Word Count: 2133In this essay I will reconstruct . The journey took place when I was seventeen in early 1993, during which time Nigeria was under the military rule of General Sanni Abacha. For the most part of my trip I stayed in Lagos, former capital state and still highly recognised as the commercial capital of Nigeria, although I did visit other parts of the country including Ondo State and Jos. Between this time and the time I left, in early 1994, I experienced and learnt a lot about the Nigerian culture. My main focus will be on the particular aspects of Nigerian culture that I saw as relevant to me as a teenager at the time, and also on my views before and after the journey. Up until the point of this journey I had lived most my life in the city of London and my cultural views were very much British. I was not very familiar with Nigerian culture, and the parts I was familiar with, which came mostly through my parents and other family members, were not very appealing to me. Thinking back now I imagine that one of the reason things like that did not appeal to me was because it went so much against the British culture which I had already related to; fully accepted as my own; and deemed as normal. For example eating certain food, not including chips, with your right hand instead of with a knife and fork. Leading up to the time I left for Nigeria, I had never really identified myself with the Nigerian culture even though both of my parents where originally from Nigeria. I was the first born of my mother followed by my two younger brothers, Steven and William. We were all also given Nigerian names along with are English ones; mine was Femi and my brothers were Ayo and Bayo. My father was still studying along with working when I was born and my mother was working also, when I was about three years old I was sent to live with a white middle class nanny in a town called Warminster in Wiltshire. It was a common phenomena in Britain in that period to see West African being bought up by Foster parents while their parents worked or studied (Groody and Groothuues, 1977). I did my first two or so years of primary school in Warminster before my parents decided it was time for me to return to live with them in London. I was one of very few blacks in Wiltshire at the time, so apart from the occasional rare visit made by my parents I was just about completely oblivious of Nigerian culture. At first I hated living in London. My parents tried to incorporate as much Nigerian culture into their, mine, and my brothers lives as possible. At home they conversed in Yoroba our native Nigerian tongue. We ate Nigerian food, although my Brothers and me preferred to use forks rather then our hands. In fact we ate so much Nigerian food, such as pounded yam, eba, and rice, we became tired of it, and we could hardly wait for the rare occasions when my mother would fry us some chips or cook spaghetti. On special occasions, such as a birthday party for one of my numerous cousins, every other person from Nigeria seemed to be my cousin in those days; we were expected to don one of they many Nigerian traditional Garments. My Mother or one of my aunts had always made a point of bringing back one for each of us each time they went to the homeland. Also when going out with my Dad he would always insist on having one of his Afro beat or Fuji cassette tapes playing. At home he and my mother enjoyed watching Nigerian made films or soap operas which me and my brothers could not enjoy because we could not understand and the quality was really poor compared to the film technology we were used to. In school most people did not seem to know that Africa was a continent. West Africans were not commonly referred to as Nigerians, Ugandans, or Kenyans all were Africans. There was that many Nigerians in London at secondary level at that time (Goody and Groothues, 1977), the majority of blacks that surrounded me were West Indians. The term West African was not even in common use among my age group, British born Nigerians lacked identity. It became increasingly difficult as I got older to identify myself with ether British or Nigerian cultures. During the eighties a black child was more socially accepted if her or she was West Indian, there music was popular, like reggae and ragga which was at is peak at the time, and their accent fashionable and street wise, you even got some white kids trying to intimidate it. The word African was like a swear word in my catholic school play ground, along with words like Zulu and swear chukka, words mostly used by West Indians towards none West Indian blacks. Most Nigerians who grew up in England and were fortunate not to have Nigerian accents, where passed off by most people as West Indians. But the ones who spent most of their lives in Nigeria and came here later on with deep Nigerian accents got no peace. People were always making fun of their accents, and they found it difficult to make friends even among the British Born Nigerians who avoided them in fear of being ridiculed and socially excluded along with them. I can honestly state that, due to my experiences in London, before going to Nigeria I had already grew a strong dislike for anything I felt was associated with Nigeria and its culture. In late 1992 my father decided it was time I went to visit my family in Nigeria. My two younger brothers had gone over there a year before me and they wrote back that they liked it so much that they did not want to come back to England. I arrived in Nigeria dazed at how developed it was compared to how I thought it would be. My uncle who works for a well-known petroleum company in Nigeria picked me up at the airport in a new Mercedes Benz. He owned a very modern looking nine-bedroom mansion in apebi one of the richer parts of Lagos. He a satellite dish, play station, servants, and other things that people in London were not even privileged with having. From looking across the street however I could see not every