While I was planning

For one day only, T becomes a Hausa girl, looking adorable in the traditional attire, accessories and a calabash in her arms. She’s wearing a pair of ballerina pumps to complete the look; I didn’t get her Hausa slippers.

Her brother’s roots remain unchanged though; just slightly modified. He moves from a Yoruba boy to a rather dignified – looking Yoruba hunter with his purple dashiki and fila tilted at an angle.

Today is world cultural day and the children’s school are not only celebrating it verbally but also visually. The children have been put into groups of different tribes and told to dress accordingly.

For five years on this particular day, T has worn outfits sewn from Ankara fabrics. I just couldn’t be bothered into dressing her up like a typical Yoruba girl. I felt this was yet another minor annoyance from the school (as though I needed one!) that involved money, time, thought and resources; all of which I wasn’t quite willing to part with without a compelling reason. Especially when the chances of repeating the outfit for a different occasion is nil. It is the same feeling I had towards other days the school pulled out of its hat – career day, colour splash day, open day, parents’ teaching/reading day, science day, prize–giving day…Enough already! How about a give-me-a-break day?

Why dress up in a particular traditional outfit to learn about another culture or more of yours? Whatever happened to teaching it with a blackboard and a white chalk/marker? That’s how I learnt about it. Show the pupils photos, if you wanted to go further and perhaps make it more fun. That was my thinking. Why make me (and other parents) go through the hassle of acquiring different attires and playing dress up with our children when we can just adorn them with simple and stylish Ankara – made outfits and send them on their merry way? Apparently, teaching methods as well as the learning process change with the times. It also changed my way of thinking last year when I saw a fellow female pupil of T’s school in the full Yoruba ashoke gear. Her purple gele sat elegantly on her petite head matching the ipele that circled her tiny waist; the white lace blouse in between providing a soft blend of both colours. For a moment, she stood side by side with T, who was in her perennial short, sleeveless Ankara dress and a pair of ankle length boots, and the contrast was colossal.

By January this year, I already had the ashoke (a beautiful shade of lilac) for T’s cultural day outfit. By March, I had given it to the tailor who was also going to source for the matching white lace. By May when the children resumed school from the Easter holidays, I got their term calendar and marked the cultural day boldly in orange ink. The tailor and I were now in serious talks, the white lace was in place and T had her measurements taken. Everything was looking good and would most likely be ready in time.

Exactly one week today, I received a note from the school. Besides the title ‘World Cultural Day’, only one other phrase jumped at me: ‘…the pupils are to wear the traditional attire of their group (Hausa) to celebrate the day…

Seriously?! The year I decide to go the whole nine yards, T is asked to wear something else?! What is wrong with this school?

I am going to skip the anguish of recounting the process of getting T looking like the lovely little Hausa girl she was this morning and accomplishing that mission just yesterday.

I am pleased it was able to happen, and in the end I have two children dressed up as two different tribes. Both of them eager to learn more about other cultures in Nigeria and have fun while doing so.

Happy world cultural day!

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