Tuesday 23 September 2014

A Celebration of Blogs and Life, which is a Woman Breaking Eggs : 300th blog entry

Hello folks, all who stop by here.  Today I am celebrating my 300th blog entry with a very special guest post from  a very special poet and blogger - Adura Ojo.  I came across her poetry/writing about two years ago, from the Romantic Friday Writers website and her own blog. Her writing spoke to me because I too, like her, straddle different cultures and continents, and because I did a bit of my growing up in Nigeria, where her roots lie. She has a unique and forthright voice, with the characteristic lyrical lilt of West Africa.  

Here she talks about life as an immigrant and 'minority other', the identity issues we struggle with, and her debut poetry collection - Life is a Woman Breaking Eggs.

Over to you Adura, the page is yours. 

What ‘Life*’ Taught Me about Identity & the Immigrant Experience

First I’d like to say thank you, Nilanjana for giving me the opportunity to guest post on your blog and to meet your readers. My name is Adura Ojo. I am a blogger, poet and writer. Recently I published my poetry book:  Life is a Woman Breaking Eggs.  I’m British-Nigerian. I wanted ‘Life*’ to reflect my identity and how I see the world.  This was important to me because of life events that helped shape the individual I had become. One of these is the immigrant experience – my main focus in this post.

Life in Nigeria

My parents took me back to Nigeria when I was three. I lived in Nigeria for eighteen years, so a major part of my formative years was spent there up to my first degree and graduation.  Identity was never an issue. It was a given. My ethnic group – Yoruba – is one of the three major ethnic groups in Nigeria.  I doubt that most of us ever question the ease with which we live in our various countries of origin. Whether you are Indian or Nigerian, you go about your daily business with relative ease. A conversation with the customer service assistant at the post office is not a hassle because you understand each other’s language, local names and use of English.

Life in the UK

One of the things that exasperated me the most when I came back to live in the UK was the need to always have to spell my name. It was a never ending ritual. It was a constant reminder that I was the other. Other experiences included being ignored, not being served, people twisting what you said, pretending to misunderstand what you said, being given an instruction repeatedly though you’ve done nothing that clearly shows that you misunderstood the instruction, - and the one that’s really hard to stomach - people taking your idea as theirs. (Presumably their ears took a vacation when you spoke!) Dealing with one’s experience as the ‘minority other’ can be traumatic. It can leave the individual feeling alienated, unappreciated, frustrated and angry. I experienced all of these emotions as portrayed in ‘The Museum’, ‘Say My Name’, ‘Eggs Crack Easy’ and ‘Zebra Crossing*.’ Racism compounds the diaspora experience because it gives the oppressor power to stigmatize a group of people who are already feeling alienated. 

What ‘Life’* Taught Me

Identity is one of those fundamental needs that define humanity. It can also produce conflicts within the individual. The diaspora experience is one of those conflicts, in particular the immigrant experience. Having lived in Nigeria until I was 21, I found myself declared an ‘immigrant’ in my land of birth. British institutions and way of life were strange to me. It seemed like the system was designed to keep me out rather than welcome me in. It took years of grit and determination to not drown in a sea of frustration and alienation. Holding on to my core identity sustained me and provided a shield against the trauma of being a minority other.

As I held on to my Nigerian identity, I also opened up to what I liked about British-ness. The poem ‘French’ was a revelation to me. It was a reflection on my experiences while on holiday in Morocco. I was so irate, so righteously indignant and arrogant that no one in the Moroccan restaurant spoke English! It made me realize how proud I was of my British identity. – That I am as fiercely proud to be British as I am to be Nigerian; and though the winter months alienate my soul and racism still rears its ugly head occasionally, nothing changes the fact I am British. A lot of my humour is British and I share the dark humour that comes with being British. I am Nigerian because it is my soul. It is how I breathe, eat, stand with my hands on my waist and form the words out of my mouth. The biggest lesson from my experience of being ‘the minority other’ is the importance of holding on to one’s core. No matter what happens in the dominant wider society, what keeps a human being sane is their core. Not recognizing or appreciating one’s core identity can be traumatic and in extreme cases contribute to a mental breakdown.  What keeps me whole is my identity – all of it. My identity is the sum total of what I accept and what I reject. It is a source of comfort.  More than two decades later, I don’t mind spelling my name. I would like it though if people would just say my name before asking me to spell it.

