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black_mannequin_femaleI must admit I miss my old life. The insular protected shell that cased me and my madness. The times when we fought with our fists in the winter ice for individuality and freedom of expression.

I remember buying a pair of ballerina shoes from Barratts and then wearing them everyday for the next three or four months till the soles were split opened. The same goes for my skinny jeans and even my braids. We prided ourselves on how long we could use an item for and how well we could pull of the grunge look.

I’m in Lagos now and it’s a lot different from the way I left it. It’s a social anthropologist’s dream, but its an ex art student’s worst image nightmare. Everything is a clone and if you join the resistance to zombie nation, they have got it in for you. Believe me; they will take you down at all costs. The tactics usually goes thus, “what’s up with the colour clash” “how come you haven’t done your hair”, “this seems like an interesting look but you know you can’t keep this behaviour up in this town”. Oh and there is the one I love the most. It always comes with a wild look of bewilderment and reprimanding. “Ahn Ahn what is going on here. I’m really not a fan of this, NO MAKEUP? Babes you cant keep doing this, sorry to say but you I am seriously not a feeling this at all”

There are also the people you meet in random places, deluded with the idea that they have been annointed with the gift of style from above. They usually proceed to approach you with an authority that seems somewhat divine. Think of it as a halo tiara, with a badge that says “the annointed style guru”. One always recognises their regalia from a mile away. They are decked up in skinny jeans, a tank top and a waist belt. Accompanied with red earrings and a red clutch purse to boot .They usually start of saying “I love your look but I really think you should have worn some heels”. They always remind me of deliverance pastors who claim that the Lord has directed them to pray for you and deliver you from the spirits constraining your unborn offspring’s future progress. Sometimes I just want to choke them to death with their waist belts till they scream . But then I remember where I am and my reply is usually a smirk with one side of my mouth.

Who am I to think I can withstand the pressure. Even my designer friend had been taken down. She was my personal poster girl for the free world. She designed clothes that were works of art. They could stand on any runway next to Galliano and Gautier. This girl was raised by the only rebel republic (School of Oriental and African Studies) left in Britain and I couldn’t believe she had gone to the dark side in less than a year. Really, the school was filled with yuppies and rich men’s kids that felt so guilty about their privileged backgrounds, they had to turn against the system that made them in order to feel a bit better with themselves.

I remember our days hanging out at the SOAS bar. She was telling us about how her aunt said she looked like a very ill junkie. Her aunt said “where did you get this piece of rag on your neck from”.

You see I had dreams of my girl as the next Vivian Westwood and I would find her the ultimate Naija Indie darling that would be her Chloe Sevigny. Though I would have killed to be to become her very own heroin chic, then draped in one of her backless Aso Oke ensembles, that was not going to happen anytime soon. As a juicy size twenty, I would have to search relentlessly for the muse that I would live vicariously through for the rest of my days. She warned me though that it wasn’t easy here. The society was going to annihilate our bohemian aesthetic limb for limb. I told her via email to be strong. She couldn’t let the side down. We were the last of the bunch left with a puritan mind and all she said was that when I come I would see for myself. If one of the last living prodigal fashionistas had been broken who was I, to think I could survive in this abyss of convention. In this new world where the length of your Brazilian weave dictated who got in or who stayed out, how was I meant to stay afloat.

I’m still trying to hold my placard up high that reads “I will not succumb….I will be free”

These days I cant carry the same hairstyle for more than two weeks and I have a resident pink Pashmina just in case they think my lower back or shoulders may cause offence (sometimes you think a war is about to break just because of a little cleavage. It isn’t exactly my fault that my glands over secrete certain growth hormones) It’s been seven months so far but I’m getting a bit worried that its only a matter of time before I to will become one of them. Who knows maybe even battery operated too.

But you know how the saying goes “if you are in Rome do as Romans do..” though at times I wonder what if im not from Rome.

Maybe its just time to grow up. Even Isabella Blow killed herself and was buried with her haute couture headpiece. I reckon this was a sign for things to come.

