A few weeks ago, I met Nigeria for the first time as an adult. Usually I plan a few outings when I travel, but this go around, all I wanted to do was wake up in a quiet village and sit with my grandmother on her front porch while she told me her earliest memories of raising a family. A lot had changed since my last trip fifteen years ago, and I saw the country through experienced eyes, with more awareness of the world. A part of me came back expecting the same merriment I experienced as a child–popping banga (fireworks) on New Year’s Eve, caring for the baby goats, and walking miles to the next village with my cousins. In reality, everyone who lived in the village fifteen years ago got married and moved, went off to school, or moved to their own houses. After my grandfather passed away, all his goats died too because nobody was there to care for them properly. I didn’t mind it too much, though. For someone like me living in one of the busiest areas of Los Angeles, CA, the village was the perfect getaway I needed to recharge, so I was thankful for all the changes.
Either jet lag had the best of me or the sun in Nigeria took its sweet time rising. The first three days of staying in my uncle’s impressive two-story house right outside my grandfather’s compound, I woke sweaty up at 2:30am waiting for daylight while rolling around in bed with the flashlight on. As soon as I saw sun beams illuminating the sky, I hopped up, collected a bucket of hot water for my bath, and drenched myself in coconut oil and mosquito spray.
Owerri, located about thirty minutes outside of my maternal village, is busy city located in Imo State. It boasts of upscale hotels, a bustling market, and the newest South African-based economic venture, Shoprite, located in the Owerri Mall. I indulged my love for animal at the Imo State Zoo where I fought off vervet monkeys trying to steal my biscuits (what Nigerians call cookies). I eventually gave into their cuteness.
When I wasn’t eating, sleeping from heat exhaustion, or lounging around watching Big Brother Naija, I enjoyed riding through the country’s capital, Abuja, and scoping the city-life scene. The mosquito population was significantly lower in the city (thank God) and of course, I did more retail therapy near the market at the Cyprian Ekwensi Art and Cultural Centre.
As always, I want to connect my viewers with parts of the world they’ve never experienced. Just like most countries, Nigeria encompasses both sides of any spectrum you can think of, which is what I wanted to capture in this short film.