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Lamentations of Lips that keep moving, 2022, Sculpture by Artist Tomilola Olumide

Lamentations of Lips that Keep Moving, 2022 | Sculpture, 120cm x 120cm

Materials (Àdìrẹ kampala textile fabric, metal wire, beads, synthetic foam, acetate sheet, wood)


Through fabric drawing techniques the textile material Àdìrẹ Kampala is manipulated to depict moving lips in conversation over shared and nuanced experiences of oppression, belittlement, archaic and maladapted ideas of life for women and girls in Nigerian society.


'Lamentations of lips that keep moving' and the reflective notes 'A few things my country has taught me,' collectively seek to advocate an urgency for the rights and lives of Nigerian women and girls, by provoking internal conversations with viewers on the ideas and standards of social equity, value, purpose, integrity and welfare.


This sculpture was exhibited in the I Am & Nothing Else exhibition at the Affinity Art Gallery, Lagos, Nigeria for International Women's Month, March 2022.

Lamentations of Lips that keep moving, 2022, Sculpture by Tomilola Olumide

A few things my country has taught me | Reflective notes


​I’m ashamed of the way my country treats us, it doesn’t take pride in our self-respect and confidence but instead makes it seem like we should be grateful for getting half, little or nothing at all.


It tells us at times that our successes and brilliance will never amount to much because we’ll be wives someday and mothers too, so businesses, ambitions, educational aspirations, and professional accreditations are just hobbies.


It threatens us to like the hurt and says that if we tell our stories we will never be believed.


It makes us aware that sometimes the ones we love the most just don’t get it and can’t protect us from what hurts us, because long before we existed they were inducted into the broken domes and weren’t able to fight like we can and are trying to.

It makes us know that sometimes there are few spaces to exhale.


It’s taught me to intuitively expect puppeteers to be male and not female because how dare we have the brilliance to be the masterminds behind legitimate and successful things? We can't be Kings of Boys?


It’s allowed me to not believe in myself when I started driving because ‘Na woman!’, and on the better days that I get my steering right, I just must have some testosterone in me doing the job, because I’m killing it. Vroom! Vroom!


It’s taught me that the church isn’t always a haven and if my partner hits me because he loves me ‘ergo his ego and inability to control his temper and self,’ I will be told to go back and work it out with him and until he pummels me into a pulp. Because as his wife I am the peacekeeper, nurturer and caretaker of him, our family and our home.


It tells me that I have no value and that no matter anything I must submit to what is expected of me just because I am a female human. My agency and self-identity are immeasurable and insignificant to that of a man.


It will ask me why I am unmarried and childless in my 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s. I will be regarded as irresponsible, a witch, barren, ridiculous, lazy, selfish, a man-hater, unserious, an ashewo, disrespectful to the cultural convention, weird, stupid…haba! the list goes on. I may simply not be ready for the journey or want to prioritise my self-happiness and explore life to the fullest, or want to complete some life goal which could be detoured by either of those journeys or have significant health circumstances. Or maybe I don’t want children at all, or may not be interested in the institution of marriage, or maybe I’m satisfied with being single, or that my career is my top priority at the moment. Or maybe I’m simply waiting for the right time, or working towards financial security and require this before settling into either one, or both not being the right path for my life’s model, or maybe I’m traumatised by past experiences. Whatever the reason, I desire unapologetic freedom.


I must never be angry and raise my voice in displeasure because I will be looked at as a lazy, weak woman who always complains and will be asked questions like 'do I have two heads? and my younger mates are doing it, so what is my problem? are you the first?'


It shows me that if I go out with male friends, colleagues, or a significant other… and pay the bill at a restaurant the waiter will say thank you to my male counterpart instead of to me for paying with my own money.


It shows me that I should be ashamed, and very in shame about my sexualness and sexual pleasure, that I dare not speak about how I want to be pleasured and touched that a man is the only one who knows how to navigate my body and not me who has been with it since its inception.


It shows me that financial literacy isn't empowering and necessary because my father and in future my husband will provide for me. It shows me that I must always lean on a man for survival and not be independent. God forbid I want to pay my way in this life, oh how terrible!


It shows me that sometimes if I compliment a beautiful lady maybe even a stranger, she most likely will give glory and praise to her husband or boyfriend for her ‘maintenance’ instead of accepting that she’s just simply beautiful.


It shows me that no matter what my husband says I must agree with him because he is the owner of my head and I dare not speak my mind because if I do it means I do not respect him. Since he has paid my bride price my husband owns me and therefore can do whatever with me.

It shows that rape is not rape, and being raped by your husband is not rape but just an expression of love since you are ‘married’ it automatically equates to consent. It shows me that you can be tired and want to just be still but your husband has a right to your body and therefore can have you for his sexual pleasure whenever and however he wants.


It shows me that rape is not a violation and you might have been asking for it because of what you wore, your physique, your hair, your shoes, your eye shadow, the bag you held, the way you crossed the street, your smile, the colour of the red sea, the pigeons flying across Eko bridge, the time of day, the humidity.


It shows me that sexual violence isn’t taken seriously and people aren’t held accountable for their actions.


It shows me that you can be a man with 10 children from so many mothers and be regarded as a powerful and well-endowed man, but you cannot do that as a woman because you’ll be regarded as the community pool and judged more harshly to the point of violence, societal neglect and shaming.


It shows me that as a young professional, unmarried, single woman I will likely not be allowed to rent a home.


It shows me that the kitchen is mine and that’s the main office in my ‘husband's house.’ A blender, microwave or air fryer are gifts that some husbands give their wives on valentine’s day because she must indeed love to cook and it was on her romance wish list. To not accept this is ingratitude and how dare she? After all, look at his effort and show of affection through kitchen appliances, he must love her, other than him also being hungry.


It shows me that older female relatives will talk to me mostly about settling down and will not encourage me to explore the world, enjoy my youth, or leverage my social network and educational aspirations towards a more productive expansion of multiple income streams and a luxurious life. Instead, they will ask me ‘who is in the garden?’ and end most conversations with sentences like ‘but when you start having kids.........


To escape this waste of time I’ll simply nod and say yes Ma just so they’ll stop talking. The more you say yes Ma is the key to getting out of the meetings. This works with older male relatives too though you say 'Yes Sa' for fathers, uncles, and cousins.

Our people generally love to hear you say yes and conform to them and act in agreement even if it's total bullshit. We wear respect on our heads.


It’s taught me that if I wear leggings and a shirt to a market a hoard of men will ogle at me and slap my butt, I dare not defend myself and say stop touching me because they will keep yelling ‘man go still touch you, sisi calm down!!’.


It shows us that sometimes if we tell our loved ones about abusive occasions from yesteryears we might be shamed into answering the question ‘but why now?’ instead of ‘are you all right?, have you healed? who was it?, how can I help you? or what do you need?’.


It shows us that fathers will be most proud of their daughters when they are in their husband's homes, and will not encourage their daughters to have homes of their own before marriage because of the fear of sexual looseness. Which in fact is really an exploration of sexual liberation rooted in the desire of an individual choosing to have humanistic experiences of exploring and experimenting with sexual pleasure and identity, which should be encouraged without shaming, judgement and in safe spaces.

© 2024 Tomilola Olumide, All Rights Reserved
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