Thursday, December 26, 2013

There's Something About Christmas

Christmas
Photo: www.shefinds.com
They say there are two topics you shouldn’t talk about at the dinner table - religion and politics - because people are very passionate them and would defend their positions and views on these subjects vehemently. That being said, I’ve decided to throw caution to the wind and talk about religion – Christianity to be precise.

A friend posted a comment on Facebook about Christmas that inspired this entry. The gist of his post was that Christmas, which Christians celebrate December 25th, has its origin in the Pagan festival commemorating the rebirth of the Unconquered Sun. Needless to say, most comments on his post weren’t in support of his view.

Incidentally, a few days to Christmas, a radio show host asked listeners if Christmas should be celebrated and whether the Bible should be completely accepted as the sole authority on Christianity. Most listeners were pretty upset about the question and had no scruples about letting him know it. Some said he shouldn’t even entertain the thought, let alone voice it.

These kinds of statements never cease to baffle me.

Why can’t we question religion or the origins of the Holy book or the Holy book itself? If the Bible was written by men inspired by the Holy Spirit, then there’s bound to be some margins of error. After all, to err is human, right? If we believe the Bible is 100% accurate, as some people do, then why don’t we follow it to the letter? Since the Bible is based on the zeitgeist of the era in which it was written, some of the texts are antiquated, oppressive and untenable in present day, which is the reason adherents of the faith cherry-pick what part of their faith-based book to accept and what parts to ignore.

Growing up, I recall being told it was wrong to criticize errant priests because they’re God’s representatives on earth. At the time, even in my childish state of mind, I thought it odd not to criticize priests; as an adult, I think it’s downright dangerous and absurd not to do so. It’s this kind of thinking that makes “Men of God” forget they’re mere mortals at the service of their congregants. It’s this type of thinking that makes them abuse their powers and shield crimes being committed in the House of God, or in the name of God.

Let’s not forget that these Men of God are human beings, and like all humans, they are bound to make mistakes. Hence, the idea that whatever proceeds from their mouths should be accepted wholesale, with no questions asked, reeks of recklessness and intellectual laziness.

The eminent astronomer, Galileo, was berated by the Church for daring to challenge her views on the Universe. He rightfully stated that the Earth revolved around the Sun, but Church officials were having none of it and rebuffed his scientific findings. Eventually, they convicted him of heresy, handed down a life sentence and consigned him to his house, where he spent the rest of his life under house arrest.

We can all agree the Church’s stance can be wrong, as it was in the case of Galileo, so if we were asked about the use of contraceptives, divorce, homosexuality or abortion, where would we stand? Should we challenge the Church’s views on these issues or let sleeping dogs lie?

Now back to the origin of Christmas. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the truth is Christmas supplanted a pagan festival; same as Easter. In the Roman Empire, before Christianity was adopted, they celebrated the festival of Saturnalia which was characterized by feasting and gift-giving (this is pretty much what pertains on Christmas day.) Scholars surmise that when the Roman Empire finally adopted Christianity, the birth of Christ was celebrated on the last day of the Saturnalia festivities in a bid to weaken the roots of the pagan tradition.

If we accept the veracity of Christmas carols, then we have to grapple with this anomaly: Sheep don’t graze in winter, so how could shepherds have been watching their flock by night in the dead of winter?

For what it’s worth, it’s healthy to debate the tenets of religion and question our faith. How else would we grow if not by engaging in intellectual jousting? Moreover, I don’t care if Christmas is celebrated on the 1st of February or 28th of September, because the date doesn't matter. Besides, I’m certain Emmanuel wouldn’t care when we celebrated it either. What I think would matter to Him (and should matter to us) is that we embody the Spirit of the Season (whenever it may be) all year round, which means taking the first step where love doesn’t exist and giving love away only so we can find it.

Merry Christmas everyone!!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Rest in Peace, Mandela...


   …and a dove has been freed from its cage.  
Photo: Corbis
Mandela will remain etched in our collective memory as a symbol of persistence, tolerance and peace.  

