Sometimes, I Tie Gélé is a story about identity, insecurities and the need to belong. We follow Sophie “Soso” Badmus on her personal quest to make sense of these things.
All scriptures mentioned in this post were taken from the New Living Translation unless indicated otherwise.
Read “Sometimes, I Tie Gélé – The Prelude” HERE.
Read “Sometimes, I Tie Gélé – Part One” HERE.
Psalm 63 verse 1 to 5
A psalm of David, regarding a time when David was in the wilderness of Judah.
O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water. I have seen you in your sanctuary and gazed upon your power and glory. Your unfailing love is better than life itself; how I praise you! I will praise you as long as I live, lifting up my hands to you in prayer. You satisfy me more than the richest feast. I will praise you with songs of joy.
Genesis 1 verse 27
So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them male and female he created them.
ARIYA OLOJO IBI ~ BIRTHDAY PARTY
Sophie to the Camera – Vlog Entry from inside her Roober Taxi:
On my way to Aunty Peckham’s shop to drop off the stuff that she made me buy for her in Nigeria – A WHOLE SUITCASE just for her! And to think that she was in Nigeria for the wedding too! I’ll never understand! Thank God for my dad’s house staff who helped me because I have no idea what half these things are. Hopefully when she sees her things she’ll be in the mood to help me with my research today.
Popularly known as Aunty Peckham, Teniola was Bankole’s younger sister who lived and owned a business in the South London town. Her business of choice was a large beauty supply store and an adjoining hair salon called “Teni’s Touch” – it was the only black owned beauty supply store on the high-street and Aunty Peckham was extremely proud of that and made it her mission to train as many local teens and young adults on how to become honest successful business owners. Most of the local children got their first job at her store, she was always hiring even if she did not have a position available. Her life rule was “idle hands start looking for trouble if they aren’t working” and for this reason she offered so many opportunities to those who needed them. She was the unofficial mayor of the high street; nobody messed with her – ever!
“Soso! Look at your skin, so fresh, looking like a true Lagosian. You’ve even gotten darker. Omo dudu!” Aunty Peckham laughed when she called Sophie “Black Child” while she tugged at Sophie’s arms admiring her tan as if they had not seen each other just two weeks prior.
When people heard “Aunty Peckham” they often imagined her to be a tall and large woman, but when they met her they were very shocked. Aunty Peckham was tiny at five feet and three inches and was incredibly slim for a mother of six. Her skin tone was reminiscent of very light tanned leather, so light that one would doubt she and Bankole were even related. She wore the finest weaves and wigs and of course she dressed very well; the only things that could remotely tie her to being a Peckham merchant were her FaceNorth fleece hoody, Tim B. boots and a high street woolly cap that she kept on in the winter months or her silk headscarf, cute summer dresses and house style flip-flops in the warmer months.
“Hello aunty!” Sophie hugged her aunt and offloaded her suitcase of goods. “Here are your things.”
“Omo dada! Good child. God bless you. Thank you. SMALL BISI!! Come and take this to my car.” Sophie laughed when her aunt called for Bisi, because she was the only Bisi left working at her shop since Big Bisi left years ago, but everyone still called her Small Bisi – she was Aunty Peckham’s right-hand woman.
“Aunty about my project, since you don’t want to participate do you by any chance know someone who might be able to help?” Sophie looked at her aunt with puppy dog eyes hoping to guilt trip her.
“See this four-one-nine child! You can’t use those looks on me. But don’t worry I promised you that I’ll find you someone didn’t I? She’ll be here in fifteen minutes.” Aunty Peckham was a woman who could not be shaken, once she had made up her mind on something she stuck with it. Her yes was yes and her no was a definite no. “The lady’s name is Rita, she’s one of my customers. You’ll like her.”
Sophie had set up her camera in her aunt’s office by the time Rita arrived, they were introduced to each other and Sophie explained her project to “Aunty Rita”. Sophie knew better than to call this grown woman by her name.
“So Aunty Rita, when was the last time you wore gélé and how did it make you feel?”
