Wednesday, August 26, 2015

I was sent an electronic copy of 'A Little Life' by Hanya Yanagihara by Pan Macmillan to read and review on BLEURGH, but the review was delayed by the hefty 700+ pager the novel boasts. It was only upon leafing through last week's exclusive digital Stylist Magazine issue, that I found just how big a deal Yanagihara's novel was; listed as a summer must-read! Long-listed for the Man Booker Prize, A Little Life tells the story of Jude whose past experiences as a child, mar his ability to function socially as an adult in his plight to leave that turbulent past behind. I will endeavour to dart past possible spoilers, but let me assure you, A Little Life's 700+ pages is no joke; littered with rape, child abuse, addiction, physical and sexual abuse, suicide, dysfunctional families, status frustration, 30-year landmark, self-harming and grief. Although slow with the dramz, A Little Life quickly builds from an apt almost-reality show docu-view of bachelor life, to recounted trauma and chronicled self-harm, which I will thematically discuss in classic BLEURGH fashion. 
"settling for something that was not quite your first choice of a life seemed weak-willed and ignoble"
Dress : Lavish Alice (ASOS) | Shoes : Office
"the pressure to achieve happiness felt almost oppressive"
THE QUIET ONES TRIUMPH - 'A Little Life' starts off documenting the habitual life of 4 male friends who've moved to the Big Apple (aka New York) fresh out of college, Massachusetts. There's the Brooklyn-born artist JB who's obsessed with pulling the race card; middle-class architect graduate Malcolm whose plight to break free from the wealthy umbilical cord leaves him frustrated by both his social ignorance and silver-spooned upbringing; handsome aspiring actor Willem from the country whose dumbness can be forgiven thanks to his selfless love for his friends; and handicapped legal genius Jude who serves as the sun upon which their friendship pivots around. A Little Life chronicles their rise to success as JB's experimental art lands him the fame he dreams of as a renown painter; Malcolm becomes an internationally acclaimed architect; Willem lands the role of his dreams and becomes a respected actor; and lastly Jude's legal career springs from the meager salary in the public defender's office to an attorney in a Forbes-worthy firm. about 1/3 way through, however, only the flatmates Willem and Jude remain prominent characters for the rest of the novel, with Jude triumphing as the uncharacteristic protagonist of the novel having survived a turbulent past to take centre stage as the poster child of the American Dream. 
"surrendering to what seemed to be your fate had changed from being dignified to being a sign of your own cowardice"
Putney Bridge & Pier, London
"Their faith in him, in his ultimate triumph, remained unwavering"
FRIENDS AS FAMILY - From experience, I've learned that friendship patterns tend to change as a result of geographical drifting or priorities shifting. The same cannot be said of the 4 characters in A Little Life; whose lives, cares and whims orbit around the psychological, physical and general wellbeing of Jude. It is almost alien to read about the unrelenting virtue of Jude's friends - especially Willem - and how after fast-forwarding several years from college, they never seem to outgrow each other because of their belief that friendship was "like any relationship...it took constant pruning, and dedication, and vigilance, and if neither party wanted to make the effort, why wouldn't it wither?"
"friendship was a series of exchanges; of affections, of time, sometimes of money, always of information"
Studs : Topshop | Bag : Longchamp | Watch (not pictured) : Guess
"identical expressions of exhaustion, that blend of determination and resignation that only the immigrant possesses"
DEPTH - Deeper into the novel, you see the characters' lives blurred by addiction, sexual relationships and the dark side of success. As we grow older, we see our peers sour in their careers and relationships as we await idly for our Prince Charming or opportunity to come knocking, and this initiates feelings of guilt, envy and stress. But the characters in A Little Life aren't the norm, and the reader soon learns that their midlife crises are nothing in comparison to the psychological trauma that plagues their good friend Jude. In a remarkable and precise prose, Yanagihara documents Jude's tragedy through a dark examination of this past and the limits of human endurance.
"what was happiness but an extravagance, an impossible state to maintain" - A Little Life

