Article by Lucy Spencer (Blogger)
That whole ‘angry black woman’ stereotype…“They didn’t understand why I wasn’t what they expected.”
Quite honestly, I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived at the apartment. I have never been to West Africa, but as I walked towards the open door, following the sound of laughter as it danced down the street, I knew I was about to get a very warm introduction.
It was already busy with people when I arrived. An Argentinian family, an Irish couple, and a student from France, and a Brit were all here for the same reason as me — we had traveled to see Nne-Dinma, the storyteller.
The spacious, sunlit room, was beautifully decorated. Electric, vibrant cloth draped across the ceiling, and wooden masks were nestled in-between the dried grass that was climbing the walls.
At the back of the room, a table was overflo
wing with food; jollof rice, chicken stew and beef suya, each lovingly cooked over the stove for hours. My mouth watered as I piled the feast of aromatic spices high on my plate, and quickly went back for a second helping.
Before I could head for a third portion — because trust me, I would find room! — there was a light jingle of bells. The small crowd quickly settled, making themselves comfortable on the wooden floor.
Dressed with a simple white cloth around her waist, and crimson and jet black beads framing her face, Nne-Dinma had arrived.
Calling on her ancestors to guide her, she took a deep breath and began to weave a melodic journey:
“The son of Umbare was a fisherman, just like his ancestors before him…”
By the end of the night, I was dancing to classic 90s ‘garage’ music and it was snowing outside; I was not in a village in West Africa, I was in a small town in the middle of Switzerland.
People find it very difficult to talk to black people
Ejay Aninye soon discovered that as a British national with Nigerian heritage, she was a bit of a mystery when she arrived in Switzerland just over15 years ago.
“At my workplace, I was the only black person there. People didn’t understand how I could be from Africa and be British; they didn’t understand at lunchtime the kind of food that I was eating,” Ejay said. “They didn’t understand why I wasn’t what they expected.”
Going by the Nigerian name Nne-Dimna, she began storytelling performances as a way to break these cultural prejudice and misconceptions.
“I just want people to ask me, and to not see me as threatening. That whole ‘angry black woman’ stereotype… I want to be done with that,” she said.
“I like to make myself accessible because people find it very difficult to talk to black people.”