Saturday, 25 October 2014

Of Skin Bleaching and Bleached Minds

First and foremost, I find the ridiculousness of wanting to look white insulting, for obvious reasons. I'm black. What it means is, the person that bleaches her skin unfortunately, (ignorantly may be a better word, or stupidly, perhaps) believes her original skin is inferior, lower, nether to the white skin. Naturally, this should annoy anyone who is black and satisfied with his/her blackness, like me, but my anger and annoyance is at best inconsequential, s/he who wants to bleach, will bleach no matter what I think.

Sorry I started this post angrily. Hi. Today, I will talk a bit on skin bleaching, or as it is now more popularly regarded, Skin Lightening, perhaps it has this new name because the old one (bleaching) is quite harsh? But bleaching is bleaching, it doesn't matter what you call it. It is bleaching. You are bleaching.
It is the process of applying chemicals to the skin to lessen the concentration of melanin and so make the skin look like Hugh Grant's, these chemicals are mostly in form of creams and they have been proven time and time again to be very harmful in the long run. The popularity of these skin bleaching creams have steadily increased over the past few years, especially in Nigeria. In fact, researches show that 77% of Nigerian women use one variety of bleaching cream or another. This poses some serious questions, like: why?
It's important, most of the time, to understand the psychology of some of these things. Why would anyone want to be lighter than they came? What satisfaction does anyone derive from using chemicals on their skins? Chemicals that are going to harm them eventually? Does skin bleaching honestly improve a person's look? Honestly? I am not even in the mood to consider the religious and moral perspectives. 

We live in a society that is quite literally on it's head, the abnormal has become normal, vice versa. That's why societal expectations and peer pressure may one way or another be linked to skin bleaching, especially with the younger girls and, of course, the older ones that have vehemently refused to grow up. I understand the plight of young girls, I really do, especially teenage girls. I understand how, for example, on Facebook, you get likes proportionate to how much of your cleavage you expose. I understand how, in class, friends go on and on about crazy things like rainbow coloured pantyhose and violet fingernails and lavender toenails and all what naught. I understand how easily peer pressure can affect girls. It is a struggle to keep afloat. What I do not and cannot understand is how a person can argue that skin bleaching is fashionable. No. It is not. Jimmy Choo shoes are fashionable, Chanel bags are fashionable, Gucci shades are fashionable, blood red lipsticks are fashionable, bleaching your skin isn't.

I read somewhere that women feel more sexually attractive if their skin is lighter. I honestly do not think a man who prefers bleached women exist. And right now you're saying men can't tell the difference between a naturally light girl and an artificially light one. Wrong again. Most men know these things, most men can spot an artificial woman from a mile away. I have extra pair of eyes made of glass, just in case.
The thing is Attractiveness has nothing to do with color and everything to do with taste, if a man likes white women, he likes white women, not black ones trying desperately/futilely to be white.

The only thing skin bleaching does to a person is it exposes the person's incredibly low self esteem. Show me a person who bleaches their skin and I would show you the extreme insecurity, the self hate and loath, the misery in that person. Ultimately then, this has more to do with the mind. When the mind becomes adulterated with thoughts of inadequacy, the brain comes to it's rescue with flimsy ideas to help in compensating. You find, in that case, that people who do this to their skin are those trying to compensate for something, those who do not feel like they are good enough to live in their own bodies, those with bleached minds. 

Effects of overuse of skin bleaching creams may include skin cancer. So I'd stop it, if I were you. But I'm not you now, am I?       

Till next time,, Keep dreaming!!

