Monthly Archives: October 2015

My Naijalife part 2. Lagos salons

“Is your hair real?” I have to admit I still find that question strange, but in Nigeria I do get it from time to time. People usually ask just before they ask if they can touch my hair, or just after they’ve touched it. The reason I react surprised every time someone asks, is that everywhere else, everyone assumes my hair is my hair, though since my hair colour is not very common, I do get questions asking how much I paid for it, which are equally amusing to me.

Real hair or not though, I love going to hair salons in Lagos. I like getting braids. And though my hair isn’t yet long enough that I can just use it to get the style I want, I can use extensions. Funnily enough however, when I do that, I’ve had women come up to me to tell me how lucky I am who has so much hair naturally. The irony.

Having my hair braided at a salon is a bit of an experience if that’s not what you grew up with, which I certainly didn’t. I love having my hair done, so that alone is my reason for going there. It just feels nice to sit down while someone else takes care of it and then come out looking and feeling great afterwards.

Then, it’s the atmosphere in the salon and the strange kind of bonding that happens there. Braids take long, though I’ve been lucky since my first set of twists only took 3 hours while the box braids took 4. I’ve known girls to sit in the chair for a lot longer than that. Still, it’s longer spent in a hair salon than what I’m used to.

The TV and radio are usually on at the same time, though not always. But it creates a very interesting mix of sounds. It also makes me feel like I’m at a party. That feeling is increased by the running around and loud chatter of women and men in different languages.

Often, my hair stylists have not spoken more than basic English, so we can’t talk very much, but we bond over singing instead. The last time I had my hair braided in Lagos, me and my two stylists where taking turns singing verses and parts of choruses to every song that came on the TV. I might never meet these women again, but for as long as I was there, it felt like I was among my best friends. It was so informal and fun. And you get quite comfortable with someone when they’ve done your hair and you’ve been singing together for four hours.

It’s not just the hair part I like about the Lagos salons. I love how you can get pretty much anything done there. At least in some of the big ones. Nails, tattoos and hair for both men and women.

If you’re planning a trip to Nigeria, go to a salon and experience it for yourself. No need to get your hair done. A refreshing manicure and pedicure is enough to experience the salon mood.

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How do blind People pick up on non-verbal communication?

There is a common assumption among people that if you are blind, you lose out on most face to face communication. That is because 70 per cent of it is non-verbal. To think that I lose out on that much is depressing if nothing else. Especially for a journalist who likes to be on top of everything all the time.

But I am convinced that I don’t lose out on everything that isn’t verbal. Sure. I can’t see looks passing between people. And I can’t pick up on grimaces and nods to symbolize certain things. But a lot of the non-verbal communication does not actually require sight as much as it requires a high social intelligence.

One thing a lot of people underestimates is the physical energy between two or more people who are communicating face to face This may sound a bit new age, but it really isn’t. For instance, think about a time in your life or a place you went once where you felt uncomfortable. It could have been that two girls in the school yard refused to play with you, or it could have been a house of a friend or relative where you just didn’t feel at ease for no good reason. That’s energy and we as people reflect it all the time.

The type of energy you choose to reflect affects how people see you. That’s why you sometimes find the not so pretty girl having tons of admirers whilst the beauty in the corner may get the looks, but that’s all.

So what, apart from the words being said am I picking up in conversations?

First of all it’s the tone of voice. It’s not what you say, but how you say it. And because I need to be more sensitive to those things, I pick up nuances that may be so minor you think they’re not noticeable. But they are. A slight hesitation, an almost inaudible sigh or a small laugh entirely changes the meaning of a sentence.

The second thing is how well you know the person. Picking up on the non-verbal stuff is a lot easier when you know someone well than when you haven’t met them before. I can usually work out pretty quickly whether my sister or best friends are having a good day or not without saying so, whilst with strangers, it takes longer.

Thirdly, it’s body language. If someone is standing close enough, I can sense whether they’re leaning forwards or pulling back. I can also feel someone close to me gesturing, either because their hand touches me at some point, or because I feel the movement in the air around me.

And finally, it’s the energy and mood. The mood of a situation is a pretty good indicator of what someone is trying to communicate. And that hardly needs any verbal explanation.

Of course I get it wrong sometimes. I think someone is annoyed when they’re not, or I can be fooled to think someone’s happy when as a matter of fact, they’re depressed. But guess what. Sighted people get this wrong too.

No, I can’t see you nodding at me from across the room. But I don’t think I miss out on as much as some might think.

Finding Fela

Well, I can’t really talk about Femi, without talking about Fela.

The Felabrations are in full swing, particularly in Nigeria. But other Fela fans around the world are also doing their bit to celebrate this very complex legend.

