It is 3:35am, Monday morning. At this time I’m usually fast asleep- except the odd time I have a burst of energy and a determination to finally complete a project that has dragged on for weeks or months. That, however is not the case today.
I attended a Nigerian function with my Mother in law today. To tell the truth when hubby first suggested that I accompany her as it was important to her, I wasn’t too keen, but then I decided to go because I’m a good daughter-in-law- of course! Anyhue, Sunday morning arrived and she announced over the phone that I was to attend in my best traditional attire. It was a “heavy do” and we had to dress to the nines. I panicked only slightly, thinking about my green and black ankara dress that I love so much and how it would remain hanging in my closet indefinitely. I considered my lovely brown skirt and blouse which I had made in Nigeria last year. No point really as it was now too small. Remember I have been growing larger? Then I remembered my grey lace from my cousin’s wedding. Surely that would fit. I would accessorise with burgundy- my favorite colour. I proceeded to dig out this outfit but instead hubby and I ended up spending nearly 2 hours going through old photos and old memories. It was something! The way the Lord has blessed us is amazing! We have grown and multiplied, hubby must have doubled in size since we got married. I saw photographs that told beautiful stories of long-lasting friendships. We made resolves to make an effort to spend more time and build fonder memories with our friends. Some have traveled every road and taken every turn with us. Some have been there through the tough and good times. I could go on and on about our friends and never stop, I thank God most sincerely for you- I will do that post on friendships that I promised!
Back to the outfit. Grey lace did not fit. So I settled on a nice evening suit, it fit, hooray!
MIL had told me the event started at 8, I told her I’d be there at 7 and to my delight I knocked on her door at 6:45! She was nowhere near being ready. Along with her sister-friend we finished the cooking. In the meantime 2 more people arrived. Finally at 7:50pm we set off for the 30 minute drive to the function that was to begin in 10 minutes. After my detour to Peckham where I picked up some fried fish from a Nigerian restaurant owned and run by Pakistanis- no lie, we arrived only to wait for a further 2 hours. The event was the indoctrination of two new members into an exclusive, expensive Nigerian social club. This was the type where wealth is celebrated, where your monetary contribution is counted out and announced for all and sundry to hear. I was fascinated! The delegates where all Igbo, a people whose customs and traditions I have always loved learning about. I love the way Igbo is mixed with English- Nne, oodi very good girl. Lots of Nnes and Daalus going on there. The women were very well dressed. They sashayed about greeting each other excitedly in Igbo as they went past. One woman bumped into her friend and said; Darling, oodi sweet sixteen! The friend responded by waving her left hand in the air before breaking into a mono dance routine. Everyone clapped and cheered. The children that were referred to as spoiled kids were busy playing hide and seek, weaving and diving around and getting in everyone’s way. Their fun was not interrupted by the multiple hisses and echoes of “but where are their parents, ehn?”
The family that caught my eye was a perfect looking Nigerian family. I managed to steal a few shots of them with my blackberry, he he!
Father, mother dressed in kingfisher blue lace. Three children, 2 sons and a daughter wearing matching royal blue lace. They looked so perfect. The children were in their late teens to early twenties. I couldn’t take my eyes off their mother. She was very pretty, skin caramel coloured and well-built. Her husband was about the same height as her and looked older. MIL told me that you could only join this club if you were invited. One of her guests told me it’s a well-known group, very expensive and only powerful people were members. This led me to believe that Mr Perfect was a powerful, wealthy man. So when I looked at his wife, I came to realise she was the “strong, Igbo woman” Lucid Lilith has often referred to in her musings.
Strong Igbo woman. Who is she? Did she work outside her home? I know what her type would be had she been in Nigeria. She would belong to and head several women’s groups or clubs. She wore sunglasses to most occasions, as long as she wore her george. She probably didn’t call her husband by his name, some pet name like “dear” is more apt. When her husband got home from work, tired after a hard day’s work she’ll ask if he wanted dinner at table or “dinner” in the bedroom. Her children are well brought up- and pampered. It is said that Igbo men take care of their wives. That they would rather wear rags and have their wives looking good, than allowing her to have a so-so life. I can say from my own experience-as hubby is half Igbo, this is true!
