Big bottom, Queen Elizabeth and our dying culture

By Casmir Igbokwe

 Published: Sunday, 4 May 2008

MOST people define African women by the colour of their skin and the shape of their bums. In some cultures, the bigger the bums, the more appreciation the woman receives. In Ivory Coast, bobaraba, which is the Djoula language word for big bottom, appears to be the most popular word at present. According to the BBC, Bobaraba is a form of dance, which is inspired by a hit song entitled Bobaraba by DJ Mix and DJ Eloh. Whenever the music is played, people reportedly flock the dance floor to shake their buttocks.

The thing is so popular that some Ivorian women now purportedly sell bottom enhancers in the markets. Those who buy the enhancer, also known as Vitamin B12, are required to inject it into their bottoms once a day. The medicine is also said to come in form of a cream with the words: big bottoms and big breasts. Boys, naturally, tend to like the trend as the BBC quoted one boy to have said, “We appreciate these things because when women use the treatment it attracts us, but for women it’s not good.”

Our own Shina Peters also composed a song similar to Bobaraba a few years ago. I suppose he called it Ikebe Super. Whenever the music was played, people always gyrated and shook their bodies. Makosa and some other traditional African music also revolve around shaking of waists and buttocks.

There are cultures that even encourage women to put on weight. In some places in Cross River State, for instance, women used to undergo some fattening rites before getting married. In ancient traditional Igbo society, the practice also existed. It was called iru mgbede. Prospective wives were usually kept indoors to do nothing but eat and nurture their bodies for their husbands. The fatter the woman, the healthier and wealthier people perceived her to be.

However, what we hear more in many parts of the world these days are figure eight, hot legs, hot mini, hot pants, and such stuffs. Of course, a girl cannot win Miss Nigeria or Miss World with a big bum. Such titles are reserved for lean damsels.

Culture is dynamic. As people acquire new ways of doing things, they discard their old identity. The Western culture has had a great influence on our way of life. The type of dress we wear, for instance, is largely patterned on the Western style. Last Tuesday, I attended a reception to celebrate the birthday of Queen Elizabeth II at Ikoyi, Lagos. I took time to examine what people wore that day.

The British High Commissioner, Bob Dewar, was regal in his Scottish attire, which comprises a suit on top of what looks like a red skirt. The former Commonwealth Secretary-General, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, wore his native Igbo dress with a red cap to match. The Chairman of Stanbic IBTC Bank, Mr Atedo Peterside, was immaculate in his white Rivers long-tailed shirt. A few other people were in their native dresses. The rest of us wore suits and other English attires.

British people cherish their way of life. The Queen happens to be the custodian of that culture. The celebration of her birthday in Lagos indicates that her people still have high regard for her. Can we say the same thing of our traditional institution?

I doubt. Partisan politics has beclouded the sense of judgement of some of our Obas, Obis, Igwes and Emirs. Some have sold their consciences because of money. Some, like the Ijesha Traditional Council, bicker over how to share the five per cent accruable to them from the local council allocations from the Federal Government. Some other traditional rulers have expressed their readiness to live and sink with their governors. I don’t so much blame them because any show of disloyalty to the powers that be could result in the withdrawal of their salaries and other perks.

The celebration of the Queen’s birthday was also a testimony to how Britain exports its culture to other parts of the world. English, for instance, is gradually driving away our local languages. Take Igbo language, for instance. Most of these children that grow up in urban areas hardly know that “bia” means come. At school, they speak English. At home, their parents also force them to speak English.

During the last Easter break, I took my children to the village to commune with their roots. It was interesting listening to their conversation in Igbo when they came back to Lagos. They asked each other to interpret different Igbo words and phrases. In particular, each of them wanted the other to tell them the meaning of “bia rie nri,” “je nyuo nsi” and “je rahu ura.” They correctly interpreted them to be “come and eat”, “go and defecate” and “go and sleep”. It was not difficult for them to interpret because these are the things they know how best to do for now.

We need to do something about our dying cultures. True, the world is now a global village. But while we take some positive things from other cultures, we can as well influence other people to copy ours. This is why I tend to appreciate what people like the Central Bank Governor, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, have done. Soludo was hitherto addressed as Charles. But he now prefers to be addressed by his native name.

My own native name is Chibuzo. But people call me Casmir. The name was not my choice. As Catholics, my parents took me to the church as an infant and had me baptised with that name. I decided to retain it simply because it is not as common as Charles or Peter or Simon.

Many of us bear foreign identities. Some prefer fake outlook. Or how does one explain the fact that some black people bleach their bodies to become white. Some manipulate their flat noses to look pointed. Some do tummy tucks to look ageless. Some artificially blow up their buttocks and breasts ostensibly to attract men. We can imbibe positive aspects of foreign and local culture. But for those ones that will make us look foolish or faceless, we must collectively say, no way!

 Re: Tales of encounter with marshals

My brother,

I read your piece in the SUNDAY PUNCH on the encounter you had with our marshals on Kingsway Road, Ikoyi around 1440hrs on Monday April 14, 2008. I have asked Lagos Island to give me a report on the issue in order to identify the lady marshal that attempted to extort money from you.

I also demanded to know the circumstances that led to non-issuance of receipts for the transactions. We shall investigate all the issues raised. Please avail us your telephone number(s), for the investigating panel to get in touch with you.

Thanks for providing us the feedback opportunity. The Federal Road Safety Commission appreciates such opportunities, as we do not condone indiscipline. We frown seriously on extortion. In fact, we have fished out and flushed out many. It is a continuous process. Once again, Thanks.

Kayode Olagunju,

(Corps Commander),

Sector Commander, FRSC, Lagos.

1 Comment »

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