Apart from creating music that certainly transports me into another world, Fela Anikulapo Kuti was a political activist who got arrested pretty much every time he released a new single, because he criticised the government.

The current president Buhari, even through him in Jail back in the 80s when he was a dictator.

Despite tmarrying 28 wives (27 of them at the same time), he was also fighting for women’s rights and Funmilayo Kuti, his mother, was the first woman in Nigeria to drive a car.

In short. You think you get Fela, but then you don’t. that’s certainly how I feel. And though everything he did wasn’t wise, I admire that he always followed his heart and gave every cause he worked for his absolutely all.

His music has inspired and is still inspiring great artists such as Paul McCartny, Michael Jackson and Alicia Keys as well as Nigerian acts like Wizkid.

Fela is such a complex and interesting character that describing him is difficult. I don’t think there’ll ever be someone quite like him.

For the Felabrations here in Oslo, I went to a screening of Finding Fela, a lovely film everyone should watch. Whether you know fela or not.

‘RIP Fela. May your soul be united with your loved ones.

I admire: Femi Anikulapo Kuti

I know. It looks so easy. Recording in the studio, appearing in the media, performing on shows, getting nominated and winning awards and have lots of fans telling yu every day how much they adore you.

Yes. There is this side to being an artist. And nothing feels more fulfilling and rewarding than, when you do these things and they go well.

But to get there, you need to work hard and take chances. Many artists before me have experienced working with dodgy labels, being rejected over and over and puzzle over how on earth to get together money for a good promo for their new single. Many artists after me will experience the same things. I am going through these things.

Though you know you’re not the only one going through these things, you can often feel really alone and isolated when you do. And it’s easy to lose faith in yourself and start a negative cycle of thoughts.

When I feel particularly down related to my career, I cheer myself up by reading, or listening to success stories of artists who are doing well now.
And who I see as my role models. One such artist is Femi Kuti. He is the son of the legendary Fela Kuti. And in my opinion, a legend himself.

I Recently came across a very lovely interview with him on youtube. Don’t let the title fool you. This is deep, personal and to me it was super inspiring.

I may not agree with every single of his viewpoints, but I share many of them and it would be a dream come true to one day work with him.

Not many, if any women is doing this type of pure afrobeat. With my soon-to-be released single, I’m going to be doing a pop version of it. But how cool wouldn’t it be to perform at at the Fela Shrine with Femi and his band?

Why I love and identify with L’Occitane en Provence

Disclaimer: L’Occitane is not paying me to write this post. I do it out of love and gratitude.

L’Occitane en Provence is a French personal care, beauty and cosmetics brand founded in 1976 by Olivier Baussan. However, in those days it was a far cry from the International stores which are so popular today. In fact, Olivier Baussan started his business selling essential oils in an open air market in Provence. The first actual store opened in 1978 in Provence and in the 1990s L’Occitane saw International expansion. Today L’occitane shops can be found in over 90 countries in North and South America, Africa, Asia and Europe.

The products are organic, not animal tested and plant based except for beehive products that are used in the manufacturing process. L’Occitane is also practicing traditional ways of cultivating and harvesting ingredients and in the making of the products themselves.

Most ingredients are sourced directly from Provence though the popular shea butter series containing shea butter is purchased directly from women groups in Burkina Faso as Fair Trade.

I love L’Occitane for several reasons. First of all, the products are nice and my skin loves them. And using them makes me feel beautiful and refreshed.

Secondly, L’Occitane makes their products accessible to blind people. I remember the first time I was in a L’Occitane store in London getting quite emotional because picking up a product and being able to read what was inside it was a completely foreign and beautiful experience to me.

Thirdly, I support what the L’Occitane foundation (La fondation D’Enterprise L’Occitane) is doing. Namely to support visually impaired people and the economic emancipation of women.

L’Occitane works with NGOs to reduce avoidable blindness, particularly, but not exclusively in Burkina Faso. But they also do other things to empower visually impaired teens, such as running perfume schools every year for visually impaired teens from all over the world in Provence. If only I had known when I was a teenager…..

I have always loved the brand because of their accessibility efforts, but I’ve only recently started using it for almost every part of my beauty routine. I wasn’t aware of just how good all the products where, how much the company supported causes I have passion for and I thought it the price tag was high. However, having recently been to an L’Occitane members evening at the L’Occitane store in Oslo, I found out that it wasn’t as bad as I thought. Plus I really don’t mind my money going to this company.

I also like the friendly treatment I received from the L’Occitane staff at this member’s night. They advised me on what my skin needed Rather than telling me I needed a million products because they needed to sell. I came away with a lot of shea butter products.

As an artist who works in Africa, is blind and working on setting up a foundation to help blind people in Nigeria with education tools, L’Occitane is the kind of company I dream to one day be one of the faces of.