Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The hideous conservatism of Nigerian youth..

This review of an exhibition at CCA Lagos (advertised on this blog a while ago) is instructive. The assumption in the West is that youth culture is all about rebellion, resistance and challenging the status quo set by the previous generation. Henceforth, irruptions of angst, malcontent, anger, extreme fun and quirkiness are expected in the music, art and words of the 18-30's. In Nigeria, things are quite different. Young people are often more conservative and prudish than their parents, avoiding any kind of experiment with life, whether it be sexual, hallucinogenic, expressive or otherwise, spending their free time in the church or the mosque or 'gisting'. How is a society expected to challenge its own assumptions without a Rocknrolla spirit amongst the yoof? Fundamentalism and intolerance for difference takes root more readily in a soil that is both young and conservative. Who is there to challenge the elders and ask questions of what they have done?


nneoma 4:41 pm  

it is not just amongst Nigerians that conservatism/lack of rebelliousness is a growing ideal amongst the youth. check out reactions last year on Yale campus to a student's senior project, which was dubbed "abortion art." i was personally surprised out how some of the most die-hard liberals suddenly went soft or otherwise mum when approached about senior's version of art....conservatism amongst young people, i think, is probably more widespread than we are all willing to admit.

Akin 5:10 pm  

Hello Jeremy,

You are already too far ahead of the curve of youth.

The problem starts a lot earlier, as one is constrained to achieve a particular purpose which is just academic success above any other broad extra-curricular activity which allows for the child to be labelled as being unserious rather than indivudual and creative.

An educational system that is not about appreciation, understanding and comprehension but learning by rote and regurgitating exactly what the teacher said verbatim.

So, rather than be methodical, inquisitive and be thirsty for new knowledge we get told what to do by others who can play the leader's game better.

Initiative is rebellion, the generalisations abound.

A religious slant that segregates you completely from the "world" because you are not of it, though the last time I checked, I live in it - in the process we miss out on the beauty, the intrigue and pleasures in this world because they are of the ... devil?

It cannot be encapsulated in comments but the seeds were sown long before this point of assessment.

I cannot applaud loud enough the quality of primary school education I had that was impossible to beat out of me for the 16 other years I lived in Nigeria.

You will get brickbats for this, Walahi! I already feel your pain as I get hit on the head too.



Loomnie 5:17 pm  

And to continue where Nneoma left off, radicalism is probably more widespread than selected instances might suggest.

I agree, from living in Europe, that Europeans are generally more given to experimenting with all kinds of stuffs than we are. And those who are not willing to do so do not cloak their unwillingness in any moral/moralised terms, as is often the case in Nigeria. I guess that is one of the points you would like to make. I am not so sure about your suggestion that the youth might be more conservative than their parents. If it is so, then it might be similar to the issue of more young, British muslim women taking to the veil than, say, twenty years ago. In the case of Nigeria, it could be related to the proliferation of constapental churches. Whatever the case is, your post throws up an interesting topic for a sociological/anthropological study.


LoloBloggs 5:33 pm  

The world has lost it's Rocknrolla brigades, people don't know what it is to have a cause anymore and Nigerian 'youf' are too eager to join the ranks of "we have arrived, we're Christian and we are better than you; morally, financially and spiritually".

The scariest part is that it is usually a pretense, we are as promiscuous, confused, drugged up and angst-ridden as our parents were.

Lets hope there will continue being enough real people putting art work like this in the faces of these idiotic droids!

Anonymous,  7:05 pm  

For the past 30 odd years, in most societies, the youth appeared to be 'conservative' because conservatism was seen as the ideal and 'liberalism' (even worse 'radicalism') was outside the realms of an acceptable society. For example, Iran, USA, many African and Asian countries etc. As a teacher in the UK, most of the students accepted the mainstream ideas of resricted freedom, law and order, abortion (citing the bible and koran) because they are familiar and grew up with these ideals. The other -isms were just too scary for them to comprehend. However, liberalism seems to be on the rise again so perhaps the tide is turning...

Anonymous,  7:38 pm  

Interesting blog topic, interesting question. Completely misleading about linked Next newspaper art review..

J,  9:12 pm  

they bully, beat out all the corkiness and experimenting spirit you have in you before you are 6. Thats what they do. Your parents. By the time you r 11 you are completely fucked up. You keep your voice down when you talk to older people- Its polite.
To be older means to be right. Our parents, forbears, ancestors are all right. Their ways are perfect. Our culture, our way of life.. its what we are..