Born in a country where he was considered a second class citizen by the white minority; a land where he and many others like him were robbed of human dignity; a place that would rob him of 27 years of his life, it’s a wonder he still had love for the people and the country that had treated him terribly for 71 years.

If he’d left jail with a vindictive heart, no one would have faulted him for feeling that way. If he’d decided to rule South Africa until his death, many people would have supported his claim to the throne since he sacrificed his life for his people and country. But being the man Mandela was, he didn't let his ego get the best of him. Instead, he chose a path only few of us would follow considering the enormous adversity he encountered.

Mandela: Paragon of Unity and Tolerance
Photo: sabc.co.za

Mandela is revered because he brought a bitterly divided country together. He didn't demonize the white minority or his transgressors, but worked at ensuring equality for all. Essentially, he envisioned South Africa as a nation that could rise from its dark past and become a paragon of tolerance.

A quote by Tony Robbins reads, “Everybody's life is either a warning or an example. You've got to decide what you're gonna be and you have to draw a line in the sand”. There’s no doubt about the choice Mandela made regarding his life which is an example to be followed by all of us, especially our politicians and leaders. We need to focus our energy on fighting for collective rights rather than personal interests; for equality between races and sexes rather than dwelling on our differences, because we’re more alike than unalike.

As the world pays tribute to a hero, it’s my prayer that we, with special reference to world leaders, reflect on the life he led and strive to emulate him in his actions. We need to remember that - to quote Mandela - it’s in our hands to create a better world for all who live in it.

Rest in Peace Nelson Mandela…

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Hair Thing Part Two

“…And if you have braids on, take them out before your interview.”

This is what I was told by a relative days before I was scheduled to attend a job interview. If that comment had come from the lips of a non-black person, it would be tagged racist, no questions asked. My response to that comment was silence. This is my default mode when someone makes a senseless comment pertaining to me, especially when I've made up my mind on an issue, because there’s no point expending energy arguing over a fait accompli.

Why should I have to take out my 1 day-old braids, which by the way took 3 hours of my life to make, just because I was going to be interviewed by Caucasians? Even if I wasn't feeling the little discomfort that accompanies new braids and they were a year old, I still wouldn't have taken them off! Why should I have to take them off at all? Are they unprofessional? Too black? Were they going to scare the interviewers, and risk my not getting the job? Or were they going to make me forget my lines? Suffice it to say, I kept the braids and got the job.
Solange Knowles rocking a stylish Afro
Photo: Denise Truscello/WireImage
Are we Africans suffering from an identity crisis? Have we gotten so used to bone-straight weaves and wavy wigs that we don’t have any recollection of what our real hair feels and looks like? Are we ashamed of braids that are authentically African and Afros that are audaciously bold?

Speaking of Afros, last week, I decided to take my natural hair for a test drive. To bring you up to speed, I cut my hair late January and braided it throughout the transitioning period. Now I have an Afro that’s all black and healthy and dense. Anyway, back to my test driving story - I decided for a week that I was going to wear an Afro, as I had been itching to practice some of the hair jujitsu tricks I’d seen on YouTube.

So with a little bit of apprehension and a truckload of excitement, I braved the new week with my coiffed, natural hair. Of course, I didn't just settle for a plain, ol’ Afro, which to me is tantamount to having a plain vanilla ice-cream, I had it stylishly coiled to give it that extra oomph.

Some people weren't thrilled by my new coiffure and thought I was nuts (I could tell from the stares); others, like my colleagues, loved it. Either way, I didn't care a fig about their opinions because I loved it and felt confident, plus I got a compliment from Mother Dearest which, by the way, weighs more than any compliment anyone could ever shower!! However, I was somewhat amused by the reaction I received because I didn't think it was that much of a deal. I guess it’s because too few of us wear our hair natural anymore that it’s become something of a curiosity.

I understand the reason most African women or women of African descent wear weaves, wigs and retouch their hair, because taking care of our natural hair isn't a walk in the park. Case in point, my hair type is 4c, which means it’s tightly coiled, highly susceptible to breaking, and torturous to comb when dry, but that hasn't discouraged me from letting my hair grow wild and free. In essence, I've have dropped the mentality that my kinky hair is a messy, recalcitrant cross I have to bear. 