Rita had an aura of youth that embraced her, she did not look like she was in her mid-forties as Aunty Peckham had disclosed to Sophie earlier. If anyone was looking for the fountain of youth Sophie was sure that Rita knew the source. Telling from her hair it was obvious that Rita was one of the exclusive customers that got access to the newest stock. Her makeup application was definitely influenced by a few YouTube makeup gurus, eyebrows – angular, contour – sharp and her highlight – almost blinding. Sophie did not fault Rita on her makeup choices, because that is what they were, her choice.
“My dear. Hmmm. The last time I wore gélé was last month, to Queen Emerald’s all white birthday party. You know Queen Emerald right? She’s a top Nigerian musician with a live band. My friend Titi is a friend of Queen Emerald so she took me along. How did I feel with my gélé on? I felt fabulous of course, like I do each weekend I go out.” Rita bragged.
“But Aunty I thought you said the last time you wore gélé was last month?” Sophie was a bit confused.
“Ok let me start again. I usually attend parties every weekend. I’m quite popular, so I get invited to various functions. Last month’s function was the last event I went to.” She paused with a careful thought on her face. “I’ve decided to give the partying a rest for a while.” Behind the false lashes and heavy eyeliner, Sophie noticed that Rita’s eyes were tired and full of grief, but her appearance told the opposite.
“I love going out. I’m a social-labalaba, I mean a social-butterfly and everyone who knows me knows this about me. I’m the life of every party. You don’t believe me? Oya check my Insta, I have a thousand plus photos of myself at these parties and I have an equal amount of followers too. My handle is “@SlayMamaRita”, check for yourself; I’m an important somebody on the Naija scene you know? So when I say I felt fabulous it’s no exaggeration, it’s the truth, all my followers tell me I look amazing too.” Rita spoke as if she was trying to convince herself and not Sophie.
Sophie brought out her phone while Rita continued talking and Rita was right, her page was “popping”. Every single picture was a photo of Rita or Rita and friend or the celebrant and according to the timestamps for the photos, she posted at least five times a day! Each picture was littered with hash tags such as #OluwaIsInvolved, #TooBlessedTooBeStressed, #HotMama, #MakeUpOnFleek, #HairOnFleek, #YourFaveCouldNever #GeleTohBad… and of course her page would not have been complete without something biblical in her bio “To My Haters Take Note: I am the HEAD and not the TAIL. Deut. 28:13.” Sophie rolled her eyes and continued scrolling the page and asked herself “why did Aunty Peckham introduce me to this narcissist?”
“Ah! For that birthday party, I was just giving them angles. My lace fabric was straight from Austria and I had my white and gold gélé tied in the ‘Take a Bow’ style. Stunting on my haters! I gave it to them!” Rita laughed but her laugh was as shallow as her words and Sophie was beginning to think that this whole thing was a waste of time. Just when Sophie was considering calling it quits Rita started to wail! Not cry, but WAIL. Sophie was caught off guard, was she not paying attention? What did she miss?
Sophie was not sure if she should get up and comfort Rita, “Erm Aunty. Are… are you ok?” She asked staying in her seat.
Rita put her head up and mascara had run all the way down her face and an eyelash was ready to fall off, she heaved and shook her head. “No. I’m not ok Sophie. I haven’t been ok for a long time and that party. That party only highlighted everything I wish I had but I don’t. I work two jobs you know? And I have two boys I’m caring for and I have an image to maintain you know? It’s all hard work. It doesn’t help that I’m in debt too. I haven’t even finished paying for the hair on my head. I’m a big mess!”
Sophie really wished Rita would stop asking her ‘you know?’ because she actually did not know.
“I looked great that day, but I didn’t feel great. I have an amazing time at parties, the food, the music, the attention, the gossip, I enjoy it all but I always go home feeling empty each time. I keep buying aso ebi and jewellery on credit because I can’t be seen wearing the same thing twice. At that party I heard a few women talking and making fun of me. I used to buy gold jewellery from one of them and as I as walked past she said “ah, awon oni gbese!” That means “the ones that owe debt” – she approached me and asked for her money and of course I denied owing her money and I insulted her past, present and future! How could she expose me like that in front of everyone? Truth is I owe her five hundred pounds and I can’t return the things I bought. If not for Titi saving me that day, I know the women who were talking about me would have beaten me black and blue, without hesitation.
