‘Mami Wata’ by Zoumana Sane, Senegal. Photo: Don Cole.

Although Mami Wata have long co-existed alongside man, many of us have never encountered any of these sea entities before, seeing as they choose to remain in their territories – apart from occasional forays on land.

However, with the recent influx of these Wata migrants coming in from polluted oceans and seas, there is a greater likelihood that much more of us will meet a Mami Wata in our lifetime.

The manual below attempts to provide some sort of framework for addressing any personal Mami Wata encounters one might have in the future.

All links included within the article, below, are fully functional.


Woke up today with ‘Body Language’ playing in my head.

So, I have a confession. All my life, I’ve wanted to be on stage. ALL. MY. LIFE.

I’ve done amateur stuff at various stages of school and actually got admission to study Theatre Arts in university but chose something else because I felt I was betraying my father by not doing medicine and the compromise in my mind was a more ‘serious’ arts degree: English  in the end.

The urge to perform has only died in the last few years, but I don’t know, can dreams die, or are they simply put on hold? Each year I tell myself I should try to go up for character roles or extra roles, take a few community classes or improv classes and/or tap dancing or just fling myself into it…something! (Although I think I am more guarded now, and quite reluctant to visually emote.)

This is the woman who started me on the path. Lydia Grant, aka the dance teacher from the popular Fame film and subsequent TV series, aka the almighty Debbie Allen.

“You’ve got big dreams. You want fame. Well, fame costs. And right here is where you start paying. In sweat.”

These words till today, have got the ability to induce mania in me. They’re so powerful and can be applied to just about any facet of the creative process. I have the DVDs, the soundtrack was my ringtone for a while and my playlists are full of Fame songs such as ‘High Fidelity’, ‘Starmaker’, ‘Hot Lunch Jam’, ‘Be My Music’ and ‘I Sing The Body Electric’.

From age two till about 14, I wanted to be Lydia Grant.

My sisters and I would perform wall sits until our thighs felt leaden. We’d wear our one-piece swimming suits – lovingly packed for us all the way from obodo oyibo, even though there was nowhere in which to swim – don leg-warmers (ditto) and prance about pretending to be the kids from Fame. Sometimes, we tucked out dresses into the leg bands of our underwear and that worked just as well, although one kept having to stop and re-tuck, particularly after a challenging bit of choreography (for me, the high kicks were murder. I was a plump kid).

I cannot tell you how many times I hurt myself. Once, I slipped on the carpet and banged my bum on the floor so hard, I could have sworn my I compacted my spine. I’m still convinced that is why I am the shortest in my family. I’d hide the injuries because even though my mother encouraged the dreaming, the one thing she did not condone was injury or damage to property. But these were the days before the proliferation of ‘Do not try these at home’ warnings. Besides, who would have listened? Not me. The whole point to Fame was sowing the desire to try it at home.

Long before Lady Gaga came along to popularise the term with her album cover, long before Save The Last Dance and the abomination of the Fame remake (according to the reviews. No true ‘Famecicle’? ‘Fameite’? ‘Fame Fam’?* would see it. I certainly didn’t), there was this TV series that told us that we could be whatever we wanted, do whatever we wanted and that is was OKAY to want it as badly as we did. AS LONG AS YOU WERE WILLING TO DIE IN ORDER TO ACHIEVE IT.

Lydia Grant and the entire cast of Fame (et vous Coco, et vous!), thank you.

* What is the collective noun for a group of Fame fans? Answers in comments please!

P.S: The name of this blog will be changing soon.


Just back from playtime/scooting in community garden. Trying to type. My son wants to dress my hair.

He’s winning.


P.S: Trying to upload this photo and he sees another one of me and him, in which I have short hair. “Who’s that?” he asks. I am incredulous. I mean, I know I was heavier and all, but to actually forget your own mother? Shocking.

Eventually I tell him it’s me. He stares at the image, disbelieving. “You look like a fellow,” he says.


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.

My short story in One Throne magazine.

Hi guys!

Check out my short story ‘Soup,’ out today in One Throne Magazine.

Here’s how it happened.

One of the editors, George Filipovic, contacted me on Facebook after Candy Girl’ came out, to ask if I would consider writing for them. I agreed (as you do) and after telling him it would probably be a while (since I can be such a pernickety writer), promptly shelved the matter under ‘sometime in the near or more likely distant future’. 

No such luck. I got an email about a month later. A “Hey, we’re still thinking about you and glad you’re going to work with us,” kind of thing, to which my reply was, “Dude, I got nothing,” followed by such hand-wringing, that my fingers were left twisted afterwards.

Then another email a few weeks later: “Hey, so…”

‘But my hands!’ I thought. ‘They is all twisted, like.’ I started to get jittery, so I sent a story in.

“Err…no. What else you got?”


Another email. “We hope you’re not annoyed but we really do want to work with you.”

Then another.

I sweated over something else and sent that.

“We like it. It’s sexy but here’s why it doesn’t work for us. What else you got?”


I shut down.

Recently I read an article in which an editor spoke about how men resubmit within the first month of a standard ‘We’d like to see more’ rejection letter, while women take six to 12 months and sometimes, do not resubmit at at all. Let me tell you now, it is totally true for me. I thought, ‘I knew it! They only liked Candy Girl and not my work. I’m going to put the request on ice and get back to it. Sometime.’

My subconscious mind started its usual whispering: Or never. They probably hate me. I bet they regret asking me now. It would be better for all of us if I just went away because I’m sure they’re thinking of a way to back out of my train-wreck of a life as well.

With trepidation, I submitted ‘Soup’.

I think the editors over at One Throne are ruddy marvellous. They take their title seeeeeriously, immersing themselves completely in the work. I had to slip into a pair of big girl pants (and cry on the inside, like a winner) because in the editing process, oy, they had me justify every single word and its position. The end product is a story which I’m proud to call my own.

Its accompanying illustration is amazing. It’s by an artist called Erin Lindeke and what she drew is so inspired, I fell in love, IMMEDIATELY. You see these Edogo artist-types eh, they just have one leg in the spirit world. Check it out:

Don’t you think it resembles ukara?

There is also a similarity to ‘Mkpuru Oka’ cloth in her hair. Beautiful, beautiful work. It’s now my screensaver and I think it would make a wonderful tapestry.

Read the magazine, share the story, and help keep One Throne going!

Have a lovely weekend.