Sunday, March 4, 2007

Growing up mixed in naija

I was going to say "half-caste", but really we technically were not, we are 25% Lebanese(from my mom, sh's half, dad is full Igbo) but in naija, for all folks cared, we were all the same..."half-caste" My mom has 6 siblings, and they all have 5kids so there are 30 of us scattered all over Naija from Enugu to Jos to Lagos. My Granddad had some STRONG genes, just 25% and yet we ALL look alike, its scary, if u saw us, u would know instantly that we are related.

You see I spent my earlier childhood in Europe/US and moved back to naija when I was 11 going on 12. I didnt now what the big deal was, I really wanted to blend in, and felt like I was too light to fit into the society. All the kids were too quick to notice my siblings and I in schl, the girls always wanted to touch the long hair, the guys wanted to be my protectors by force. I resisted it, and the hrs I spent out in the sun was to no avail, my body was done producing all the melanin it could! Basically I hated being mixed till I started hanging around my cousins...kai!! My cousins knew the art of milking the Naija society for all the half-caste "opportunities" EVER! Especially the ones who lived in Lagos. I quickly noticed that when I visited them, we basically got into everywhere for free, and without waiting. I mean we never had an official Ikoyi Club membership, but they frequented that place like nobody's business. We would come deep too, at least 10 of us in the bus, sometimes as much as 15...who is really going to turn back a bus full of "half-caste" kids at the gate, not in lagos thats for sure!!

As I got into my early teen years, I started loving the attention we got everywhere we went, we got 1st class treatment at the restaurants, we got red carpet treatment even at the beach, when folks would move all their stuff just so we got the best spot. All the guys wanted to be my male cousins' friends, "so that it would boost their chance with the half-caste babes". My female cousins ran their schls and being very vocal, had a lot of haters as well, it was a sight to see, and a ton of fun, so I was there for every break. We would come into parties late and shut it down, all 10 of us, necks would be breaking to catch a glimpse. Lagos was on some serious Kolo mentality, its sad thinking about it. I mean we were pretty and handsome kids but it was the fairer skin and "soft, curly long hair", AND the pointed noses that I know caused the havoc. Even quiet lil me took advantage of it all,
  • to the chic who spent hundreds on us back then at Mr Biggs in order to get my cousin Habib (name changed)'s #, sorry I'm sure you realized the # was vex abeg!
Even in the village, our house was the happening spot sef! Grandpa had been adopted by my grandma's village back when she married him, so thats where the family house is built, and my uncles also have homes there. Whenever we all came for Xmas, it was like the circus had come to town! EVERYONE found a reason to stop by and greet the "Umu ocha" (white children) as my family was known as. Whenever we came to the village church, late as ever for Xmas service, and it was full inside, grown men would stand up so that lil ol me could sit down inside away from the sun!

Enugu was the worst sha, my cousins ran that town, it was much too small though and it didnt have the shindigs like Gidi did so I hardly went there. It is sad though how people "worshipped" people of mixed race in Nigeria. People on my father's side were too eager to show off their "royal whities", it was pitiful. By the time I was done with high schl, I was fed up with that life, came back to the US on a black power tip, wantd to grow a fro, so I chopped my waist length hair off. Coming from a family where no female has hair shorter than mid back length, you can imagine the horror! I was seen as the family rebel, with my mom, cousins and aunts calling me from Naija expressing utter disapproval and telling me it was my crown and jewel! I did grow it back eventually but it was only because I wanted a change after a few years. Sometimes I wonder just how much growing up mixed in naija affected us all. It seemed like we were never seen as individuals, it was always "that half-caste family", "umu ocha", "Ndi Lebani", "Umu Habib" as Habib(name changed) was my grand dad's name. Last time I went, things had changed but not really, jaws still dropped when we went to functions, and the female cousins who arent married have their pick of fine suitors from a list of who is who in Nigeria, who appear to be desperate for a pretty trophy wife to rock on their arms.

The last time in Lagos some guy called me "hey pretty halfcaste chic", and I was totally disappointed and checked him on it. I consider myself Nigerian, I dont deny my Lebanese heritage, my grandfather was the sweetest man ever, and he told us many stories of his homeland, and we are all planning on visiting soon as a group. But "half-caste" is not and shouldnt be my main identity!