Titi had to drag me to the car to escape the women, before they could start something. I was still raging when Titi parked the car by a McDanny’s and she told me to shut up! Titi was not impressed at all. I was a guest of hers and she was embarrassed by my behaviour and at the time I didn’t care, but Titi wouldn’t start the car, she said, “we’re not going anywhere till I talk some sense into you!” and she spoke oh. She said my behaviour was appalling and that I wasn’t a young girl anymore that I should grow up and think about my boys and the example I’m setting them. She went on and on about how people always report me to her because of how much money I owe them. She went on and on and on! But what hit me most is when she told me that my estranged husband, I won’t mention his name, had spoken to her about me. He wants to take the boys to Nigeria with him because he doesn’t think I’m doing a good job of taking care of them. Apparently he said ‘I’m living a lost life.’ He is a good man and he loves his boys to the core, it was my constant partying that drove him crazy. He didn’t mind accompanying me to functions but a few times he would ask me to stay at home for a family day and I wouldn’t, instead I attended parties on ‘family day’ and it didn’t matter if I knew the celebrant or not. Knowing that I go out each weekend, he usually comes to collect the boys on Fridays for the weekend. I don’t fight him over it; in fact I prefer it. But hearing that he spoke to Titi about his plans made me realise that I am indeed living a lost life.
Don’t be fooled by my social media feed. The woman in the photos isn’t me – I’m forty-five and to be honest I don’t think I know who the real me is.
I stopped going to parties because I’m tired of trying to keep up with everything and everyone. I’m learning the hard way that I don’t need to be like everyone else and importantly that I should live a life where when people mention my name they have positive things to say about me, and not want to fight me in public or on social media! You don’t want to know how many negative comments I delete daily. I can’t do it anymore. I just can’t.
I want my boys to respect me and in turn respect women. I want my husband back. He loves me deeply, but he can’t put up with me like this. I want to be debt free. I want to know the real me. I want peace.
I thank God for people like Aunty Peckham and my friend Titi. They both visited me a few days after the party and agreed to help me organise my life,” She laughed with self-pity and remorse. “First thing they did was pray for me and we spoke for hours about ways I need to better myself. They said I need to get my finances in order and helped to draft a finance and payment plan for me. I had to call every single person I owe money. That wasn’t easy but they all accepted the payment terms. We agreed that I’ll sell some of my real gold jewellery pieces and lace material I haven’t sewn and I have to come to the shop weekly to meet with them and update them on my wellbeing and steps I’m taking to achieve my goals – real life changing goals not just hash tags.
My reality check was a tough one and I sincerely pray that I’ll be brave enough soon, to tell my truth to all those I’ve lied to online. I guess this is the first step.” Rita stayed silent a short moment then continued, “Sophie, whatever you do in this life, please don’t attach your identity to things, people or ideals, be true to yourself always. I own yards of gélé fabric and I’ve worn them to a number of events and functions looking my best. I appeared happy, but these things and associations have yet to bring me any happiness or joy. There’s more to this life and sadly it’s taken me this long to learn this, but better late than never, right? Aunty Peckham told me ‘don’t waste your life chasing the appearance of good living, instead, live an honest life which will produce a good life.’”
“So there’s more to this woman than meets the eye?” Sophie asked herself. She certainly felt bad for judging Rita before hearing her real story and she was glad that she did not cut their session short because if anything, Rita was a reflection of Sophie’s heart, they both chased the need to belong and were still discovering where exactly.
Sophie to the camera in Aunty Peckham’s Office:
Never judge a book by its cover. Never judge a woman by her makeup. Never judge a Nigerian woman by her elaborately tied gélé. Lessons have definitely been learnt today. I hope Aunty Rita finds what it is she is looking for. I wish the same for myself too.
Sophie’s eyes were red and filled to the brim with tears. One lone tear fell and just as she was about to wipe the tear Bankole reached over with his silk handkerchief to dab her face softly, making sure not to smudge Sophie’s make up.
