See My Africa

Hey guys! Before you all read this post, I’d like you to read a few words. These words. This post was inspired by personal experiences and by a post I read recently on Chiamaka’s blog yellowigbogirl and I would love you all to read it as well. I really am just trying to express my deepest thoughts in the most non confrontational way possible. All this preamble is because I want you all to know that if I sound a little annoyed, it’s because I am a tad irritated by this situation and I yearn to set some things straight and discharge any misconceptions.

It’s about Africa; Nigeria, the only part of Africa I’ve ever visited. It’s about the gross misrepresentation of Africa and the immensely condescending responses of people who have no idea what Africa is to her. Where to begin? Africa is a wonderful place with some of the most hospitable people in the world, some of the friendliest and kindest hearts you’ll ever know… at least I can say that about Nigeria. Everyone looks out for everyone. And while it may seem that this results in a great deal of nosiness, it is truly comforting to know that you cannot be attacked in the presence of people whether or not they know you without finding strangers who’ll chase your attackers and recover your lost belongings on your behalf. People will not turn up their noses or shrink back in pretend unawareness when they see you in trouble, regardless of your race.

Yes, I mentioned race. I do not like to talk about race. I’m that person who pretended race did not exist and until I moved continents, the biggest form of racial prejudice I knew was that African parents are not keen on having their children marry white people. Well, most Nigerian parents. They’re terrified of this possibility and while I believe in seeing the person and not the colour, sometimes it’s not even about colour, its how the colour and person is raised. You see, Nigerians grow up watching American movies and reading American books (at least I did); we know A LOT about how people in the Western world live, I knew about mashed potatoes, tortillas, meat loaf, shepherd’s pie before I was ten and I had never tasted any of them. Let’s not forget that as a child growing up in the 90’s and early 2000’s without internet and DStv, I didn’t have a lot, but I knew. It is therefore shocking to me (yes, shocking) that people on this side of the world know close to nothing about Africa.

A large part of the blame is our administration’s for not putting out enough good representation to combat the bad, no doubt. But, it still baffles me that all some people know about Africa is that there are children dying of AIDS or hunger or something. Maybe I lived a very sheltered life, but I’ve never seen one of those AIDS ridden children in Nigeria. I know they exist in other African countries and it’s sad, but it’s also sad that that’s all some very educated and exposed people KNOW about Africa. A British professor does not know that Nigerians don’t speak ‘Nigerian’ and that there are over a hundred languages in our country. It’s our diversity. We don’t all need to speak the same language to be united because we have this amazing kind of English called ‘pidgin’. A Ukrainian actually considers believing that African women produce BROWN breast milk. Yes. Shocking. HOW? I was recently asked if Nigerians wore trousers in Nigeria and I asked what the person thought we wore? ‘long flowy dresses’. As ethereal as that sounds, I beg to differ, we are not flowy gown wearing people, but like every other part of the world, Nigerian women are fashionable and very trend conscious. At least she did not picture us as half dressed people swinging a la George of the jungle with elephants and giraffe. Can I just say now that I’ve never seen either live because we don’t have them in my country.

Nigeria and Africa are victims of the ‘single story trap‘. The world only knows one side of all the beauty that is us. The world only sees starving children, jungles, safaris, AIDS, mud houses and hot sunshine when they hear Africa and with a bleeding heart, I urge you to find Africa, find Nigeria, because you know nothing about us. I’ll leave a few sites below that showcase Nigerian food and culture and monuments and literature below and if you really care and if you never want to seem condescending while you pretend to know us by what flowers and trees we grow or if our ankara is cotton or greeting every Nigerian ”Ba Oni”, then take the time to see beyond the single story. We can tell when your smile is condescending and when you think our accents are too heavy. We don’t like it when you mispronounce our names and it confounds us how the CNN can pronounce Russian names like ‘Tsarnaev’ and not ‘Chinua’. It’s worrisome that some people have no idea that Nigerian authors exist, but they seem so curious about Nigeria. Reading is a fine step.

Rice is not all we eat. If that’s all you see us eat, it’s because that’s all you have for us in your countries, no offense. We eat moin-moin, yam ( a lot), egusi, afang (no, its not spinach), tuwo,okpa,akamu, akara, bole and more. There are thousands of recipes on YouTube if you actually want to know. We do not understand the fascination with our hair. A lot of Nigerians do not like to have their hair touched-it’s strange. No one at home touches our hair and too much touching makes us feel like exhibition pieces in museums. We also do not know all the Nigerians who live in the same country as we do. Its not possible. Do you know Fela? Do you like his music? No? It would be nice if you listened to him.. and Lagbaja and Asa. They’re very Nigerian. Don’t expect us to know your ‘indigenous’ artistes if you don’t know ours and don’t make us feel bad about it. If we give you gifts- African gifts; ankara, beads- wear them proudly. Our parents raised us well and we do not like to refuse food or hurt people’s feelings so try not to force us to eat things we do not like because you could not eat ogbono soup or goat meat peppersoup even if we paid you. Respect our cultures like we respect yours. We do not have ‘national songs’, there is no such thing. There is a Nigerian anthem and many Nigerian songs. Ever watched ije? The Nollywood film? You should watch it. Or Araromire? If you want to see the beauty of Africa, she won’t be a mystery. You just have to try.

