Interview: Naomi (from Nigeria)

BY HALLIE DONG (staff writer)

“[It would be a dream] to live in another country, even for a little while!”

Naomi, a Black woman from the Igbo ethnic group, was born and raised in Nigeria, where she has lived all her life. Her story of humor, tradition, and memories offer deep insight into her unique life experience and culture, and help us all to understand the people around the world just a little more.

Growing up in Nigeria, Naomi was introduced to Igbo at a young age. However, she also learned English, and Naomi describes that “English and Igbo were used to train me as I grew.” When she was a child, she could only speak Igbo fluently. Then, when she went to live with her older sister in the city, her sister decided to ban Naomi from speaking Igbo for a year in order for her to learn English. Even though this worked, she forgot Igbo, but quickly relearned it. Naomi currently speaks both languages.

In her daily life, Naomi describes how culture has played a major role. She says, “There’s a dish called garri made from cassava and can be eaten with any kind of soup. All the tribes in Nigeria have their different soups.” She mentions how it’s almost a ritual to eat garri every day. Additionally, Naomi highlights the importance of cultural clothing: she usually only wears it to church, or very special occasions, like weddings. Otherwise, her community dresses rather casually. Traditional music, Afropop (the dominant genre in Nigeria) can be heard “almost anywhere you go,” Naomi responds.

Some holidays Naomi holds special to her are Christmas, as she gets to travel to her hometown. She recalls her special childhood memories on Christmas—the 17-hour car drives, 4 A.M. luggage loading, and all the ruckus that brings her a nostalgia unlike anything else.

Moreover, Naomi speaks about cultural, racial, and belief discrimination. She says that she has “never experienced any form of discrimination because of my culture, or my country.” However, “since no one really cares about what tribe you are from in Nigeria,” Naomi states, discrimination still exists, but not based on your tribe.

Most importantly, Naomi shares her thoughts on the importance of sharing cultural stories. “I think it creates a better understanding of people and their cultures, showing the beautiful diversity in the world. It also helps to clear up any stereotypes people may have had and creates a better space for communication without agitating the other party.”

Sharing culturally diverse stories to educate, inspire, and empower others