My advice to Africans and people of African descent is this: Be proud of your Afros, dreadlocks and braids. Don’t subscribe to the narrow-minded view of the beauty industry that beautiful hair can only be long, soft and straight. Beautiful hair can also be short, stubborn and fabulously nappy. And if someone is scared of your natty hairstyle, just know that they are certifiable, because it’s just hair.


PS: Before anyone starts thinking I’m growing an Afro to make a political statement, or trying to be trendy, or simply going against the grain, let me reiterate that I’m not. I’m simply giving my hair a much needed break while I fall in love (all over again) with my nappy, natural and recalcitrant hair… 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Dear Aviation Minister

Dear Aviation Minister,

I was at the International airport (if we can call it that) in Lagos last month, and I can’t say anything has improved since the last time I passed through. There are still a lot of hangers-on albeit dressed in customs/immigration uniforms asking travellers irrelevant questions like – “Where are you travelling to?”, “Where do you work?”, “Are you carrying any money?” As if these senseless questions aren't annoying enough, they waste your precious time flipping through your passport to ascertain the number of visas in it. Is this what they're paid to do?

When officers spend their time asking irrelevant questions, one shouldn't expect them to be mindful of their actual duties. For instance, I was informed my visa hadn't been verified at the boarding gate, even though I had passed the immigration officer whose duty it was to do just that; I was made to wait for the entire queue to pass through the gate before being attended to. The delay was irksome for obvious reasons, but also because all the seats at the gate had been taken by the time I was granted access. As an aside, can more seats be added to accommodate travellers?

Incidentally, why can't more luggage scanners be installed? I'd rather have those than people violating my suitcase with their hands while asking, “Anything for me?” In addition, why inconvenience travellers donning slippers and sandals by asking they remove their footwear, even though their feet are in full glare of the public. Isn't this a waste of time?

For the past 2-3 years or even more, Murtala Muhammed Airport has been undergoing a series of renovation, but I'm confused as to what renovations are being made: carousels are still rickety, the airport hasn't been expanded to adequately accommodate daily traffic, and there’s that one little escalator leading to the ground floor, which you'd be lucky to find working. Essentially, what I saw last year, and two years before that, still remains, so what improvements are being made?

I could advise that you travel the globe to get some inspiration from modern airports, but that would be redundant since Nigerian ministers always have reasons to travel abroad. So my question is this: what’s holding you back from actually doing a good job? Why are you short-changing Nigerians? Is it really that difficult to summon a group of engineers and architects to design and build a 21st century airport? 

I beseech you, on behalf of Nigerians, to do what’s necessary. Stop slapping on Band-Aid, because it’s pretty obvious that’s not working, and transform the airport into what’s expected of an oil-rich country – Dubai airport anyone?

Yours sincerely,

A disgruntled Nigerian citizen.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Random Thoughts from a Wandering Mind