18 Comments

  1. Glory Edozien

    September 18, 2009 at 10:50 am

    Perfectlyyyyyyyy depicted. “The society was going to annihilate our bohemian aesthetic limb for limb”… it seems we are indeed the last of our kind….just remember…Lydia Maria Child famous words…and take strength!!!! 🙂

    “Nature made us individuals, as she did the flowers and the pebbles; but we are afraid to be peculiar, and so our society resembles a bag of marbles, or a string of mold candles. Why should we all dress after the same fashion? The frost never paints my windows twice alike”.

  2. izie

    September 18, 2009 at 11:02 am

    ok babe. i loved love this article. it was funny but true. it was real and it hit home. Love it. Please keep writting. And the Brazillian hair thing is so true. Ask bella. She be rocking Brazillian one day and Funmi hair the next. she’s an OPPRESSOR. quote me.

  3. Bemused

    September 18, 2009 at 11:41 am

    Personally I think its the people you know, I sometimes get comments about how ‘special’ my look is but like really!! Fear will not even allow some random waist belt matchy matchy to atempt to bestow fashion advice on me. I have been unplugged, there is no going back 😉

    But seriously doe, I have had to tone it down abit but thats life YOU must adapt to ur enviroment esp if ur 9-5 is Lawyer!:)

  4. ronke

    September 18, 2009 at 12:01 pm

    Ok Wana,gotta say this, i normally cant stand ur rantings on the radio most times (i have to confess it gets so bas t have to turn it off…lol) but girl ur so right on this one!!!! u hit the nail right on the head men!!! so now iv got love for u.

    im honestly tired of the way things are on this side.individual creativity is so stone age…the whole thing just does my head in and i keep asking why are we so scared of being ourselves,who are we scared of???

  5. Zenna

    September 18, 2009 at 4:37 pm

    true talk…everytime I go to niaja i usually wonder how i’ll survive all the superficiality when I finally move back

  6. Natalie

    September 18, 2009 at 6:11 pm

    Its all a case of wannabes in Naija, they all want to belong but no one really knows what they are supposed to belong to. Honey, please be yourself and don’t mind them, by they gab you will know the country folks because they try too hard.

  7. LP

    September 18, 2009 at 9:38 pm

    My sentiments exactly…..hahahaha…”I will not succumb….I will be free”.
    Never change who you are because of the “My neighbours dress is shorter” culture and “this year Big sunglasses are in style”. I for one will stick to my eccentric 80’s/Nonconformist style. I get the smug looks and hear the smart remarks everytime from the shallows. They can all suck on rotten eggs for I shall remain LP. The one that stayed True to Truth…hehehehe. Stay different Love. Being true to yourself will always bring happiness and satisfaction.

  8. afolabi

    September 18, 2009 at 10:07 pm

    Nice. The country is SO averse to non-conformity. Somehow, it just breaks you, even the ones who prance around as avant-garde make non-conformity look so conforming (as if they themselves are following set rules) .

  9. jules

    September 18, 2009 at 10:28 pm

    Mine is the other way round. I lived in Nigeria then relocated I love the freedom to wear what you want therefore expressing your style in how you dress instead of following the crowd. I love the less make up look, the one flat comfy shoe for 3mths but not the dead braids for 4mths!!! As for my naija pple trying to keep up hmmm I once had to host a silly girl from naija whom i obviously earned three times what she was earning and she had the guts to tell me to dress up ie wear heels, make up, not that everyday skinny jeans need I tell you the end She started wearing flat shoes from trekking long distance from train station to bus stop!!!

  10. Bebe

    September 19, 2009 at 10:20 pm

    i’m so feeling this article. I remember during my undergrad days in unilag, imy friends used to laugh at me because i wore plimsoles, never fixed weavon or braids [i used to always pack my hair] and i didnt wear make-up [just powder]. Everytime we had to go out, there was always something to say about what i was wearing, it wasnt even over d top stuff, just clothes i felt very comfy in. Naija’s still think you have to wear heels and rock ‘indian’ hair to be ‘in’. :p
    Do not succumb o…i didnt succumb…after all, i’m comfortable in my clothes, which is not d same for them skinny jeans [with bum cleavage showing], heel wearing [walking like a crab] weavon fixing babes!

    rock on!

