On the Ground in Naija
Updated: Apr 18, 2021
Painting by Nigerian Artist, Joseph Eze
On this first day of 2021, I find myself processing much from an ancient land many perhaps would never place at the top of their list or even on the list itself to visit…Nigeria, Africa.
On the eve of the New Year, my time was spent with a portion of a large spiritual Christian family of Nigerians and the way they are called forward internally to celebrate, by focusing on the spiritual blessings and intentions for the months to come. I was grateful for an earthy bowl of fish soup and fu fu (a dough-like ball made from cassava flour and water), with my own addition for dessert...a glass of vanilla ice cream topped off with coca cola. Many Nigerians have never thought of putting coke and ice cream together – so I have been having fun with that. ;)
Tribal awareness and duties still run deep in this densely populated country, yet the blankets of Christianity and Islam continue to graft itself over the top in increasing numbers. Attention to Western customs and trends further wind their way into the overall consciousness. It is a most unique cultural blend as I have experienced personally compared to Europe and the US.
Growing up in the United States, my exposure to Nigeria has always been placed in a negative light. Yes, all of it is here, in my face with a level of apathy and bravado that would leave many from my secular culture appalled and running in the opposite direction. Yet even in my country, there continues to be more and more visible corruption to the masses as well. So whether it is obvious or hidden, it is all the same to me at least from an economic and government-type of framework.
There are stark differences though that I am on a steep learning curve with. These differences include deep tribal politics, religious genocide, and a level of poverty that induces some of the people here into a state of survival towards continuous kidnappings for religious conversion, for money, and ancient occult practices for personal gain and protection at a level that would make many other modern countries pale in comparison. I do believe though that those mostly secular countries are moving towards this direction in some ways due to the continual shutdown of economies all over the world. The constant increase in secularism to a level of religious fundamentalism is unfortunately pushing the negating of freedom of thought, religious practice and presence, and academic and political discourse/debate. The most unfortunate has been an increasing call for a reduction with integrated diversity on many levels. It concerns me deeply as I think about the contrast of the last 30 years of my own life and now what is no longer becoming acceptable in my own country with the free exchange in ideas and experiences at cost of one's livelihood, or being completely shunned by large swaths of society.
Switching gears...on cable tv here, we get many familiar channels that one can find in the US and Europe. Soccer is king. Many US music artists and actors have a HUGE following here, and many in Nigeria wonder if they even know? There are also several channels relegated to a handful of the largest tribes such as Yoruba and Hausa. Nigeria has it’s own entertainment production sector similar to India called Nollywood, which dominates anything else similar in Africa. Most of the productions are geared towards modern living through a tribal perspective, and center on the subject of the occult which everyone here locally calls “Juju”. Every conceivable plot centers around drama intertwined with the occult, mostly for personal gain or assistance to others. Many still seem to be looking for a magical shortcut in comparison to the harder work of enduring spiritual evolvement and doing their best to live in balance. The US is no different to me. So many in the US would rather focus on psychological new age perspectives and activities, or quick results from occult practices mostly for material abundance and nonstop convenience while spiritually bypassing the harder road as they point the finger of judgment at others.
So far being here has been incredibly humbling for me personally. I am centered in a living environment of needs rather than wants. I am doing my best to lift others up as I engage and learn to do without the excess that is available from my country. The land itself is ancient, aware and very active. There seems to be constant presence moving around and through my living space. The wildlife is aggressive even in the urban areas here. I have had to make peace with all manner of insects and lizards while hearing the constant sounds of bats mixed with familiar and unfamiliar birds. The most cumbersome for me has been the harsh weather (hot and humid from my own dry and centrally air-conditioned or heated existence), along with a lack of infrastructure and sanitation in comparison to what would be considered middle class convenience and manicured landscaping of areas in and around Los Angeles, California.
On the positive side, I have also witnessed so far, a level of resilience and daily carriage of hope that is unparalleled. This level of internal survival is indescribable..where most people from economically affluent countries would crumble in a heartbeat. Much of the energy of Nigeria’s people is spent on a day to day basis just maintaining basic needs..and I do mean basic in comparison to countries where the economies have been much stronger with way more convenience. Yet many Nigerians find a way to celebrate, dress in their finest, and to focus on balance while continually striving for a better way of life for themselves, their loved ones and their communities.
The continual lack of economical, administrative and structural support from their government due to pervasive corruption has induced very strong layers of communal support across neighborhoods, churches and tribal activities even amongst constant conflict on many levels. Neighbors look out for neighbors, tribes have their hierarchy of those appointed to overseeing the overall health and wellbeing of its members, and families tend to be large still for survival and self-sustaining support. It is not perfect in many ways for several reasons, yet like any other country, the challenges often force people to find a way to survive in any infinite number of methods both for the greater balance of all or for the self-focused detriment to others.
It was recommended to me to stay hunkered down in December due to the high rate of potent and deceptive occult practices during the biggest holiday month of the year for Nigeria. Many make their way to their family homes in rural areas for the time that covers the days leading up to Christmas and through the New Year celebrations. As many begin to return and focus on the business of the economy to keep themselves and their families going, I look forward now to venturing outward into the communities little by little to learn more about the paranormal and share what I can from my own spiritual and supernatural experiences. There is only so much I can learn from books and the internet from a comfortable space. Often the real learning that can shape one's soul is 'out there'…seeing how other people get on with life…and for me personally, the intersection of the spiritual and supernatural. ~Amy Beauchamp