The Woyingi Blog

About The Woyingi Blogger

Born Under a Bad Sign

My mother is French-Canadian and American German. My father is Nigerian Ijaw. My father was deported back to Nigeria when I was a baby so I was raised by my mother and my maternal grandparents.  I had no contact with my father until I found him in my mid-twenties and have since developed a relationship with him via e-mails (See: All About My Nigerian Father). I have yet to meet him in person.

As I discuss in the post White Trash Pride: Being a Black Girl Growing Up with Poor White Folks, I grew up on welfare in a subsidized housing community.

My experiences growing up in my mother’s abusive and dysfunctional family definitely shaped my perspectives on issues related to women’s rights and empowerment. I consider myself a feminist, a Black feminist (big fan of sisters bell hooks, Angela Davis, and Audre Lorde) to be precise.

I survived a difficult childhood to become a relatively functional adult. Still haven’t finished university but there are worst things to have not completed. Considering that I dropped out of school in Grade 7 and again in Grade 9, it’s a miracle I even graduated from high school.

I couldn’t read at my Grade Level until I was about 13. Then I started reading everything. Many of the posts on this blog relate to my extensive reading. Reading is my favourite thing to do seconded by scouring used book stores to find copies of out of print novels from the Heineman African Writers Series.

Good Hair/Bad Hair

I have been told that I am quite dark for a person of mixed race and that my hair is jacked up. This is what Black people tell me. Black people tell me lots of crazy things about what I should or should not look like. I have learned to dismiss them.

My hair is naturally very short and straight up nappy. I look like Don King in the morning. Actually, I think Don King’s hair is longer than mine. My mother had no idea what to do with my hair. My grandmother was convinced that she could somehow torture my hair into submission by combing it with this awful razor comb (I later learned that it was a hair thinning comb).

I have come to terms with my hair although wearing a hijab (Muslim headscarf) has helped me not have to fret about what to do with my hair when I go out.  (Oh ya, I converted to Islam in my early twenties. See: Being Black, Being Muslim)

As a child, despite my jacked up hair which made people think I was a boy because it wasn’t braided and it wasn’t long, I thought I was pretty cute. When I became a teenager, I thought I was pretty ugly and went through what a lot of Black women go through in relation to beauty.

Now, I really don’t care if I’m attractive or not. I’m probably not but that never stopped Whoopi Goldberg from hooking up. In all honesty, I’d rather look more like Whoopi Goldberg than Halle Berry. And that fact pretty much sums up my entire personality.

Being Black in Ottawa

I have lived my whole life in Ottawa, Canada. This context, I think, will set me apart from many other Black bloggers. Ottawa is a bilingual city (English and French) and I speak both languages so I have the opportunity to interact with a variety of Africans and members of the African diaspora.

In my neighbourhood alone I have neighbours from Somalia, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ghana, Liberia, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Burundi, Haiti, Jamaica, and Congo-Kinshasa. So, whenever there is a conflict in Africa I know I will be getting new neighbours. All the more reason to find out what is going on there.

You can follow my adventures in my Day in the Life posts.

Also, check me out on Twitter.

8 Responses

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  1. teethmarksonmybreast said, on February 28, 2010 at 11:21 pm

    Your blog is so interesting – I still have a lot to get through, but I’m really appreciating it so far.
    It’s funny, I’m Nigerian but have been living in Ireland for most of my life. I have always known where I came from – having spent the first 8 years of my life in Nigeria – so it never was a huge priority for me to actively find out about my home country. My knowledge of Nigerian history is disgraceful. I guess I have taken it all for granted.
    Basically I am enjoying your blog and looking at being Nigerian from a different perspective.
    Thanks.

  2. Remi Olutimayin said, on January 11, 2011 at 3:14 pm

    Well, I’m glad that I stumbled on this ’cause-for-pause’. I am a Nigerian, proudly so, even when opportunities to lampoon Nigeria literally jump on my lap and tug on my shirt for attention.

    I admire the intensity of your prose and appreciate the drive to ‘burn every book with my eyes’. I thought I knew reading wasn’t going out of style, but I feel another tug on my shirt, so I will let that go.