Having said this, and also considering am in my early 20- i consider myself among the Nigerian youth being berated by Jeremy. I thought about this thing he said for five minutes and the only thing I can think of is that in my house they call me when someone needs help to lift something heavy e.g 25litre Jerry can of water, petrol, kerosene etc etc.. and for other things like that.. Its my strength that is needed Wisdom is for the old.

Waffarian 10:11 pm  

I am with loloBloggs. I think they PRETEND to be conservative. Young people in Nigeria are just better at concealing it because they are EXPECTED to. Hell, I used to go to "rosary" in the evenings...come on! everybody knew I was not going to church, but we all pretended I was.It was easier to do that and I think thats where the problem lies.

Its so much easier to NOT be curious. You don't have to ask questions, you don't have to get into trouble for asking them, or for being disrespectful, etc. Better to pretend that you enjoy listening to old peoples crap than try to explain to them why you think they suck. Its just something we learn from an early age to "ignore" shit around us. Thats how you survive in the world of adults. At least thats how I survived...

"yes ma, yes sir, thank you for your advice, yes sir, I will greet everybody, yes, I still go to church, in fact, by 6 in the morning I am up...I enjoy the early morning mass, yes oh...I don't joke with my early morning mass, greet everybody, yes sir"

Unfortunately, even when we grow up, we forget that we are now the adults and do not have to continue with the pretense...but by then, we now have children we have to be examples for...and so the circle continues...

Nkem 10:16 pm  


Your instinct is radicalism, out-there-ness. Which is fair enough, but you can't blame people for staying within the confines of a comfort zone. In a society like Nigeria, how far are the youth supposed to get by rebelling, when the elders still control everything?

In the West there's been a backlash against the baby boomer generation because they screwed things up. Higher crime rates, greater social instability (urban crime, teen pregnancy, STIs), greater international instability (terrorism, failed states, food insecurity), all under the watch of the liberal baby boomers. No wonder today's youth are more conservative.

Anonymous,  2:55 am  

jeremy, how did you come to this conclusion. is there an index to measure this stuff?

Anonymous,  1:26 pm  

How did you come to this conclusion? Any stats to back it up?

Lost at The End 3:08 pm  

Nigeria is an existential cesspool of risk. I mean, life in Nigeria=RISK. In naija, leaving the house every fucking day is an experiment in existence because you damn well know that one petroleum tanker can just misbehave and it's over.

In a world like that, any form of ideology(like conservatism) that appears stable, familiar, or, at least, promises a steady footing on a world moving in dizzying speed tends to be the default.

Lost at The End 3:13 pm  

by the way, if you haven't read the linked article, make sure you before you comment. Naija men! Arrrgh!

Ola,  7:33 pm  

Why do you assume a 'hippie culture renaissance'(with all the naïveté and self indulgence associated with it) is what the youth of Nigeria need right now? I could agree if you argued that young people in Nigeria were generally politically disengaged and preoccupied (debatably) with the basics of schooling and working, but that's not quite the same thing as lamenting their lack of experimentation with LSD or eastern mysticism. You narrow the premise of your argument when you define youthful disquiet in terms of adopting outdated left-over symbols of the counter culture movt, becoming hostile to religion and challenging sexual mores just for the sake of it. I thought the jury was done deliberating on how well that turned out in the west-please check the stats.

I'd rather see young people intelligently challenge the existing socio-political order, fiercely debate the issues of the day, explore their cultural roots, generate respectable literary and musical output, sharply define their ideology etc. It's interesting that a culture of youthful angst is not entirely strange in Nigeria-esp in the university community-I very well remember the perpetually angry SU leaders, the brave protests against military rule, the SAP riots, the effigies, the controversial stoning of IBB's motorcade, the symbolic kidnapping of top University officials etc Student activism, pretty much like seen in the West back in the 60s, was red-hot-perhaps occasionally misguided. The term 'youth unrest' even found a place in Nigeria's public lexicon. Further back, it may give some perspective that the push against colonial rule involved a lot of young rebels. Later on, youthful idealism found expression in the arts(Soyinka, Achebe and the mbari group, indigenous music etc) and in politics; think of the fire-brand majors who led the first revolutionary coup out of a sense of idealistic rage(the wisdom of their action may be debatable). There is no doubt that things have become a lot more quiet esp on our university campuses, sharply defined ideology no longer exists, there's a lot more interest in hip-hop, football and video games etc but perhaps this is a global phenomenon?
So Mr. J, I think there's a lot of space between what you may consider to be the 'unproductive, laid back conservatism' of Nigeria's youth and the sort of wild-eyed nihilism you may find appealing.

