A few weeks ago, as I watched Yvonne Orji explain Nigerian slang to her audience, feelings I couldn’t immediately name rose in me. In a 12-minute vignette for Vanity Fair, Orji broke down the sometimes unexplainable, always hilarious sentiments behind Nigeriannisms like ‘wawu’, ‘tufiakwa’, ‘ashewo’, ‘yansh’ and other slangs.
As I watched, I tried to work through what I was feeling. There was unrestrained mirth –- because Orji is nothing if not charming. There was pride because Orji’s 886,000 Instagram followers, most of whom are not Nigerian, were learning about Nigerian culture. But, somewhere under all of that, there was apprehension. As I watched the last clip where she explains ‘You Go Wound,’ my heart sank. She had given the wrong explanation. Here, one of the crowned voices of the Nigerian experience, telling the world the wrong thing.
Orji is the archetype of the Nigerian-American millennial. Born in Nigeria to a middle-class family, they spent their early years in Nigeria and immigrated to the United States as children. In the late 80s and early 90s, when families like Orji’s moved to America with their parents, Nigeria was under military rule. This was a pivotal time for the country –- its downward spiral was official. It culminated in a crash of Nigeria’s exchange rate, per capita income, and global standing. Hundreds of thousands responded to this change by fleeing the country, primarily for the United Kingdom and the United States.
The children of these immigrants were young enough to have only faint images of Nigeria, images, it bears repeating, that are of the Nigeria of the 80s and 90s. In addition to this fuzzy idea of Nigeria, these millennial immigrants came of age in America, at the height of the media portrayal of Africa’s wars, civil unrest, and humanitarian crises in countries such as Somalia and Burundi. Immigrant children, along with the rest of the world, grappled with images of Africa as a poverty-stricken wasteland. This generation of immigrant children in America will be the first to tell you they were victims of the pejorative ‘African booty scratcher’ taunt, which referenced a child with black, ashy skin, monkey-like features, and a ‘village’ accent.
In 2000, when I was in SS 1 (10th Grade), Ade A’s parents sent her from America to study at my school, and she ended up in my class. The average student at this ‘international school’ had parents who were well connected economically and politically, and the students themselves had travelled the world. It wasn’t the Nigeria Ade expected. One day, she confessed her disappointment with her experience. She expected a school in a hut, and classmates living in trees, naked, dark-skinned, and ugly. “I thought I would be the lightest-skinned and the coolest kid in class,” she said. We were more amused than offended. In that moment, I realized that Ade was having problems adjusting to many things – in sum, a new country. We had versions of Ade in every class – children whose parents wanted them to touch base with their ‘Nigerian heritage’ before they came of age, though not all of them came with problematic stereotypes. As these Nigerian-American millennial immigrants were getting an education in what their country really was, immigrant children across the ocean were actively distancing themselves from their African roots or, at least, nursing some trauma around it. To survive bullying, they had to assimilate.
In the early 2000s, things also started looking up for Nigeria. Democracy brought The Fourth Republic and president Olusegun Obasanjo, who had the will, expertise and networks to grow the economy, or, at least, to try. I remember this time clearly because, as the country was opening up, I was coming of age. By 2003, I was studying for my A’ Levels (a post-secondary, pre-university program) in Johannesburg, South Africa. I had classmates from all around the continent, and they knew and loved Nollywood stars like Mama G and Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde. I remember sitting in the common room, on our striped blue couch, the location of one too many afternoon naps, watching MTV Base and seeing a music video from PSquare followed by Kelly Rowland. I remember being told enthusiastically, “you Nigerian ladies are so gorgeous!” because Agbani Darego had been crowned Miss World in 2001. At the same time, movements like Fela Durotoye’s Proudly Nigerian, The Future Awards Africa, and the emerging new Nollywood started to place Nigerian youth culture in front of a global consciousness. This was not the Nigeria of the 90s.
Nigeria’s music industry is easily the highlight of this emergence. Afrobeats, arguably one of the leading influences in music culture today, has now fully come of age in global culture. Beyoncé’s last album The Lion King: The Gift was a celebration of African, primarily Nigerian, artists and producers such as Tiwa Savage, Yemi Alade, Bankulli Osha, and Wizkid, joining leading American recording artists who have sampled afrobeats on their recent albums and who have collaborated with its leading lights like Burna Boy, Seyi Shay, and Davido, to name a few. Many immigrant millennials remember the moment they felt that Nigerianness had arrived on the global stage. For many of them, it was when they heard a Nigerian song on US radio. Nigeria was now cool. Everything had changed. That moment ushered a new wave of pride in being from Nigeria – love for Nigerian music, movies, culture, food, and its people. They were no longer ‘African booty scratchers.’