As the heading of this post suggests, these are just random thoughts, so there isn't any rhyme or reason to this entry. It's all a topsy-turvy.
  • Why do we destroy forests and desecrate water bodies all in the name of development, yet we somehow want to breathe fresh air, lounge on beautiful beaches and point at dolphins? In Africa, people are tirelessly working day and night to poach rhinos and elephants out of existence - the very animals that could yield enormous revenue from tourism, just so a few men can pocket peanuts and someone in Asia can admire their bloody ivory carvings. 
  • African leaders love to spend their time in developed countries, but it boggles my mind as to why they can't fix theirs to look just like those countries they seem to love. Is it really that difficult to sit, think, plan and act?
  • America and France, where the Statues of Liberty stand tall as a beacon of freedom, aren't really free except for a certain demographic. There’s enough prejudice and discrimination to make Lady Liberty weep, lower her torch and walk away. We hear a lot about fraternité, liberté et égalité, but do they exist in the country that espouses this notion? I’m not sure minorities in the banlieues are feeling the love. Likewise, isn't it ironic that America, a country seemingly synonymous with freedom, is the world’s biggest jailer?
  • What makes it permissible for some countries to do pursue certain policies, but not for others? Why are some countries allowed to possess nuclear bombs and others aren't? Why does America, the only country that was foolhardy enough to use an atomic bomb, have the right to decide which country should and shouldn't possess WMDs? The world sat back and watched while America invaded Iraq, but when Iraq invaded Kuwait all hell broke loose. What makes one invasion right and the other wrong?
  • Some men love to think that women are beneath them and have no place in the work environment, but they're quick to forget that a woman gave birth to them and nursed them. Incidentally, why are women their own worst enemy? Instead of those in power to coach and mentor their underlings, they'd rather make their working life a hellish experience. If women don't support one another, gender equality will remain elusive regardless of how great the support we receive from men.
  • We thought technology was going to bring us closer to one another, but somehow we've further drifted apart than ever before. We now have more virtual friends (than real friends) whose opinions matter more to us.
  • Food is meant to be for nourishment, but man with his evolved brain has managed to turn it into some poisonous gunk. In the not so distant past, people ate to live; now people live to eat themselves to death.
Life is fraught with contradictions and ironies, and the way I see it, we humans are only too happy to keep it that way.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Dubai

I finally got the chance to actually visit Dubai after making several touchdowns at the airport on transit. It was a lovely place to visit, although it was hellishly hot! It was impossible to walk for more than 5 minutes outside without desperately seeking shelter from the sun, and to make matters worse there are no trees on the pavements to provide shade. Luckily for me, my hotel was next door to the metro, so I didn't get fried.
Desert Safari
Photo Credit: Shayera
Concrete jungle
Photo Credit: Shayera
In my opinion, Dubai isn't impressive. It’s a city without a soul, and by this I mean it could pass for any other concrete jungle in the world. Without the Burj Khalifa and Burj Al Arab, you could mistake the place for Doha or even Singapore sans the desert and extreme heat. There’s nothing distinctive that announces Dubai to you.

In addition, the shopping experience was nothing to write home about either. With large shopping malls housing several European and American stores, I was disappointed they had very little to offer. Funnily enough, I spent more time walking than shopping due to the mall’s vastness.
Shot of Burj Khalifa from my taxi
Photo Credit: Shayera
The City of Light?
Photo Credit: Shayera
Ventilation vent - it was surprisingly cool in the hut
Photo Credit: Shayera
On the upside, I loved the city tour and desert safari that ended in a camp where we feasted on traditional Middle Eastern food, while being entertained by dancers. It wasn't the most comfortable seating arrangement, but I like that I was briefly transported to a different period. I also visited the museum which showcased life before the discovery of oil, and was amazed at the efficacy of the ventilation system they built to keep their homes cool in the oppressive, desert heat.
The camp where I feasted
Photo Credit: Shayera
Needless to say, I am impressed with how Dubai transformed itself from a desolate desert to a tourist attraction in a few short years. It’s the perfect example of the importance of a visionary leader, and proves that without one, a country will remain in lost in the dark. 

Saturday, August 10, 2013

We Are Human Beings... Not Crayons.

Recently, there have been several online articles online describing Oprah’s encounter with racism at an upscale store in Switzerland. For the benefit of those not familiar with what happened, here’s the story: Oprah was at Trois Pommes when a $38,000 Tom Ford crocodile handbag caught her eye. She then asked the shop assistant to view the bag, but to her surprise, the assistant said it was too expensive for her, and being the ‘helpful’ assistant that she was proceeded to show Oprah other bags she could ‘afford’.

Oprah still not satisfied asked the shop assistant to view the Tom Ford bag. Again, the shop assistant insisted the bag was too expensive for her. After her third request and the assistant’s refusal to grant it, Oprah left the store.

Now, I'm not sure I'd have handled the situation as coolly as Oprah did, since the shop assistants attitude was obnoxious and racist.

