By Olubunmi Familoni
Since I wrote about my darling light-skinned Yoruba mummies the other day, it is only fair I say something about their younger, slimmer versions, not any less yellower than their mothers, but with more energy and millenial elan in the owambe context, all pulled off with a certain attractive joie de vivre that because of the wantoness of youth is devoid of the burden of socio-cultural conformity which their elders have to often bear. And of course unlike the mummies, they are much more to look at, they have a more sensual quality about them, although contrived.
As Wasiu famously put it: “eyin mama e sempe”; hence the mummies are gradually making way in these weekend social circles for their lovely daughters, leaving the floor for them literally; you’re seeing more of them at these owambe things every Friday/Saturday now, in their tight lace uniforms in flyer, more elegant styles than their iro-and-buba mothers can muster because of ampleness of parts and lack of defined shape. There’s also more flesh on display with these younger ones; of course they’re proud of their breasts, which haven’t begun the great final plunge to hell, and more thighs as yet free from the cellulite scrawls marking their mothers’. In place of the huge pieces of jewellery of their mothers, these ones have bright-coloured tattoos on necks, breasts, backs, arms and thighs. And where their mothers would spray the praise-singing fuji/juju musician, these ones would rather huddle together round him in a pouting selfie for social-media purposes; perhaps there is an arrangement of a different kind with these singers for ‘payment’ for praising them, because he praises them with just as much gusto as he does the mummies, even though all they ever have to offer him for all his busking effort is their vigorous, energetic dancing, with most of the movement involving only bums and bosoms. Young Yoruba women dancing in these groups are always a delight to watch; so where their mothers are doing the spraying, these ones are getting sprayed by old lecherous men in billowing robes impressed by the twerking and twisting, of course hoping to get close enough to have phone numbers whispered in their ears.
As for their fashion, these girls are the reason why your tailor will never finish your ordinary agbada in ten months, or even a more ordinary and less demanding buba and sokoto, because he has to construct about five hundred of these women’s architectural pieces every weekend! The poor guy. And each woman has a new piece to be carved out for every Saturday. There can never be enough tailors in Lagos to cater to these women’s fashion needs, even if every lawyer, doctor, engineer and IJGB in the city became a tailor as is currently happening, since tailors seem to be making all the money that there seems to be little or none of.
Where making an agbada, with its total lack of design and structural elaborateness, is like drawing a house on paper, constructing one of these women’s pieces is similar to designing and building the bloody National Theatre, with the weird complicated styles they come up with from the corners of heads that can hardly work through the simplest Arithmetic sums; styles for which they keep calling the poor tailor-turned-engineer up every minute to give directions on how to cut this or stitch that, or calling every two hours to change their mind about the entire design in the middle of the dress being made, oblivious of the tailor’s tears for mercy on the other end. And they’re still not satisfied with the finished work when they come for it — it still needs to be taken in here, or taken out there, or pulled back an inch somewhere, darts and pins and curses; they spend the whole Friday standing on the dying tailor’s neck with a list of changes long enough to hang him. All this commitment because they have to look better than the next woman, better than their friends, their enemies, even better than the celebrants, and people they don’t even know; because unlike their mummies, for these cubs this thing is a fierce competition of who can be the most vain, a Hunger-Games style fight to the death; so they have their fine luxury-nail-studio claws properly filed for the occasion and painted in the most garish colours they can find; faces coated with warpaint that gives the effect of a different colour from the rest of their bodies, which essentially makes it look like they have borrowed someone else’s face to wear for the occasion; the feline quality of their eyes highlighted tastelessly by eyeliners, fake lashes long enough to hide the malice for other women in their eyes when they touch heavily-rouged cheeks in greeting; heels high enough for them to tower over the mere men there, and pointed enough to puncture the testicles of the ones who think they have the balls to step up to them with their worn pathetic luxuriantly-bearded Yoruba Demon-ness.
But this fierce exterior is only a front, once you get to know them they sink their teeth in, either to chop your money to the bottom of your pockets, or like a pit bull, to hold on to you by the balls so that it is impossible for you to tear yourself away; either way, it is a disaster.
Where their mothers would let go easily, these ones, because of the fire of youth and the propensity to fall in love, or imagine that you have, or because of the desperation induced by cultural pressures to be married, or just for the flimsy reason of wanting to have a ‘boo’ to show off on Instagram, they wouldn’t let go without a bloody fight — a possessiveness which eventually ruins your philandering career. And they would fight their ‘best friend’ for you, not because they love you or anything noble, or that you’re so precious, just because they’re wild cats and it’s what they do when a possession of theirs comes under the threat of being snatched from the grip of their claws. If the ratchet wig-off fight in the street does not work, they’ll take the battle to higher, more supernatural realms: nail your name to some tree in their backyard, or bury a padlock that represents you/your ‘destiny’ in the ground, they’d even carry a calabash naked at midnight to an intersection for your sake, that’s when you know it’s on and they’re not playing anymore. You thought the sugar mummies were evil? These sweethearts have the devil himself (not his PA) on speed dial, and have been ‘cooked’ long enough by their Babas for anything your shiny-suited pastor says against them not to penetrate.
Note: All images are fictitious. The characters bear no relation to the real persons.