Unfortunately, childhood trauma isn’t so easily squashed. What has emerged is a worrying undertone to this renewed pride, what seems to be a need for Nigerian-Americans to bring their American friends – former oppressors of sorts – into their world in exchange for approval. The Nigerian renaissance has birthed a performative Nigerianness. Nigerian writer @Saratu said in exasperation recently: “these diaspora Nigerians who need to prove to their Black American and white friends [that] they don’t come from a jungle need to be stopped.” The problem with the fluidity of being Nigerian and American (or anything else) at a time like this is that it shows clearly those who are from us but not really of us: those whose Nigerianness is convenient, forced, and performative.
This topic is not new to me or many other Nigerians, but it grates afresh each time. It did not fly over our heads when Insecure, a leading black series starring Orji, reinforced a negative stereotype in S4 Episode 1 of the Nigerian scammer, in a cheap jab which added nothing to the scene or story. The day after the episode aired, Nigerian Twitter made its anger known. Orji’s response and her back and forth with Insecure writer Amy Aniobi, also an American of Nigerian descent, were at best a cop-out.
In her comedy, Orji’s Nigerian is a crude, loud, flat character. Her HBO Comedy Special Momma, I Made It, which debuted Saturday, June 6 opens with a joke about Nigerian scammers, spends the hour flipping back and forth between a forced Nigerian accent and her actual American accent on “Nigerian” curses, dramatic parents, and Nigerians being incapable of giving proper directions.
We see similar arcs elsewhere. Gina Yashere, a British comedian of Nigerian descent, built her career on ribbing Nigerians for white laughs. There is no nuance to her jokes about Nigerians or the speed with which she throws us under the bus as crude thieves and scammers. Yashere is at ease reinforcing stereotypes and othering Nigerians. She is also a creator and lead writer on Bob Hearts Abishola, the Chuck Lorre sitcom which premiered on CBS in 2019, leading to a collective Nigerian cringe at its over the top representation of the accent and culture.
All of this leads to the central question: It is great to see Nigerians in mainstream American and British media, but is this us? To these hyphenated Nigerians, being #ProudlyNaija is like a hashtag – cute, palatable, and skin deep. To those of us with more skin in the game – living, working, engaging with Nigeria – it is not so simple. “By all means, get your coins,” many are saying. “But do not misrepresent us. Speak out when we are misrepresented. And humbly realize that there are more voices, more perspectives, and more stories than yours.” Do not hang out with us only when it is convenient for you. We are not a prop.
This matters in a time of global reckoning about silencing, appropriation and the othering of non-white experiences. It underscores the larger issue of who gets the power to put out stories on behalf of ‘us’. This is important because as a result of proximity, Nigerian-Americans and their offspring are first in line to take our culture into American power rooms, especially in fields like film, television, publishing, and art. With that power comes responsibility. In this case, it is a responsibility to know what they are selling.
Cultural equality is a long game that requires strategic representation, so if these players aren’t going to do the work, then voices of local new and old storytellers like those on Netflix’s Made In Africa are more important than ever to round out the edges of the voices of hyphenated Nigerians and media-appointed ambassadors of our culture, who are preoccupied with telling the West “Look! This is the Nigeria they don’t show you.”
Our primary quest is for self-actualization and what it means to be a Nigerian today. Authors like Elnathan John, Ayobami Adebayo, and Tola Rotimi Abraham are a few of the new generation who are doing the work of having us look at ourselves critically; defining who we are for ourselves, to ourselves, not for the West.
It is crucial to make clear that Nigerian-Americans are one type of Nigerian, one small slice of the experience of being Nigerian. There are so many other ways to be Nigerian. Some Nigerians continue to remain in Nigeria, with the means to immigrate but with no interest to do so. Some were born in Togo. Others have lived in countries like Tanzania, South Africa, Germany, Nigeria, the UK, and the US. Some, like me, migrated in their 20s for education and remain here as reluctant economic migrants. All these experiences are different. Their stories matter. And these stories must not be silenced by a caricatured story of a Nigeria that doesn’t even exist anymore.