How can one judge the ability of a person to purchase an item (or their ability to do anything for that matter) based on the amount of melanin in their skin? Skin pigmentation doesn't influence wealth, behavior or intelligence in any way, so it’s surprising that people would make assumptions based on it. For example, in Nigeria, when someone walks into an office they automatically assume the sole non-black person (regardless of their physical appearance) is the boss, and immediately proceed to relay their message. I'm not sure why some people have this mentality, but something tells me that they believe the person should have all the answers by virtue of having a different skin color.

The second example I find slightly sickening as I don't understand why anyone should sheepishly condone gratuitous rudeness by virtue of their race. I’ve noticed, on occasion, some Nigerians being rudely spoken to by foreigners (and by foreigners, I mean non-blacks), and happily swallowing it. I suppose it’s the master-slave mentality that makes them cower in fear or defer to foreigners. However, if a fellow Nigerian or black person were to act or say exactly the same things that were spoken by the foreigner, I promise you there'll be hell to pay. 

Just for the record, I do not brook insolence from anyone regardless of your physiognomy.

Sadly, in Africa and Asia, people have been brainwashed into thinking that validation and acceptance come from looking Caucasian or possessing Caucasian features. Consequently, people are bleaching their skins with harmful chemicals and undergoing surgery to alter the shape of their noses and add folds to their eyelids. But just how far do these alterations actually go to adding value to one’s life? Would they make you any smarter, richer, wiser or more acceptable? My theory is that: If you can't fix what is inside you that’s making you feel inferior, no outward alteration will ever make you feel good about yourself.

We are not the color of our skin, and shouldn’t be judged or treated differently for the amount of melanin our skin produces. Pinning someone’s worth as a human being on the skin color is shallow and dehumanizing. If anything, judgment should be based on the content of one’s character. 

Now, to the shop assistant and to people who think like her, here’s a piece of advice from En Vouge: Free your mind... Be color-blind, don’t be so shallow.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

To Politicians Policing Sexuality: Get Off that Lane

The House of Representatives in Nigeria recently passed a bill outlawing homosexuality, making homosexual acts punishable by a 14-year prison term. Furthermore, gay clubs and organisations supporting gay rights will be banned.

I’m not sure why they thought passing such a bill at this point in time was of utmost importance, especially since there are so many other pressing issues that need their immediate attention. I guess it’s easier for them to work on irrelevant, non-issues than on real ones, like ensuring quality healthcare and stable power supply for all Nigerians.

Threatening homosexuals with jail term or throwing them into prisons isn't going to scare them straight. If anything, it’s only going to put more pressure on the already overcrowded prison facilities, with the rest going on to marry unknowing heterosexuals, only to surprise their partners some years down the line with their sexuality. True story: it happened to Terry McMillan, author of the novel, How Stella Got Her Groove Back. I’m pretty sure no one wants to be in her shoes.

Politicians make it sound like being gay is a choice. Well, it isn't, at least that’s my belief, because if it were people wouldn't willingly endure harassment and discrimination for the sake of it. Some Christians are quick to quote biblical passages condemning homosexuality, saying that God can’t possibly condone it.

Granted, the Holy book does condemn it, but there are so many other deeds the Bible also condemns - deeds like tattooing one’s body and shaving one’s side burns that most people nowadays find acceptable. Therefore, it would be too dangerous to take the Bible literally since we can’t say for certain what is sanctioned by God and what is sanctioned by man.

If the Nigerian government insists on taking the moral high ground, then it should abolish bribery and corruption, because, unlike homosexuality that affects no one, bribery and corruption is the bane of every Nigerian. In a country where half the population lives on less than a dollar a day, it's incumbent on the government to focus on alleviating poverty instead of focusing on red herrings, like what Tom and Jerry, or Thelma and Louis, may be up to when the lights are out.

Update: Nigerian President, Goodluck Jonathan, signed the bill criminalizing homosexuality into law early January, 2014. Marriage certificates recognized elsewhere by same-sex couples will be considered null and void in Nigeria.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Why 'One Size Fits All' Doesn't Work

I've just finished reading the novel Americanah by Chimamanda Adichie (very riveting, and if you haven't read it, grab a copy), and it got me thinking about subject matters I'd thought about, but never really, really paid attention to. One of them was what it means to be black and if at all, we as a race (I use that word lightly as it’s not a scientific term, but a social construct) see the world in a similar fashion, or even share the same experiences.