I was upset. Really upset. I feel better. If you’re Nigerian, or African, I hope this makes you feel better and if you’re not… I hope this helps you. Ignorance is not a good look. If you care, if.. then try. If not, keep walking and don’t be surprised if you never ‘understand’ Africans. I love all my non-African friends, but life is better with knowledge and this is for some of them. All the things I cannot articulate in person. I hope this makes sense to you and you see my heart. And you understand that I don’t need you to worship Africa, just give her a chance and see her beauty.


Sites for Your Education

9ja Foodie

Lagos Photos

Iroko Tv


PS If you guys know any more good informative sites, let me know so I can add them here and if you missed it read my experiences being Nigerian here

  • Great post. I agree completely. I was talking with my aunt today and I said the same thing. We are perceived to those outside Nigeria and Africa in a way that is different from what we are. I think such perception is due to the fact that Africa is not as developed as other countries and unfortunately, some Africans perpetuate this perception through the way they behave. When I was in secondary school in Nigeria, I used to see people belittling Nigeria and striving to copy everything that Americans do especially in terms of music. Now it is African music that is in and people are now more aware. I went to a club in Scotland and they were even playing Azonto.

    African Governments contribute to the ignorance with issues of corruption and fraud. The media also contributes to this. Unfortunately, a lot of the things we see, read and hear about Africa tend to be bad. Nigerians alone are associated with corruption, fraud, poverty and so on and so forth. The worst is 419. I am Nigerian but these scam artists don’t care. I get emails daily about how I need to give details so I can get rich!

    It is a shame that people are satisfied with ignorant perceptions and don’t care to learn or get some understanding of Africa. It’s all about educating people on how Africa really is. There is a blog I follow by a woman called Oyinboafricanabeni (!/read/blog/id/45803928/) and it is good to see that she loves the African culture and spreads it through her posts.

    I would have been part of this ignorance had my parents not decided to send me to Nigeria for secondary school and take my siblings and I to Nigeria in order to ‘know where we come from’. In primary school, I wrote a small essay on Nigeria and I wrote about mud huts. I have no idea where I got that perception from. I credit my parents for enlightening me as there are generations of Africans that have grown up outside Africa and do not know anything about their countries.

    Africa is rich with culture and it is an amazing place and the first chance I get, I am going to take a tour of Africa. I love how it is different from the cliche places that people visit on holiday. First stop will be Botswana.

    If people care then they will know Africa rather than its perception.

  • Sorry, may have given the wrong link to Oyiboafricanabeni. It is:

    • Thanks! I’ll check it out 🙂

  • Nice post… I agree with you 101%, keep it up
    Education sites:

  • shypeop

    What caught my eye was brown breast milk. Where? How? It’s really annoying when people from other nations think that all black people know each other, why? Do you know George Washington? or Lucy Liu? or Ashwarya Rai? I can’t know the Mike Tyson any more than you can know those people.

    Great post Afoma.

    • Lol.. The brown breast milk shocked me as much as you. Thank you 🙂

  • Reblogged this on Yellow Igbo Girl.

  • This is an amazing post and I completely share your anger… it’s so frustrating sometimes when you realize how much Africans or Nigerians know about other cultures and how little they know about ours… There are many things I have found very annoying, I can’t think of any specific thing that tops the list but one that has gotten really old is the fascination with my hair, touching, asking absolutely ridiculous questions… I just recently went natural so…

    But in the end, I just tell myself they just need to be educated, perhaps if all aspects of Africa had been shoved in their faces the same way their cultures were shoved in ours, the story would be much different.

  • Reblogged this on Aeysha's.

  • Thank you.

  • Africa O’ Africa… My Africa… My home. I am proud of you and proud to be your “child”.
    All I can say is, if you don’t respect me and my home you deserve none as well. Lovely Lovely note. If you would not mind, ll love to post this on my page.

  • Reblogged this on 'Kayode Bisiriyu's Notes and commented:
    If you don’t know us, we don’t know you… If you don’t respect us, you deserve none. We are Nigerians and Proudly Africans.

  • Pingback: The Lifestyle Blog | Racism is in many forms (Part 1) 8073420854()

  • Thank you so much Afoma.:) In addition to what you have mentioned these annoying misrepresentation is also largely due to late access to technology and lack of exposure. I believe by the time we really understand how the social media work very well,then we can show the world more who we truly are.
    For example most of the terrible pictures you see about Africa are of people being deceived with little gifts and they are asked to pose for picture,they have no idea what the pictures are used for.
    For example you see a picture of a little boy in the remote village with running nose, and drooling which is typical of children sometimes;you didn’t clean it or request the mother to clean it but take advantage of the situation.
    I believe there is something hidden about us ,when it is discovered we will rule the world!