Sunday 10 November 2019


Aunty Stella smokes and drinks.
She parties every weekend, squeezing her ample bottom into tight ‘western’ clothing. My mother says she’s bringing shame on the family, and was always the black sheep, staying out late, dropping out of school, and getting pregnant early.

Aunty Stella says she was never the black sheep until they had decided that was her fate. Once decided, there was little she could do right, but plenty she could do wrong. 'So', she told me with a shrug, she decided to 'specialise in the plenty'.

Aunty Stella was married to a Jamaican man, who everyone thought looked much like an Igbo man, until he opened his mouth and removed all doubt.
His heavy Jamaican accent made it difficult to understand him, and he seemed to frown at everything. He blamed Nigerians for ‘selling his people into slavery’ and anytime the family got together it ended with a huge argument, within shouting about the Igbo landing, and calling Aunty stella’s family and friends a ‘set of bumboclart sellouts!’
I was never sure what it meant , but I knew from the scuffles that ensued, and the tone of his delivery, that he had insulted pretty much everyone.

Still, funnily enough, secretly, the family seemed to like him. They preferred him to Aunty Stella’s first husband, an ‘Oyinbo’ man who everyone hoped would bring fame, glory and favour to the family, but whose connections stretched little further than the local bar and a few plumbers in Croydon. Aunty Stella divorced him when she grew tired of his cheating, and was swept off her feet at a friends birthday party by the Jamaican.

Aunty Stella never hid the fact that she was Nigerian, but she had a tendency to critique rather than praise.
At my younger aunties wedding she refused to were a Gele, even though she knew that all the women in the family would be wearing yellow Gele’s. Instead, aunty Stella wore a yellow wig, with huge gold earrings.
Her husband called her his dancehall queen and looked at her proudly, but family members simply looked at her with fear and outrage.

From the outside Aunty Stella seemed to live up to all that she was accused of, but I knew it was an act.

I felt I knew my Aunty, more than anyone, as I had often sat at the edge of her bed and watched and listen to her as she prepared for a night out.
I watched and listened to her when she attempted to cook Caribbean meals, with Youtube as her guide.
I listened and watched when she wrapped herself in her duvet on her ‘sad days’ when all she wanted was hot chocolate and doughnuts. Then I watched her the following week as her sadness subsided, and she would pinch at the sides of her waist, and curse the very same chocolate and doughnuts she had sworn the week before had brought her joy.

Aunty Stella’s only crime was that she did not conform to her culture. Her refusal to ‘do as she’s told’ left her weak and vulnerable, so whereas other members of the family received the support of the family, Aunty Stella did not.

I wish I had the courage to be like Aunty Stella, but the reality is, I simply can’t imagine not having the support of my family.
I can't imagine them not arranging my engagement, my marriage, giving their blessing.
Aunty Stella was a warning to the female members of the family who wished to go against the culture.
In fact, she was often used as a threat to instil discipline. ‘You want to grow up like Stella? Married to a Jamaican and living as an outcast?’

The girl children would cry out.... ‘nooooooo’ and run away crying.

One day, I know things will change
After all, as her husband liked to say, if he ever saw his wife looking downcast ‘ No worry ‘bout dam, the stone that the builder refuse, will be the head corner stone…. Bob Marley say dat
Yeah man.. tell dem again Bob’.

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