What Nigeria and many nations in Africa need at this moment is clear: more voices telling our rich narratives, especially voices that are not beholden to the West or its shrivelling gaze. We also need to pay closer attention to products like Momma, I Made It. What are they saying about Nigerians? What stereotypes will they perpetuate? What new ideas will they plant in the heads of their audience? What new problems may they create for us along the way? And most importantly, ‘Is this really us?’
About the Author
Damilola Oyedele is a Nigerian writer and product manager based in Austin, Texas. Follow her on Twitter @damioyedele for unfiltered takes on culture and faith.
COMMENTS ( 33 ) -
Love's Apprentice July 02, 2021 17:41
DAMI!! This is outstanding. I learned so much. You go!!
Dichie May 14, 2021 14:02
I think the author is shrinking perspective and diversity. Nigerian Americans are also telling their version of the Nigerian story especially from the eyes of their parents who migrated in the 80's. And any western individual who thinks things haven't improved a little bit is shut out of the internet. Sometimes, stories should be told form where we were to where we are going. That is how I see it.
Amarachi March 02, 2021 14:04
The issue is that we consistently fail to give Nigerian Diaspora the space to be just that. Nigerian Diaspora. We are pushed into binary labels--either "Nigerian" or "American"/"British"/"Western"/etc. We're embraced as a representative of the culture when we do things "right" and then just as quickly abandoned and disowned when we surprisingly don't meet expectations. Yvonne Orji's narrative is just one narrative. One set of experiences. We are a hybrid of cultures and experiences, which are so often erased through reductive arguments like this.
Oyin February 05, 2021 10:07
I agree with this. That's what Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie meant when she spoke of "The danger of a single story/stereotypes." I don't know why many people on this post don't get this; this writer is simply pointing out the danger in MISREPRESENTING Nigeria and Nigerian themes. Yes, it's comedy, it's all for laughs, but after those laughs people actually sit down and think that is THE TRUE REPRESENTATION OF your country. It's a pretty simple logic.
Can Yvonne Orji's upcoming comedy series 'First Gen' break out of January 18, 2021 08:30
[…] embraced in her shiny HBO comedy special Momma, I Made It released last year, which was met with mixed reactions especially from Nigerians who felt the show didn’t accurately represent them, clinging to […]
Can Yvonne Orji’s upcoming comedy series ‘First Gen’ break out of Nigerian stereotypes? – Gist Me Naija January 18, 2021 06:10
[…] embraced in her shiny HBO comedy special Momma, I Made It released last year, which was met with mixed reactions especially from Nigerians who felt the show didn’t accurately represent them, clinging to […]
Anthony August 19, 2020 22:09
The author does not understand the idea of comedy. Also, you need to watch the performances of indigenous Nigerian comedians performing to a roaring Nigerian audience, you think Yvonne and co are bad? well you have never seen downright insensitivity demeaning meanness and the lowest forms of burlesque, stereotyping and whatnot make an audience especially the very affected audience go gaga with laughter.
Anthony August 19, 2020 21:55
You are a very sensible person.
Victor Daniel August 10, 2020 08:34
Anon July 06, 2020 02:30
Whilst the essay seems to be coherent, it is also largely (in my opinion) a narrative that we do not need to hear. I am a child of Nigerian parents who migrated to the U.K. in the 80s, so I was born and raised here. I think it’s important to note, as people above have so eloquently done, that Nigerian culture is subjective in many ways. It depends on your ethnicity, your class, religion and so on. Diasporic notions of Nigerianness will always be just that - diasporic. Please don’t expect us to have an identical view to yours, because quite frankly at points in this piece, I encountered respectability politics. Let me reverse it - when I visited Nigeria as an 18 year old, I actually was subject to ignorance from other Nigerians asking me stupid questions like ‘do you know what yam is’ and ‘I’m shocked you’re eating soup with your hands’. I was astounded that people assume being born abroad makes you ‘less’ or bougie when in actuality fact the Nigerian hustle mentality is evident in the U.K.. most Black people here are part of the working class and many successful Nigerians have used education as a great leveller, but it’s still not enough for the masses. My peers in Lagos have not ridden a public bus, nor had a job below the age of 25 and they expect me to eat pounded yam with a fork based on what? If you ask me, my idea of Nigeria is and was curated by the experiences over here in Britain, through food, language, film and so on. How dare any Nigerian come and tell me that my representation is false - abeg, country of over 200 million folks excluding its diaspora?! Please, let’s all get used to plurality.