A Little Life

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

I hesitated drafting a post this week because I was worn out. Sometimes, we reach the end of our tether and feel like life's challenges have taken their ultimate toll on us, so we give in & give up. A dear soul urged me to pen my thoughts and it wasn't until I was drawing the curtains to let sunlight in that the backbone of this post resurrected; gardening.
Dress : H&M | Heels : Red Herring (Debenhams)
One of the lent activities centred around faith of a mustard seed & the need to die in the earth to sprout above the earth & bring forth fruit. To practically illustrate this, we were given seeds and a wooden stick to term that plant what we would supplicate to God in that season. Some wrote 'love', others wrote more personal pleas like 'Eric's surgery next week', and we all took our potted seeds rooted in damp soil home to care for. I watered mine religiously; left it by the light as required, and within no time, a stem was peaking out from the soil and coiling towards the whims of the summer sun. I basked in my green-fingered glory and invested in another pot. I'd seen the first bear a beautiful lilac and aubergine coloured flower, and was enthusiastic to continue growing more.
I was gifted lavender seeds from the lovely people at L'Occitane, and started on another project. However, this pot wasn't so speedy. I grew frustrated and cultivated the soil, turning over some seeds to be more visible, and it was with this righteous angered act that one germinated. Its been months since I planted seeds in that second pot, but it wasn't until today I noted two minuscule green leaves attached to an ant-like stem, peaking out from the soil to see the day. 
Stud Earrings : Betsey Johnson | Watch : Michael Kors | Ring : Topshop
Why have I gone through the effort of meticulously detailing this gardening analogy? Well, because like my last post, I understand the feelings this season brings for young academics. I understand the frustration of putting in all your resources and effort into a venture and watching your dreams wilt, or die with the sun of the day. Careful not to look at your past successes as an indication of the speed or avenue to take for future endeavours. I understand the hope that comes with seeing just the smallest bit of evidence of your work shine through, so your peers, parents and whoever else can be rightly proud of you. I urge you to understand that life (studying; bae; beauty; the works) is like a well-gardened plant; it sprouts at its whim and wilts at its neglect. What dies in one soil today, can be uprooted and yield bounteous harvest the next. Don't pit your life on a failure or a dream deferred, because who is to know what may become of that very skill or dream tomorrow?
"A flower falls, even though we love it; and a weed grows even though we do not" Dogen

The Good Gardener

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

I’m aware of the increased societal pressures to keep up with the ever-elusive Joneses, so it broke my heart when a reader asked for advice on how to survive this image-conscious world on a budget. This is relevant to those embarking on the University/campus experience soon, or those who’ve newly graduated and are finding their pockets empty month-after-month without any real proof of the spend. I am aware I critique this hyper-social millennial generation to a fault, but hardly ever do I advise my readers on the best means of manoeuvring this. 

Shirt (as seen here, here, here & here : Blanco (Gran Canaria) | Ankara Skirt : DIY 
First and foremost, I urge you to care not for the wants of the world. That’s right, its time to prioritise; wants vs. needs. Create a budget for your spend so you can rule out whimsical splurges and put your foot down to invites that’ll end in frivolity and nothing more. Write down lists (y’all already know I’m a big fan of lists, so this piece of advice should come as no surprise) of what you want, and give yourself time to ponder that spend so you have wisely weighed up its benefits and purpose. This saves you from impulse buying (which I strongly urge you to stay away from) and changes your mind-set to invest in key pieces/ items that’ll last a longer time instead. Differentiating between the two will keep that coin where it needs to be…in the bank! 
Secondly, regardless of what that inane price-comparison advert will have you singing, don’t compare. I’ve preached time and again about the perils of living a dissatisfied life. I was reminded of this point after a friend bleated on about her envy over my socially enriched life, bearing in mind I’d secretly pined after her life of casual indulgences. Covetous living is sinful, but a better deterrent is that its an illusion. Long not for greener grass, or you’ll be woefully disappointed upon venturing there, as it was a matter of perspective. Take what you see with a pinch of salt, and use what you’re pining after as inspiration instead. 
Necklace : Wallis | Watch : Guess | Bag : House of Fraser | Sandals : Market (Enugu, Ngr.) 
Lastly, fall in love with the filter. I love social media and I embrace the good along with the bad. The good? I get to share my best or important moments in my life with the world/ nearest and dearest (it’s a matter of perspective), and vice versa. The bad? Well, the preeing of naysayers & dream-killers; the thirst for likes that some obsess over; not to mention the pressure to keep up a façade at a cost one cannot afford. I bid you instead to fall in love with the filter, the purpose of which was created to glaze over the flaws and highlight the best assets. Show the world your best you, but be careful not to get swept up with living up to that façade as it can inadvertently lead you right back to the initial problem of keeping up with the Joneses i.e. the fake you. 
"Behind that social mask is a personal truth...who we are and what we're capable of" 
 Phil McGraw