That space can be filled with cultural exploration, a wider range of 'outdoorsy' activities,
Civic involvement, travel and so on. Let's not set up any false choices.

And why do I suspect your first instinct may have been to title your post "The hideousness of conservatism...”?

Jeremy 10:26 pm  

Ola you are showing your age. You set up what is for me a false opposition. There's nothing especially productively rebellious about doing drugs these days. The disruptive spirit can manifest itself in many ways, including intellectual and political of course. Whether its challenging the kleptocrats or heading for the hills, young Nigerians don't do it. Instead, we have the 'Future Awards'. I rest my case....

Anonymous,  11:06 pm  

At anonymouses 2:55am and 1:26pm, who wonder how Jeremy Weate got his 'facts' that led to this sad post of his, I will hazard a guess:

He pulled it right out of his arse! One of the things you'll find is that Jeremy's commentary on Nigerian life are often through an extremely rigid lens.

Anonymous,  12:36 am  

I love your blog, Jeremy. However, I have to disagree. I am all for art but a lady (notice emphasis on the word "lady") does not show anyone the stuff she bled for on for years. I think this artist is just a dirty woman who needs to throw her pads away. That's just gross. I can look at vaginas (I'm an obgyn and am as liberal as they come) and feel sexuality and its understanding are tantamount to reducing a lot of our issues with disease in Africa. However, there are some things our mothers taught us. One of which is please keep that shit to yourself. If you saw someone pooping in a gallery, would you like it? Everything can't be art. If that makes me conservative, I'll take it.

Ola,  2:27 am  

Ha, ha..are we getting personal(inaccurately so by the way) or being thin-skinned here? Perhaps your very own words confuse me. My simple point is that a.Nigeria's youth are indeed currently disengaged b. Describing the desired attitude of Nigeria's youth in terms of sexual and chemical experimentation, as your language suggests, is inadequate c.To give things some perspective, a productively rebellious attitude which challenges the status quo is not entirely strange to Nigeria given the examples i cite and that we should perhaps explore why things have changed in recent years.
That's all...

Anonymous,  10:21 am  

Ola is right on the money, political indifference has nothing to do with 'conservatism'. Is this the same 9ja 'yoof' we talking about here? Same ones that coined the term 'yahooze', 'runs girls','expo' and dream of becoming 'big boys/girls'?

Anonymous,  8:11 pm  

Mr. Weate,

And what would The Future Awards have to do with any of this?

If you had a problem with that idea, why not do a post and engage it directly?


Anonymous,  8:20 pm  

not as conversative as u think. Be not suprised to find out a guerilla force of computer hackers in Lagos.
Wrecking havoc somewhere very far.

As per drugs ,Why try hard drugs when sepe and weed are enuf to turn ur head.

Jeremy 8:35 pm  

The key issue/contention is that the youth in Nigeria are not really challenging anything (creatively, intellectually, politically, spiritually), rather they are more timid and conservative in every way than their parents.

This in the end always involves hypocrisy as Waffy points out.

Where are the student radicals that Ola longs for? Where are the out-there artists who are not painting pictures of markets and durbas? Instead, there is shock and homophobia at images of lesbians and tampons, like old women scared of the future.

Where are the young musicians inventing new genres in anything like the same way as, for example, the grime scene in London? Instead of engaging with interesting music from around the continent, young Nigerians most often glue their ears to MTV Base and Channel O. Forget engaging with music even from neighbouring West African countries, getting into Malian music etc.

Even Nigeria's largest city is surprisingly inactive in this respect. You can travel the length and breadth of the city and how many sub-cultures will you find? Lagos can often seem like one big village, rather than a megacity bursting with new forms of expression.

This is how it is, there's no use being defensive. As Akin says, the education system here beats all creativity out of most Nigerians.

The reality is, many/most of the hippest young Nigerians don't actually live in Nigeria...

Lost at The End 9:04 pm  

@ Anonymous 12:36 am:

"there are some things our mothers taught us."

That's exactly the problem. Can't you think, for once, outside of what your mother taught you?

Anonymous,  10:07 pm  

@ lost at the end.
Yes, I can think outside what my mother taught me. Which is why I am getting married to a European in a few months despite intense family objections initially. They finally came around. If I listened to everything everyone else was doing, I would be married now with two children, going to weddings every weekend, and hating myself instead of following my heart.
Don't pretend to know me. We're not here to berate each other. I just think calling everything art is wrong. Everything else as described in the article does indeed sound like art, but spare me your menstrual blood. That's just disgusting. Some things should be discreet, period (no pun intended). If you can tell me you didn't learn one positive thing from your mother, then I can only feel sorry for you.

imnakoya 4:38 am  

If we avoid the generalization and focus on Nigeria, I have to agree with Jeremy on this. There is a widespread malady among the Nigerian youth.