    I am a writer, poet, voice-actor, radio-show producer, etc.
    A South African film maker (ROBERT BEUGELINK- you can check out his blog. it is in his name) made a comment about Nigerian chaps being MacGyvers in their own right. I think we entered a renaissance period in the military era and never recovered from it.

    You know, I write epistles and speak even longer, and that always comes off as unseemly, so I will put a lid on it now and ask that you kindly accept my humble praise and respect for your ‘style of expression’.

    Yours,
    Remi Olutimayin

  3. InsideJourneys said, on March 22, 2011 at 1:52 am

    Your blog appeals to me on many levels, it’ll take me a while to read it all.
    I lived in Ottawa several years ago while I was at Carleton. Still have a few relatives and friends there. Unfortunately, I’ve only been back twice since I left – and was surprised, and comforted, to see so much of the city unchanged.

    I’ve subscribed to your blog, will check back for updates and continue to sift through your posts.

    Marcia

  4. Julia said, on July 12, 2011 at 5:23 pm

    Dear Woyingi,

    I am writing from FiveBooks at TheBrowser.com. Each day on FiveBooks, we feature an interview with an expert — a scholar, artist, politician, journalist, or other eminent figure — who recommends and discusses the five best books in his or her field.

    I thought you might be interested in our interview with the South African novelist Imraan Coovadia, who gives us an unvarnished view of the writer’s life, and explains how literature told the story of apartheid and why comedy is the easiest way to talk about race.

    Here is the link:
    http://thebrowser.com/interviews/imraan-coovadia-on-south-african-fiction

    Professor Coovadia recommends five South African novels and there are his brilliant and hilarious answers to questions here such as:

    Q: What was the up side of censorship? Is injustice good for literature?
    A: ( Imraan Coovadia) : “nowadays, people are more interested in reading about how terrible Zimbabwe is.”

    Q: What does it mean when all your readers are overseas?
    A: “South African writers who are successful are successful because they’re read out of context.”

    Q: Why is there a robust tradition of humor in South Africa?
    A: “Humour is a way of being racist without being responsible.”

    And there are the biting things he has to say:

    “We may seem political from overseas but we are a country that’s devoted to money, to escaping poverty, to staying away from poor people and not thinking about them. So day-to-day life is quite non-political.”

    “the key thing about South Africa is, if you are a member of the middle class, you can live here and have almost no contact with its problems.”
    And he compares Johannesburg to the world of the video game Doom.

    If you like the interview, please consider sharing the link. Many thanks for any press or social media support you can give.

    Thank you for your time.

    Kind regards,

    Julia Terentyeva
    TheBrowser – Writing Worth Reading
    http://www.thebrowser.com

    http://www.twitter.com/thebrowser
    http://www.facebook.com/thebrowser

  5. Sweetie said, on February 24, 2012 at 12:16 pm

    Your blog is one of the best things that have happened in the blogosphere for ages! I ran into it by searching some info in English about the Lusophone African poets, especially Alda Espirito Santos. Thank you for every introduction, esp. the feminist angle, it will take me years to read your blog as a whole but I probably will. I am a Finnish writer interested in African issues. I particularly loved your personal narrative, hope you can reconnect with your dad soon!

  6. Mari Stimie said, on March 8, 2012 at 10:31 am

    Sharing a bit of news from Cape Town-based African Arts Institute – as a way of introducing the work of the institute to woyingiblogger and followers. Let me know if you’s prefer receiving such information on a different platform?

    More African Film Nights for Cape Town!

    The African Arts Institute and M-Net’s African Film Library will continue a series of Learn Africa Love Africa Film Nights launched in Cape Town last year. The first film to be screened – at the Labia on Orange on Tuesday 13 March – was also the first to come from the Central African Republic in 2003. It stars Cameroonian actor Eriq Ebouaney, best known for his portrayal as Patrice Lumumba in the film ‘Lumumba’ in 2000.

    At the time of its release in 2003 Le Silence de la Foret (The Silence of the Forest), directed by Didier Ouenangare (Central African Republic) and Bassek ba Kobhio (Cameroon), was widely billed as the country’s first film. One international reviewer speculated that the film might never be seen in its home country due to the then recent closure of the only remaining movie theatre in the country.