ISINKU ~ FUNERAL
Abeokuta, Ogun State, Nigeria
Sophie to the Camera – Vlog Entry, her dad’s home office:
Wedding festivities are all done now, but you’d think we were still celebrating because all Tara’s friends have been taking me around Lagos. To hot spots, concerts, art galleries, parks, local bukas and church. Hmmm… it’s been hectic but fun. The other day dad caught a glimpse of my dissertation title, that’s what I get for turning my dad’s office into my dream studio and study. Anyway, he suggested a friend of his who could help me, so I’ll be going Abeokuta tomorrow to see her. That’s another city in a different state so it’ll take a while to get there, hopefully traffic won’t be too bad. Dad told me to Google this friend of his, which I did. According to Google Mrs. Olajumoke Adeyemi, popularly known as Mama Kofo, is one of Nigeria’s first internationally recognised fashion designers and the owner of seventy fabric stores across Nigeria under the “Mama Kofo Textiles” brand. This is the perfect person to talk to, but I’m also really nervous. Google mentions that her husband, car dealership businessman Timothy Adeyemi, passed away last year.
In Sophie’s lifetime she had seen and entered a number of expensive homes around the world – she thought she had seen it all, till she entered the Adeyemi home. It was the kind of home that was heavily secured with all sorts of verification devices at the gate of the mansion. Forget mansion, was it a castle? Sophie could not make up her mind when she stood at the front door. Her green eyes tried to take everything in but the house, no the castle was so big.
“How many people live here?” she whispered not realising that her dad heard.
“Ah, Soso, everyone has lived in Mama Kofo’s home.” He let out his famous ‘Bankole-I’m-so-cool chuckle.’
They entered and were greeted by one of the uniformed house girls, the senior house girl by the looks of things. Another house girl in a matching ankara uniform showed up with steamed flannels for Sophie and her dad to clean their hands. As she left with the tray, another house girl showed up with a tray with two glasses of cold water for them. Was this a hotel? It operated like one, Sophie looked up at her dad, “So where do we check in and get our keys because I can definitely live here.”
“You want your mother to finally find her way to Nigeria only to kill me when she realises you’re not going back to London? Please I don’t want trouble, collect your information, eat well and let’s get back to Lagos, so I can get you back to London on time.” Bankole joked, but Sophie could tell that there was some truth in what he said, especially about her mother.
“Ahhhhh, this must be our daughter Soso!” Mama Kofo did not resemble what a mourning widow ought to have looked like as she made her way down the white marble staircase. She was all smiles, her teeth perfectly white, makeup done professionally, nails painted and jewellery pieces that many could never even begin to wish to own. Mama Kofo was a tall woman whose presence first entered a room before she did. Her coffee-brown skin was clear, not a wrinkle in sight, the only thing that gave her almost sixty-five years of life away were her hands, they were the hands of a hard worker. She wore a black and white ankara patterned bubu dress with a matching head scarf. Even in the simplest outfit, Mama Kofo looked like a million US dollars (at a good rate too).
Mama Kofo approached Sophie with her healthy arms wide open and hugged Sophie in such a comforting and welcoming way, as if she had been expecting Sophie for longer than a week – Sophie relaxed at the embrace, it was heartfelt, then it dawned on Sophie that Mama Kofo had ‘dressed up’ all because of her.
“How was lunch? Your father here tells me it’s your favourite Nigerian dish.” Mama Kofo probed with a large smile showing off her white teeth.
“Mrs. Adeyemi, the jollof rice was amazing.” Sophie did not expect to have jollof rice that was better than Doyin’s mum’s own. She vowed to never let Doyin’s mum know.
Mama Kofo interrupted Sophie’s thoughts “My dear, you need to stop calling me Mrs. Adeyemi – call me Mama Kofo or Aunty MK, but none of this ‘Mrs’ please. This isn’t a job interview. You’re family.”
Sophie was most comfortable with ‘Aunty MK’, that is one thing she learnt by frequenting Peckham – anyone could be your aunty.
After lunch, Bankole opted to move to the cinema style TV room while the ladies moved to the sun-filled conservatory where Sophie had set up her equipment before lunch.
“Ok, here with me I have Mrs. Olajumoke Adeyemi, also known as Mama Kofo which is also the name of her textiles brand…” Sophie gave a full introduction to her camera before asking, “Aunty MK, when was the last time you wore gélé and how did it make you feel?”