*The book, Life is a Woman breaking eggs is also referred to as ‘Life.’

*The Museum, Say My Name, Eggs Crack Easy, Zebra Crossing and French are all poems in the book: Life is a Woman Breaking Eggs.

Life is a Woman Breaking Eggs is available on Amazon Kindle in most countries.

Adura Ojo is a British-Nigerian author, poet, blogger and a mother of two. She is the author of Life is a Woman Breaking Eggs, her debut poetry collection. She graduated in English Studies at the University of Ibadan. She later bagged degrees in Law and Social Work in the UK. She has professional experience in varied employment roles as lecturer, trainer and mental health practitioner. Her poems have been published in Sentinel Champions, Sentinel Nigeria, The Poetic Pinup Revue, and a number of websites. She lives in the UK where she is currently working on her debut novel and a second poetry collection.

Follow Adura Ojo:

‘Like’ her author page: https://www.facebook.com/aduraojoauthor

My thanks to Adura for that very interesting and insightful post. (And boy, does spelling out names resonate with me or what?!)  My own feeling is that as the planet becomes smaller and rounder, learning to integrate, assimilate and let diverse 'others' enrich not just the minorities but also the majority will continue to be relevant. 

If you have travelled or lived in cultures other than your own, then I/we would love to hear your take. 


  1. Hi Adura - I so relate to what you're saying .. despite being English and obviously so. I see what's going on in our country ... sadly some people are bigoted, and uneducated, selfish and unaware ...

    I worked with East European countries back in the 1970s .. so was able to pronounce names; and when I went to South Africa to travel ... then learning more names - helped enormously. I still speak no other language - but I always ask 'how do you pronounce your name' if I can't get it ..and I ask to spell it - because then I learn and might remember.

    My name is spelt wrongly quite often, it's now Hilary with one L ... because Hillary Clinton has two!!

    Sadly people don't want to learn, or be educated ... thankfully many of us do ... I always asked around the nurses when my mother was in hospital, and I still ask people if they've come from foreign shores ...

    And my blog unintentionally has actually taught me a great deal and educated me as I write the posts ...

    Interesting to know more about you both .. and yes I too straddle different cultures to a point - at least having lived abroad in South Africa, and having visited Europe and the Americas (not much) .. I can see and understand the differences and relate ... such a 'helpful tool to own' ...

    Loved the post ... so good to read ... cheers Hilary

    1. Hi Hilary,
      Nice to see you here. I think it helps to travel and learn about other cultures. We all would be able to this in an ideal world but the internet also helps a great deal these days. It's often the case that human beings are fearful about what they don't know much about, hence the bigotry. Like you said people don't want to learn though it's so easy to. What I find quite often is that people don't even try to pronounce my name at all. It would be nice to have more people like you who at least try. I'm glad you enjoyed the post. Lets hope that as the world continues to condense into one global village, some of these lazy attitudes would disappear. It certainly would make life easier for people like me. Thanks, Hilary for being here and adding your voice. I love your name with the single L. Funny... I thought Hillary with the double L was spelt incorrectly! Hmmm...lol.

    2. Hi both,

      As Sir Edmund Hillary's name is spelled with a double L I had this weird impression that the male version was double L and feminine usage was single, till quite late in life, probably my late teens or maybe twenties :)) I don't really know how or when it got corrected.

      As you say, Adura the internet helps a lot. Many people are open minded about cultural assimilation, about the accents and usage of English say, among non-native speakers. But there are others who are quite rigid and dismissive too, and that group though small can be very vocal and very nasty to anyone that they feel is an 'outsider' and that's not only in the western cultures unfortunately, it's a global phenomenon.

    3. I know what you mean about non-native speakers, Nilanjana. I have observed them on social media.

  2. Hi Nilanjana! Thank you so much for your kindness and generosity. So honoured to be here. Happy 'blogoversary!' Here's to another 300 posts. Cheers, dear!

    1. Thank you Adura for the wishes. Very happy to have you here. I was going to quote some (Sanskrit!!) verses to elaborate, but then thought better of it ;) You know what I mean anyways.

