Mental Colonialism by Adenike Akinsemolu
I am not out to speak good English or follow a writing style. I am here to speak my mind like I am talking to you one on one. Therefore, I won't apologize for the way I write. My dear friend, there is something I have been thinking about for too long, It is called Mental Colonialism. That word! Yea, lets talk about it.
I remember meeting up with Omotolani last summer in Nigeria. We arranged that she come to see in me in my hometown, Ondo. She affirmed that there is nothing really to do in Ondo town, "Ondo is for small girls". Keep it in mind that Omotolani was born and raised in Ondo until she went for university in Lagos. I quickly reminded her of the great asun (goat barbeque), the beautiful scenery, the breath of fresh air and the peaceful nature of Ondo town. I remember she even told me not to call her Omotolani again, that her name is now Sandra. I smiled. I thought to myself, major "ngunbeeness"!
I picked up Sandra at the motor park, and we headed home. She asked why I still talked "Nigerian". I smiled. I must have forgotten that I am Nigerian by birth; I think she must be reminding me. Am I missing something here? I noticed in our conversations, Sandra seems to use more men, shit, fuck and American slangs in her sentences than most Americans I know. That is another story.
She started asking me about music, movies etc. She asked if I have seen this video and that video. She asked if I know of this new clothing line by this famous designer. I am sure I wasn't really paying attention. She has seen all the episodes of OC, Gossip Girls, and Summerland. I noticed she had a tattoo, she even told me that she smokes now. It is bigz girlz runz. Sandra was telling me that if you attend Unilag and you don't wear at least a gold chain on your neck, you ain't got swagga. In fact, she was even telling me about how girls while in school, get pregnant to tie a man down. I open my mouth. "Ehen is it new? In America, there are lotta teen pregnancy, so why is your mouth wide open?" she said.
We started watching a Nigerian movie on tv. Why is it that everyone looks flashy? Why is it that a man must wear all those earrings, designers, sun-glasses (at night), and blings on his neck to show his wealth? Why do they always show big houses? Why do those actresses remind me of Beyonce (except a crappy version)? Why do I notice an accent that sounds British? No, it sounded like American-Irish accent. On a second thought, I thought it sounded Sudanese mixed with Brazilian and Spanish. Ok I need to stop. I switched channels now. This time it was a music channel. Is it me or do I notice more foreign women in Nigerian videos? When have you seen a Chioma in Linkin Park video? Chei! Even Sandra said foreign girls are really beautiful. Then I said, "You must be ugly then". She was like "haba, I be fine girl, as in, you know now". Hmm, ok!
As if that wasn't enough for one night. I saw a lot of dance moves that resemble that of Usher. Don't get me wrong, its not bad to have that in videos o. I just don't know why they have to dress like Usher. What is wrong with a man having bits and pieces of African culture in his music video? Well I think it is sexy. I am sure if Usher wore an African outfit in one of his dance videos, a lot of Nigerian musicians will adopt that. Having said that, few artistes are doing their best by showcasing the richness of Nigerian culture in their music videos or movies. I will like to say thank you and keep it coming. Nigerian needs more people like you. Ok, I digressed.
Anyhoo, Sandra and I went shopping. I saw some London wax, and Ankara that I really loved. I bought a lot of them, took them to the tailor for sewing. I also bought some high quality t-shirts and customized my name on them with different designs and slogans. Then I saw a label called Dudu Phassion. I love their design work, so I immediately picked one up. Sandra was like "which one is dudu again? God forbid! Please lets visit Sachs, I have been dying to get that Louis Vuitton bag I told you about." I smiled. Major "Ngubee-ness"!
Later that night, we headed to the club. I need my inhaler on this one. Okay! I think am exaggerating now. One thing I appreciated about the club was that they were playing Nigerian music. That was a relief! I noticed a girl was wearing a top that looks almost like a bra with a short and a "long leather boot". I didn't know it was winter! I judged her, I am sorry. There was this guy with some grillz, hair plaited, pant sagging, and tattooed arms. Mehn I can see the lightening in those girls' eyes. Its like you can read what they are saying, in their minds "he's got swagga". Even Sandra thinks he is sexy. One of my childhood friends, Olakunle, came to my table. Wow! I hadn't seen him in like 5 years. "Olakunle, meet my friend Omotolani, we went to primary school together", I said. "Hmm, pls call me Sandra, nice meeting you". Olakunle asked us to visit a restaurant to catch up on old times. It was really a nice restaurant. They have both home and foreign cuisines. Everyone ordered food. Sandra decided to eat Pizza. I could tell she wasn't enjoying it because she said she wanted to take it home. Again I smiled. Major "Ngunbee-ness"!