In the short time that Sophie had already spent with Mama Kofo she never slouched and her eyes maintained consistent confidence, but this question made Mama Kofo hunch over in deep thought and appear to be retracting, like a turtle entering it’s shell. Then suddenly she sat up with the same poise as she had earlier but this time with sadness in her eyes.
“At my husband’s funeral last year.” Mama Kofo barely whispered, thank God Sophie had the lapel microphone attached to her.
“Aunty MK, you said your husband’s funeral?” Sophie repeated.
“Yes. At Timothy’s funeral.” She sighed deeply from her gut then she continued. “Timothy, Timothy, Timothy. What a man. I had a gold gélé elaborately tied to attend his funeral as statement to the guests. That gélé was my way of celebrating his departure and the fact that he left this world before I did. That man-made me suffer for the majority of our marriage and I decided I wasn’t going to attend his funeral to cry. NO! I’d go there and put on the best fashion show Abeokuta had ever witnessed.”
Sophie sat still and stunned, Mama Kofo looked at Sophie for a second to see if she should stop talking, but she continued when Sophie remained silent. Mama Kofo sat up straight and spoke directly to the camera.
“I didn’t care what anyone thought. His family, his friends, associates – all of them! I didn’t care what they had to say, because none of them cared to speak sense to my husband when he was alive. They all encouraged his bad behaviour. My gélé was my medal, my trophy; my victory dance over him but it was a short-lived adventure. I’ll tell you something I’ve never admitted publicly to anyone before. I have six children, who I love dearly and they have a fierce love for me, I can defend myself but if my children hear that I’ve been wronged I know they’ll come to my defence. My six wonderfully grown children,” she pointed to the commissioned family portrait painting behind Sophie, “these children aren’t mine.” Unannounced, a tear rolled down Mama Kofo’s cheek exposing her tired skin under her flawless makeup.
“Kofoworola was the first child Tim brought home. She was barely a month old when he came with her. ‘Here, take your child.’ That’s how he gave her to me in my office upstairs. Confused wouldn’t be the right word to describe how I felt. He didn’t even greet me first, imagine, he just dropped another woman’s child in my arms. I wanted to chase him around the house and demand answers, but then Kofo cried and my heart broke and I cried with her. As I do with business, if I face a problem I don’t waste time pondering the problem and why it happened, I find a solution and I keep things moving. I did the same with Kofo. I became responsible for her instantly, but for the first two weeks I couldn’t care for her because I was scared I’d do something to her to spite Tim, so I had Lola, my trusted house girl take care of Kofo till I got my mind right.
Two years later, another child was delivered to my office express.” She laughed before sighing. “Tim Junior, we call him TJ. I now had two children under three to care for. I got pregnant shortly after TJ showed up, but unfortunately I miscarried, as I had done the two other times. The doctors said that I had an Incompetent Cervix, which meant that I couldn’t carry a pregnancy full term and of course, at that time there wasn’t a lot of medical assistance available as there is today to prevent such untimely deaths. By the fourth miscarriage I accepted my fate and told God ‘ok, I’ll look after the ones you posted.’ A few weeks after TJ’s third birthday, Tim showed up with two children, a boy and a girl. Three month old twins Taiwo and Kehinde. He handed them to me. Can you imagine? Guess what he said? He said ‘they have been weaned and I’ve bought them formula.’
What a heartless man! Even after everything I had just gone through? That night I locked myself in my closet and I cried and fought with God! I asked Him if it was His plan to have Tim drive me insane! Is it because I didn’t make noise about the first two children that Tim thought this was ok to have more children outside? My heart was broken a million times when the twins came. The fourth time I miscarried I lost twins.
After Tai and Kenny, came my baby girl Moji, and my troublesome boy Ibukun – both of them two years apart. By this time I was numb to it all, I was shocked when Tim didn’t show up with another child after Ibukun turned two. I was numb to Tim, but I loved the children. Of course people spoke about me behind my back for taking all these children in but I had to. As woman who wanted children of her own, it would have been heartless to have not cared for these innocent ones.
