PORTRAITS

Whilst I physically grew up in West London, I have, and always will be, emotionally tied to West Africa. 

Despite being born and raised in London, I would always call Surelere, Lagos, my home.  

Before I could even spell ‘nationality’, I was constantly asked to specify mine. ‘Black British’ or ‘Black British African’ were my options. Maybe I wasn’t supposed to see or understand these bureaucratic forms. But it was this subtle segregation that displaced me at such a young age. 

 

I spent a lot of my life being told about my life. Everyone ‘knew’ my story before I even got the chance to write it

 

Today, my friends reminisce about their carefree childhoods, but I cannot relate; I had the same concerns then as I do now.

Bureaucratic terms and racial profiling still burden me with responsibility. My existence often feels ruled by a need to counteract negative misconceptions of Africa and her people in western media. 

 

I found myself tracing back to a time before I felt societal pressures to combat racial stereotypes. A time before history classes that disregarded and humiliated minorities, before I had to deal with demands like “go back to where you came from”.

 

And that’s where I ended up: back where I came from. I was never educated in Nigeria, yet here I was, walking through a school in Surelere, contemplating the childhood that was never mine. 

 

At naptime, I recognised a new kind of innocence in the sleeping children, one that I could have possessed. I saw the childhood that everyone speaks of with such fondness.  Comfortable in their surroundings, these children slept peacefully. They were free from judgement: no responsibilities, no qualms. 

 

As the children awoke in a place where one could unconsciously submit to dreams, confident of return, I recognised a reflection of myself.

 

These are the school portraits that were never taken of me; these were the classmates that I never had.

My first book, OMO NIGERIA is being published by 24°36° in 2022

Omo Nigeria has been featured on Nataal Magazine , iD Magazine, Another Magazine and exhibited at Gucci x HOME by Ronan Mckenzie.