One thing Nigeria does well is loving itself. It celebrates its culture, its food and its music on a daily basis. It revels in its diversity and every day is a brash but beautiful portrait of colour and vigour.
A very key part of that is loving one’s body. When I was growing up in diaspora…That’s even a funny term. I wasn’t really aware of being away from “home” at the time and I didn’t really feel like I belonged to any place all that voluntarily.
“No, you’re not black! You’re coloured!”
When I was growing up and attending a succession of predominantly white schools, I was usually one of the two black girls in the class (the other being my twin sister), four in the year and less than fifty in the whole school. It was alright for the most part; no one was racist. There were a few cases of extreme ignorance where people want to touch/pull/generally violate my hair or press my nose in wonderment over that lack of extensive rigid cartilage. There was even a day where a little blonde classmate, in a misguided attempt at political correctness told me, “no, you’re not black! You’re coloured!” The urge to slap a bitch grew in me at a pretty tender age.
But one thing I did feel keenly is that we never really” fit in” at school. In hindsight the definition of beauty in that micro-ecosystem was a little skewed, I couldn’t help but notice that I wasn’t as slim as the other girls. My thighs were always too thick, my butt too big, and hair too unruly. My mouth, at least I always loved my mouth. It was typical teenage angst, in part; the other part was that I was actually being judged by that standard and found wanting.
I remember a day when a faux-friend, one of Nordic heritage, told me that I’m not pretty. And that was something that was reinforced when at rare school dances that “they” paired off and you were relegated to the sidelines, in desperate territory. It’s funny, reflecting with my other black friends at this age, that we all went through the same things. A feeling of not fitting in and specifically of not being pretty and being left out. Even some of my older sister’s friends have complexes to today and I’m certain that’s the reason why.
“A place where a strut comes with a jiggle.”
But one beautiful aspect of moving to Nigeria is that those last vestiges of insecurity have died a gruesome death; like superhero v super-villain style. I discovered a place where my body type is lauded and meets with vocal approval. That it is not something to manage, but something that is actively sought after and desired. Orobo or lepa, you are wanted. This is a place where a strut comes with a jiggle and head raised high. I think it’s wonderful.
Acceptance is sweet.