The Soyinkas, Ganis, Falanas of Nigeria started their conquests as youths. An examination of their sociopolitical milieu and ours may offer some pointers to what is amiss. What did they have that Nigerian youth lack? Guts? Common sense? Common purpose? Better education?

Anonymous,  1:26 pm  

I found the Next article amusing but I suppose contemporary art means different things to different people. Perhaps the problem was that the exhibition was viewed and reviewed by someone with a limited appreciation for contemporary art. The writer would probably have had the same reaction to Duchamp's Fountain.

Lost at The End 8:34 pm  

@ Anonymous 10:07

You say that menstrual blood is disgusting. Since when did disgust become a disqualifier for art. So what feelings should REAL art elicit? Comfort? The familiar? Peace of mind?

I'm also a little confused. Are you disgusted by the menstrual experience or by the representation of it in public images?

Either way, why would you rather an experience so definitive of womanhood be hidden away from the public eye as if it were a curse or shame or something?

Is menstruation some how beyond representation? Is the menstrual blood somehow outside of or beyond art?

mypenmypaper 12:41 am  

I think I agree with you on this one. Its something that has been bugging my mind, I just didn't

know how to put it together. You took it right out of my mouth. Not only Youth, even the grown

ups are conservative.

In Nigeria, parents make their Children into what they(parents) want them to be, regardless of

whether the parents knew / ever thought about if/if not their actions as parents are wrong or

right. Not only parents, relatives even chip in their bits of one and two, into how a child who

isn't theirs is supposed to behave, talk, act.

In the end, 'J's comment would still be in a positive light:
"they bully, beat out all the corkiness and experimenting spirit you have in you before you are

6. Thats what they do. Your parents. By the time you r 11 you are completely fucked up."
Does it ever cross your mind why Christians and Muslims go to Church almost every day in


Christian youths are Christians because they were born into a Christian family and everyone is a

Christian. But do they believe what they hear in Church? NO. The same goes for Muslim folks. Ask

them properly: everyone is just managing until the time they will leave home and have a life for


Our parents never forget to tell us: I am your father, I know what is best for you. I am this, I

am that. That is why all our parents came first in their classes, know everything, were all more

intelligent than their teachers. Sorry is a word never found in the parent-child, school-teacher

to school-student dictionary. Sorry was always the other way around. In fact, if a teacher steps

on your foot, you little rascal boy must be the one to say sorry. If you dont say it, its just

an indication your mother didnt train you well at home.

Isnt that cold?

In the West, Children are brought up to be whoever they choose and want to be. If they dont end

up as basketball players, they'll end up as 50-cents wannabees or somewhere on Wall street. If

all these are the difference between intellectual / political manifestations, where youth grow

up and do not challenge anything "creatively, intellectually, politically, spiritually", Yes you

are right Jeremy.

Thats why Nigerian youths who grow up partly in Nigeria and later in the West / wherever have a

lot of problems with their parents. Dad always thinks we are still in Nigeria where you(my

children) dont have a right to think for yourselves, because I, Dad, since I have more rags than

you do, definitely know more than you do, and regardless of who you become, I am your father.

Thank you, but....

Nigerian education is sorry experiment, I apologize to admit the fact. Sometimes, I think that

all past Ministers of Education in this country should be arrested and Jailed. You know, I've

observed a lot of University graduates: they simply believed all they were taught in school,

without any aota of doubt / curiousity to find out of this or that is true / false, or if there

was/is/will ever be something more to what has been taught. After you pass an exam, the whole

world falls down and you feel you know everything. Thats why research and development is zero in

Nigeria. Its like you accept something hook, bait and sinker. One plus one is two, why? my

teacher in the University said so. But hey, before killing the lecturers, dont blame Nigerian

youths, its the way they were taught at home: accept, dont question what your elders tell you.

This plays out negatively in the long run, coz we will never be able to think beyond the things

we buy from Asia, Ameria and wherever. We will never be able to think about producing ours.

Our professors in University float around the University with their blackberries, the truth is

that they(Professors) dont know how it was produced, neither are they curious to know how it

works, and neither will their student admirers be curious to know how things were put together,

neither will they ever be taught. But who cares, Prof mypenmypaper can receive a phone call with

his BB. At the end of the day, what goes around comes around.

p.s: Im going to post a rejoiner on my weblog, its going to be a long one.

Fred 1:54 pm  

Well said, Ola!

