It’s a tale as old as time. A child tells their parents that they don’t want to study one of the courses that Nigerian parents think is prestigious because they want to pursue a career in the arts. The parents forbid this because they believe the “studying arts in the university to poverty” pipeline is real. The child insists on following their dreams, causing a rift between them and their parents. Sometimes, they reconcile. Sometimes they don’t.
The 4 Nigerians we interviewed in this article have stories similar to the one above.
I was a strangely precocious child who always knew what I wanted to do with my life. I knew I wanted to be a singer So pretty much every decision I made was something I believed would put me on the path to becoming that. I was a member of the choir all through secondary school and went to art class after Junior W.A.E.C so I could study something music-related in university. My parents only started paying attention to my career path when the time came to choose a course for uni. They made it clear that they only let me go to art class because they assumed I wanted to study law. At first, I thought they’d just complain about it for a while and let it go but they never did. The ultimate showdown came when they threatened to throw me out. I called their buff because I didn’t think they’d actually do it, but they did. I went to go live with my aunty, who I stayed with all through university. She paid my tuition too because my parents refused to do it. It’s been 13 years since all that but I still haven’t forgiven them. They attempted to apologise once but let slip that they still didn’t agree with the choice I made so I shut it down. My music career is going good. I don’t regret my decision at all.
The thing that annoys me the most about my father is that he has made a conscious choice to not understand. And it’s not even that complicated. I’m a freelance writer and I’ve explained, countless times, how freelancing works (getting writing jobs and making money), but he just says that I “better not be doing yahoo.” I working from the living room one day when he passed and left a snide comment about how I should go get a real job, and it made my blood boil. Blinded by rage, I said terrible things to him that day, and we haven’t spoken in months because of it. I know I should apologise, but I won’t until I get one in return. With the way Nigerian parents function, I’m not holding my breath.
I’m not trying to engage in the Suffering Olympics but I feel like my case would’ve been easier if I wanted to be an actor or singer. That way, I could point at Ramsey Nouah or Burna Boy and say I’m trying to get to that. But I want to be a dancer. Convincing my parents to let me study Theatre Arts was a year-long struggle because according to them, “the only successful Nigerian dancer is Kaffy and she just got lucky and is still struggling!” Part of me feels like they only agreed because they wanted an “I told you so” moment in the future. I won’t lie, my dance career isn’t even close to being what I hoped it would. I’m mostly in music videos as a backup dancer / make video vixen and the money isn’t great. My parents and I are cool now but they still judge me for the path I’ve taken in different, not-so-subtle ways.
Let me just start by saying that I have no plans to patch things with my parents. I wasn’t a child when I decided to become an actor. I was 26. So the fact that they couldn’t accept and support my decision hurt me in ways I don’t think I’ll ever get over. In fact, the one thing powering my drive to make it in this industry (despite how hard it is) is so I can shove my success in their faces. Is this petty? Yes. And I truly don’t care.
If there’s any creative out there who has experienced this, they’ll relate strongly to the protagonist of the upcoming movie, Superstar, a girl named Queen (Nancy Isime) who gives up everything, including her relationship with her parents, to become an actress.
Do all her sacrifices end up being worth it for Queen in the end? Find out when the movie comes out in cinemas around Nigeria on the 29th of December 2021.