sophie Okonedo

 

 

 

 

Sophie Okonedo: You may remember this face from the movie Hotel Rwanda…or maybe not. She’s an actress born in London, England to a Nigerian father and Jewish mother who also happens to be half Polish and half Russian. Talk about multicultural!

 

 

 

 

 

Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje

Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje: The Mummy Returns, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and Lost. What do these have in common? Adewale. He played a role in all of them. Judging from his name, I think it’s easy to tell that his parents are Nigerian, but he was born in England. Oh by the way, I love his eyes.

 

 

 

 

 

Michael Okwu

Michael Okwu: I really can’t go on with this list without adding a journalist to it. After all, I want to be a journalist so it’s only fair…right? Anyway, Okwu is a Nigerian American journalist and correspondent. He works at NBC News where he contributes to NBC Nightly News, MSNBC and Today.

 

 

 

As you may have guessed there are several other celebrities who are African but I chose these lucky few–yes getting a mention on my blog is a privilege–because they have appeared in notable films and music. They are most likely many I’m not even aware of so feel free to let me know about them. Just post a comment and thanks for stopping by!


Libya: The future is uncertain

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A lot has happened in just one week, so now instead of answering questions about African nations I’m going to talk about  an African nation: Libya.

When I started this blog, my second post was about Gadhafi’s reign and the future of Libya.  Due to his recent death, now is the best time to revisit that topic.

October 20th was a day of celebration for many Libyans because it marked the death of the former dictator. It marked the death of an era. Even though Gadhafi went into hiding after the National Transitional Council took over as the country’s interim leaders, he still controlled parts of the country–the city of Sirte being one of those countries. When Sirte fell to the rebel forces, Gadhafi was captured and killed–at least that is simplest way to put it.

The true circumstances surrounding his death are still unknown. Photos from this CNN article indicate that it might have been a brutal death. According to CNN, the United Nations and the National Transitional Council have called for an investigation over his death.

It’s clear that even in the midst of all the celebrations, the future of Libya is still uncertain. No one knows who will now take off over as the country’s leader. No one knows whether this new power will rule fairly or justly and most of all, no one knows if Libya will ever return to the Libya it once was.

Talents from Ghanigeria

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Stephanie Okereke

In line with my last post on African entertainment, this post is going to be about some African actors and actresses. I’ve gotten some interesting questions about films and Africa so because my blog is about answering those questions, I think it’s best to address another one. Let’s do it…

Do you guys have actors in Africa or do you watch movies from here? That’s the question many acquaintances have asked me once they learn I am from Nigeria. That question has two answers. First, Nigeria does not equate the whole of Africa–like I have reiterated in one of my posts, Africa is a continent. Second, yes we do and considering there is an annual African Movie Academy Awards (AMAA), it’s safe to say many countries in Africa have actors and ac.

These films sometimes have the same themes as those from the U.S and other times, they are worlds apart. For example, a Nigerian film about a village and ethnic customs will definitely appear foreign in comparison to a James Bond movie. Either way, Nigeria makes movies, as does Ghana, Somalia South Africa Kenya and many other countries. For this blog post I’m going to talk about Nigeria and Ghana. So far, they are the leading countries when it comes to producing films, Nigeria being number one. Actors/Actresses from these two countries are well known all over Africa and some cultured American friends of mine surprise me every time they throw one of these names around.

Omotala Jalade Ekeinde

She is indisputably one of the most successful actresses in the Nigerian movie industry and she has been around for long time now. Movies are not are only thing. Since 2005 she moved into the music scene and has been successful in that role as well.

 

 

Genevieve Nnaji

Genevieve Nnaji. She is Nigerian and considered one of the nation’s best actresses. She has starred in many successful films including the 2010 award winning film IJE: The Journey. I will even go as far as saying an African from any African country is aware of her contributions to the Nigerian movie industry. If you watched D’banj’s Fall In Love music video from my last post, you’ll notice she plays his love interest in that video.

 

 

 

 

Ramsey Nouah

Then there’s Ramsey Tokunbo Nouah Jr who is known as Ramsey Noah. He is another well known actor in the Nigerian movie scene and in 2010 he won the AMAA for Best actor in a leading role.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Majid Michel

Son of Lebanese father and Ghanaian mother, Majid Michel is a well-known Ghanaian actor. He has appeared in both Ghana and Nigerian movies.

 

 

 

 

Jackie Appiah

Jackie Appiah is also from Ghana. She won the AMAA for best actress in a leading role in 2010.

As you would imagine there are many more actors and actresses from other African nations but I’ve just chosen to name some notable ones. Oh first picture you see is Stephanie Okereke–my favorite actress. Of course I realized that not too long ago so I feel the urgent need to proclaim it.

What about you? Prior to my post, did you know about any of these talents?

African Music: We can rap too!

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P-Square photo from nigerianmoviesreview.com

Music is the rhythm of life…so they say. To be honest, I couldn’t agree more, and that’s why this post is dedicated to music–African music. Some of my American friends and acquaintances have asked about the musical genres in Nigeria. The answer to that question is quite simple.

I believe music is the same all over planet earth. That is, the music in a country is tantamount to the culture in that country. That’s why hip-hip, rap, r&b, pop, reggae and ethnic genres are popular in Nigeria. There is something for everyone. While the older generations prefer ethnic tunes, the younger generation tend to mix it up.

I can still remember when people started dancing to Makossa. This musical genre originated in Cameroon and it quickly moved to other parts of Africa, Nigeria included. The Congolese musician, Awilo Longomba is a well known Makossa singer. His songs are popular all over Africa. And that is the magic in Mama Africa. A talented artist will see his/her music soar not only in his/her birth country but also throughout the continent. Thanks to the magic of Youtube, I can show you some of these talents.

