Tag Archives: Jesus of Nazareth

White Jesus, brown Mami Wata

I remember how betrayed I was when I found out that Jesus might not have looked like he did in the popular ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ film. He did not have piercing blue eyes. He did not have blonde hair.

In fact, if he was alive now he might be in a detention centre, arrested on terrorist charges for fitting the profile (Arab-looking, visibly vocal with loyal following). It’s a good thing he walked on water because with that profile, nobody would let him near a plane – at least not without some serious body cavity searching (“What’s that barrel for? You wanna turn water into wine? I’m sorry sir, Imma have to search you. Spread ’em.”)

Recently on doing a bit of light reading for a short story, I discovered that our popular image of Mami Wata was not only done by  German painter in 1926, but is based on a chromolithograph of Samoan snake-charmer.

Hear me out before you start crossing yourself, screaming ‘Obara Jesus’ or singing All Other Gods Are Sinking Sand.  I can understand that Christianity is an imported religion and so should reflect imagery from where it came from (even if it doesn’t really), but isn’t it a bit….pathetic…that even in African traditional religions, modern images of deities that are revered, that have been revered perhaps by our fathers and their  fathers etc, cannot even be found to have originated from them? Yes, this Mami Wata is close enough but no cigar. 

I wonder how much this contributes to people’s religious self-esteem in Nigeria if on either side nowadays, God has no physical  resemblance to you. I wonder if this translates to self-esteem in other areas; if your god is represented as blue-eyed and blond-haired or straight-nosed and wavy- haired, could it mean that you view anyone with these set of characteristics as closer to God somehow? And where does that place you with your flat nose and kinky hair and dark skin?

I suppose the Catholic church is ‘trying’ in this regard since we have some black saints but it’s telling in other ways that I couldn’t find women amongst them. If you know of any black women saints, let me know.

(Remember to show this blog post to your garri vendor in the market because you’ll get a discount.)

In other news: Jesu Kristi onye ebere, what is this? I tried to find an image for the goddess Idemmili (who is often mistaken for Mami Wata) and this came up.

Where do I begin? The girl’s brown underthings with sexy hint of bum-crack? The boy’s noticeable lack of poster originality?  By picking my jaw off the floor?

His name is Gentle O. I can’t tell you what his music is like as all the links don’t play but it must be true that when God closes a door, he opens a window – he is from Chinua Achebe’s hometown.

Gentle O, carry go, nothing do you!

Jesus of Nazareth, Easter and Anambra Broadcasting Service.

In my day, the next few hours would be the time when children like me all over Igboland, would settle down with their parents in front of the TV to watch the second part of  Jesus of Nazareth starring Robert Powell in the title role. The first part, the birth and early life of Jesus, was shown at Christmastime on the same channel, Anambra Broadcasting Service (ABS).

In all my years, I have yet to watch a Jesus story that has had more impact on my life as this one. Even Jim Caviezel’s whippet hound face enduring the torture of having the flesh stripped from his bones by what looked like barbed wire in The Passion of the Christ, had a ‘car-crash TV’ effect. I couldn’t look anywhere else. My mind still has scars but my heart…well, I locked it away. Far away.

Yes, he was a more authentic looking Jesus in terms of ethnicity. And fair enough, the Romans were not known for their gentleness – they nailed criminals to wooden stakes and left them to die slowly for chrissakes. To some extent, Mel Gibson the director was trying to give a fair representation of what might have been involved in Jesus’ crucifixion, but The Passion is not one film that children should watch unless they intend to end up on some nunnery or monastery clutching beads, consumed with thoughts of self-flagellation.

I’ve just found out that the original Jesus of Nazareth is over six hours long which makes sense because it seemed never-ending.  Not that anyone wanted it to end of course. It was one of the times when we were allowed to stay up late. The kids who ran about with bits of clothing hanging off their shoulders or waists –  in the case of small babies, no clothing at all – were allowed to hang about in the reception of my father’s hospital to watch on the tiny concave TV screen that you had maltreat to get an OK reception. Mums too. People didn’t seem to need the hospital as much during the Easter period as they did at Christmas.

The Mary was so beautiful, she sent all Catholics into paroxysms of pleasure the minute she came on the screen in a haze of  soft focus. Don’t even get me started on the blue-eyed Jesus. Whoo-wee!  Director Franco Zeffirelli is single-handedly responsible for every nordic portrait/painting of Jesus to come out of Nigeria.

Looking at the ABS schedule for the next few days, it’s no wonder people will be slotting in their Nollywood DVDs or tuning in to DSTV.

Kids of these days don’t know what they’re missing.