Archive for the ‘CHILDHOOD’ Category


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April 20, 2013

Modern babes in fattening room

2013-04-17 00:15:03

In a fresh and ambitious re-enactment of the Efik pre-marriage tradition, Fattening Room, six ladies drawn from different parts of Africa land in seclusion, writes AKEEM LASISI

 At a time many people fear that the country’s many cultural practices are on the extinction plane, Fattening Room, a major bridal practice of the Efik People of Cross River, appears to have got a new lease of life. It will soon become a spectacle to be watched on the screen, through the acts of six modern ladies who have just experienced it.

The producer, EbonyLife, which has come up with some powerful reality shows in recent times, describes  Fattening Room as an authentic experience set in the historically significant city of Calabar, also home to the famous Calabar Cultural Festival.

“The Fattening Room is unique to the Efik culture of Nigeria and is practised when young women enter a house of seclusion to learn everything a woman needs to know about running an honourable home, raising children that are as good as gold and managing to keep her husband happy and at home,” the company’s Director of Reality Programmes, Pamela Ofoegbu, notes.

The organisation believes that the time has come to discover the inner chambers of tradition that have always been reserved for women only, when six young ladies from across Africa enter the Fattening Room for the very first time.

She adds, “The ladies start the series in the strict Efik tradition and journey towards modern invention while always honouring their African roots.  It has been an incredible journey back to time as we celebrate our rich African heritage on a beautiful trado-modern backdrop. Our ladies from Botswana, South Africa, Zambia, Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya emerged from the Fattening Room with a better appreciation of the Efik culture and tradition and also of themselves as strong African women full of value and worth.”

Just ‘escaping’ from the room are Roselyn Ashkar, a fashion model and journalist from Ghana; Sally Berold, an adventurer and freelance experiential marketing specialist from South Africa; Stephanie Unachukwu, a Nigerian designer and Patricia Kihoto, a singer, actress and radio personality from Kenya.

Others are Thsepo Maphanyanye,  a publicity and public relations executive from Botswana,  and Limpo Funjika, a business development manager and aspiring TV presenter from Zambia.

While the Series Producer at EbonyLife, founded by Mo Abudu,  Priscilia Nzimiro, says producing the Fattening Room has been a wonderful and enlightening experience,  with Content Director, Kenneth Gyang, lauding the treat as being engaging, the cast generally say the experience has been revealing.

Says Tshepo, “Participating in the fattening room has certainly been a surge of all kinds of emotions but best of all it has been without a doubt an incredible journey of discovery and a once in a lifetime opportunity of exposure to such a rich culture experienced alongside an amazing circle of young women from nations across Africa.Certainly one of my best experiences.”

For Limpo, it has provided her an opportunity to learn; and for Patricia, it has been a lot of fun although she concedes she has learnt a lot, even about herself.

Also says Stephanie, “I have had the opportunity to learn new skills in the short amount of time I’ve been here and look forward to the rest of the show and what it holds.”

Abudu congratulates all the participants and salutes the crew for the feat at producing Fattening Room. She notes, “It is a true testimony of ‘If you can think it, you can do it.’ As a team, during one of our strategy sessions about a year ago inTinapa, we wanted to develop and produce a reality show that showcased the rich culture of Calabar that is now home to EbonyLife TV and we thought what better way to do that, than the Efik tradition of The Fattening Room! And with the genius minds of the EbonyLifeTV team at work, we gave it a treatment that will simply wow everyone when it airs! We simply took an old Efik culture and gave it a modern twist. “


April 18, 2013

Thursday 18 April, 2013


Cultural lessons from North America

2013-04-17 01:18:33

Monilola Tenabe has lived in the US for about 30 years. But her manner of speaking shows that Yoruba culture still flows in her blood. She has, understandably, gained a distinct measure of American accent and does not need to stammer between English words whenever she is speaking.

Listening to her as she speaks Yoruba, however, you would think you are listening to a woman who has lived in a ‘traditional’ town like Ibadan, Osogbo or Abeokuta. She cannot speak the language for two minutes without throwing a strong proverb into it.

She was at such her cultural best on Thursday when she spoke in Lagos on the mission of her and some other members of the National Association of Yoruba Descendants in North America. Established some 22 years ago, the group otherwise called Egbe Omo Yoruba is the umbrella body of all Yoruba groups in the Diaspora.

According to Tenabe, they are in Nigeria to explore ways in which they can contribute to the development of the South West.

“We are on this trip to see what we can do with government and other stakeholders to move the Yoruba nation forward,” she says. “We want to continue the progressive ideas championed by the sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo. We have carried on with the legacy he left and we want to do all we can to move the Yoruba nation forward.”

Also on the trip are Dr. Ayo Famuyide and Mrs. Modupe Adeyanju. They have been visiting governments of the states in the region, with Tenabe, a university administrator, saying they are offering themselves for service in whatever areas they are called to intervene. But part of their crusade is also that whenever government is asking for foreign investment, it should not focus on foreigners alone.

Says Famuyide, who is the group’s public affairs secretary, “We have enough talent to turn this country around if government will give us the same concessions it gives foreign investors.”

On how Tenabe and her colleagues have been preserving their Yoruba legacies abroad, she notes that they regularly organise programmes where they discuss home and design projects that keep them in tune. During holidays and the association’s conventions, they organise Yoruba lessons for their children, while they invite experts to lecture people on the region’s heritage. Adeyanju, a teacher, is often in charge of grooming the kids culturally.

“I also speak Yoruba to my children,” Tenabe adds. “We must take our culture seriously. And this is one of the messages we have brought home.”