Residues of Kubwa Camp — Five: What You Really Need In Camp

This is going to be short because there is only one thing you REALLY need at the orientation camp. Your mind. Everything else you've read or heard everywhere else is unimportant, trivial.
You need to take yourself to camp. What I mean by taking yourself to camp is, You need to prepare yourself, your mind for the WORST. I really wish I was joking but I'm not. Prepare your mind to stand for eighteen hours at one stretch. Prepare your mind to get drenched in heavy, ridiculous bouts of downpour. Prepare your mind to get battered with a vengeance by the sun. Prepare to get a headache. Prepare to get a fever. Prepare to catch a cold. But then, prepare yourself for the ride. Prepare to enjoy every moment. Prepare to laugh, because you'd be laughing at the strangeness and general craziness of the whole thing, from start to finish. Prepare to meet all kinds of people: strange people, stupid people, serious people, crazy people, funny people, stingy people that will not help you to save their own lives..Lol!
Prepare to wake up at four in the morning, or if you're like me and would rather take a bath without the staring eyes of the general public, prepare to wake up at three in the morning for those twenty one days. It will not be that bad. Plus, you'd get to sleep forever when you're dead. Prepare, if you do not have so much money, to eat food rations that are just enough to keep you alive and going. Prepare to be insulted by potbellied military men. Prepare to be yelled at, screamed at for walking instead of running at 4.30 in the morning and then at every other time you can think of: you run to the parade ground, you run to the lecture halls, you run to platoon meetings, you run to your hostels, you run to take your meals, you run to take a piss, you run. You're Forrest Gump for those twenty one days in camp. Prepare for the useless parades where you get to understand that one can get tired of standing, Prepare for the stupid lectures where people talk for so long but end up saying absolutely nothing, there, you'll understand that one can get tired of sitting.
Prepare your mind, it's all in the mind. Good luck!

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Residues of Kubwa Camp — Four: Reye

She had on red lipsticks over her already red lips; her gait, seamless, angelic maybe – steel legs of flesh. She wore tiny socks that stopped just above her ankles over which her white sneakers were still unblemished with red coloured dirt even at five in the evening. Usually, at five, white sneakers were no longer as white as they were in the morning due to the usual hustle, bustle and ridiculousness of the NYSC orientation camp.

Her complexion was dark, coffee dark, coffee with a tinge of skimmed milk. Her dark skin complexion was unique; it was the kind of dark skin complexion that made light people jealous of dark people.
‘My name is Reyé.’ She was saying, responding to your question.
You were hardly listening though. It was impossible to listen because your legs had started trembling under your knees. They had become wobbly, like noodles, noodles soaked in hot water.

You had seen her once before, you had had a blissful conversation. Well, you were having a blissful conversation until the men wearing camouflage shirts and black, baggy trousers tucked into black, extra-large, ugly boots came to disrupt things with their whistles and faded gold beagles. ‘Let’s go,let’s go. Move to the parade ground, Right now.’ They had shouted, their voices as loud as their beagles, louder maybe, and as thick as the bark of an orange tree. You often wondered how they never lost their voices in the twenty one days of camping. You lost yours twice and you hardly ever shouted, except when you were arguing with some of your forty something roommates about whose school was better or about what kind of music made more sense or about the current administrations efficiency or lack of it.

Everyone started running at the command of the men in uniform, ‘If you are walking, you are wrong.’ They had roared, almost in unison, almost as if they had practiced how to make everyone else’s life miserable. She ran, too, she ran very fast and before you knew it, she was far away from you. She had looked back and you had caught a glimpse of her but she hadn’t of you. That was the last you saw of her. Until now.

You tried to talk your legs into steadiness. ‘Don’t be stupid. Behave. For God’s sake, behave.’ You said to your legs under your breath, as if your legs had ears and would behave once you tell it to.
She was wearing glasses, Reyé. The last time you saw her, she had contact lenses on her haunting eyes.
You mumbled something in the lines of ‘What made you ditch your contacts for glasses?
'Someone got excited and hit my left eye while I was wearing them?’ She said.
Your legs were still wobbly, your arms had joined in, they seemed not to fit any longer by your side, and so you were moving them about like the confused leader of an orchestra. ‘Excited?’ you managed to say.
‘Yes,’ she said. ‘On the parade ground, during the early morning prayers.'
'Oh. That’s cold.'
'It is. But I don’t like these glasses. I prefer yours.'
'I don’t like it either, dear.’ You said and she laughed, you laughed, too. That was when you stopped speaking, involuntarily, of course. So you stood there, next to her, like a statue with moving hands and wobbly legs.

They were boys playing soccer on the field, one platoon against another; you stopped following those games after your platoon was defeated very early on.
She was still standing next to you, pretending to enjoy the football match, as if it was the most captivating thing she had ever seen, pretending that she did not notice how strange you were acting, drawing eccentric circles around your body with your hands, your hands that vehemently refused to stay put by your sides. You had lots more to say to her just that your mouth was no longer interested in speaking and so before the football match ended and one team defeated the other on penalties, she said, 'Alright. I will go now.'
And you mumbled incoherently and watched her walk away. Your words came back after she had left but you had nothing to say to yourself so you kept on watching twenty two sets of boys on the field who you cared nothing about, kick about one round leather.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Of The Caine Prize, Plagiarists and 300K per Month

