I swear I thought I hit send like a month and a half ago…😂😂😂
During the first few days in January, I resolved to make 2017 my best year yet. But I also had to take a step back and truly reflect on my accomplishments and God’s continued goodness towards me in 2016. Despite all the hate mongering, violence, and insecurities worldwide, I was kept safe in whichever corner of the world I found myself… And that in and of itself is a blessing! So I’ve taken out the time to list 10 things that really made 2016 memorable. So let’s get to it (these are in no particular order).
This Nigerian-American artist is a breath of fresh air, fusing his multicultural background into both his music and fashion styles. I especially love the way he uses his status and art to engage in social activism. Anyone who knows me knows that I have an affinity for good music. I’ve been expanding my music repertoire to artists representing diverse genres, with the unifying factor being powerful messages and unique sounds. In 2015, I went to a Jidenna concert (well it was actually a Stromae concert at Madison Square garden where Janelle Monae & Jidenna opened) for my birthday. I promised myself that I would get some face time with Jidenna someday. So now let’s fast-forward a year to 2016 when Jidenna came “home” to Enugu. He stopped by a local radio station, and because of the work I was doing in town, I was able to interview him.
2. Invisible Borders Within
“For 45 days, 9 Nigerians under the umbrella of Invisible Borders Trans-African Organization travelled across Nigeria on a project tagged ‘Borders Within 2016’. The mission was to illuminate the multiple histories that continue to exist in a post-colony, by exploring ethnicities, religions, and visions of modernity.” Essentially, I met Emeka Okereke and a team of talented Nigerian artists who use their camera and/or words to tell stories of Nigeria or of the corner of the globe in which they find themselves. It was inspiring seeing Yagazie Emezi capture scars in order to rediscover the body and Eloghosa Osunde telling people’s intergenerational family narratives.
3. Travel Nigeria
Many times when talking about tourism, Nigeria is overlooked. Even with the whole #MadeInNigeria craze being promoted by top government officials, it looks like not everyone has gotten on board. Alhaji Baba has been ‘vacationing’…IN THE UK. Sigh. And for those who actually do care to see some attractions in the country, Cross Rivers and Lagos State are 2 of the top contenders. I actually did get touristy in Cross Rivers, but I’ll talk about that in a little bit. I also explored Bayelsa, FCT, Lagos, Imo, etc., but for lack of time, I’ll only describe one place, which was actually very close to home: Enugu State. Enugu is well known don’t get me wrong. Popular artists like Flavour and Phyno rep Enugu, and they both came to town at least once in 2016. Other positive things attributed to Enugu are top institutions such as the University of Nigeria, Nnsuka, one of the few female Deputy Governors in the country, and the list goes on. However, tourism is usually not associated with that list although things are changing. Some would be surprised to know that Enugu state is home to caves, waterfalls, a pine forest, and even a beach. My favorite tourist attraction was the Ezeagu Tourist complex, which is comprised of a cave and a small waterfall. It’s located in Ezeagu local government and is about a 45 minute drive from Enugu town. I truly cannot describe in words what it felt like to explore the cave and the surrounding foliage. I would definitely recommend it as a place to see, especially if you are already in the Eastern region of the country.
I was originally going to include this in the previous section, but decided that it needed its own number. Before I get into the regularly scheduled programming… Did you know that the Obudu Mountain Resort has a beautiful Presidential suite, which was intended for the PRESIDENT? Seeing that Nigerian Presidents like to vacation (e.g. get medical treatment) outside the country, I wonder how many times it’s actually been used… #ChiPonders
Moving on…I heard SO many good things about the Obudu Cattle Ranch, so I decided I would check it out with a few friends. One morning while out exploring Sabkwala, a nearby town, I decided to take a camera along with me. I saw a small, open compound and struck up a conversation with the man of the house. I found that the place had a quaint beauty, and when I requested permission to take some pictures of the place he surprised me and obliged.
Later, a group of us drove up and up and up the 11 kilometer Hill, which has 20 sharp U bends and is termed “snake road.” The resort includes a sports club, nice residences, King Mountain, a Canopy walkway, cable car, etc.
5. Natural hair don’t care
I’m what you can call a Naturalista.
Noun nat·u·ral·is·ta \ˈna-chə-rəl-ēs-tə \ A woman devoted to the natural, healthy growth of her own natural textures without the use of any chemical process to manipulate said texture (this term also applies to men).
While many people may have differing opinions about this definition, this is the one I use. I wear my natural hair proudly, because I love it and believe that God didn’t make a mistake when he decided I should have kinky-curly hair. I do not dictate that all people should wear their hair in its natural state; neither do I believe that anybody MUST chemically treat their ‘bad’ hair to make it ‘manageable’. I believe ALL hair types are GOOD and beautiful, and thus I’ve worn my hair naturally (without relaxers) for seven years now. Due to the high number of questions I received about my hair and natural hair care while in Enugu, I delved into natural hair consultancy and ChiNaturally was a natural offshoot of my passion for black beauty and the services that I rendered.
6. Social justice
I worked alongside women and men who believe that women’s rights are fundamental human rights and moreover that feminism is not a dirty word. I had the pleasure of collaborating with gender activists and allies to promote gender equality, fight against SGBV, protect child rights, and advocate for increased female political participation. I found that the Purple Naija brand was a nice venue/outlet for everyone, especially young adults, to discuss gender issues in a safe space, expand one’s knowledge, and even transform communities.
7. Certified en Francais
Enfin, j’ai eu le DELF B2…funny how that actually rhymed! Translation for all my non-French speaking people: Finally, I passed the DELF B2, a French language proficiency test administered by the French Ministry of Education. Although I took my last French class in 2013, I never got around to taking this exam until last year.
Due to the nature of my job in Enugu and my affinity for the French language, I frequented the Alliance Française in town quite often. When I learned of the exam dates, I jumped at the opportunity to certify my French language skills.
8. Travel Africa
While many people are clamoring to go to Dubai, I was literally running in the opposite direction. Personally, I’m a fan of human rights over extreme luxury. Don’t get me wrong; Dubai could be a nice place to visit under the right circumstances, but I have at least 10 (see what I did there) countries ahead of it on my travel wish list. That’s why I took up Tastemakers Africa’s challenge to travel the continent. I still have a lot more to countries explore in the future, but 2016 was definitely an improvement from years past.
I love Christ, and I love his people. My experience getting involved with the local Christian community definitely made an impact on my year. Christian family friends helped me get on my feet, assisted me numerous times, and welcomed me into their family. I also joined the social media department at House on the Rock, ‘The Word House’, in Enugu. We were about 10 social media gurus, photographers, and graphic designers passionate about our individual crafts and determined to share Jesus’ love with the world. We worked, we laughed, they teased me, and I learned a lot. I was truly blessed to work with such a dedicated and hardworking team.
For years I’ve enjoyed capturing moments through photos, and I can say that this was the first year I actually started operating a DSLR camera. In life there are so many untold stories, so many missed moments. I love the way that one can capture memories and tell poignant tales without evening opening one’s mouth. In a world that is often divided by barriers in the form of language, nationality, culture, and so forth, photos have the power to unearth the hidden, unite, and inspire. Even with my limited tools and knowledge, I have been able to document and disseminate more stories than I could have ever imagined.
So here’s to 2017—another year full of adventure, advocacy, and love.