This piece by Cuppy will help you to understand displacement

·6-min read
Photo credit: Courtesy
Photo credit: Courtesy

I have travelled more than 31,000 miles from where I came from to where I am now. My life from Lagos to London has been nothing short of a rollercoaster and I’m still on the ride. As an international DJ, artist, entrepreneur, and philanthropist, my career makes it almost impossible for me to stay in a place for an extended period. I’m very grateful to have experienced first-hand different cultures and met some of the most amazing people over the course of my travels, but the real question is, where do I call home? I was born in Lagos, Nigeria at 4pm on a dusty Thursday afternoon. My mother said her hospital room was filled with flowers; I was truly an African princess. Fast forward to now and I consider myself a Londoner at heart. The push and pull of assimilating into two different cultures hasn’t always been without difficulties. It's a process that has been years in the making.

When I was 12 years old, my family moved from the tropics of Nigeria to the rainy UK, which was a shock to my system. I began school in Canterbury, Kent, where colours lost their saturation. It was perpetual grey where Lagos is endless sunshine, I missed my friends and the vibrant culture I grew up in. I missed its creativity; the African glow. I played bone-chillingly cold hockey games in the snow and grappled with bland unseasoned Sunday roasts. There were so many shades of disparity. London was my sweet escape full of pace and diversity - it gave me an energy that Kent didn’t.

As a teenager, I travelled to London from Kent every night looking for revelation and healing. Music and nightlife became my escape. I grew to develop the same reverence I had for my favourite DJ as I used to have for the reverend on a Sunday morning when I was child at my local Lagos church. I found the DJ’s power to dictate the energy of an evening completely intoxicating. The tiny control freak inside me started rumbling; I wanted to be the architect of my own epic experiences, and London gave me that.

Photo credit: Courtesy
Photo credit: Courtesy

The capital is known as a beacon for adventure but living here as a Black African woman wasn’t always easy. From an early age, I remember the cultural burden of having to deal with society’s expectation of how I was expected to act – the pressure of invisibility. Both London and Lagos suggest my place as a Black woman is to be tolerant, passive even, in every environment. It is vital to acknowledge that there has been a lack of safe space and recognition for diversity in the past. A black female DJ with pink hair? Talk about feeling different.

Wandering into a succession of London clubs, I'd stare in awe at DJs who masterfully merged drum and bass into funky-house - it was my first musical education. From there, I ventured into beat making, which resulted naturally into DJing. And because I still missed home, Lagos, so deeply, I began fusing my house sets with Afrobeats. I became obsessed with the idea that I could create a universal sound that would resonate across continents and still be true to my heritage. What's unusual about me, and my DJ sets - my Nigerian heritage - has now become my superpower.

Musically speaking, the industry has spent years crafting the ideology of how a successful woman in the music industry should be perceived. We often deal with sexism and harsh criticism; I still have condescending male colleagues who offer to show me what the buttons on DJ decks do when it’s my set. This means it takes more than being passionate about your craft, but also having the resilience to combat sexism.

Lagos too has its challenges. Displacement is like liquid that moves from place to place, and I have felt in limbo with which city I identify with the most, where I feel most at home. It’s a strange, unmooring feeling. Nigeria is known for its rich culture, food, entertainment and, most especially, the strength of its people. My determination and strength of character has stemmed from my roots; ‘idile mi, Epe’ – my Yoruba clan is filled with strong women, from my grandmother Lady Doja Otedola to my younger sister actress Temi Otedola. As African women, for generations, we’ve all had to fight our way through the various stereotypes of what a woman should and should not do.

Photo credit: Courtesy
Photo credit: Courtesy

Despite the strides towards equality, it has been a task breaking down glass ceilings and thriving in a career that is male dominated. I challenge preconceived notions of what an ‘elite’ Nigerian woman looks like just by being single aged 28. Even my elder aunties had (and still do have) a thing or two to say about my choice of hair colour and career. Today, I’ve been able to convert some of them into believers. I hope my story might inspire anyone who has dreams that aren’t considered appropriate for a Nigerian woman.

Being me demands guts every single day regardless of what city I’m in. I have fought against the expectations of what sort of woman I should be, both in the UK and Nigeria. We can all nurture courage and bolster confidence by identifying what make us unique, by trusting our distinctions and discovering ways to use them to our advantage. Doing what I love for a living and affecting lives with music, combined with philanthropy work in Africa through The Cuppy Foundation – well, the feeling is unparalleled.

I have made it my personal mission to break through the superficial nature barriers of the industry and pave the way in contributing to continuous growth and change for our community, to successfully integrate into Western and African society unapologetically. There have been times in my life where I have felt like an outsider, where this integration has been a struggle. But my background in Nigeria and home in London, along with my travels around the world, have helped me to understand that so many enriching cultures exist outside of our own and to see society from two very different viewpoints. It has also forced me to carve out an identity that has enabled me to thrive. Wish me luck.

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