Muyi July 05, 2020 19:36
It's obvious in the piece that Dami's grouse is misrepresentation of the lived realities of Nigerians and NOT the preference of negative themes. She focuses on how the story is told and not what part of the story is told. There are some untruths that will stand out for what they are regardless of what part of Nigeria you are from. There are things you can't relate with wherever in Nigeria you're from, simply because they are inaccurate. That's her point.
GRACIOUS IMBEAH July 05, 2020 13:20
I think there's a need to compare and contrast what was and what is now, because if we do not do that in our narration, we leave the impression with our audience that Nigeria is still seeped in the old ways fed to them by the western media, most of whom have never set foot on the continent but raised on the misrepresentation of those so anxious to peddle any untruths to justify their racism.
Fareeda July 04, 2020 00:32
I agree that we should never cow tow to white supremacy by trying to "prove" ourselves to them. I'm a Nigerian American who was called African booty scratcher growing up but that never made me ashamed of who I was because I knew the ppl saying that didn't know what they were talking about. However, some ppl weren't so fortunate and felt shame and/or the need to belong. I just can't help wondering what the author would have done in their shoes considering that she's been living in the US since her 20s. She brought herself here while those kids came with their parents. Many of us never fully feel like we 'belong' in America so please don't try to take away our Nigerian identity on top of that.
Ladidi July 04, 2020 00:14
Thank you. As a Nigerian-American I agree with your assessment, especially the last paragraph. I'm from the North so, for me, it's even more interesting because I had to live in America with others having the idea that my type of Nigerian didn't even exist. I was never ashamed of where I was from and I paid the price for that, so I don't like how the author characterized Nigerian American kids as being ashamed of where they came from.
Chi July 03, 2020 18:36
I'm not sure where you got your information from. "African booty scratch" along with numerous other derrogatory phrases, were used regularly to tease me in my childhood and my Nigerian friends. Everything from our name, to the Nigerian food that we packed for lunch was ridiculed. They perpetuated otherness and made it clear that we were not like them and therefore less deserving of friendship starting as early as kindergarten by judging us by our names, ours/parent's accents or our skin. As a child and up until high school, I was not allowed and had no desire to invite friends to my house because I was scared that the taunting would increase exponentially when they saw my family or the food that we ate. I repeat that this was my experience and that of all of my friends. I believe that Nigerian popularity in the United States stems from the combination of globalization of afrobeats and the discovery of identity in Nigerian Americans within colleges and creative settings. I was the president of my African Students Association and an African dance team. Our annual events had over 300 in attendance and my dance team travelled and had over 20 performances per year. Us milenials and young people bring our food, music, culture, celebrities and fashion to 100's of universities annually. Cultural exposure in smaller settings has led to increased consumption of Nigerian and African cultural property in the media and social settings. I think that it is important to make sure that your comments cannot be easily refuted (especially when you are speaking about the experiences of a large group of people who can easily deny the validity of your comment) before posting. I hope my experience has provided you with some insight.
Victor Olugbemiro July 03, 2020 13:30
I think the Nigerian experience is multi-dimensional and our 'Nigerianess' plays out in our varied experiences. The experience of a Nigerian, born and living out their lives in Nigeria is different from that of the adolescent who migrated; the adolescent migrant's experience is also different from that of the adult migrant and this is also different from those whose claim to Nigeria is from being born as Americans to Nigerian parents. The author also agrees with this assertion by saying that "Nigerian-Americans are one type of Nigerian, one small slice of the experience of being Nigerian." If that is the case, then we must also agree that this little slice is also very valid and the stories of them must be told, as well as the rich slices she considers more Nigerian. So for a person like Yvonne Orji, her comedy is an adequate representation of her own Nigerian experience which, even though is different from those of us who live in Nigeria, cannot be invalidated for not being Nigerian enough.
Beryl July 03, 2020 11:01
Just when I thought I had heard enough lies. Here come a few more.
shelton July 03, 2020 02:45
1 Black Americans aren't Nigerian Oppressors...what a joke. 2. No one was calling Nigerians "African booty scratchers". I wish that myth and exaggeration would DIE. To many African immigrants come to the US then go back home with spreading myths and fantasies. 3. Nigerian popularity comes with its culture insetting itself into Black American culture and riding the wave. No one cared about Nigerian culture when they were "Nigerian-Brits" it was only when the stood beside and inside of America (Black America) that they became relevant.
