“No one knows for certain how much impact they have on the lives of other people. Oftentimes, we have no clue. Yet we push it just the same.” Fair warning, this post contains spoilers for both the book and Netflix series adaptation, as well as potentially triggering subject matter. About a month ago I flipped […]
UGLY because growing up, that’s what you’ve been conditioned into thinking. On meeting a person, our major assessment of who or what they might be is usually centered around the physical appearance, with much attention given to the face. And with such analysis, persons usually tend to fall into categories of being either pretty or ugly. Little wonder many of us try all possible means to look ‘exceptionally beautiful’, some going as far as having to endure long hours of painful plastic surgical operations just to alter the natural state of their appearance in order to fit into the commonly accepted ideals of beauty or attractiveness. But as ages passed, and with more self-learning, I’ve come to realize that these are just preconceived notions governing such standards, and in many cases of broaching the subject, I find myself constantly asking questions regarding what beauty and ugliness really is, the idea behind them, how these ideas came about and what exactly the lines are, separating them? What makes it funnier is when a strange person walks into a place and there’s a sudden heated argument over how attractive he or she is or whether or not they even fall into the bracket. And so many times these arguments wire off to nothing. But why should one allow man’s illusions greatly control the perception of oneself? The sickening thing about these concepts is that what may be considered as a superbly attractive face in one spectrum of society would be thoroughly described as highly disenchanting in another spectrum. The result of this leaves me pondering, ‘ Why all these battles then with self, just to fuel man’s insatiable desires?’ Due to all this, one shouldn’t be astonished on hearing condescending statements such as, ‘Oh, she’s quite pretty for someone with such a large nose’ or ‘ My! What a handsome face, but he’s just too short for a guy’.
These days, I cast glances at people and instead of going with an immediate judgement of their facial appearance, I try to give them complete visual examinations , of course long periods of gawking could make persons feel uneasy…but in giving intermittent stares I’ve been able to reach a point where I find it legitimately baffling how such strong structures bearing great complexities in a way that has been intricately woven to form this wonderful feature of the human body could be easily narrowed down into these shallow boxes.
A face shouldn’t just be passed off as ugly or pretty. No. When next a person is met, although it may not be easy at first, but with careful deliberation one should endeavour to experience much more than its aesthetics. After many of such scrutinizations, you come to realize that faces tell stories. It reveals a lot about a person, especially aspects of the person he or she might not be willing to share with you or is generally trying to hide. Imagine how much data one could get just by staring into a person’s face; giving you clues as to the race,tribe or ethnicity, the age range, possible past or present injuries, the emotional state, the current health status and so much more that is often ignored. Let’s not forget that this place(face) happens to hold four out of the very essential five senses needed for proper day-to-day functioning in our lives.
For me, there are many things that could easily fall into the UGLY-PRETTY division, but faces for a fact shouldn’t be one of them. As I expressed earlier, I’ve learned (still learning) to view these structures of the human anatomy as STORIES. And with each face comes a new story, a great story. Also, no matter how short or long, wide or narrow, I like to believe that everyone has an interesting side to their story; to their faces.
So friend, when next you find yourself peeping into that piece of glass or peering into another face, instead of laying so much focus on what you assume or may have been taught to believe are the negative or positive aspects that leads to the determination of which area you or them fall into as per the UGLY-PRETTY division, make an attempt to see what this part of the system is saying or trying to say. It doesn’t go without the cliche saying of life being too short to keep on concentrating on the negatives not minding the detrimental effects it could have on one’s health and appearance in general. You have to learn to embrace your individuality, learn to appreciate your story as well as others’. You just got to love yourself.
I like to think that when I die and I’m buried, my body decomposition occurs, making me an integral part of the soil. And then, although those who may have known me think I’m completely gone, a part of me remains here as I become one with the earth(soil) from which new living forms such as plants absorb their required nutrients, so I get to be a part of their existence. Subsequently various beings not excluding animals feed on these plants as a part of their diet for sustenance of life, in the process unconsciously incorporating me into their essence. And then there are other times, where the sky sucks up water from the earth,or I get blown by wind, and particles of me mixes with the air, and another part of me is taken into the atmosphere, thereby converting me again into another form of energy, another form of existence…
In the course of all these, although it’s evident that I’m no longer physically present, I like to think I’m certainly still present but in other dimensions and therefore not entirely gone as many would have themselves believe, rather I’m still a great part of this huge entity and all the while I get to contribute immensely to the continuous growth cycle of the universe.
_I LOST MY MIND
PRAY FOR THE WORLD.
You read certain stories and you tell yourself, ‘this should be made into a motion picture’. Sefi Atta’s Swallow is one of such books. A story focusing on the lives of two young women living in contemporary Nigeria and the daily struggles and harassments they face as they try all possible means to get through, sometimes not minding the dreadful consequences that may come with each risk.
The story is told in a first voice by Tolani Ajao, a lady in her late twenties, who has left her hometown,Makoku for Lagos to start a new life without any idea of what is to come. She is able to take us through Lagos, Nigeria of the 80s and thoroughly depict the life of then( many of which those of us living in current Lagos can still relate to) using her story as well as bits of her mother’s and that of her neighbours’.
Swallow covers many aspects of everyday life as experienced by Nigerian citizens from the issue of unemployment to that of relationships,tribalism, marital affairs ,religious views, unpaid salaries,parenting, sexual harassments etc.
What I enjoyed most about Tolani’s narration is the way in which she expressed her ideas about life generally, most of which were mainly philosophical giving the reader a chance to absorb and think her thoughts through in order to see where she was coming from and where she was headed.
Sefi Atta’s character development and progression is one which endears the reader to the story. The richness of each character and how they complemented each other gave the story its full meaning making it worthwhile to read while appearing to be totally true.
TOP QUOTES FROM SWALLOW
- No one is born bad. You have to watch them
- Lies hide between words, like cowards, and the truth need not draw attention to itself.
- No one can say for certain what life is like anywhere in the world unless they actually live there.
- ‘Our Civil war saddened me’ I said. ‘To think that the oyinbos left and we began to fight each other like that. It was not right. Only children behave that way when their parents leave the house’.
- Morality was an easy friend to part with, yet too hard to avoid thereafter.
- Life was full of enough unexpected misfortune. Why invite more?
- He said it’s a pity because oyinbos write theories about things they can’t understand, and by the time they finish, you can’t understand either, even if they’re writing about you.
AUTHOR: SEFI ATTA
PUBLISHER: AAA PRESS
YEAR PUBLISHED: 2008
FORMAT: PAPER BACK
PAGE COUNT: 196
This is a text I’d recommend for those who enjoy a good story that leaves its reader(s) with lots of intriguing ideas as well as topics to brainstorm…
AAApress should improve on their binding and printing.
Feel free to drop comments as regards the book or review. Thank you.