Writer, Poet, Social Commentator
One of my most cherished possession is a Levi Strauss T-shirt given to me by a dear friend on which it is inscribed amongst other things: ‘Honestly Made’.
I have pondered on those two words more times than I can remember and I am yet to completely unravel the simple and yet diverse meanings behind them. So much have these words impacted on me that I have on several occasions referred to myself as ‘Honestly Bred’ and of course, the questions came flooding in; the same questions people asked me whenever I put on this shirt; same questions I asked myself when I saw the words for the first time.
What does it mean to be honestly made?
Are we referring to the instance at which the production began? Were the materials obtained via honest means without shortchanging the supplier? Were the workers all paid wages equal to the services they rendered? Were they compensated adequately? Was the producing company in right standing with the law; tax, pensions, allowances and all? Or does the honest reference apply only to the concept and design of the cloth? Perhaps it’s just another way of saying it is an authentic Levi Strauss? I have wondered about all these and more.
But then I have gone ahead to describe myself as a ‘honestly bred Nigerian’.
Why would I do that? Is my honest breeding a reference to being conceived legally in the subsistence of properly certified wedlock or am I assuming that my parents honestly desired to have me and not another gender? Is my reference to my honest breeding a self assurance that when my parents look at me, they would nod in satisfaction and say ‘this is our beloved child in whom we are well pleased?’
Do I merely refer to the fact that my parents transferred their nationality to me at birth or do I testify to the experience of all things Nigeria?
I have asked myself more questions than necessary and in most cases, I really do not want an answer to the possibilities of my mind boggling questions; why was I born Nigerian, why am I black? Why am I a woman? Why out of wedlock? Why Christian? Why so tall? Why not beautiful? Why I’m I not smart? Why wasn’t I raised better? Why am I different?
Does it really matter?
The shock at some of my shameful thoughts and habits have had me reeling with guilty self-loathing and to think I didn’t even realise I was capable of some of them, is all the more alarming. I am on a long journey of life and I worry about the discovery of many things I am currently yet to comprehend.
But in all of these I am grateful for the HAND on my shoulder, a hand I have come to acknowledge and welcome; guiding me, soothing me, chastising me.
A hand owned by none, but expressed through everyone I have ever met or encountered. I am a product of these people; parents, siblings, friends, family, colleagues and even those I have referred to as ‘mere acquaintances’.
They have shaped me, directed me, guided me with copious reasons to hate and love, give and be given, whilst leaving me with that uncanny responsibility of deciding when to trust and be suspicious ( a very difficult feat I might add).
Am I proud of all these people and what they have taught me? No, but then I am grateful for them all; grateful that I had teachers from whose evil I learnt the need to be good and out of their good I learnt to be better.
I am of many flaws, of strange desires and many unholy thoughts, whose legs and hands have severally refused to do that which my heart knows to be true and good; still I am me, a honest breed and there is no other.
I may be bad in many ways and that’s good; I may never be good enough and that’s not bad. But there is no one I’d rather be than me… so I don’t need any medals, accolades, public aggrandising or perfectionism to make me feel good. I will keep pressing on, taking life one game at a time.*
At then end of it all, there is only one answer that matters; I WAS BORN; and there is no getting out that one.
*Excerpts taken from ‘Wreck it Ralph (an animation) 2012’