Written by Inioluwa Ayanlowo
Edited by Veronica Vivi
Illustrated by Maïa Walcott
Even in this day and age, the ideal Nigerian woman is a woman who is reserved, soft-spoken, and uninformed. She has made it her mission to remain calm and attractive to men, as she desires a successful marriage. While it can be tiring to constantly strive to satisfy the fragile male ego, she does not wish to be labeled as difficult: she has become so accustomed to being scrutinized for every detail of her persona that she simply wants to be accepted and does not wish to have to face life alone.
Add queerness into the mix and she will be condemned to always be in the background. After being constantly served homophobia with a side order of sexism, the Nigerian woman is content to just hide away and lead a life in the shadows. Ayodele Olofintuade taught me that sometimes you can dutifully follow society’s dictates and it still will not be enough to be accepted by it. So, as I was introduced to the Lakiriboto Chronicles at Ayodele Olofintuade’s 2021 Christmas Party, I understood the appeal of being a badly behaved woman. You can virtually be a mannequin and society will still find faults in you, so why not be badly behaved?
Olofintuade’s Lakiriboto Chronicles boasts of a sufficient number of badly behaved women. Morieba is “a bloody nuisance” (Olofintuade, 14), as far as her family is concerned, and likes her women in their “late twenties, tall, bookish, dark-skinned” (Olofintuade, 118). Kudirat can be “so quaint and traditional”, but she still likes to “kiss girls in dark corners at parties” (Olofintuade, 102); Tola dares to suffer from Multiple Personality Disorder and to neglect the needs of her husband and children. Lakiriboto Chronicles thus shows how our women refuse to do society’s bidding and take charge of their lives – from their finances to their sexuality.
As a queer woman in Nigeria, at the mall, Morieba meets Chinwe, a Youth Corper, whom Morieba believes is a fellow queer woman but who turns out to be a Kito sent by Olori Ebi (Morieba’s uncle) to get incriminating evidence of Morieba’s sexuality. While it can be argued that Morieba could have been more careful, considering the circumstances of their meetup, “it is so hard for LGBTQ people in the country to find love” (Olofintuade, 164), and she plays right into the hands of those who wish her harm. Living a double life is most often the only way for queer Nigerian women to survive, unless they are blessed with the presence of loving and supportive family and friends. Those who dare to come out will be shamed back into the closet with violence or hurtful words about how homosexuality is Unafrican and queer people are an abomination. In addition, sadly for queer women, lesbians in particular, one of the ways to avoid the dreaded “Where is your boyfriend or husband ?” question is to claim a strong disinterest in romance and the institution of marriage, so that everyone perceives them as this cynical, allergic to romance person while in reality, they are hopeless romantics.
When Alhaja Aduke dies and her granddaughter Moremi is left without a guardian, Morieba should be her ideal guardian: she is the wealthiest in the Alagbado family, has no children of her own, and loves Moremi dearly. However, Olori Ebi adamantly refuses and tells her: “Rather than let a lousy and ill-brought up girl like you raise Moremi, I’d give her to a troop of monkeys” (Olofintuade, 15). In Olori Ebi’s mind, Morieba is a lousy person because she is “always asking questions, always rocking the boat, always acting like a man!” (Olofintuade, 14). However, Morieba is a strong hero for queer women. When confronted with the threat of being publicly outed, she chooses to take action rather than remain passive: she hires her street boys to go after Olori Ebi’s street boys and recovers the evidence her uncle holds. Nigerian queer women are surrounded by bigots more than by allies, necessitating increased community-building efforts as a means of coping. Rather than isolating ourselves, we should collaborate to increase visibility and pave the way for meaningful transformation: it is time for the community to take a more active role in advocating for LGBTQ rights, even if it is a small and safe one.
Ayodele Olofintuade (she/they) is a queer Yoruba author, theoretician, and Orisa archivist, whose work is grounded in African feminism and Yoruba spirituality. In Lakiriboto Chronicles: A Brief History of Badly Behaved Women, they tell the captivating story of four women who attempt to reclaim their lives from their family’s patriarchs. Olofintuade deftly interweaves the story of the four women’s narratives together, while showing how strikingly different they are. In an interview with Daily Trust, Olofintuade reveals that her novel emphasizes individuality and the ongoing journey toward liberation for women, and she says her interest in driving Nigerian women to reach out for their core, “for that thing that makes them individuals” is one of the main driving forces behind her writing. Right from the title, where Lakiriboto means a woman who cannot be mounted/controlled, Olofintuade’s work challenges readers to reach their truest form without allowing interference from society.
Lakiriboto Chronicles should be included in university curricula of literature, African studies, gender studies, Yoruba spirituality studies, mental health studies, and queer African studies. The work of writers such as Olofintuade contributes to the slow and painful process of gaining queer visibility in a country steeped in violence and hatred. As a queer feminist myself, I have learned that queer Nigerian women must begin to occupy spaces. Violence and hatred will always be present in our lives, and the most effective way to combat this is to embrace our true selves and let our voices be heard. We allow ourselves these small victories and remain sane until the time comes when we can proudly raise our rainbow flags to the sky. In the meantime, we must open the necessary wounds to create a more secure space for Nigerian queer women to exist.
Amina, A. “Giving An Empty Page Life Is A Gift- Ayodele Olofintuade”. Daily Trust, October 14, 2018.
Bolaji, A. “Meet The Young Activists Fighting for LGBTQ+ Rights In Africa”. Teen Vogue, July 19, 2023.
Olofintuade, A. Lakiriboto Chronicles: A Brief History of Badly Behaved Women. Bookbuilders Editions Africa, 2018.
Otosirieze, O.Y. “Un-Silencing Queer Nigeria: The Language of Emotional Truth”. Brittle Paper, October 20, 2018.
Ayanlowo Inioluwa is a writer, educator, and communications specialist. Her work focuses on gender and sexuality issues, culture, and women’s experiences. After stumbling on a queer anthology that validated her identity as a lesbian in 2020, she has been actively exploring and consuming LGBTQ+ literature and contributing to conversations around them. She also has a love for classical literature and historical fiction. Twitter: @Eniiyi00
Maïa Walcott is a multidisciplinary artist working across mediums and specialising in illustration, painting and sculpture. Her focus is on British Caribbean home-making traditions and how Caribbeans used art and culture to make a new ‘home place’ in Britain. She has illustrated for major organisations like the Wellcome Collection and has contributed her art to publications such as Bad Mind Zine and The Colour of Madness.