This week on twitter, Binyavanga Wainana lashes out at the Caine prize. Says we attach way too much importance to it and it's not as important as we say and we need to dilute it because we are Africans and we are writers and bla bla bla.
Well, I think he's wrong. I've never come close to having an entry sent in for the Caine prize, I don't know that I ever will, so I'm just writing this as a follower of the prize. I think it's fantastic. It's fantastic because I don't know of any other African prize that does so much not just monetarily but also in exposing to the world talented writers that would probably not have had a look in ordinarily. Take Noviolet Bulawayo and her short story 'Hitting Budapest' that won the Caine in 2011, I think; and subsequently, her book 'We Need New Names' that got nominated for the Man Booker Prize making her the first black African Woman to ever get nominated, for a good example. This is the importance of exposing African writing and writers to a wider audience which is what the Caine Prize tries to achieve most importantly. I am surprised that Binyavanga Wainana, who once was a beneficiary of this Caine Prize exposure says/is saying differently. Hardly will you find a writer from Africa who is doing well enough that has not benefited one way or another from the Caine Prize, either from being shortlisted or even winning it. His argument, I think (as it was difficult to follow his tweets) was that African writers wash up to the (foreign) Caine Prize, which isn't doing enough to deserve to be washed up to... My opinion is that there is no other literary Prize in Africa that does as well as the Caine Prize. When you set up your own literary award that does everything, then you can tell us to stop loving the Caine Prize. But for now, don't. That's it.

This week on twitter and the Nigerian blogosphere in general, plagiarism. It's kind of a long story and in order to understand this, you have to understand the long story. So I'll try and summarize and give links so you understand. Okay! It all started about a week ago when a man known simply and smartly only on twitter as @MrAyeDee accused Nigeria's number one gossip blogger (who, by the way, is one of my favourite cos she's smart and understands her readers) Linda Ikeji of stealing his intellectual property, simply put, Linda plagiarized his work, she did. Well, after AyeDee tried his utmost to call her out or gain her attention and failed severely probably because Linda was ignoring him or whatever, he decided to report the conundrum to Google, Google then decided to block/take down Linda's blog. And then Linda's fans hauled insults at AyeDee and AyeDee's fans hauled insults at Linda and it was fantastic and entertaining drama for the guys in the middle, like yours truly.
Crazy things happen at night, so at night apparently, Linda and AyeDee had a chat online, like they IMed each other or whatever. Anyway, it turns out that they actually had been friends for like, ever and they had been IMing since like, before God created Heaven and Earth and then suddenly Linda stopped returning AyeDee's IMs and according to Linda, here, AyeDee felt he wasn't getting enough attention from Linda and so sought to bring Linda down. This is my opinion, I like Linda Ikeji, but she plagiarized, that is a sin, a big sin. Google, for this, took down her blog, then they returned it to her. Why did they take it down in the first place then? Google ehn... sometimes they misbehave sef!

Finally, this week on twitter, a lady known sweetly(no pun intended) as @Sugabelly, who actually was one of Linda Ikeji's antagonist in chief, for good reasons, Linda also plagiarized her stuff one time - did I tell you that Linda has been a serial plagiarist? I digress. Anyway, Sugabelly tweeted here and I quote: "To be perfectly honest. You're poor if you make less than N300,000 per month. Not even joking." And then the floodgates of abuses and vitriolics opened. I think we are really fucked up in Nigeria, we abuse people too much and then we start abusing their parents and then we start calling them 'ashawo'. Lol! Anyway, I don't think she's right, or maybe she is slightly right. But then she went on to tweet that "If you make N70k and your potential husband or wife makes N80k, y'all should forget about getting married. Cos you can't raise kids."(rough quote) Okay, so for me, I don't really intend to get married, even if I get married, I don't intend to have kids, even if I have a kid, I don't intend to have more than one, even if I have more than one... and so on. So I'm speaking from a neutral point of view. Sugabelly's tweets maybe true but only for very few locations like the high brow areas in Abuja and in Lagos etc where the cost of school fees for a term is a million and the cost of eating a good meal at a restaurant is half a million. Abuja is a city that I generally consider to be for the rich but it doesn't work like that because poor people like myself also live there, and poorer people, too. So it's solely dependent on location. For instance, my parents didn't raise me while they made 300k per month, in fact, when I was little, going to school, their combined salaries wasn't even close to that and I don't think I turned out bad, or dull or stupid or not knowing how to cross the road or not knowing how to spell, did I? DID I? Yes, that was years ago and the value of money.then is not the value of money now yidiyada bla bla... The truth is, there are more poor people for whom N300,000 will make their whole year in Nigeria today, than rich people, for whom it's just change that they can blow on one dinner date or on champagne or on shawarma or on the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel... And Yes, I said 'blow.' I guess ultimately, it's a case of different strokes for different folks; but @Sugabelly generalized and that's probably what got people angry. For me, I just watched cos I do that a lot, and laughed at the people that had no lives and decided to start calling her names. Anyway, the lesson is this, Your 30thousand is someone else's 30million and your 30million is someone else's 30thousand, you see?
So there you have it. It's the first time I'm doing this 'week on twitter' thing. I'll probably do more if there are interesting weeks.