One thing I did do though, was track down each of their mothers. Tim thought he could keep that information from me, but he forgot whom he married. I tracked each one down and I spoke to them. They were all young girls just starting out in university; maybe they thought Tim was their sugar daddy or something. I pitied them, so I decided that every weekend all the mothers, the children and I would get together at a nice park on Saturdays to have a picnic and in return the girls had to do two things, ensure they graduated from university with top grades and they were never to see Tim again. If they broke the rules then no more visits. I wanted these girls to make something of their lives and the first step was completing school well and also I wanted the children to know their birth mothers because it didn’t sit well with me that Tim snatched them from their mothers and presented them to me as gifts. It wasn’t right and if Tim couldn’t right his wrongs, then I didn’t mind doing something about it. Till today my clients and staff members don’t call me on Saturday mornings, it’s like an unspoken rule because it was time I spent with the children and their mothers – but nobody knew.
The children had all grown up, some married, travelling and some at university when Tim’s health began to deteriorate. He had Kofo run his dealership and retired from business. I guess being at home all day really opened Tim’s eyes because there were no children around; it was just the two of us. He had to face me daily and it meant that he could no longer run from me and the hurt he caused me, he saw it and he felt it. I believe it also humbled him.
I didn’t want to care for him after caring for all his children their whole lives so I contracted an in-house nurse service for while. It was during that time that I found Christ. I mean I was a Christian before but only by lip service and not in my heart. A month after I had committed myself to knowing Christ for real, I discontinued the in-house nurse service and decided to care for my husband myself. God really worked on me while I cared for him and I think God worked on Tim too, because a few months before he passed he apologised to me and asked for forgiveness. It was the hardest thing to hear and the hardest thing to do. I didn’t forgive him immediately, but God convicted me one day and said ‘What if I took him today?’
The last few months I spent with Tim before he passed were amazing, just like our early days before all the money and notoriety, but when he passed, I don’t know what came over me but I couldn’t cry. I just kept going over every bad thing he had put me through and God kept trying to remind me to remember how it ended, but I couldn’t I was hurting all over again. I think that’s why I did what I did at the funeral. Truth be told, the gélé wasn’t so out of place at the funeral, what was out of place was my behaviour that day; I really wanted people to believe that I didn’t care about Tim. Deep down I wanted to embarrass Tim the same way he did me all these years. A few days after the funeral the children sat me down and really had a firm word with me about what I had done and they wanted to make sure that I was ok and while they spoke to me God reminded me not celebrate the downfall of my enemies. Was Tim my enemy? I don’t know, but what I do know is that he hurt me in more ways than I could count. Enemies do that right? That evening after everyone had gone to bed I cried for the first time since Tim’s death. I cried all night for Tim, the children, their mothers and especially for myself, right here in this room. I gave my hurt to God and asked him to heal me through my tears.”
“But, Aunty MK, why did you stay around for so long? And why did you care for the birth mothers?” Sophie needed to understand Mama Kofo’s logic for putting up with such a turbulent marriage.
“Because it was my decision to do so. The young mothers weren’t the ones who offended me it was Tim and if I left he would have married someone else and I wouldn’t have been allowed to take my children. So rather than risk having a new useless wife mistreat my children I decided to stay and I made it my mission to be their good example.
Let me tell you something Soso, life is too short to hold grudges and be miserable, there’s a time for everything as the Bible says, that moment after my children had spoken to me was my time to really let go and most importantly understand that my identity could no longer be defined by my hurt, my businesses, Tim or my children. Why? Because they won’t last, only Christ is lasting and He offers everlasting peace. I want the rest of my life to be Peace. I can’t enjoy the robustness of His peace if I choose to remain bitter and petty. Hear me very well, my choice to endure this journey isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, each person must do as God leads, it just so happens that out of an unfortunate journey Christ brought me such fortune through my children. Think about it, if not for Kofo, Mama Kofo Textiles would never exist. I say all this because I need you to understand that your situation and circumstances are only stepping-stones to where God is leading you.
I wish to dwell in Peace, live a full life in Rest and enjoy MY journey with God guiding me the whole way. My gélé was never my victory. God was and He still is.”
