I am still in my writing cave battling with fictional characters in my head. Nonetheless, I have an interesting experience to share with you.
A few weeks ago, I met a lady called Bimbo Okoye. When she told me her name, I was instantly confused, and it must have shown on my face because she said, “I get that reaction from Nigerians all the time.”
Her remark caused a bout of shame to hit me, and I found myself mumbling through an awkward apology. Luckily for me, she was gracious. Not only did she laugh off my embarrassment, she also explained that her parents wanted her to know both sides of her culture and insisted that her name reflected that.
Most Nigerians would understand my initial reaction because the combination of her name is quite unusual—A Yoruba first name with an Igbo surname.
For non-Nigerians who may not understand this, Nigeria is an amalgamation of up to, if not more than 300 tribes. Some with similar language and culture, others with quite different ways of life. Names, accents, traditional attire, religion and other subtle qualities can suggest a person’s tribe.
Because of my experience with Bimbo, I decided to use the name Yemi Okeke for the new story I have begun working on. She is one of four children born to an Igbo father and a Yoruba mother.
This got me thinking about intertribal relationships and marriages. As a Nigerian from the Igbo tribe whose parents are both Igbos and who married an Igbo man, I have very little experience with the challenges that intertribal relationships can bring.
I know there are many stereotypes associated with various tribes, but I have always considered them all superficial and non-significant when individuals are involved.
Of course, there are constant jokes about the Igbos loving money too much, the Yoruba tribe throwing multiple elaborate parties even when broke, the Edo tribe having supernatural powers, e. t. c. But do the stereotypes really count in the daily living between couples or friends from different tribes?
Not for me. Although I enjoy those tribal jokes, I try not to let them influence my dealings with anyone on a personal level.
The wedding party, a movie I enjoyed tremendously, showcased an intertribal marriage. I loved the humour and the exploration of various cultures.
Do you have any stories to share about intertribal relationships? Have you observed any challenges from any? Do you think cultural differences can destroy a relationship?
I still believe in One Nigeria. However, I also like to celebrate our diversity.