January 6, 2011



‘Homeland,’ by George Obama

MemoirJanuary 17, 2010
By G. Pascal Zachary, Special to The Chronicle

The main reason to read a book by a man named Obama who is not the president of the United States is simple: to understand better the Obama who is president. With this as a test, does a new memoir from a Kenyan half brother to our very own Barack Obama – an African resident of Nairobi who shares our president’s surname and his long-deceased father but not his mother – shed any light on President Obama as a leader?

Now, let’s remember that one of the enduring riddles about Barack Obama is his relationship to Africa. After all, he never lived in Africa – and never visited until an adult and then only briefly on a journey to Kenya, his father’s country. Yet as he demonstrated in his classic memoir, “Dreams From My Father,” his tie to Africa is crucial to his self-definition. Raised by a white American mother and her Midwestern extended family, and a graduate of a Hawaii high school, Obama is not content to describe himself as merely an American and certainly not as a creolized, mixed-race American. His blood tie to Africa is decisive for establishing the veracity of his “black,” or African American identity because, after all, his father was a black African and a Kenyan intellectual.

Since becoming president, Obama has curiously avoided the subject of Africa save for a brief visit to Ghana, where he and his family visited a slave castle. While Obama has plenty of urgent demands on his attention – the economic crisis, health care, the Afghan war – he seems to be going out of his way to diminish any expectations – and hopes are sky high among Africans – that he will favor his “fatherland.” Indeed, many Kenyans even hope to benefit materially from Obama’s power and fame. One of these appears to be the author George Obama, who admits he writes in response to his half brother’s election, seeing a chance to gain “a platform” and a means to raise money for admirable social-welfare projects he directs in Nairobi’s slums.

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January 6, 2011

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Review: George Obama’s ‘Homeland’

Steve Weinberg
The Christian Science Monitor
Jan 23, 2010

George Obama has, by choice, lived much of his 28 years in a slum in Nairobi, Kenya. His older brother by 21 years is currently president of the United States.

Barack Obama has never lived in a Kenyan slum. The two men, however, share a father, Barack Obama Sr. He died before George turned 1 year old. But his paternity, obviously, links the half brothers. Barack Jr. and George have met face to face only twice — when George was a 5-year-old schoolboy, and when Barack Jr. was serving in the US Senate before ascending to the White House.

The blood relationship between George and Barack Jr. seems at first like a thin reason for Homeland, a nearly 300-page memoir by a man who has not reached age 30. A potential reader would certainly remain inside the realm of logic by supposing George has published a book simply to capitalize financially on his brother’s becoming US president.

It turns out, however, that the memoir, written with assistance from journalist Damien Lewis, is worthy for lots of reasons. The blood relationship with Barack is way down on the list of those reasons. The memoir stands on its own nicely as a coming-of-age story set in an African nation.

Naturally, George Obama dwells on becoming fatherless before his first birthday. Barack Sr. was an educated man who, as a civil servant, tried to alleviate government corruption throughout Kenya; he wanted food, housing, and other amenities of life to reach the poor before being siphoned off.

Because of his father’s legacy, George Obama grew up comfortably with a resourceful mother. During childhood, George welcomed a new “father” into the household, a French human aid worker named Christian who had been posted to Kenya. A white male rarely cohabited with a black female in Kenya, but Christian challenged the status quo. George adored him. George also adored a brother named Marvin who entered his life about the same time as Christian.

Tall, athletic, and intelligent, George lived far better than the typical Kenyan. He dreamed of becoming a commercial airline pilot. So his parents did their utmost to place George in the best schools, hoping the preparation would pay off with a college degree (available only to a select percentage of Kenyan schoolchildren) and an offer to fly for an international airline.

Despite his privileged life, George faced expulsion from expensive private schools more than once. His delinquencies included fighting, stealing, and lying.

When George was 15, Christian walked out. He did not say goodbye to George, at least according to George’s recollection. Feeling betrayed and angry, George increasingly turned to a life of crime. As a thug from the slums, George joined a gang, provoked dangerous fights with rival gangs, robbed businessmen and tourists, and generally kicked away the opportunities offered to him by a first-class education and a lucrative career.

George’s mother tried to control him, but failed, despite her loving nature. His aunt, the sister of Barack Obama Sr., lived a marginal existence in the Nairobi slums, but never lost her family pride or her insistence that George return to school. George admired and listened to his aunt, but returned to his criminal ways over and over.

Eventually, George and three of his thug buddies ended up in a Kenyan prison. The pages describing the prison violence and filth are graphic and difficult to stomach. George vowed never to return to prison.

Today, George Obama says he is devoting his considerable intelligence to improving life in the Nairobi slums. The president of the United States apparently is not helping in significant material ways. His example of great achievement, however, is a guiding light for his younger half brother.

The book is marred by the lack of sourcing, coupled with George Obama’s near-miraculous recall of conversations and events from his childhood, adolescence, and early manhood. In an “Author’s Note” he says “without doubt my memory is fallible.” But George Obama never explains when and in what ways his memory might have yielded uncertainty or downright inaccuracy.

By living in an urban slum, George Obama is able to keep his memory clear about how it feels, and felt remembrances contain value of their own. He says one-sixth of the world’s population consists of slum dwellers. If that percentage is ever to decrease, George Obama might lead the way, based on his searing personal experiences, with brother Barack providing backup through his position, which allows his words and example to touch the lives of poor and rich alike.

Steve Weinberg is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. He lives in Columbia, Mo.

This review originally appeared in the January 20, 2010 edition of The Christian Science Monitor and is republished here with permission.

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