body in Nigeria was as privileged as my uncle. Across the road from us was a family living in an uncompleted building that had wooden shutters for windows. I noticed that when the Nigerian electric power authority, (NEPA), had a power cut and my uncle reverted to privately generated power, they would light candles or sit outside their house in the glare of the security lights from my uncles house. I made friends with a boy about my age that lived across the street. He had numerous different qualities from my rich cousins; for example, he almost always wore Nigerian traditional clothing rather then imported clothes, and preferred Nigerian music to western. None of his family that he cared to mention had ever gone abroad and members that did hardly ever wrote or returned to visit. He often told me that he planned to somehow one-day travel to England or the USA, he did not care which, to study and work. He spoke of these places as if they were paved with gold, and told me that when he returned from them after a couple of years he would build a mansion like my uncles. This was a common myth shared by most Nigerians, mainly due to the impressions made by Nigerians coming back from abroad with large amounts of currency to spend, which is one of the effects of the high exchange rates which came from Nigerias declining economy. Also its partially due to the materialistic goods, which are way too expensive for the average person in Nigeria to buy, and which are brought back and worn and used so casually by people coming from abroad. The deep Nigerian accent that I had associated with Nigerians when in London was only commonly found among the old and the lower classes. The younger generations and the more well of tended to speak in Pidgin English along with fake or distorted American and English accents. In Nigeria it was very fashionable to know how to speak Pidgin English, which is like a Nigerian street slang. Contraire to what I originally thought I found out there were some aspects of Nigerian culture that happened to be very appealing to me. I got to know some people in my age group, and although they did speak in accents that might of given them social grief in London, I found them to be interesting and fun people. They were not social outcasts as the majority of Nigerians in London were at the time, and truthfully I found it hard to imagine them as such even if they were in London. They were very confident and despite common hardships bought on by the political state of the country, they were all convinced that being Nigerian was the best thing in the world. On weekends we took my eighteen-year-old cousins Benz and went to night-clubs in an uptown part of Lagos called Victoria islands also known as VI. The clubs played music I enjoyed listening to like R &B, Hip hop, and soul, not just ragga and jungle like most of the black clubs in London at the time. They also played some underground Afro beat by a Nigerian artist called Fela Kuti (1938-1997), which I couldnt imagine, my Dad listening to. The dress sense for people in my age group was mostly based on American Hip-hop culture. Boots with baggie jeans and suits with designer labels, basically just dressing to impress. Nigerian traditional garments were not worn as much as I thought they would be apart from by people who could not afford otherwise although it was an acceptable alternative. Apart form that they were worn mainly just on special occasions such as weddings and older peoples birthday parties, and even then the styles they wore were more appealing to my teenage tastes, nothing like the stuff my mother or aunts bought back for me when I was in London. There were however aspects of Nigerian traditional culture that did confer to my original western mythological expectations. Respect and obeying your elders under all circumstances was very much a part of Nigerian culture that I had already experienced in London. There was also a reasonably high level of polygamous families. A friend of mine stayed in the same house with her father, Mother, brothers and Sister, along with her Fathers second wife and her stepbrother. It did not seem to really bother her that much, apart from a well concealed hate for her stepmother; otherwise she took it quite naturally. It was easier for me to appreciate Nigerian culture when I experienced it first hand for myself. There are distinctive subcultures within all complex societies for the significant subgroups. Before travelling to Nigeria the only parts of Nigerian culture on offer to me came from secondary sources, such as my parents and other relatives most of them much older then myself. The journey helped me realise that the best way to learn to appreciate a culture that is foreign to you is to experience it first hand. I found it much easier to accept traditional aspects of Nigerian culture when there where others, who like me were also infected with western popular culture, around me who appreciated also. I do not feel that this acceptance came from any sort forced group conciseness, but more from having the ability to choose aspects of the culture which I liked in an environment where my choices were more sociably accepted. While in Nigeria I also met a reasonable amount of other Nigerians who had had similar experiences while growing up as I did. Meeting with such people was one of the significant aspects of my journey as it enabled me to talk and laugh about some of the things I went through as a child which originally made me feel socially excluded. It also helped me to discover my cultural identity as a British born Nigerian. Bibliography Bammer, A, (1994), Displacements, Volume 15, Bloomington and Indianapolis, Indiana University Press Kureishi, H, London and Karachi, in, Patriotism: The Waking and unmaking of British National Identity, Volume 2, Minorities and Outsiders Watson, J.L,(1977), Between Two Cultures, Oxford, Basil Blackwell
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