Hello Everyone! I know that it has been a while but Itan project lives. Over the past six months I have been traveling in Nigeria learning the traditional Yoruba arts of weaving, dyeing and woodcarving. I have had the incredible opportunity to work with incredible artists at the Nike Centers For Art And Culture, an organization founded by the legendary artist Chief Nike Okundaye. Chief Nike has provided arts training for underserved Nigerians for over thirty years. She has not only fostered the Nigerian arts community, she has helped to revive the Yoruba arts of Adire , and Aso Ofi (women’s loom weaving). Art as a source of cultural empowerment is one of the core facets of Itan Project and It has been an honor learning here from such an amazing woman. As I reach the midway point in my residency with Arts Connect International, I reflect on my experiences and their impact on my perception of identity and the nature of my work. Spending time in Osogbo and Ogidi has made me think about the relationships that exist between Africa and the Diaspora and the common challenges that we face as Black people in both contexts. In both Africa and in the Americas there is a struggle to recover from the internalized effects of colonialism, slavery and generations of racially biased and/or exploitative systems. In Nigeria many of these arts face extinction as their value is questioned. The work I create is meant to encourage viewers to examine their perception of the African past and their relationship to it, while also attempting to highlight even a fraction of the immense beauty and complexity of Yoruba art and culture . Over the next five months I will be posting updates on the project as well as the collaborative work I am doing within these artists communities. Stay tuned there is more to come!
The fact that the Pizza family in Steven Universe are not only Nigerian (I’m assuming, the accent is too close) but voiced by Nigerian voice actors? AND their oldest daughter is named Jenny? My people are represented. I am elated.
There's no such thing as 'Strictly by invitation only' at a Nigerian wedding
Yep, the two weddings i went to on Saturday both by invitation only, if you see how packed the receptions were KAI!!! People were standing, sitting on the stage even sitting on the floor. Only Nigerians.
Then when they were doing the speeches and prayers people were talking
ABEG OOO, NO ONE should talk while speeches and prayers are going on at my wedding, I wouldn’t want to ruin my dress…..shey u get?
Almost every single time that I tell another African person that I’m Nigerian— without fail I literally get the 🤔 look in response. Some will even cock their heads to the side and peer at me, clearly not believing me. Today someone went as far as to ask for my “tribe” (his words- I use “ethnicity” instead) and last name as validation. Other times I’ve had to name not only my Nigerian ethnic group but all the way down to my father’s state and village in order to be seen as plausibly Nigerian and not as a “poser.” At times I’ve gone and named my mother’s too for good measure. Double points bonus round if you will.
In all of these conversations the questioner’s level of confusion is not only sad but hilarious. I have begun playing with how long I wait to tell them “I’m part Swedish” and watch the relief wash over their faces in a giant sudden WOOSH. When I’m feeling tired I cut to the chase, but when I’m having fun with it I dragggg that shit out.
But what I find sad is just how limited our collective understanding of what a “Nigerian” or “Somali” or “Ethiopian” or what have you person “looks like”, especially when these are countries with millions of people (in Nigeria over 170 million). And when people don’t ascribe to or look like said aesthetic they get questioned or challenged on their identity- constantly.
The amazing thing about the African continent is our tremendous diversity and I hope that we can embrace this multifacetedness and three dimensionality more rather than defaulting to boring identity politics (some of which are directly rooted in colonialism) that me and many many others are subjected to constantly because we don’t fit other’s basic notions of what an “African” person looks like.