    2. Awww...I would love to read your Sanskrit quotes. I do know what you mean, Nila:)

  3. Hello Adura,
    Happy to connect with you,thanks to Nilanjana Bose,she and I were together for about 2 years of our senior school.I arrived from another school and we barely interacted and it is only thanks to facebook that I connected with her through her blog and poetry.She writes beautifully. And today when I read your post,I could completely connect to her reason of becoming extremely fond of your words and writing style.
    You are brilliant,saying it all,so effectively and simply with all the right punches.
    Hope our paths keep crossing and I hope to some day soon get your book and read it,the title has intrigued me :)

    1. Hi Mamta, It's a pleasure to meet you. I too have admired Nila's writing for a few years. At some point during our acquaintance, she told me she'd spent some of her childhood in Nigeria. I was speechless. I'm encouraged by your kind words, Mamta. Glad the title has intrigued you and hope you get the book and enjoy reading. All the best to you. Lets keep in touch. Adura xo

  4. Hi lovely ladies! Such an interesting post, Adura. Easy to see why there are so many disenfranchised people in our world today. The mainstream just never get it. Not that everyone is at fault, but the institutions just love to exclude people because of their ethnicity. It breaks my heart to see the way Australia treats desperate refugees. I'm afraid we're going to pay for it big time.
    Meanwhile, Adura, all the best for your book. I hope you hang in there and wait it out. Sales may be slow for awhile, but they will continue.

    Thanks Nilanjana for hosting Adura. You are lovely people.


    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Hey Denise,
      I hear you on Australia. Australia is a beautiful country with so much potential. Sadly it is beginning to deal with issues that Britain and the US have been dealing with for decades and still do not have a handle on. One can only hope it would not take Australia as long. Self pub takes time to yield like you said. I'm enjoying the learning process though it's hard work. You, lovely lady are the most beautiful, generous and open-minded Aussie I've come across. I had a couple of close encounters in the past that were not positive (one was a tutor on my social work masters course, who was jaw-dropping racist when he spoke about Native Australians...Aboriginals. I was traumatised by his attitude because I'm a little more sensitive to people's social attitudes. It left me wondering what the hell someone like him was doing teaching a social work course! But I'm not one to judge people by their country of origin. I judge by attitudes. I can't count the number of times I've had to caution friends and relatives who are prejudiced in their views about other races. You, Denise, are as respectful of diversity as any one of my favourite people.

    3. How to include/assimilate those who think only their way is right and everything else is wrong, and all differences must be settled by violence?

      That is the toughest issue for all of us, whether individually or as societies.

      This discussion is branching into so many endlessly interesting directions. Thanks for your inputs, ladies. So very pleased to have you both here.

  5. Thank you for connecting the dots Nila :). Adura I can truly empathize with you. Have lived in many countries including 3 in east africa - uganda, kenya and tanzania. Now I am based in canada...name is one subject but just local vocab can be a challenge e.g bonnet & boot in one country and hood & trunk..in the other..I can never remember which is which and people always laugh at me and ask 'are you a FOB' (fresh off the boat)? one wonders if the melting cauldron or global village are a myth as we have no sensitivity, patience or acceptance of someone other than our own? And then again I feel so happy and content and special as I am a world citizen and they are not..for I know it is aluminium in the UK and aloominum(just trying to write the way it is said here) in Canada..and I can speak 4 languages in a sentence and many others can't..pole sana (so sorry in kiswahili)

    1. Hi Riki,

      It is interesting to hear your take on this, having experienced the diversity of cultures. Local vocab differences can lead to funny or awkward situations at times. Like you, I find it more productive to focus on the positive aspects of the cultures I'm exposed to rather than dwell on problems. Though this can sometimes be a long or painful/traumatic process depending on the person's circumstances. You can speak four languages...I'm envious:)

    2. Entirely my pleasure, Riki :) agree that the positive bits are for keeps and the negativity is for the garbage dump.

      Sadly, I find that language skills erode with disuse and age, I knew some Hausa as a child, which I now have lost (except that I can still count to 10!) So I can count in 6 languages now. Yeah! Dil ke behlane ke liye Ghalib yahi khayal accha hai. (loosely paraphrased to good note to quit on ) :D