Category Archives: Igbo

Trouble is, not having nni oka in the house.

Yesterday, in a state of extreme exhaustion due to many late nights, I found myself cooking a pot of ogbono soup.  Lucky me, I had the foresight to  make the meat a few days before.  I’ve recently got in the habit also, of scrubbing, soaking and cleaning out dried fish weeks in advance (I then store in freezer so that I don’t have to go through the tedium when I’m pressed for time) so in no time at all, a pot of soup was bubbling on my stove top.

I’ve cooked many different pots of soup but all of a sudden, something about this one made me think of my grandma, Mama Onitsha.


What changed? I have no idea. All I know is, the whole flat started smelling of her and I got this insane urge for nni oka, the very first time it’s happened in all the years I’ve lived here. Not for this particular soup pot, the quick-fix of garri or the smooth, bland whiteness of yam flour. This was a job for gritty, yellow, nni oka and all its attached memories. If someone had asked me for a kidney in exchange for the stuff, I would have thrust my hand in my side, yanked the organ out and plonked it on ice immediately.

I couldn’t sleep. What? So that ndi otu will come and initiate me in my dreams? The way I felt,  even if I knew  it was a dream, if anyone offered me food I would wash my hands, eat it, clean my mouth afterwards and sign on the dotted line in my own blood.  I paced. I told myself “You don’t have nni oka so better force your mind onto other things,” but my  wayward mind would not cooperate.

Almost as soon as the thought formed, I remembered. What was nni oka if not corn flour cooked with cassava flour? Stupid. I had polenta! And I live near Peckham, the centre of diversity, with its many African, Caribbean and Latino communities! Cassava flour was every where.
Fast forward to this afternoon and…Nni oka and ogbono soup.

Ahhhhh. Bliss. It’s not as flavoursome, as…corn-y as our Nigerian variety, nor as starchy, I don’t think, but the soup more than makes up for any deficiencies in that department (I am not praising myself. I am praising my mum for being awesome and flogging it into teaching me when I was…nine. And ten. And eleven [the minute she loses it, I will put her in an Old Peoples’ Home to teach her how to be independent in old age. Muhahaha!]).

And the texture? Just as I remember: gritty and wholesome. The Kid-Mister had two platefuls but that’s another story. He never stops eating swallow until every portion is gone. His step-grandma’s convinced he was a hungry ancestor in a previous life.

Igbo speakers, can you help?

I got this comment from Vivi Wei, a PhD student of Lingustics in Fudan University, Shanghai. She needs native Igbo speakers to help out in her research. See the original comment and link to her survey below.

Please tweet this, Facebook it and email it to your Igbo-speaking friends and family. Thank you.


Hey, This is Vivi Wei from China. I am doing a PhD program in linguistics. I really need some native Igbo speakers to help me to finish a survey on Igbo resultatives, which is a sentence expressing an action-result concept. It is an intuition test which basically only requires you to translate some English sentences into Igbo and check the acceptability of some Igbo sentences. It only takes 10-15 minutes for you to finish the survey online. Your participation would be very helpful for my PhD dissertation and it means a lot to me! Thank you very much.

The link to the survey is here:

A few words about my talk at this year’s SOAS Igbo Conference.

I often have to force myself to go to bed at night because it is at this time that my brain seems to want to be awake. This time, it is preoccupied with clarifications.

At the end of my talk titled ‘Different but Equal’ yesterday evening, a very nice professor from UNILAG approached me with her concerns. For one, she thought I was being general when I said that our culture is preoccupied with marriage, especially that of females and that women were often complicit in the mild coercion of other women in this vein.

“I never pushed any of my daughters to get married,” she said.

Later during a panel discussing Adichie’s ‘We Should All Be Feminists’ speech, she took the opportunity to reiterate her point, adding that she was ‘shocked at some of the things which people are saying here today’.

I take her point. I did say during my talk that it was a certain kind  of Igbo person, woman or man that I was referring to. Being in that lecture hall, at that conference, many of us already declared our interest in equality of the sexes. I was among my people. Perhaps, that did not come across clearly.

My own mother is very much like this professor. I was in my twenties when I married, armed with two degrees and a post-graduate diploma and my mother when I told her I was engaged said “But why do you need to marry now? What about your PhD?” or words to that effect.