Theo July 03, 2020 00:46
This essay fails in many ways to understand the complex dynamics of Nigerian representation across multiple geographical divides. The author exhibits a typical kind of elitist attitude common with Nigerians living abroad...an attitude that comes with posing as the ultimate validator of everything flowing to the “abroad” from Nigeria. The question here is why must hardworking, Nigerian-repping men and women acquiesce to your idea of “true Nigerianness”? Every Nigerian living in or outside Nigeria should represent the country as they deem fit. Slow down on your attempt to drown other people’s voices . If you sincerely believe in changing Nigeria’s narrative for the better, start a movement of “de-privileged” people. Engage in unbias conversations with all kinds of Nigerians and listen to their stories. Perhaps, you’ll better understand why we all see things differently. You are not more Nigerian than others. PS: This would have been a fun read if your thoughts were well articulated.
Chimmie July 02, 2020 20:44
Iwe ji gị o (you're vexing)... Oh well, we're all entitled to our opinions. I was born and raised in Nigeria... I am American too (mom was born in the US) Came to the US willingly for college and currently have Nigerian American kids growing here. Hoping their generation will be more open to every single one's experience and unite as one people + race. PS: I enjoyed Yvonne Orji's comedy! Hubby and I laughed so hard at some parts. I could relate to some of what she said... Some went way over my head. Her experience. Her comedy. Laugh and go. Or not. Daalu
Ajala&foodies July 02, 2020 20:13
This total rubbish! A bid to build relevance on other people's success. Talking about how it is "cool" to be Nigerian now, i ask who do you think made it so? Ans: This same people that you now insinuate have no right to be associated with Nigeria. Solely because they don't portray the Nigeria you know. Nothing that they portray it incorrectly but it's just not the Nigeria You want people to see/know. Or wait do you think Davido and Burna boy are the ones that now make Nigeria appear cool? That is where you will be mistaken. Burna boy, Wizkid and Davido would not have access to the reach they now have if they did not have people like Orji and her parents and all this other people's shoulders to stand on. Shoulders, you stand on today but now attempt to tell you don't want to be associated. Then try to remove yourself from it all by claiming to be "a reluctant economic immigrant" Do you think Orji's parents willing left all they knew and loved ones to migrate here???? Who is a willing immigrant here. This is total cow dunk! A bid to come across "woke" but is just down right divisive and judgmental! What makes one wake up one morning and feel they have a right to decide who should and shouldn't be associated to their roots based on what age they migrated? SMH! BTW, I don't follow Yvonne Orji and while i watch Bob heart's ♥ Abishola, I think they do a good job depicting the average Nigerian family, it may not be 100% accurate but is the average Nigerian family the same for everyone? On the scam issue, do not let me go there, i will however say this the first time i heard of Hushpuppi was when my husband who migrated here in his mid-30s was shown Hushpuppi's page by his very Hispanic American co worker. This was a couple of years ago. Thankfully, my husband told his coworker who was an hushpuppi fan, that he needed to stop following him. Well, we know Hushpuppi's story today. Long story short, this author just wrote nonesense trying to be relevant on false stands on people she claims she does not want to be associated with.