Till next time,, Keep dreaming!! 

Friday, 10 October 2014

Residues of Kubwa Camp — Three

So I've talked a little too much about the fantastic kinds of people one gets to meet and live with in camp. The people with beautiful or... unique (unique is a better word) behavioral qualities. Well, today, I intend to say a little bit more about these people, but not how brilliantly fantastic their behaviors are. I intend to thrash them, but just a little bit.
First, I have read a lot of pieces, (I almost started believing, even) about how most Nigerian graduates, especially ones that graduate from institutions in Nigeria, find it difficult to put together simple sentences. Well, thankfully, this is very false; though the average Nigerian graduate is far from being Cormack McCarthy, he also is, fortunately, far from being the president's wife, in terms of spoken English. Of course, it's true that you'd find some folks that are absolutely clueless and have no idea what a noun is, but those cases are few and far between.
We have this problem though: a lot of people, mostly girls have little self-worth (they believe that their God given accents does not allow for smooth passage of words and so they incorporate fake accents, the kind that they hear fat African American women speak with on Oprah. No disrespect to Oprah or fat African American women.) We shouldn't try to speak like anybody, we should just try to speak. 

In camp, you meet boys or men, so called, that have absolutely zero (0) respect for women. To them, women are properties, things that are meant for enjoyment, for merriment, for sex and nothing else. As a matter of fact, while I was standing quietly on the parade ground (cos I do that alot, stand quietly, watch and listen) during the second week of camp, I (over)heard two boys wondering to themselves why there were so many ladies and how these ladies  were wasting their time since eventually their place will be by their husbands. I didn't try to stop them from talking or to argue with them because I knew I'd have started an inexhaustible argument that would just go on and on and be stupid. A lot of men, even educated ones still think women are things. This is unfortunate because this is the 21st century and women stopped being things like, ten centuries ago?

The next problem is the problem of corruption. This is unapologetic. While you can't blame these young people for what corruption has done to them, you can't help but wonder what difference it will make when tomorrow comes and these so called leaders of tomorrow actually become leaders. Let me explain what I mean by corruption 1. A queue is never a straight line, it's usually a dome. Times when it's not a dome, it's like a snake with a giant head, you understand? Straight at the back but really large in front to allow people enter, thereby taking advantage of the patient ones standing at the back. They call this 'shunting' 2. All you need to do in order to get a favourable posting after camp is to know someone who is either someone or knows someone. Or better still, be friends with your platoon coordinator (we're all divided into platoons in camp) and it is done. The effect of this is that people who do not know people get to go to the crappiest places, doesn't matter how intellectually gifted they are. And the ones that are connected, no matter how dumb they are or how they do not know what a noun is, get posted to the best places. 3. If you're influential, you can skip camp altogether or come to camp whenever the hell you like or just for the heck of it, you can stay in camp and live in a flat with decent plumbing and a decent living room and have an Army man at your beckon while everyone else stay in hostels with forty other everyone elses and sleep on 2 inch mattresses and use crap 4 inch * 4 inch toilets with 120 other everyone elses and get ordered around by the army man at your beckon. Need I say more? See the inequality? And how deep the rot runs?

Finally, maybe the gravest, you get to see young people who ceaselessly waste their lives on frivolities: drugs. I have major issues with drug addicts and that's why I consider this the gravest of all. An addict is a man or a woman who is dying and dying faster than s/he can ever imagine. The degree of drug use is way louder than alarming and it's a monster problem that needs to be extinguished one way or another. The trouble with drugs is it gets more difficult to stop the longer it goes on, so let's hope a word will be enough for the wise(literally): STOP!

Till next time,, Keep dreaming!!