    Other reviewers recognized a brave, dramatic film, beautifully composed and with its strength in its authenticity. Le Silence explores the relationship between the Baka people, a Pygmee group and Gonuba, an idealistic young French-educated African who believe that he can use his experiences in Europe to aid his fellow citizens.

    Ebouaney and Dibango

    The film grew from an initial idea by Ouenangare – upon his return to Central Africa after ten years in France as television photographer – to draw attention to the Pygmies of the region. He found a willing partner in Bassek ba Kobhio at a time when no other filmmaker would venture into the Central African Republic, no resources were available and all equipment and even cast, had to be imported.

    The end result includes a highly acclaimed authentic portrayal of Pygmie life, with Baka participants ‘acting’ in their mother tongue and refusing to be involved in scenes that would compromise their traditions and beliefs. On the other hand the lead, Eric Ebouaney, had to learn the Central African language, Sango, to play his role. Ebouaney is widely-known for his title role in Raoul Peck’s Lumumba, of three years earlier, 2000.

    The film is scored by Cameroonian music legend and totemic figure of African pop music, saxophonist Manu Dibango. Dibango’s musical scores for film include work for directors such as Ousmane Sembene, Flora Gomes and Idrissa Ouedraogo, bearing an intimate relationship with African cinema.

    For more information on the making of the film and its directors in the week leading up to the once off screening, follow us http://www.facebook.com/africanartsinstitute

    More monthly screenings

    AFAI’s screening on 13 March is the launch of a second series of consecutive monthly screenings of contemporary African cinema in Cape Town, thanks to the African Film Library. The first series was presented with much success from July to December last year and included Ousmane Sembene classics, comedy from North Africa, a musical from French-Guinea and drama from Nigeria. The Learn Africa Love Africa screening series will be replicated at partner venues in Johannesburg and Durban later this year. This project is supported by the African Film Library and Spier.

    The upcoming screening line-up for Cape Town, March to August 2012, is as follows:

    Le Silence de la Foret on Tuesday 13 March at 6.15pm;

    the science-fiction film, Les Saignantes (The Bleeders, 2007) directed by Jean-Pierre (Obama) Bekolo (Cameroon) on Tuesday 10 April;

    a comedy, Lalla Hobby (1999) directed by Moumen Smihi (Morocco) on Tuesday 8 May;

    two short films, Gombele (1993), directed by Issa Traoré de Brahima (Burkina Faso) and Sidney Poitier na Barbearia de Firipe Beruberu (2001), directed by Francisco Vellardebo of Mozambique on Tuesday 12 June;

    a drama, Le Destin (Destiny, 1997) directed by Youssef Chahine from Egypt on Tuesday 10 July;

    and finally another comedy, Le Ballon D’Or (The Golden Ball), directed by Cheik Doukoure from Guinea/France (1994) on Tuesday 14 August.

    Tickets are R30 from the Labia, 021-424 5927, or call 021-465 9027 / email info@afai.org.za to book.
    More information about the African Arts Institute at http://www.africanartsinstitute.org.za

    The African Arts Institute (AFAI) harnesses local expertise, resources and markets in the service of Africa’s creative sector. It aims to build regional markets for African creative goods, services and artists’ brands; and to build capacity within the African creative sector. The institute was launched in February 2009 with a two-year grant from Spier. AFAI also plays host to Arterial Network, a continent-wide network of artists, activists and creative enterprises active in the African creative sector and its contribution to development, human rights and democracy on the continent. For more information: http://www.afai.org.za

  7. TSAR Publications said, on April 13, 2012 at 4:31 pm

    Your blog looks great! Would you be interested in featuring a new fiction anthology Beyond Sangre Grande from TSAR Publications (www.tsarbooks.com). It features Caribbean fiction from authors all over the world. If you’re interested contact us at inquiries@tsarbooks.com

  8. […] independent, the Canadian-African blogger Woyingi, shares her telling story of a being a child of the Diaspora, and of the importance that African […]


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