Ikhide July 02, 2020 19:54
“As I watched, I tried to work through what I was feeling. There was unrestrained mirth –- because [Yvonne] Orji is nothing if not charming. There was pride because Orji’s 886,000 Instagram followers, most of whom are not Nigerian, were learning about Nigerian culture. But, somewhere under all of that, there was apprehension. As I watched the last clip where she explains ‘You Go Wound,’ my heart sank. She had given the wrong explanation. Here, one of the crowned voices of the Nigerian experience, telling the world the wrong thing.” - Damilola Oyedele I respectfully disagree with this take. My daughter, Ominira, made me watch Yvonne Orji’s HBO show, Momma I Made it. I have ADHD, but I was glued to my recliner, grinning like the proud Nigerian dad I am. The show is brilliant and an important marker of the Nigerian American experience. And told by a genuine comic.❤️ Yvonne Orji is doing a great job of mining her life as a Nigerian American. As a Nigerian who came to the US in the 80s, and as a dad of four millennials, I totally see my children in her, and me in her parents. Many rivers run through us. No. Yvonne Orji improves upon our story. I think of Trevor Noah. She goes to Nigeria and joshes around respectfully on the streets and with her parents, she talks about our drive for excellence. Her accent and interpretations are a product of her lived experience since birth. Exaggeration is a tool effectively used in comedy and drama to drive home points. Yvonne is the sum of her experience, as a comedy buff, I was taken by how good she is, how she is in control of the stage and of the audience. Her passion, energy and intellect won me over. Have you read “African literature” lately? Yvonne though focuses on what my millennial kids would say and do in our home, and it’s quite funny. Our four kids were born here and it’s hilarious watching them mimic their parents. Yvonne has millions of us as a paying audience. Watching @YvonneOrji was like watching my American kids teasing me when they thought I wasn’t listening. And her range and depth, impressive. She has hit a motherlode of material in Nigeria, America, and her parents, and she’s mining it brilliantly. When she said, “Tufiakwa!” I have to say, having visited Nigeria this past December, having been on the streets, witnessing the deprivation that came with democracy since 1999, there’s not much to recommend to folks there. It’s a huge mess, and it says a lot about Yvonne that she tried to be respectful. Today’s “African literature” with its hustle culture hawks the single story more than any other. It is refreshing to have someone with depth and empathy who improves upon the poverty porn story that is much of African writing. Kudos to Yvonne Orji for improving upon the silence. Yvonne Orji has a commanding stage presence, chemistry with the audience (she has you feeding off her hands), and great knowledge of the subject matter she’s riffing off of. She reads, thinks, and acts beautifully. Many African writers could learn a thing or two from her, lol! By the way, go to YouTube, search for “Nigerian parents” and all Yvonne is doing is there for free. Our kids born here are having fun processing their anxieties at our expense. In cute stilted accents. It is important that they be allowed to tell their stories!
Toyin July 02, 2020 16:41
Dami: As a Nigerian you know when you soak ijebu garri with cold water, milk, sugar and groundnut. As you are savoring the taste you now chew stone. This is what this your post is like. So let me help with the title: I think you meant 'THIS IS US' like the American series title. Or should we throw in 'Also' so it buttresses your point on Nigerian/African diversity. Anyway I am sure our Nigerian American Kay Oyegun would not mind sharing the title. Also maybe lead with the end: the bit about many slices. (whispers) Also maybe tone it down with the name calling. I followed this off twitter with excitement to come and read some fresh opinion spewed with 'rage' instead I am greeted by a petty post about two girls. But alas my sister, reluctant immigrant or not you are on the same wagon. So calm down. In your search for examples you didn't find one Hyphenated Nigerian who is doing it right (At least by your standards). As a hyphenated Nigerian woman I am vexed. To be fair your post has achieved one thing free ads for Orji. I am curious to join her numerous followers and watch her 'posturing comedy'. Because that's what it is though: for laughs, not to be taken soooooooo seriously. I didn't catch the British person's name but I'll scroll up and check out her content as well. Ose, nagode, dalu Summary Dami: There's enough room on the table for all of us, worst case ask someone to scoot over.
JTO July 02, 2020 16:18
While I agree with some parts of this article, especially regarding throwing the culture under the bus for bucks, I do not think this article is fair enough to Nigerian-Americans, especially with the way it degrades their "Nigerianness". For context, most Africans who grow up in America usually suffer an identity crisis, you suffer racism from the whites and then the blacks will tell you that you don't belong with them because your forefathers sold theirs into slavery and your father did not join in fighting for racial equality. This article reinforces same notion in some ways, by making it look like people of Nigerian who have lived most of their lives in America are less Nigerian than the people living in Nigeria.
Tinu E July 02, 2020 13:40
Interesting write up. But at the same time it was a comedy special. One can laugh about things. I do not believe she was saying specifically this is how things are, she just showed viewers the funny things that she experienced in her story. And you called yourself a reluctant migrant for education. So is that you explaining that education is bad in Nigeria. It is part of your story that you have moved. Embrace it.
Akumbu Uche July 02, 2020 13:28
In times like this, Marshall McLuhan's observation that "The Medium is the Message" comes to mind. Yvonne Orji is a comedian not a news presenter or an academic researcher. Her standup comedy act falls under the anecdotal comedy genre, which means she tells funny personal stories which may be true or partly true and embellished.