There it was again, “identity in Christ.” This would be the third time on the trip that someone had mentioned this phrase to Sophie. Identity and belonging are what Sophie had come searching for, but was it possible that she was searching in all the wrong places?
Sophie to the camera in the guest room at the Adeyemi castle:
Hadn’t realised that Aunty MK and I spoke for such a long time, even after we stopped filming. She suggested that we stay the night rather than head back to Lagos, which to be honest I’m happy about. I think I need time to process these past few weeks away from all the Lagos noise.
But I’ll say this Aunty MK is a force! I don’t think I know anyone who would do what she did. Her attitude towards life has really inspired me. I’m thinking of turning all this footage into a long vlog or documentary? We shall see, but I do think I have everything I need to write this ten thousand-word assignment. But first, I must sleep.
The audience smiled at the last line, what had been an idea was now a reality. It was the fulfilment of an unrecognised dream.
IFARAHAN ~ REFLECTION
Sophie to the Camera from her bedroom:
You’ve sat and listened to the stories of these magnificent women and I hope you’ve been touched by their stories. I’ll admit that I hadn’t expected such deep and detailed responses from these women I expected to receive surface based responses but these women spoke from their hearts. They each had a resolve about them, be it in the process of their healing, having been healed or the relaisation that they needed healing.
I learnt something from each of them:
With Big Sis I could relate with the uncertainties I had about what I’m supposed to do with my life.
In Dee and her mum, I saw my struggle with coming to terms with the cultures I’ve been born into. Dee had something I had longed for, but didn’t appreciate it. Her mother is a proud Nigerian, I am too, but I had no real Nigerian experience to back up my claim.
With Tara, I noticed a peace I longed for but never had. Her peace didn’t stem from her culture, her achievements, her gifts or the fact that she was becoming a wife; her peace seemed final, whole, and complete because as she said “my identity is rooted in Christ. I live in and through this truth.” I wanted this assurance too.
Aunty Rita’s battle with identity was a reflection of my own battle. I didn’t want to admit how similar our quests were. If anything Aunty Rita’s life story was my potential future, chasing things that didn’t bring her joy and I felt like her story was a warning to me.
Aunty MK. Wow. What a woman she taught me not to live through my hurt. My desire to belong has hurt me over time because some people have dismissed me as not being black enough and some of those close to me, like my grandfather have made me feel inadequate because of my dual heritage and for so long I’ve been using my hurt as a catalyst to outsmart, out-prove and outshine anyone who has ever doubted me, and honestly living just to prove people wrong or living a life inspired by hurt is tiring.
Prior to going to Nigeria I didn’t have my own gélé story to share, so naturally I didn’t plan on including myself in this, but that all changed at Tara’s traditional wedding when I had gélé tied for the first time.
When I had my gélé on I certainly admired myself, I felt regal but only for moment. I think I was expecting an overwhelming feeling that you see women have on ‘Say Yes to The Dress’. I wanted to feel like I had finally made it as a Nigerian. I thought I’d feel Nigerian enough. I really hoped that the whole trip would do that for me, but it didn’t. It was the conversation I had with Tara after we finished filming that really forced me to be honest with myself. She had asked me why I had chosen this topic as my research area and I casually stated that cultural identity fascinated me. She didn’t believe me, ‘there’s more to this research you’re doing,’ she said and she was right. She told me that my need to belong and knowing who I am would never be fulfilled or found in the things I’m searching for only Christ is capable of fulfilling me. The last thing I needed to hear was a sermon from my super righteous cousin, but she didn’t preach to me, she simply spoke to me.
“Sophie, God loves all of you. The English part and the Nigerian part. He made you in His image and the more you chase things that aren’t Him the emptier you’ll become and without Him you won’t enjoy this ‘self-discovery’ journey you’re on. That void you have isn’t shaped like the map of Nigeria, it is a void specifically shaped for God to fill with Himself. You asked me about why I’m so peaceful even though some of the bridesmaid dresses aren’t ready yet, it’s because my peace is in Jesus and my peace is Jesus. I was you once, seeking the approval of many and wishing I was like everyone else but none of that made me whole till I found Jesus.”