Moody Crab 4:38 am  

Surprisingly, I agree with Jeremy on this one. You see, art (in all its forms-dance, music, literature, film, poetry e.t.c.) does mould one's thinking. It provokes some sort of reaction-be it anger, love, lust, thoughts/questions regarding one value, way of thinking, life. So if current Nigerian youths are not changing (or at least trying to) change Nigeria by asking questions, seeking out answers/truth e.t.c. then something is wrong with us.

There is no hunger within us youths to break from the mould, ask questions, refuse to live exactly the same way our parents lived, travel off the beaten track. A lot of things can and does inspire change, but the basic means is through arts (again in its entirety). Nigeria does not have vibrant art scene and it does explain the reason for our lackadaisical attitude in political matters and other spheres generally.

Moody Crab 4:54 am  

PS; I totally agree with you on Malian music. Those guys know their stuff.

Lost at The End 6:23 pm  

My pen my paper,

You talk am well jare. You've said it all. This is where I rest my case.

Anonymous,  4:28 am  

@Lost at the end: It seems you are trying too hard to show yourself as open-minded and liberal, and you come off sounding just a little awkward. Nobody is calling for the artist to be beheaded or
imprisoned-I'm not sure what problem you have with a relatively mild expression of revulsion at someone EXHIBITING IMAGES of HER 10YEAR OLD COLLECTION OF BLOOD STAINED MENSTRUAL PADS; or at this, quoting from the much criticized review: “A girl is shown with a blood-stained tampon stuck between her lips. I could neither stomach nor make any sense of it, not until Uchay took me by the hand. As we both stood in front of the photograph, he explained, "The young lady has just one tampon left on her, she has to use the toilet, she rushes in and looks for a germ-free space to place her tampon, finding none, she sticks it in her mouth for safe keeping. Through with her toileting, she inserts the tampon back in."
That's likely to be considered
disgusting even in the west so quit pretending to be more 'western' than westerners-that sort of art-as
openly as it can be staged- is not necessarily mainstream even in western society. The sentiment
expressed by anonymous@12:36 a.m is reasonable. This isn't a debate about what defines art or the theories
of aesthetics. I'll make you an offer and take his some steps further: Would you mind hosting a private exhibition-inviting all your
family, colleagues and friends? I'll be doing some LIVE painting at the exhibition which we could name "poopism" or "shitism"(to make it sound even more avant gardist, dig?). They can buy framed, blank
canvas and watch as I, the artistic genius, bend over canvas and do my thing, and yes, they can enjoy
the art of it as i rub my poop all over the canvas into splendid shapes and patterns? Of course, anyone
who criticises that would be considered backward, unintellectual and hideoulsy conservative, right? How
about that for art?

Hurrikane Andrew 2:58 pm  

I found a great deal of the earlier comments quite interesting (really!) but there's just one problem; the so-called 'review' isn't actually an art review, it was simply a blog posted on And if you ask me, I think I enjoyed the view of the blogger. If she gets to see my comments, I urge her to keep it up. This is to the blogger: Keep it up!

Iredotp 11:45 am  

Jermy dear, (Not a term of endearment here but one reserved for people of slow understanding) IT IS A BLOG not an ART REVIEW! The review of 'Like a virgin' art exhibition was published in NEXT on Sunday and was written by someone else.
If you actually consider my opinion as expressed in my blog written for as 'hideously conservative' then it speaks volumes of how rotten you are and expect the 'Nigerian yoof' to be.
No, thank you sir, we have no qualms writing 'contemporary art' but we will not publish 'pornography' on a credible website meant to pass information to people all around the world.
Seems I am missing something here, but you are actually connected to NEXT publication, no?
You should just have posted your 'hideous' comments on the 234next site. (If you were not scared of being shown up for the malicious freak which you are!)
Sorry to dissappoint you, but this 'Nigerian youth' is not so conservative that she should not tell you, to stick it up your.... you know where.
Pity, I actually follow your blog!

Lost at The End 7:15 pm  

Regarding Iredotp comment:

This is...ha ha ha...fucking hilarious...ha ha ha...


"Who is there to challenge the elders and ask questions of what they have done?"

Abeg, ask them for me, Jeremy.

Came here via Africa Unchained...

Black Capitalist 10:17 am  

when comes from a meager background he is more likely to take the more linear and well traveled road towards prosperity. I think that applies to many up and coming nations, Nigeria included.

Bradly Jones 8:39 pm  

Thanks for the post. It's like five years of not being in Nigeria has finally made me out-dated for this to be news to me. The change is amazing. Great blog!

call Nigeria

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