The elasticity of who I am

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Several years ago, I was caught up in a series of events that made me feel like my sense of who I am was being stretched to limits I hadn’t dealt with before. I was working on a theatre production in New York, when I received the news about my father’s demise in Nigeria. Being the oldest of his offspring, I took on some responsibility for dealing with arrangements that were to follow. This meant I had to be involved in negotiations with family members across three continents, since my immediate siblings are UK citizens, like me.

At the end of my New York commitment, I was signed up to a theatre tour of the UK. My plan was to do those shows and then arrive in Nigeria to be present at my father’s funeral. It was quite a culture shock leaving a theatre venue in Blackpool, returning to London to grab my luggage and catching a flight to Lagos.

The funeral took place in my father’s home town in Osun State, Nigeria. Suddenly I was in a very different culture and I simply had to let everything wash over me, as long as I had showed up to honour the man who had played one of the most significant roles in my upbringing.

After the funeral, I spent a couple of days in Lagos. Then I returned to the UK to work on another theatre production, this time in Oxford.

It was only after I had finished dealing with the work in Oxford that I was able to pause for reflection, about how much of a cultural stretch I had contended with, in a very short amount of time.

I had to depend on a vast vocabulary of social mores and awareness of cultural practices to emerge at the end of the experience without stepping on too many people’s toes. I’m pleased to remember that I managed to pull it off.