In the last 6 months of my stay in the UK, I lived with a black, British roommate originally from Zambia. She was as tall and dark-skinned like me, but that’s as far as our similarities went. Since we were both black, we engaged in several conversations concerning black people without any inhibitions, and it was during one of our many conversations that she mentioned, almost as a fact, that men, especially Caucasian men, don't find dark-skinned, black women attractive.

Now, on that point, I begged to differ since I've had totally different experiences, and I pointed out to her that most people’s choices are based on their preferences. For instance, I prefer guys with dark features, but that’s not to say that I would completely write off the good-natured, blond-haired-blue-eyed guy or the light-skinned, black guy because they didn't fit my 'complexion' criteria. However, if I had to make a choice between two guys with the same personality, but one was light complexioned and the other dark, I'd definitely choose the dark guy. No offence to the light-skinned guys, but like I said, it’s a preference; a quirky preference not discrimination.

My flatmate also had the impression that my being black had something to do with the difficulty I experienced trying to get a graduate job. Needless to say, I didn't share her views, and opined that since the economy was in the doldrums, the British government would be more apt to ensure its citizens were given priority over non- British/EU applicants, and in such a case, she was more likely to get the job than me if we both applied for the same position.

There’s a common belief held by some blacks and non-blacks that all black people are similar culturally and otherwise, and therefore would be offended by the same slight. Case in point, comments or jokes made about black people loving chicken and watermelon. 

Recently, a non-black pro golfer, Sergio Garcia, made a joke about inviting Tiger Woods over to dinner and serving him fried chicken, which then prompted Woods to chastise him for making a "racist" joke. Honestly, I've never really understood why some black people, especially African-Americans, get riled up about chicken and watermelon jokes. If someone made a joke to me about chicken or watermelon, it wouldn't offend me one bit because (a) I’m not particularly gung-ho about either, and (b) there's nothing wrong with associating certain foods with a particular group. Look at the French and their love of fromage, or the Vodka-swigging Russians. I don't hear them complaining.

Similarly, there’s that obscene, almost unholy, word that arguably no black person ever wants to hear spoken or whispered by a non-black person - the word being nigger. Personally, I've never been called a nigger, and I’m not sure how I'd react if I'm ever called that word. Who knows? I may react to it the way I would if someone were to show the sole of their shoes to me - which is to do absolutely nothing (by the way, showing the sole of your feet/shoes is a grave insult in the Middle East); or I may react the way I would if someone grabbed my derriere - which is to raise hell. 

Of course, it would be remiss of me to suggest people not get offended by that word, especially since black slaves were called niggers on a daily basis, and it was one of the last words a black person heard before they were lynched. However, as an African whose ancestors were not slaves, I'm ambivalent about how to react to the word nigger.

As a racial group (again I use the word 'race' lightly), I think it's fair to say we all have our unique experiences and view life through different prisms. Therefore, to assume that all black people should/would feel the same way about something, or conform to a certain way of thinking because they’re African or of African descent, diminishes us as a people. Besides, what offends Tom and Harry might not necessarily offend Dick (even though Dick might be annoyed on behalf of his friends) because as the saying goes, different strokes for different folks.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

In Nigeria, You're on Your Own

I was rudely reminded a few days ago that in Nigeria you're truly on your own in terms of the Nigerian government not being in the business of providing assistance to its citizens.

On arriving at Murtala Mohammed airport, I proceeded to the Arik check in counter for my boarding pass. In a bid to present my ID and ticket, I placed my laptop bag (containing my laptop and some documents) on the metallic platform attached to the counter so I could search my handbag with my free hand. Just as I was about presenting the documents to the lady at the counter, she advised that I move to the next counter as she was presently occupied. So I moved to the next counter, but forgot to take my laptop with me, and it wasn't until I arrived at the metal detectors that I realized I'd abandoned it on the counter.