We got home that night and I kept Sandra's pizza in the fridge. An hour later, she told me she was hungry. I reminded her of the pizza. She was like "omo men, the pizza wasn't flowing o. I just wanted to be tush ÔÇścos ÔÇśKunle was there". I smiled while thinking she is so Ngunbee in my mind. Sandra asked why I have been smiling. She thought I was acting strange. She even asked if I'm really schooling in the U.S. She said my behavior is like that of an Ondo girl. "Kei kei kei, ngunbee o! Am I not an Ondo girl?", I asked. , "You are but I figured you should be acting American by now, your behavior is just ÔÇŽ.." , she replied. I smiled "Sandra my dear, listen:
Americans don't really care about us. Western people don't wear our clothes, they don't eat our food, and neither do they sing our songs. Don't be taken over by mental colonialism. Traveling or schooling in a foreign country is not a justification to forget one's culture but to learn about new stuff, meet new people, try new things and become a global citizen. There is nothing bad in adopting a new culture but when you see nothing good in your own culture and thinks the other culture is the norm, then something is wrong. I call it slavery of the mind. You can have all the degrees in this world and still be ignorant. Why don't we patronize quality Made In Nigeria products? Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with wearing Louis Vuitton but the mentality that any designer made in Nigeria is not of high quality is bad. I am not saying we shouldn't listen to foreign music or watch their movies. The only thing I speak against is excess. Nigerians can abuse things. We use more American slangs than Americans. We know more songs than the Americans. We tend to even know the American culture more than the Americans. If you don't know, men that dress with their pants sagged to their knees like those ones seen in music videos are considered irresponsible. Yet, "some" people thinks it is the swag in Nigeria. I don't know when smoking became a fashion statement or a bigz girlz run. Have you ever thought about the cold weather in some countries? Maybe that is why people tend to smoke a lot in those countries? Why do we use American bad habits as our own "swag"? What is wrong with having a shirt with Funke Akindele or Fela Kuti written on it? In fact, if you can't wear that, how about a shirt with your own name on it? What is wrong with beautiful names like Adenike (kei kei kei), Omotolani, Aisha, Olakunle, Chika, Eniola, Agbani, Ilebaye, Musa etc? Please I'm not saying if you have an English name, something is wrong with it. Something is wrong when you change your native name to an English name just to fit in or because you think it sounds good. And then you will see wannabe model exposing their body and people will comment, "this is sexy". You can be sexy without showing all your nakedness. Not everyone wants to see it. 9ice in his song "Photocopy" said, "Photocopy ko easy, You could never be like me, this is my identity". You can't be an American even with fake accents. Your identity is your identity. It is what makes you special. Don't be trapped by Mental Colonialism.
Young people have choice. Nigeria youths are very creative and enterprising. However, the embrace of this so-called American culture is disheartening. Perhaps, times have changed but it is still not an excuse to adopt another culture to a fault. I will like to see more men in their sexy African attire. I will like to see more people speaking proper English and not "we ain't talk to no police, we ain't make no peace bond, we ain't trustin in no judicial system, we shoot guns we rely on the streets, we do battle in the hood. We Gangsta" WHAT??? Can someone tell me when Nigeria started having "hood"? And no am not talking about AJegunle. I will like you to see the beauty of the Nigerian Culture. The radiance of the Nigerian woman, the fresh taste of our food, the unpolluted breath of air, the scenery of midnight tales, the orgasmic sound of our drums, the powerful effects of our proverbs, the courage of our people, the class in our fashion and the sophistication in our language. Hmm by the way, "Ngunbeeness" is an exclamation. It can be anything you want it to be. (Keikeikei, I formed it)
Above all, let us remember, that we are good people and a great nation.
Sandra thinks to herself, "Adenike you sabi talk o, all these because I pretended I like pissshaaaaa?"