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Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Emma Uwejoma: "When I grew up I never belonged"

This project is Ngwako by Emma Uwejoma, who's graduating from Newport this year. It's funny, touching and heartfelt. I had a chat with Emma last week about the project and this is what she said.

"When I grew up I never felt I belonged. I went to school in Dorset and was the only black kid in school. Was I English like my mother or was I a Nigerian Igbo like my father? I was a mixture of the two, an ‘ngwako’ as they say in Igbo, a hybrid, somebody who didn’t fit in here and didn’t fit in there.

In this series of portraits I relive this uncertainty and undergo a gradual entry into a world that I want to be part of. I look at the hardships my father went through as he struggled to make a living as a dishwasher when he first arrived in Britain in the 1980s, I experience the dilemmas of being a woman in Igbo society, of needing to be a pious citizen and a good wife, I imagine what it would be like to marry into a traditional Igbo family.

I have a sense of nostalgia but also a sense of wariness. Do I really want to give up my independence to become a bride traded for a dowry? Do I need to accept a lower status simply because of I am a woman? Is that the way it has to be?

But there are things I want to embrace and become part of; a world where my identity is not formed by the colour of my skin, where time is fluid and life is led according to the natural rhythms of nature and life rather than by the rule of the calculator and the clock. Is that over romantic? I don’t know. I’m still learning what it means to be an Igbo woman from an English home. I hope this project will help me discover who I am, what I am and where I come from."

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