Immediately, I made a quick dash to the counter, and to my consternation it was gone! In a matter of less than 5 minutes! What still baffles me is the time frame within which the incident happened.

I asked all the so-called security men patrolling the check-in counter if they'd seen it, and of course they said they hadn't. I asked if there were security cameras, but again they answered in the negative. In actuality, there are cameras in the airport, but like most things Nigerian, they weren't functional. As I stood there trying to comprehend why the cameras weren't working, someone advised that I speak with the NAA (Nigeria Airport Authority) representative stationed by the airport door.

At that point, I had lost all hope of recovering the laptop. 

After narrating my ordeal to the NAA rep, I asked if she could make an announcement for the missing laptop, but she balked. Even after my boss suggested that a reward would be offered and no questions asked if the laptop bag and its contents were returned, she still refused to make the announcement. Her reason being it would paint the airport in a bad light. As if that reason wasn't ludicrous enough, some security officer stupidly said that it was impossible to lose a laptop in the airport. In essence, he meant we were looking for something that didn't exist. Really?? Like we didn't have better things to do other than look for a laptop that wasn't really missing?!

Needless to say, after talking to all those who could have supposedly helped, the laptop still wasn't found before I boarded my flight. Although I filled out a complaint form before departing, I know there's not a snowball's chance in hell of recovering the laptop and the documents.

Going back to my first point about the Nigerian government not providing assistance, wouldn't it be in the best interest of everyone in the airport for the security cameras to work? What if it were a bomb I had placed on the counter? Isn't it strange that none of the so-called security men patrolling the counters called me back to pick up my property? The NAA should be ashamed of trying to paint a picture of a safe, functioning airport when in fact it isn't.

Update: Three weeks after the ordeal, a colleague of mine received a call informing her that the missing laptop and documents had been found. I was astonished to say the least. I guess miracles do happen.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Hair Thing Part One

Before I proceed with the rest of my entry, let me state a basic fact about hair: its composition is 97% keratin (same protein found in our nails and the horns of rhinos) and 3% moisture. And it is dead. Yes, dead! So isn't it a little bizarre that we humans spend so much time, money, emotions and energy on something that's essentially lifeless? Well, not really, considering it is one of the first things people notice about you, just like your clothes. And like clothes, people make all kinds of assessments and judgments on one's suitability for a job position, social status, educational level, and so forth. Therefore, putting some effort and energy into ensuring one's hair is properly groomed isn't a crazy idea at all.

Members of the fairer sex (you know, the ones who spend countless hours a year deciding hairstyles) tend to take the hair issue more seriously, and rightly so, because society judges them more harshly on the state of their hair than the opposite sex. Besides, it's been ingrained in our psyche that a woman's hair is her crown of glory, so it stands to reason that all resources available be mobilized in ensuring the crown is well maintained, preserved and beautifully presented.

Speaking of presentation, African women and those of African descent have been known to spend hours getting their hair done and truckloads of money on hair extensions and hair products than their Caucasian and Asian counterparts. On the surface (judging by the number of Africans who wear hair extensions) it may seem we're on a quest to look less African and more Caucasian. Critics of the hair extension trend among African women have berated them for being ashamed of their natural hair and denying their African identity. But is the accusation fair? I think not. 

Of course, it would be remiss of me to deny that there are some African women who want nothing to do with looking African, and would bleach their skin and do whatever was necessary to look white. However, for the majority of us, wearing hair extensions and straightening our hair has less to do with denying our African identity and more to do with convenience and style-update - convenience in the sense that straightened hair is more malleable and easier to style than is tightly coiled hair, and style-update in the sense that one could tire of wearing a particular coiffure. In addition, wearing hair extensions offers one’s hair some respite from constant styling thereby preventing breakage.

How an individual decides to wear their hair and what a person decides to do with it should not be a topic for debate. Hair is just another accessory that can be bought and manipulated to suit one’s taste. It shouldn't be an identity marker; neither should it be used as some sort of personality/psychological test to judge the character or frame of mind of a person. For what it’s worth, the way one wears one's hair is a form of expression and creativity. What does hair mean to you?