However, this is my mother. This is the kind of person she is; a woman who believes that all women should aim to achieve their full potential before marriage – if they desire to get married, of course. And she is this way because her parents were the same. But this is not everyone’s reality, not in this generation or in our mothers’. This has certainly not been my reality with our Nigerian society in general and to assume that everyone is like my mother or like the aforementioned professor, would be very narrow-minded indeed.

Just because the truth makes us uncomfortable, does not make it any less true.

Secondly, I mentioned I had not – prior to my recent Nigeria trip – been home in six years. A friend, in jest, told me I should be ashamed of myself. Ha ha. I had my reasons, including a cancelled trip in 2012 due to ‘extenuating circumstances’ (ha ha again. There’s a show on telly right now). I would not have thought more of it if the lovely, worried, professor did not pick that up during her comment at panel as proof that I was out of touch with the times. “You need to ask us what we at home are doing,” she said.

Again, agreed. I hate to think that I implied that there was nothing being done by women at home with regards to feminism, womanism or whatever other ‘ism’ out there is being used to describe the movement for equality among the sexes.

But this is not the 1970s or 80s. Being away from home these days, no longer entails waiting weeks or months for a letter or sitting by the phone at an appointed time for a 3-minute phone call down a crackly line. no. Now, when we are not at home, we take home with us; a look on social media will reveal to you the general thought processes of people regarding anything you want to know. Social media is good like that. It cuts across all groups; gender, age and literacy. My entire family – bar one sister and I – still live and work in Nigeria. One is never more than a Whatsapp message away from what is happening. Anyone still in doubt of the power and effectiveness of social media in and amongst Nigerians, need only consider its impact on this year’s presidential elections.

Then of course, there are friends and family who travel to and from Nigeria frequently, of which my husband is one. This year alone, he’s been to Nigeria three times. It is pretty difficult to be as far removed as once was, from simply not being ‘on the ground’ in Nigeria. Not unless one is plagued by technophobia or is some sort of Luddite.

The number one topic at any gathering of the diaspora here? Nigeria.

Finally, I would hate if my talk came across as an attack on men and manhood. That was not my intention. I will reiterate: there are certain men who would give their right arm to uphold the status quo. You know them. They are the ‘This is not the done thing’ men or the ‘It is against our culture’ men or the men who try to use religion to justify their perceived superiority. Then, there are the ignorant ones, who have never really thought about it. They’ve never had to put themselves in the shoes of women because it just has not occurred to them at all. Out of this group you might eventually get resistance, understanding and change or just plain indifference.

Then there are the men, who are already getting it right. Those men were all at Igbo Conference yesterday and will be today. To those men, I say ‘Deeme’, you are on the right track.

I hope I have resolved any misunderstandings. Now my good people, you have the knife and the yam; you may cut it into whatever size is easy for you to digest.



Photo highlights of our Nigeria trip.

Hello everyone,

We were in Nigeria for three weeks and two days and boy do I have a lot to tell you. It was Tot’s first time and my first time in six years, so it was really special. I enjoyed seeing the world through Tot’s eyes, his delight and lizards and geckos the dusty, dusty roads in Awka (Willie was working!). The rest of Anambra’s roads were like glass so I am inclined to believe the slogan.

Here are some highlights from our trip.  Will update the blog with more stories and photos soon. As soon as I get my speech for SOAS’ Igbo Conference out of the way. (Oy. I am trembling. I have 40 minutes to speak. FORTY MINUTES!! Why me, lord?)

Pretending to have a beard with his travel pillow. En route to Awka from Abuja by car. A whopping 7-hour drive!
Playing shadows at his grandma’s house in Lagos. It was not even noon yet.


This used to be the site for Polo Park when I was growing up. It’s one big mall right now which broke my heart but the park had been run-down for years with no support so…Oh look. They kept one ride.
Campaign posters were EVE-RY-WHERE in Awka (and Nigeria in general)! A visual riot. And so much littering. I took the photo because of the guy in the barrister garb opening his eyes. His slogan was ‘Shine your eyes’. LOL!
One of my mother’s ‘customers’ in Nnewi. Her hair is made from strands of rubber thread. Highly flammable but also very exquisite. I saw so many differently styled isi-owu’s made with the same shiny rubber thread. Much more intricate styling to when I lived there.
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She was kind enough to turn and let me take a back view. I took both with her permission.


Macjew table water! MACJEW! HAHAHAHOHOHOHEHEHE! *Dead* My people will not kill me. Taken en route to Awka from Abuja. #Theheightofsophistication #Scottish #Jewish