Lord c.....r July 02, 2020 13:17
Quite vocal. I'll reserve my comment on this issue for now but I must say your skillfulness with words is beautiful.
Anonymous July 02, 2020 11:53
Nigerian Americans, though one slice of Nigerians, are themselves a diverse group. Some were born in the U.S. Some immigrated during childhood, others adolescence, or even adulthood. Some came from money, and others didn’t. Some might even count a reluctant economic migrant among their numbers ;) I found the author’s commentary on specific anecdotes to be apropos and a significant voice to add to the dialogue. Her comment about the shriveled western gaze was as humorous as it was honest. She is right that both Nigerians and Nigerian Americans need to do more to avoid catering to the western gaze. Nevertheless, I found her treatment of Nigerian Americans — as a monolith — to be painfully reductionistic and a bit unkind. What other group would she feel so comfortable characterizing and scolding in this fashion? Does she speak with such derision because we (Nigerian Americans) are her (Nigerian), and this is a family conversation? It is a strange mix of simultaneous stereotyping, othering, and derision. The irony is that she is doing exactly what she’s asking Nigerian Americans not to do to Nigerians! If she wants to write an open letter to Yvonne Orji she should do so, but why drag us all through the mud? It is nonsensical to make generalizations about everyday Nigerian Americans based off of a Nigerian American *celebrity* and one wealthy spoiled child that was sent away from her parents, arriving to Nigeria with unfounded stereotypes. The fact of the matter is that many of us are a) still connected to and engaged with the motherland in various forms, b) proud of our [true] roots, and c) *have always been and will always be* African booty scratchers within the U.S. (It never goes away; they just start saying it in a “nicer” fashion.) I think the crux of the matter is this mistaken assertion: “To survive bullying, they had to assimilate.” Assimilation in the U.S., when you have Black skin and a noticeable accent is a laughable and impossible thing to attempt. So, please don’t simultaneously attempt to render us homeless. You cannot monopolize this diverse experience.
Tsiresy July 02, 2020 10:55
Trevor Noah makes jokes about SA but he is a bona fide South African who didn't grow up "in exile". There is little misrepresentation in his comedy. And he is making jokes about SA overseas but it's the same strain of jokes that he has been using in South Africa up until the moment he left SA 4-5 years ago. He hasn't come up with this strain of comedy to entertain the World through caricature of his home country.
Aineakho Ojior July 02, 2020 10:47
“A caricatured story of a Nigeria that doesn’t even exist anymore” Interesting read but it is not clear how Yvonne is misrepresenting Nigeria or Nigerians, what parts were not authentic or just Nigerian-American centric? Netflix’s Made in Nigerian is full of material that reflects a Nigeria the I (for example) sometimes watch in bewilderment. As for Ayobami and her cohorts, their stories are also all amazingly different, revealing Nigeria as a rich tapestry of culture mixed with old and new It seems to me that Yvonne's show validates your point that there are many slices to the Nigerian experience and that all our voices should be heard. It is truly a great time to be Nigerian and we do need to be responsible with the narrative that comes through media. My opinion is that we embrace all that we are and tell all our stories truthfully, this means there needs to be a lot of space given to accommodate our different voices.
Anonymous July 02, 2020 08:17
In defense of Yvonne’s stand up approach, Trevor Noah does the same thing, only that His jokes are about South Africa and done with a South African accent. Of course She’s not half as funny as Trevor but this ‘misrepresentation’ you speak of is what they do.
Anon July 02, 2020 08:06
Not sure I agree with the author. People view their histories differently and jokes are usually a reflection of the comedian’s experiences and histories. It sounds like the author wants comedians like Yvonne to deny their own experience and tell a story of Nigeria that she does not know. I don’t think that’s right. She mentioned Elnathan and Ayobami both of who I enjoyed their books and their own stories of Nigeria especially as both have different parts of Nigeria in their stories. It would not be right to ask Ayobami to remove the poverty and fetish story portrayed in her novel because i can not relate. Nigeria is not one thing. So there are enough comic skits, books and articles like this to encompass the nuances and many narratives that discussing Nigeria can birth.
Mimoyemi July 02, 2020 07:58
Whew....a lot to digest at once. I lean towards Dami’s position but need to square away some inner contradictions. I way come back to give a more resounded comment when I am able. Well done to the writer.......