I had the opportunity recently to meet a group of really gifted people recently, my fellow Amplify fellows and the only word to describe that experience is wow. The conversation was keen enough to cut through the irritating queue that’s always at the bank without getting the side eye and mutters from that elderly person at the back. And talk about creativity? If impressed was a person, she’d have felt completely outclassed to be in that particular hang out fest. So, yeah, my mind was pretty much frigging blown. But that’s not why I’m writing this.
A few days after that session, ideas were flying and people were forming tentative collaborative units and Nkechi felt like the olodo that has to repeat the same grade for five years. I had nothing to contribute, fashion is not a topic that holds any particular interest for me and other ideas broached were flat to me, not because they were somehow unworthy, but because they simply held no interest for me. But I wanted to contribute something, I wanted to somehow express my appreciation of the opportunity I’d been given. I wanted to do something deep and meaningful, something that could change the world. I waited. For. Days. Nothing came to me, as in not even the lonely, solitary slice of egg inside the moi-moi available in the streets of Lagos in this economy.
I started getting worried. I’d always figured that if all else fails me, my mind and its sometimes inescapable ability to spin concepts would never, and even if it did, I wouldn’t be conscious enough to care. So this desertion in the face of the enemy had me panicked. I tried some soul searching and historical analysis, yes it was that serious. I asked myself what I had in my mind when I applied for the Amplify fellowship and why I wanted to tell stories in the first place. My answer? I wanted – and still want – to tell worthy stories and stories of worthy people, people who we tend to overlook and stories that we either ignore or look at from a fixed point of view.
While all the panicking was happening, I was on location for the awesome TV series I was working for, so in between takes and when I could escape to a less noisy corner, I did an informal poll asking people what they thought underserved areas in Lagos were. The results of the poll were surprising and not just because most of the people I work with have delusions of making it as stand-up comics but I was gratified nonetheless. Between make-up versus clothes and Kurosawa versus Hitchcock, I remembered why I want to tell stories and what kind of stories I want.
I want to tell the story of Mama Ebira, the Benue woman who left an abusive husband ran two states with her children and through sheer hard work and determination raised those children. The story of Uncle Seun, the friendly neighbour who exemplified for you at an early age the saying ‘shit money no dey smell’ (excrement money still has values) or Miss Helen the nice spinster with the cat on the third floor who everyone said was a witch but who you secretly liked. Stories of people like me in the world around me.
That’s it folks, that’s how I found my temporarily misplaced compass and somehow navigated my way out of the bush path and into the main road. I also came up with a fantasy story which I may actually end up working on one of these days. But the long and short of all this my plenty story is that I’ve found my balance, what the Japanese call ‘ikigai’ in my Amplify journey. So while I’m here to learn and experience a lot, I’m also here to help tell worthy stories of the worthy. And I cannot wait to begin. Thank you Amplify and thank you aKoma for this wonderful opportunity. Da-alu nu.