Confessions of a Nigerian-American Blog-Lover
I am a first generation Nigerian blog-lover. It is likely that I spend too much time surfing blogs on Tumblr and viewing videos on YouTube. But I can’t help it. I learn something new about my culture this way every day.
Over the past year, more people either have their own blog or view other ones. By the end of 2012, there were approximately 31 million bloggers in the United States, according to Jeff Bullas, a digital marketing consultant. He also reports WordPress had 42 million blogs made, with 500,000 new posts a day. Pingdom’s statistics reports that Tumblr also had a reported 87.8 million blogs made in 2012 with 17.8 page views worldwide.
I got my first laptop during my junior year of high school – a Dell. In my hands was the device that kick started my curiosity to discover new things about my identity as a Nigerian-American.
Little did I know that through the lens of the web and new media that I could even contribute as well. With my interests in music, culture and all things Africa I have created blogs for fun (and even for class) that has allowed me to connect with my roots.
My parents and my two siblings immigrated to the United States a year before I was born. Growing up, my parents saw the importance of grounding my siblings and I in the customs and traditions of our culture. As one who was surrounded by innovations in technology and in the web, I took this grounding into my own hands.
I never understood the significance of the many nuances I was exposed to about my culture and customs as a Nigerian until now. From always greeting those who came to visit our house, to reluctantly doing whatever my siblings told me to do, to even standing in the kitchen taking note of spices my mom cooked with that I could not decipher (because they all looked the same to me), these small aspects of my culture helped me find myself and also come to terms with how to balance being an American, too.
For instance, there is a drawer full of what looks like chopped sticks of wood in my house. My mom would stress to my siblings and I that we should chew at least one a day to stay away from the dentist. I never got accustomed to this habit, mainly because of the bitter juices that are extracted from the sticks as you chew.
I stumbled upon an online magazine that explained the significance and benefits of the chewing stick. Afro Style Mag shares that it is almost just as effective as using a toothbrush. This is also how my parents were able to have good hygiene growing up. In a way, I never thought until now how my mother not only reminisces but also instills what used to be in me.
My parents also kept some things about my identity at an arms length from my siblings and I. Thinking about it, there was a possibility that they did not know how to share these with us too. Not wanting to bother them with these questions, I took to the web to find the answers myself.
Through platforms such as Tumblr and YouTube, people share with the community of the African Diaspora the history of the past and the history of tomorrow. My father fought in the Biafra civil war in Nigeria in the late 1960s. My mother had to escape the northern region of Nigeria because of this war too. My father has never spoken of his experience defending his people that his country was killing by the millions.
Through a blog called Nigerian Nostalgia on Tumblr, I saw photos from this moment in time – pictures of soldiers, displaced peoples and the rebuilding of Nigeria afterwards. This glimpse of the past put a lot in perspective for me, and with blogs like this I have been able to answer my questions that my parents struggle to forget.
There have been moments when I have shared what I find about my culture’s past with my parents.
My mother’s late cousin, otherwise known to me as Uncle Jeff, was briefly in a psychedelic-funk band called The Hykkers. After the Biafran War, his group took Nigeria by storm with their infusion of Jimi Hendrix guitar riffs. It was not until he passed away did I know the significance of his short music career. Not only are his band’s songs now on YouTube, they are also on music platforms like Spotify.
When I showed my parents how accessible his music is to not only my family, but to the world, they were taken aback.
Before then, listening to his music was a rare occasion when my Uncle Jeff himself would play the records. Now my family can relive those moments with him through my discovery.
I also have discovered that there are plenty of people in my shoes that not only produce content that they do not see in mainstream media, but they too search for these same answers.
Rise Africa and Dynamic Africa are both blogs on Tumblr that use this multi-media platform to create a safe space that encourages conversation about the essence of Africa, past and present. Through submitted and original blog posts, both sites offer a glimpse of the diversity of the continent that one would not see in mainstream media.
Noah Butler, a cultural anthropology professor and Loyola University Chicago, shares how fascinating blogs like these are in regards to culture preservation.
“People are taking into their own hands what once was and what is with African culture through blogging,” he said. “This also puts into question what new media is, and how fast this trend is growing into a new method of culture preservation.”
This new advent of culture preservation is what I will research this summer as a Ronald E. McNair Scholar. With Professor Butler’s help, I hope to focus on New African Media, and how those in the Diaspora use multi-media platforms to preserve what they know and discover what they do not know.
Ikenna Azuike’s What’s Up Africa is a vlog that usually satirizes current African news. In this episode, he gives viewers an emotional glimpse of discovering his childhood home in Lagos, Nigeria.
I am a first generation Nigerian blog-lover. Although I may surf these blogs more than I read for my classes, I am sure that this passion and curiosity about my culture will contribute and encourage others to do the same about their heritage and identities.
Photo courtesy of Antoinette Isama