That evening when she dropped me home, we sat in her car discussing many deep things, sharing our experiences and discussing my hesitation to believe that God could help me make sense of who I am. I cried and she prayed when I finally decided to give this God-thing a go, and honestly it’s been the best decision I’ve ever made. I’m definitely not an expert in this area and everyday I’m learning new things about myself and about who God is. And yes, I still have my questions, doubts and whatever else but this time around I’m not left wondering without a clue.
Now I look back on my gélé experience and I can say that my whole life is one beautiful gélé. From the vibrant colours of my heritage, the intricate folds, twists and knots of life that have brought me to this beautiful reflection of myself the way God sees me.
Applause rang through the screening room as the ending credits rolled. Guests stayed behind for the refreshments served after the film, with some guests approaching Sophie to take a picture, offer a hug or to congratulate her. As the crowd dwindled the only people remaining were Doyinsola, Mayowa, Afolabi and Sophie’s parents. Telling from the way her parents looked at her she knew they had endless questions for her and Sophie was ready to answer them she just hoped that they were ready to answer her questions too. Now that she had both of them in the same place at the same time she knew what her first question would be “Why do you both pretend like you don’t love each other?”
1 December 2018
I’m so proud of Sophie. The project was well put together and the event ran smoothly. I must discuss with the editorial team about doing a feature on Sophie’s work especially now when a lot of fashion trends are visibly Afrocentric. My Soso!
I loved how reflective each story ended – I certainly learnt a few things and I’ll need a few days just to digest the numerous truths shared.
I did feel a little uncomfortable sitting next to BB – I last saw him at Sophie’s graduation, before then I hadn’t seen him at all since that night in 2006. He frequented London often but stopped coming to the house. I also felt guilty watching Mayowa’s part. She had Levi early in the year, she’s been in London for almost two years and I seldom call or visit her. Granted, I never raised her, but Sophie spent many summer holidays with her and the boys; making sure they spent summer together was BB’s way of ensuring that his children knew each other. He was proud of them and he wanted them to be proud of themselves and each other.
I think it dawned on me that I could have been a mother to Mayowa and the boys, but I forfeited that opportunity each time I declined BB’s proposal.
I guess I was… No, I was afraid. I was afraid of the unknown. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to love the children of another woman. Children my love had before he met me. What if they never loved Sophie? which they did! And very much! I was afraid to face the truth that BB had a whole life before me. I don’t know what I expected when I was with BB. I had no goal except to savour his love all for myself. Sophie’s arrival was the reality check I never knew I needed. BB had a life he wanted me to be a part of but I couldn’t because I never envisioned that his life would be anything else except for me and about me. He was right, I was, I am selfish and as Sophie shared her own account I noticed how much my fears and my decisions caused her such heartbreak. No wonder our relationship seems strained at times.
I should have never blackmailed BB. I shouldn’t have made him promise. He kept a promise knowing it’ll cause him pain. Little did I know it would cause Sophie the greatest pain in her quest of self-discovery? I got in her way the same way Father would always get in mine. I’m a true Watson.
We all agreed to have lunch tomorrow, with Mayowa too, to discuss the documentary as a family. It’s important we do so and I know Sophie has questions for us the same way we have questions for her.
I know my relationship with BB will come up and I think I’m finally ready to admit that dismissing him was the worst mistake I’ve ever made for myself and for Sophie. Seeing these women speak of their experiences really highlighted my regret. I wish I could have sat with Sophie too and shared my gélé experience(s). I’ve never had one; I never took time to love, enjoy and understand everything that made BB who he is unfortunately I only loved the part of him that loved Ell-lah.
My heart is heavy and I know it’ll stay like this till I apologise to the love of my life and my child. I only hope that they can forgive me?
Come to think of it, I should really consider booking a trip to Nigeria to experience the place at least once. I’ll go with Ally our new head of content, to research for the piece we’ll do on Sophie’s film, we’ll have a photo shoot there. Sophie will accompany us of course and I’ll have Tara show me the young fellow who has taken a liking to Sophie.
1 December 2018
I’m back…. I can’t sleep. I’m thinking about this trip.
Who am I kidding?
BB will figure me out in an instant.
He’ll know that I came for him, finally.
ELW ~ Finally Mature & Established. Humble. BB. xoxo.
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