The men went in and out of the main hall, as they made bathroom trips. They always stopped to say “nno” to us and that we’ll start soon. They wore red or white beads, some wore red hats, I was to later learn that the red hat symbolized it’s wearer was an Igwe, a chief. The Igwes have a special greeting. They don’t shake hands like you and I. They do a few gentle backhand claps before the handshake. I mentioned that everyone was dressed to kill right? Well this was different. I have seen dressed to kill at Nigerian weddings. These however were not party clothes. There was something subtly monarchical here. The men and women seemed very important. They carried that air about with them too. I really can’t explain it beyond this. What I wondered though was what these people did for a living. What were they returning to on Monday morning? No doubt many were self-employed, but where there any office clerks, street cleaners or cab drivers amongst them?
Another hour later and the ceremonies began. The way we were rushed into the main hall, you’d think we were the ones who were late; “Oya, oya, madam hurry up please, this way, that way! Where are your guests? Ngwa ngwa”.
First we had a long boring speech about the club and it’s bylaws. The speech was in English, but the jokes were in Igbo. Guess who sat there with a plastic smile on her face? At least I was able to respond to shouts of “Igbo kwenu!” The only other non- Igbo was Aunty Irene, whom I was excited to meet earlier, mother in law’s friend. I was excited as I thought I had an ally. We’ll both feel left out together in this clan meeting. Alas, aunt Irene turned on me the minute someone said something in Igbo which I didn’t understand. Bet (but) why haven’t you learned the language? You should speak it by now! she insisted very accusingly- her with her big eyes and hideous shoe and bag!
Next the first new member was invited to come forward- it was Mr Perfect who will henceforth be known as Dr Nwanze. Dr Nwanze had the same smile and expression he was wearing when we first arrived 2 hours prior. I wondered how anyone could do that, perhaps he had just one thing on his mind? Dr Nwanze came with drinks- Hennessey, Gulder, Stout, etc The bottles were counted and announced. Loud cheers followed each announcement. Then he handed in the large white envelope. A stack of £20s was quickly revealed and counted, it amounted to £1000. Then another couple of envelopes were also counted. More loud claps and cheers. The people at the high table, the officials had this insanely greedy look about them. They were pretty much rubbing their hands in glee, no doubt excited about the people they’d just suckered. One of them looked like Zik- in fact if Zik wasn’t dead, I’d be forgiven for thinking he was Zik.
Sitted next to me was a very nice gentleman, we quickly became friends and he explained a lot of the traditions to me. Like when I was offered Guiness and turned it down, he suggested I take it so I don’t offend them. My friend remarked that the chief officer’s glasses resembled his primary school headmaster’s glasses. I couldn’t agree more.
Dr Nwanze and his beautiful wife remained standing through all the disquisitions. They showed them the club’s secret handshake so they’d recognise each other in public, exulted the qualities of “this auspicious club”, and so on and so forth. At this time my concern was the food we cooked. It was dangerously close to midnight on a Sunday and there were coolers of rice, ugba and fish all untouched.
Finally at about midnight the food was served. Friend, there is something eerie about eating Jollof rice in the middle of the night- particularly on the brink of the first working day of the week. A pot-bellied man kept yelling for the Ugba to be brought to him. He stressed that it wouldn’t be funny if he didn’t get any to eat. After all food was served, one of the servers an older lady clapped loudly demanding to be heard. Another speech? I wondered. The “speech” begun;
I have food in my house! She was gesticulating wildly.
I have food in my house. Even if I invite you all to my kitchen this very minute, I’ll have a surplus of food after you’d all have eating your fill. Everyone nodded in agreement while wondering where this was going. She was clearly very upset.
So why my second and I, who laboured to serve all of you should be left starving; at this point she revealed a large pot of fried fish heads, showing it round for everyone to see- why we should be treated in this manner, I don’t know. See! Is this what we should be eating? Ehn? Not one person thought of saving us some food! And on she went.
This was followed by mumbling from the crowd as the guests all asked one another who could have done this wicked thing, and how bad people can be sometimes.
My MIL proceeded to offer her a plate of uneaten ugba, which she vehemently refused. “I’m not hungry o! Like I said I have food in my house. I just don’t know how people can be so greedy”.
I went to introduce myself to the perfect family. The lady was lovely, her husband looked at me with that strange smile. I gave her my business card, told her I admired her lovely family and she must be so proud, blah, blah.
There was a large trolley of unopened alcohol. The designated guard was good, he never left his station. Finally we left at about 2am on Monday morning. This morning, which is how I came to typing up a blog post at 3am on a Monday when I should be fast asleep.
I’ll be back to one of the many functions, more blog material for me.
Thank you for reading!
Here’s a Picture of another branch of the same club, see what I mean?