Black Self-Hatred

…By that time Ambi had reached Limorog, and Beatrice thought that this would be the answer. Had she not, in Limuru, seen girls blacker than herself transformed overnight from ugly sins into white stars by a touch of skin-lightening creams? And men would ogle them, would even talk with exaggerated pride of their newborn girlfriends. Men were strange creatures, Beatrice thought in moments of searching analysis. They talked heatedly agaisnt Ambi, Butone, Firesnow, Moonsnow, wigs, straightened hair; but they always went for a girl with an Ambi-lightened skin and head covered with wig made in imitation of European or Indian hair. Beatrice never tried to find the root cause of this black self hatred, she simply accepted the contradiction and applied herself to Ambi with a vengeance. She had to rub out her black shame. But even Ambi she could not afford in abundance; she could only apply it to her face and to her arms so that her legs and her neck retained their blackness. Besides there were parts of her face she could not readily reach- behind the ears and above the eyelashes, for instance- and these were a constant source of shame and irritation to her Ambi-self….

Extract from Minutes of Glory in Secret Lives short stories by Ngugi Wa Thiong’ O.

This extract summarises a topic I have wanted to write about for so  long; Black Self-Hate. And the point about the men- very true!

Hope you enjoy it and share your thoughts!

Obsession with…racist entrenchment in Southern Africa

‘This obsession with the humiliation of the racist entrenchment in Southern African was not one of bloodless empathy- we did, after all savour mild dosages of that condition in our encounters with the white natives in their own territory. Even as a student, occupying a mostly sheltered environment, i did not escape my share my share of pointed acts of contempt or rejection. …. On public transport, for instance- admittedly I enjoyed having a seat to myself in a filled up double-decker bus, it made turning over the abnormally broad pages of the The Yorkshire Post much easier but- could I really pretend not to notice, or fail to be stung by the fact that a boarding passenger had traversed the length of the bus, seen the one empty seat next to me but had chosen to retrace his or her steps and climb upstairs to search for a vacant seat? That the same passenger came down again- no standing allowed upstairs- and chose to attach his or her arm to a strap hanger sooner than take the empty seat? or even blatantly- as you were about to take the nearest vacant seat on a two- seater bench, the occupant next to the window shot up, quickly extricated his or her body and moved to another seat or remained standing. Incidents like these, even in the mid-fifties, were mind-numbingly commonplace?

Another extract from Wole Soyinka’s ‘You must set forth at Dawn’. (I highly recommend this book to any Nigerian; and as a literary piece, rest assured it is outstanding!

Interesting to see that we still have this appalling piece of the past with us even till today; albeit on a smaller scale.

‘Green, White, Green- The most uninspiring flag in history’

However the results from the preparatory federal elections of 1959 that decided who held power at the centre, conducted by the departing British officials, had been the most bitterly disputed, and it was already a divided nation that ritually lowered the British Union Jack that October folded it away, and hoisted the green-white-green of Nigeria- surely the most uninspiring national flag on the surface of the earth! The white was said to symbolise peace, green stood for agriculture; combined they misrepresented the sum of a nation’s imagination.

Recent memoirs* by the former colonial officers have revealed how crooked that beginning was. The elections that placed a British government in power at the centre were rigged- by the British! John Bull was not about to leave an independent Nigeria under the control of uppity radicals – as the southern nationalists- the East and the West – were perceived. Thus on instructions from the British Home Office, even the Nigerian census was falsified, giving an artificial majority to a North that was largely feudalist by tradition and conservative in political outlook…

*In 1992, the memoirs of a former colonial officer, Harold Smith,were ready for publication but suppressed by the British government. The author sent me the manuscript,in which he revealed that he was ordered by the Home Office to take part in the rigging of the 1959 elections. In his own words – ‘it was the British who taught Nigerians the art of rigging’.

Another quote from ‘You must set forth at Dawn’ by Wole Soyinka. This book is absolutely brilliant! The point of the flag is absolutely hilarious and also painfully true!

And the point about rigging the election frankly just makes me very angry and irritated with present ‘world leaders’ and westerners who are all too quick to point out Africa’s corruption and inter-ethnic strife; they built this framework!Their colonisation processes (especially the  ‘divide and rule’ used by the French) means that the inherent differences in our cultures were from day one a thing of strife and not a thing to embrace and celebrate. And the first election was rigged from the first minute so did(or even more sceptically does) our democracy stand a chance?

Soyinka Quote

You must set forth at dawnPhotocredit:

… and coming as he did from a long-lived family, I most confidently expected him to outlive the rest of us, and would often say so. That was careless; I should have remembered the Nigerian killer factor. Simply defined, it is the stressful bane of the mere act of critical thought within a society where power and control remain the playthings of imbeciles, psychopaths and predators.

Currently reading the book ‘ You must set forth at Dawn’ by Wole Soyinka. I think this is my first Soyinka book since the ‘Lion and Jewel‘ which I read as a child and cant quite recollect. Anyway, I will be posting a few things which striking and thought  provoking!

Hope you enjoy it!

This particular extract is from a piece which he wrote in honour of his friend Ojetunji Aboyade who was murdered in 1994 during the Sani Abacha regime.

I wonder if this quote is still relevant to today’s democratic Nigeria!