It’s a common sight in London nowadays; Nigerian and East African Comedians gracing the capital and hosting diaspora audiences within various entertainment events. There are quite a few interesting Live Open Mic events at the Squires Restaurant (Kenyan) in Romford and many others. There is a growing willingness and even demand for African comedy shows to appear frequently in London as it offers the lively environment and ‘night to remember’ experience many first generation African Londoners lack within what is regarded by many as Europe’s most lonely city.
Comedy is a very interesting sector; whilst much has been made over the last 18 months about how Comedy (Nigerian in particular) is a huge money making Industry in Africa and how the once ‘frowned upon’ profession is gaining wider acceptance amongst Africa’s growing creative industries; conservative parents and students of traditional subjects are now viewing comedians with less scrutiny. However; it’s for another reason that I take interest in African comedians. The jokes that they make about dilemmas, problems and benefits Africans in the US and Western Europe face offer an insight into the way they and many within the continent view life on the other side. Whilst the once upon a time ‘everyone back home sees London life as living on streets of gold’ remarks from African Londoners will not die anytime soon – we do need to be aware that these stereotypes haven’t ceased but are evolving – as seen with some of the examples from Nigerian Comedians from AY Live in London 2015 & 2016 events below:
OKEY BAKASSI: London Hardship
Okey Bakassi nails it here (2.35 – 3.23) at AY Live London 2016 when he mentions how youth who believe they have been through many struggles haven’t in comparison to their African counterparts. Young People’s narratives of ‘abuse’ is different and pretty much inferior to the common child’s experience back in Nigeria. Many will have differing views but I see where Okey is coming from. Do bear in mind that he is talking about seeing ‘Oyibo children’ on TV and not referring to black youth. Though #BlackBritish Londoners may also fall into the same category. Do we agree?
HELEN PAUL: London Marriage
Marriages in London also carry certain stereotypes? Nkem Owoh’s famous 2003 Osuofia in London movie amongst others illustrate many things. In recent decades; the UK also has a growing reputation amongst African men as ‘the land of women’. Where men are subjected to be equal or inferior too rather than superior to and breadwinner of the marital home. Helen’s remarks illustrate only a common consensus amongst many Nigerian men and women that London Marriage is advantageous to African women who ‘need more space’. Not too sure whether the cast on BKChatLDN would agree with this one; that would be an interesting topic though.
ELENU: Public Disturbance
To be politically correct, restrained and have demarcated freedom is also a view many Nigerians share about UK life – Elenu included. The freedom of walking into your neighbour’s house, going out till late, having plenty of down time for social life and dealing with everyday issues away from the law and police are cultural differences immediately noticed upon arrival to the UK from the average Nigerian. London life carries it’s own stereotypes and burdens – but do Londoners agree?
“Them call you, make you come chop. You chop small, you say you belly full. You say you be gentleman. You go hungry” (Fela Kuti, Gentleman 1975)
SEYI LAW: Craze Men
Nigeria indeed is a wonderful place; anything can happen. ‘Mental Health’ represents a subject which large groups within Nigeria (and other African Countries) the still view as a spiritual problem or non-existent issue rather than psychological. This cannot be regarded as a generalisation – it’s simply true. However, Seyi Law’s observation deals with the other end of the spectrum – where ‘anything can happen’ African environments have a distinctively direct effect upon mentally ill patients in comparison the UK. That’s an interesting one.
A growing number of our people back home are beginning to realise the grass isn’t greener on the other side – Euope. Returning migrants from the UK are narrating and sharing their stories with family and wider members of the public back on the continent. The ‘not so good’ experiences of African students, entrepreneurs and retirees in the UK is gradually gaining acceptance as truth. To some extent; I am even exaggerating. This matter has been known for decades. Since the days of Fela Kuti, narratives of Nigerians in London in the 1940s and before confirm that life on the other side isn’t all the hype.
The trials of London life is a source of frustration for many African Londoners is also a platform for investigation and illustration amongst our comedians. Furthermore; the banter Nigerians give their own living abroad gives insight into the way they perceive life on the other side. It is no longer the case that the grass is greener in London – but that both the city and ‘country’ is no longer all that is has been hyped to be.
Food for thought?
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