I’ll start with P-Square, a Nigerian R&B group. The two brothers in this group Peter and Paul are identical twins and they are literally the epitome of talent. I love just about every one of their songs but for blogging purposes I can only show you one. “No One Like You” is a popular song in Nigeria. Its lyrics is in both English and Pidgin–Pidgin is a West African lingua franka. By the way, someday, I don’t know when that is, but someday, I’ll be playing this at my wedding.

And then there is Bracket. This Hip-hop group from Nigeria consists of two talented guys. Their names are Nwachukwu Ozioko aka Vast and Ali Obumneme aka Smash. I actually  discovered their music not too long ago and I’ve fallen in love with it. This song is called “Yori Yori.” “Yori Yori” is a slang and while it could mean various things, I believe in this song the closest meaning for it is “sweetness.” There is a remix version of this song but this is the original.

And who can forget this song, 1er Gaou?! It has been a reigning song since 1999 and it’s still a big deal today. Play it anywhere Africans are gathered and you’re guaranteed a full dance floor. The song is by Ivorian group Magic System. They originally recorded the song in 1999 and three years later it became an Indie hit in France. It’s title means “First Fool.” I never knew what the song was about. I just listened and danced to it  because I really enjoyed it. The same goes with many Africans who don’t understand French (the song is in French). We all listen to it because it’s catchy but no one really knows what it means. After some good journalist research skills (yeah, I’m that good), I’ve learned it’s about a guy whose girlfriend leaves him because he’s poor. When he makes it big as a musician, she tries returning but he turns her down.

This song next song is super old (it was released in 1988) but I like it because it reminds me so much of Africa. It’s by South African Singer Yvonne Chaka Chaka. The song is called Umqombothi. Umqombothi is a beer made from corn, maize malt, yeast, sorghum mal and water. It is usually found in South Africa. This one is in the English language so its pretty self explanatory. No translation from me is needed.

So I told you about Awilo earlier and here he is! This is a small taste of Makossa. The song is in French. Ladies watch the two guys in tanks!! Yeah they are pretty good dancers. I should mention that Makossa is a total body moving dance. Every part of the human body gets to move. It’s no wonder I always play Makossa songs during my workouts.

Perhaps one of the most famous reggae singers in all of Africa is the late Lucky Dube. The South African singer used music as a weapon against apartheid in South Africa. This is a song, Prisoner is one that I listened to at a very young age. I still enjoy it today in fact, it is in the top 25 song list on my i-pod.

And then there is Dapo Daniel Oyebanjo. He is known as D’banj, a combination of his first and last name. Having won the 2007 MTV Europe Music Awards for Best African Act and the 2011 BET Award for Best International Act, this rapper is an international artist. The lyrics to this song is in Pidgin. Basically it’s about falling in love. D’banj’s love interest in music is the very popular Nigerian actress Genevieve Nnaji.

There are billion other artists out there to explore. These are just some songs I happen to enjoy. Don’t just scroll through these songs. Instead, I challenge you to listen to them all. Trust me when I say there are worth it.

Now that you’ve done that, which one did you like most? Let me know.

Africa is a Continent

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Map of Africa-from lib.utexas.edu

Last week my blog was about disproving or rather, informing the world at large (meaning anyone who reads my blog) that Africans wear clothes. This week, I want to talk about something Africans of many ages/cultures/backgrounds living in the U.S complain about: some Americans refer to Africa as if it is a country. Africa is a continent, not a country. People say, “oh I want to go to Africa,” or “Africa sounds like a cool place to vacation,” or “Africa has a lot of people with AIDS.” I have heard it all. Problem is, people rarely say, “I want to go to Europe this summer.” No, it’s usually “I want to go to France this summer” etc. The European country they plan to visit is always specified. Why then is Africa treated differently?

Africa is the second largest continent in the world and the second most populous. It is home to 53 countries, yet in the U.S a majority of people refer to it as a country. The statement, “I’m going to Africa this summer” has never made sense to me because Africa is very large, and it’s usually obvious that the person making the statement has no intention of visiting all 53 countries.

Truth is, charity advertisements on television and the news have enabled this “Africa equals a country” image. For example, an advertisement for a certain group will show some hungry, haggard children explaining that they are from a town in Africa where there isn’t enough food for them to eat. They will then ask the viewer to donate some money; the same goes with AIDS. Are there countries/regions in Africa with low living standards and where AIDS is rampant? Yes, but let’s not forget that Africa has 53 countries. A city or region in a one particular country is not a valid representation of all of Africa, making it appear so is misleading. The country involved should be named and specified, not referred to as Africa as a whole. In Kenya, the drought has taken the lives of many but that does not mean all of Africa is suffering from a drought.

As crazy as it sounds, I have actually met people who argue Africa is a country. So who’s to blame? The misleading advertisements on T.V or people who just haven’t taken the time to educate themselves about Africa? Maybe both. In fact, I can honestly say that my “world history” class in H.S was more about American history than it world history.

Either way, T.V ads and newscasts need to be specific. “These children in Kenya have not eaten in days since the drought began,” sounds better then “these children in Africa…” Here’s the big picture: using Africa instead of the country name, implies that all children in Africa are starving etc. Well, I’m from “Africa” and as a child I had more than enough food to eat.

Africa is a continent and the proof is on every world map. It’s not just a continent, it’s one with beautiful cultures and beautiful people. There are so many amazing languages and cultures, so many good food…and the music…actually I think I’ll make the music another post. That will be a good one.

For now tell me what you think? Who’s the blame for the “Africa is a country” depiction? Did you know Africa is a continent? Be honest…