As part of a Christian Aid ‘In Conversation’ series for Black History Month, I had the honour of co-hosting a Q&A event with Chibundu Onuzo; author of ‘The Spider King’s Daughter’, which won the Betty Trask award, and ‘Welcome to Lagos’.
From the offset, Chibundu was the injection of energy, vitality and ‘spice’ that I personally needed after a tough year. 2020 has seen extended lockdowns, the ongoing global crisis, and the constant reminder that black bodies are not valued with the murder of George Floyd and countless others, as well as the brutality against young protestors in Nigeria. But as Chibundu reminded me, resilience is not a constant - there will be days where you will mourn, moan and indulge. What is important to remember is that ‘after you have your moaning/mourning period, you have to stand up...feel disappointed and work through those feelings, and not push them away’.
Chibundu highlighted that through the lens of limitations, poverty and grief, the Black experience is so often portrayed without dignity. She observed that in an advert for child welfare in the UK, under the distressing image of a child suffering, the text read 'actors used in filming', but when distress is shown in Africa, actors are not used. These are real people, whose real and raw suffering is used. Through her storytelling, she looked to articulate the Black experience with more richness - capturing the energy and spirit of Lagos through many characters entering and exiting Lagos. Through their story she shows not a Lagos that is lacking, but a Lagos which is thriving, bursting with innovation and culture, a place where people are drawn to.