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 fake...no 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!

13 comments:

Waffarian said...

Interesting, its funny how everyone always think their own background is so different and then, i read this and i'm like wow! So many different people!love your blog!

Pirahna said...

Its Great to have you Back.

Its strange that as a person from different cultures (I chose not to use the word mixed race, as there is only one race- human) when you live in Europe or the US and live in a predominantly white area you get picked on for not being white enough. When you go back home where your Father comes from and where feel more at home, you still get people pointing and calling you white or whatever they think you deserve to be called.... you can never win.

Ubong Da said...

Interesting write up

Everyone Loves a Naija Girl said...

Must agree...that is an interesting post lol. But I definitely agree with your overall message.

Naijadude said...

Weird I read everything and didnt leave comment. Yeah nice write up jare

Vickii said...

This is a really interesting post ... I grew up as a mixed race girl in Nigeria and it's really cool to hear other people's experiences. It is a big deal being mixed race in Nigeria but I don't think I even noticed it till I was about 14 because I grew up in Kaduna where there were lots of other mixed race kids.

Wrote about it on my blog http://im-not-most-girls.blogspot.com/2006/10/question-of-colour-i-was-having.html
if you're interested in reading it.

Loved this post!

Overwhelmed Naija Babe said...

Happy Easter love.. how you doing?

Pink-satin said...

wow!this is a deep and intersting post..yes unfortunately pple are still in awe back home about halfcaste and i must admit when i was younger i wished i was halfcaste... cos in schl theteachers didnt even beat the halfcaste kids...

Lee said...

I am mixed as well, but when you hang around mixed raced kids, its really nothing special.
But hanging around youe Naija friends and cousins, you feel like a superstar cos of the way you are treated.. It was just part of the experience I'd say..:) Nice blog!!!

tokunbo said...

its the mixtures that make the world go round girl. Its so challenging studying about race. As long as u dont have an identity crisis, no wahala. Ive come across many mixed, from Leb-Nigerian to Indian-Nigerian, to Chinese-Nigerian(with Chinese eyes-to be specific), Malaysian-Nigerian. The latest is a little girl who is Israeli-Nigerian. Shes damn too cute. As I said, its the mixtures that make the world go round....Like a friend of mine said, Nigeria is either Ajebo or Ajepaki. It doesnt matter of ure mixed or not. There are some mixed folks who are Ajepaki and their Ajepakiness-sef pass some full blood nigerians. I have an indian-nigerian friend whos claims to love agbero-lifestyle. Love your blog, tc.

NightFox said...

Interesting, yet the only thing your article confirms for me, is the self-evident position that we are all products of our own experiences. In this regard, it is quite mistaken to generalise. For instance, my experience in Nigeria was similar to yours except that I am as black and dark skinned as they come. I found that I got exceptional treatment wherever I went, ostensibly because I was born “Overseas” (in the UK) but probably because I was from a middleclass family. Fortunately, I am an individual who is observant, practical and honest and so was able to look beyond western prescriptions for the African values and behaviours. In this way, I began to observe that Nigerians (in my opinion) were generally charitable to foreigners be they from England or Ghana.

Anyway apart from what I have just stated I had an experience while in Nigeria that might help place your conclusions about your mixed raced status in Nigeria into perspective. One day, during my third week in Nigeria, some relations took me to a large outside market in Warri. As I was standing there, looking lost, I received a tap on my shoulder and I turned around to see an Arab, I think maybe a Tuarage or something, because he had one of those turban things that doubles up to cover the nose and mouth leaving only the eye aria exposed. Anyway, he was virtually a white man, with piercing light blue eyes. Next to him was a young, very tall and beautiful Arab girl. The Turgae or whatever, took my hand and placed the hand of the girl in it, spoke to me words I could not understand and started to walk away. Of course, my Nigerian relations ran after him and brought him back and there ensued some, hand waving, poinitng and talk, which some Houser’s translated. To cut a long tale, the upshot was that the Tuarage had come to the market many times looking for someone to take his daughter - he couldn’t look after her anymore - and when he saw me he felt I had come from a good home and that his daughter would make me a good wife.

The reason I relate this story is that the girl was almost a white girl, superbly built and attractive. Moreover, according to market people, her father had brought her to the marketplace several times looking for a husband but they had been ignored. If Nigerians are so mad about mixed raced people why did they not snap up the – not mixed raced - but virtually white Arab girl?’

abbynah said...

very interesting stuff! blogged on a related issue recently and wondered if this whole mixed race people getting more attention was an African phenomenon. do check it out>>> http://ruminationsoftheheart.blogspot.com/2009/03/im-chatting-about-this-with-my-friends.html

kechy said...

for real? most mixed kids where i live are just seen like every other kid even though they are rare in port harcourt