Written by Aisha Waziri, YES Nigeria 2011 student
As I walked into the classroom, I heard people shouting on top of their voices, hands clapping, and saw people taking pictures of me. While I waved to everyone, I was speechless and shed tears of joy.
The Nigerian green and white flag stretched besides America’s red, white, and blue flag. The flags were separated by cardboard and the word “peace” that I had drawn earlier. Colorful Nigerian clothes decorated the classroom. A table held popular Nigerian games. Nigerian snacks (dan wake) and drinks (sobo) were ready for the audience to sample. Nigerian music played in th background. The smart board read “Welcome to my Cultural Presentation about Nigeria”. Dressed in my blue and pink atampa, I moved to the front of the room, proud of how it showcased my country and pleased to see the large audience.
During the cultural presentation, I spoke about Nigeria including its society, government system, diverse ethnic groups, and the 34 languages that are spoken. I explained how Nigeria has modernized significantly, but how some people in Nigeria still do not have water, electricity, or even a water heater. I also shared how lives for teenagers in Nigeria differ greatly from American teenage lives.
Some Nigerian teenagers wake up as early as 3 AM to make breakfast for the family, wash dishes, sweep the house, and boil water for their parents and their younger ones to shower. I also shared how traditional Nigerian dating and marriages occur. In Nigeria, a teenager can be married at just 13 years of age. Dating also differs greatly in Nigeria; teenagers also don’t usually date each other unless they are betrothed and matched by their parents.
One interesting story the audience enjoyed is that in southern Nigeria, the groom gathers his friends and lays down before the bride’s father until the father decides whether or not to give his daughter’s hand in marriage. To give the audience a clear understanding, I played a wedding video.
When I completed my presentation, the audience asked many questions! They were particularly curious to know whether my experience in Nigeria was more traditional or modern, but I explained that I was born in modern Nigeria, which has changed after the country gained Independence. Attendees also sampled the food, played traditional Nigerian games, and tried on cultural dresses.
The principal thanked me personally for the presentation and observed that cultural exchanges play a large role in promoting tolerance. He also said that he was excited to have me in the school and learned a lot about Nigeria from my presentation. I felt so excited to share my culture with the school and see people embrace Nigerian culture. I believed my presentation helped clear stereotypes and encourage understanding.