  11. ngozi

    September 20, 2009 at 12:05 am

    I have to say thanks for this article. I thought it was only me. I would come out dressed comfortably and nicely and someone will say something to put me down in Nigeria. After a while I started snapping back at people. It’s kinda crazy cause I am like why cant I be me and you be U. It’s ridiculous but then again that’s how it was when we were in high school!

  12. Obi-talker

    September 20, 2009 at 12:19 am

    I like this article, it kindda of feels like poetry… and its almost sad.

  13. lolLLLL

    September 20, 2009 at 1:00 am

    HAHAHAHA! oh gosh, i thoroughly enjoyed reading this. i know *just* who your designer friend is and i’ve marveled @ the transformation myself 🙂 my moment of clarity happened in terra kulture some months ago…my returnee counterparts matched each other weave for weave, hermes for hermes, prada for prada (myself unfortunately included). ZERO originality…and it was QUITE sickening. i stick it to the man when i have the same weave for 2 months (it’s called WASHING it and keeping it moving) and i always tell anyone who dares ask that it’s none of their (her) damn business. i’m frugal like that. when i “clash”, my friends tell me i can’t step out like that because Lagosians “don’t understand that” and i tell them i don’t give a damn. i still don’t wear make-up, still can’t afford brazilian hair and still don’t care to belong to any cliques. i figure if i spend my life and time on more worthwhile things, people will gravitate towards me however i look.

    p.s. seriously though, why does practically every returnee look and dress the same?

  14. GamGam

    September 20, 2009 at 2:20 am

    na real zombie, lolol

  15. Casual By-Stander

    September 20, 2009 at 3:32 am

    One of the best articles I’ve read on this site (based on both content and writing style). Keep it coming. After sojourning in the individualist world of the west, we often forget how collectivist our home country is. Fashion is just one of the many ways some people in naija feel the need to ‘force’ others to conform. The part that irks me is how everyone feels they have the right to tell one to one’s face (and boldly too!) how one’s life should be led…if we all sleep facing the same direction, how can naija have the progress we so often clamor for…The type often borne from freedom of expression?…your article aptly conveys the poignancy of the situation

  16. black mentality

    September 21, 2009 at 3:43 am

    I think it’s not only Nigeria… I think it’s the black mentality in general. I remember when I was in a predominately black school, I could barely survivie for 1 semester. Kids will work 2 jobs, just to carry $300 bags to impress “who i don’t know”, I thankfully transferred to a white school and the freedom was awesome. I had a friend that her Dad was filthy rich and everybody on campus knew they were rich, she drove the latest BMW, but yet she wore sweatpants and tank tops with flip flops to class. So, my point is I don’t think it’s only Nigeria, it’s something about blacks in general. Anyone in the states should compare blacks at howard and the blacks at harvard and you’ll see what I mean.

  17. Tosin

    September 23, 2009 at 4:51 am

    lol! i love this article very much, because its so true. Anytime i am in naija, lagos especially, its like there’s a pressure to be what you’re not, and i just feel like i should not go out or that i should leave asap. its just plain crazy, when people are going to the mall (the palms of course) and they’re dressed up as if they’re going to a party…haba! kilole to yen? while here people dont really bother wearing make up, high heels etc,it just puzzles me why one is made to feel so uncomfortable in his/her country just in the name of “conforming” to some fashion norm. Sometimes when some people make comments about fashion on this site , i just wonder who died and made them an authority in fashion matters. my dear abeg dont conform to that nonsense, it wont help your morale neither would it help your pocket. my two cents.

  18. naijadude

    September 23, 2009 at 5:23 pm

    I love love love this article! its a crazy nation I tell yah but nonetheless I think there’s room to do you and live carefree… Ppl do it but its gonna be an upheival battle I tell yah…

    What do I care? I plan to go unapologetical with my dressing when i am visiting.. Goodluck to me on wearing my extra short shorts with my long lean hairy legs…

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