I couldn’t believe my eyes. Walking around The Palms Shoprite, a ritzy shopping mall in Lekki (an area of Lagos), I felt like the sparkling marble floor between glass window store fronts was a runway and I was the most poorly dressed model of them all. My Citizens of Humanity boot cut jeans, sunflower yellow blouse, red gladiator sandals and simple black stud earrings couldn’t hold a candle to the posh attire of almost everyone else shopping that Thursday afternoon. Young girls in skinny jeans with sparkly butt pockets, clean tops, beautiful beaded sandals and shiny woven hair. Men in sport coats, fine pressed button down shirts and wide black rimmed non-prescription glasses. The extent to which some women, not just in Lagos, but in Ibadan too, coordinate matching colors deserves a medal of honor. In the mall I saw a girl wearing a white t-shirt and jeans, a big red belt, red pumps, red jewel earrings and to top it all off, even red eye shadow. I struggled to keep my gaze in front, not staring. Maybe it was because I had been riding all around Lagos on okadas all morning trying to obtain a visa to Ghana, but I felt shabby compared to the young girls standing in the cue to buy movie tickets (I saw Tangled, which I highly recommend.)
One of my Nigerian friends and I were aimlessly strolling around the mall that day after seeing two movies. We found ourselves between the all too familiar red and white sign of a KFC and a 12-foot tall Christmas tree where kiddies could get the satisfaction of sitting on Santa’s lap for some outrageous price. I noticed one guy in a group of young men walking past us who hung back while his friends continued down past the Converse store. This guy waited, and hesitatingly approached me and my friend. Excuse me, are you Titi? (He spoke English.) Yes, I said. I saw your videos online, I’m so happy to meet you in person. I, smiling ear to ear at this situation, kindly said thank you so much. Bye, he said, have a great day. Bye!
This is the first time in Nigeria, and in my life that a complete stranger has approached me like that to ask if I am the girl he had seen on the Internet speaking Yoruba. It surprised me so because of the setting, the mall in Lekki. Similar occurrences happen almost daily in Ibadan. One step off campus into Agbowo (the name of the area directly in front of the UI gate) and people are calling Titilayo, Abike, Sarah, (the other two names are my Oyinbo friends on campus) left and right. The news has spread that Yoruba-speaking Oyinbo women are on campus so they have a 1 in 3 chance of getting our names right. I don’t know most of them, I usually don’t look to see where the call is coming from anyway because if I did I would never get to where I need to go. It is true, I am quite well known around Ibadan, popular even. In certain neighborhoods, like where my hairdresser and tailor live, everyone knows my name. To use a Yoruba phrase, mo ti di gbajugbaja. Once UI classes start on January 3rd, I anticipate the recognition will grow exponentially. Did you see that Oyinbo in your Modern Yoruba Drama class? You mean Abike? No, Abike is the one with blond hair. This one has brown hair. Okay, that’s Titilayo. Yup, that’s me!