Thursday 17 February 2011

Snatches from a Memory

1.Demons & Holy Spirit

We are four writers sitting at the table spooning rice into our plates when a fellow writer – a Norwegian blonde – pulls up a chair. She exchanges pleasantries with the other writers, then sits beside me.

Just seeing her for the first time, I introduce myself.

She tilts her head back, fixing me with a stare. I fancy a smile turning up on her lips, but she says in a serious tone, ‘You are from Nigeria?’

I nod, noting a genuinely surprised look in her eye.

‘Lots of demons and Holy Spirit,’ she says.

I manage a quick smile, though annoyed with Nollywood and its penchant for spiritualising every Nigerian flick.

2.Political Mess

I am sipping merlot at a civic dinner at MUSON Centre when a greasy-haired American comes up to me, few minutes after I’d just finished reading a poem on the Niger Delta.

‘That’s quite touching, very political,’ he says, nodding his head.

I smile appreciatively. ‘I am inclined to the political,’ I tell him.

‘It’s hard to accept the extent of election rigging that returned Obasanjo a second term.’

Not everybody can be like Mandela, I almost tell him. But I offer him a smile of understanding instead.

He glances around. ‘It’s a great shame that Nigeria is in this mess,’ he mentions.

‘These things happen…’ I reply carelessly. Then I notice the American is about grinning and I chip in, ‘…I suppose the Florida experience, which returned George W. Bush Jr., still remains fresh in the minds of many a Nigerian politician.’

And the grin peters out of his face, replaced by a downy red.

3.Terrible Glory

Laure and I are chatting at an award dinner party when our host calls me aside.

‘There’s someone you should meet –’ Kraft Penbottom says, his arm cutting a breezy arc over his face. ‘Hey, Kylie, I’d like you to meet …’ Then he slips away to catch up with another writer.

I smile, reaching for Kylie’s hand. She is a sprightly-looking playwright. Her cheeks remind me of sunflowers.

‘So you are from Nigeria?’ she asks, her green eyes twinkling.

‘Yeah,’ I reply, not quite eager to slide back to Laure’s side.

Kylie lets out a soft-bellied laugh. ‘How did you get the grant?’ she asks.

‘I applied,’ I tell her.

‘Whoa, you must be very hard working.’

‘It’s a Nigerian thing.’

She frowns, then says, ‘We have very terrible Nigerians in Australia.’

I almost turn livid, but somehow I manage to keep my cool. I turn around to walk away, then pause.

‘By the way,’ I say, ‘All those sickening tales of ill-treatment of the Aborigines we keep hearing every so often doesn’t speak well of the glorious Australia.’

And I shuffle away, just when the sunflower starts to wither on her cheeks.


  1. Hahaha.
    You have a great sense of humour but you are right. Those comments would get on my nerves too. People seem to like jumping on the kick Nigeria bandwagon.
    I am happy to identify faults with Nigeria, afterall i was born there. But woe betide any non-Nigerian who tries to criticise it prejudicially. LOL

  2. My experience is that absorbing the obvious criticisms towards Nigeria or Nigerians and then presenting yourself as the good example actually serves best.
    People say what they've heard about you to begin a conversation which we can artfully turn to an advantage.

  3. It's difficult for some people to look in the mirror but easy to make uneducated judgements about others. I completely understand your annoyance. It is not only Nigeria that gets bad mouthed by the uneducated, it is that nebulous country called Africa. :(

  4. It is easy when you're from a developed country to assume your flaws matter not. I smiled at how you cut to size the prejudices.

  5. @Kiru, thanks for the compliments
    @Ofor,i hope i represented well enough
    @Lauri,yeah, Africans get bad-mouthed, and Africans also tend to bad-mouth each others
    @Ginger, thanks for stopping by