Striving for Simplicity in a Flamboyant Society

I fell in love with simplicity some years back.  I was drawn to the idea of having no attachment to a place and people’s opinions.  I started working towards this fuss-free life in everything from interior décor to travel luggage to celebrations.  Achieving this from the opposite end of the spectrum has been a tortoise paced process.

In the course of things, I stopped desiring to be fashionable – I never was any good at it anyway.  I’m happy to just be neat.  I completely abandoned the idea of makeup going everywhere au naturel even parties, interviews, weddings and graduations.

However, my quest for minimalism is yet to successfully invade my library.  I love reading.  I love the sensation of paper.  I can’t stand e-books.

Now, I am in Nigeria where simplicity is uninvited.  Nigerian society is built on the cakey foundation of ‘show’.  If you’ve got it, flaunt it and accessorise it with gold.  This tends to be viewed as a modern phenomenon, a by-product of an emerging middle-class, but a look at the 1950s-1960s pictures of Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh proves that flamboyance is not a recent development.

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Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh, Minister of Finance during the First Republic

Perhaps this is all a side effect of a poverty mentality mingled with colonial mentality.  We were so used to being supressed that once set free, we became like lions in a Roman amphitheatre.  Or maybe that’s just our nature.

Every aspect of Nigerian life is designed for show and our ostentation knows no bounds.  From Italian leather everything, to the luxurious SUVs and residential mammoths called homes that anyone who’s ‘made it’ just has to have, the elaborate weddings that cost millions though the couple can’t afford a place to live, the gold trips to Dubai, and the mandatory annual holiday abroad (Dubai is not overseas. It is an eastern extension of Nigeria) with the intimidating return luggage over packed with presents to give out just so people would know you went out of the country.  Show off or stop living.

Speaking to other Africans, this is the one thing Nigerians are both loved and disliked for.  “You people show off too much”, my Namibian hairdresser back in London would complain.  She was always surprised that I didn’t want small waist length plaits.  “But that’s the way Nigerians like it”, she would say.

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Ladies at a wedding

“I expected you to look more like a lady”, people tell me.  To be a lady, one adorns human hair weaves, tightens her dresses and catwalks in heels.  Most of all, her mannerism is governed by self-consciousness, an awareness that she’s on display. I’m fine with not being a lady.

Recently, I was described as being ‘simple-minded’ because I was perplexed that a particular wedding was so expensive.  I couldn’t help but revert to the dictionary definition which is also an abuse teachers love to render to their students: having or showing very little intelligence or judgement.  I began to wonder if that is how people really view me.  The brainless, naïve girl who doesn’t wear makeup and show her ‘figure 8’.

Naïve or not, as long as it remains in the eye of the beholder, I see matchless beauty in simplicity.


Image|Money Spraying|Source:




  1. I had an argument with a group of people the other day. I told them if/when I become very rich, no one would know cos I would like my privacy and simplicity to be intact. Of course, they all said I was bluffing. Maybe to show off is part of being a Nigerian.

    Liked by 1 person

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