Image

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

I'm a Nigerian female in my mid-twenties so it's perfectly understandable that if I'm not attending a wedding (traditional or otherwise) on a weekend this summer? I'm dulling. This is prime time, it seems. I love weddings & love in general (blame Disney), although I hadn't always, but I'm somewhat flabbergasted by this generation's obsession with it. The idea of working on oneself until you meet your better half who compliments, not completes you, is widely sold to my generation now. Whether it's the "dating with purpose" (post coming soon) lot, or the "Prince Charming" list dreamers, the idea that you work until your wedding day & the rest of your life is spent living in wedded bliss is just...WRONG!
Earrings : Vivienne Westwood | Dress : ASOS | Heels : Dorothy Perkins
Marriage - The union of two otherwise strangers to be joined in holy matrimony presumably for eternity. Two becoming one family, and growing one of their own. Such a beautiful thought, yet my mind curdles (yes, literally turns to mush) at what this generation has turned marriage into. Thanks to social media, all we care about is the size of the rock, venue of the proposal, flower arrangements of the centre pieces, colour scheme for the reception venue...blah blah blah! We're inundated with new bridal/wedding-centred instagram accounts capitalising off a unique moment in a couple's lives.
Your wedding is meant to reflect who you are as a couple, so it makes sense why you'd pour endless hours into meticulously planning out the minutest of details. What baffles me are those who do so having not bagged their spouse-to-be yet. So what does that reflect? You! Your vision,unmarred by the fusion with a partner's, yet you expect to live happily ever after having made no prior concessions? 
People are far too me-focused to truly grasp the reality of marriage. Endless channels dedicated to self-love enroute to finding real love has blinded so many to the truth about a loving/successful marriage; sacrifice & selflessness. This is coming from an unmarried individual, so what do I know? But I think the earlier this generation comes to terms with the reality of life after "I do", the sooner we can save ourselves from divorce counsel fees & the rise in broken families and jaded 40-something's. 
"The chain of wedlock is so heavy that it takes two to carry it" Heraclitus

Happily Never After

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

In Nigeria, tea is the all-encompassing term for every hot beverage consumed. For the non-ratchet TV viewers, and those who don't reside in the deep south of USA, 'tea' goes beyond that definition and refers to indulging in a bit of gossip. Not just mild gossip, but that of a slanderous nature. Spilling tea, is to divulge dirty secrets about others. Sipping tea occurs most frequently when you've thrown shade, a pause for effect if you will. Again, there may be need for translation. To throw shade means to be rude, abusive or insulting...in an intelligent way (for the 90's kids, its equivalent to coming at someone sideways). 
Ankara Top : DIY | Trousers : Thrifted (Viyella) | Heels : Dorothy Perkins
Back to the matter: why I've decided to centre my post around tea is because I'm its number one victim/ champion/ subscriber/ advocate. I love a good screen capture iMessage, or @mention in the comments of a controversial post, but to what end? I remember having to peel myself off the sofa from watching back-to-back E!News, Fashion Police or trawling through NecoleBitchie or YBF! I could renounce all responsibility and blame it on society, but who am I kidding? I can sit there for hours going back and forth with my girlfriends just biting into someone...for what? They don't know my name. The hours I've spent cannot be monetised and will not pay my bills.
I have a theory that sin has been masked by contemporary culture as trendy/ revolutionary. Tea, otherwise known to the general public as gossip, is sin. Coining a new term wont redeem your baseless actions, and sure as hell wont save you if an error were made and the message were sent to the wrong recipient. It's bad to go around forming high & mighty, talking mess about everyone else but yourself. 
Necklace : Market (Turkey) | Silk Shirt : River Island | Sandals : Market (Enugu, Nigeria)
Of late, I've been doing a lot of soul-searching and realised why I indulge in soul-carnivorous acts such as shade-throwing and tea-spilling; status frustration. Indulging in a bit of gossip elevates you to be the Judge of another's character, actions, or what have you. There's a thin line between informative conversation revolving around someone else's life, and passing judgment. At the end of the day, judgment isn't ours to dole out. Tea is sin. Like any other sin, giving it up is hard as hell (for want of a better term...rather fitting though). I know indulging in high tea does nothing for my soul, and I've tried several cleanses over the years (most notably around lent). What helps is basing tea on its wider social implication i.e. discussing Caitlyn Jenner's impact on the normalisation of transgenderism. What do you think?
"Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people" 
Eleanor Roosevelt

Tea

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

I don't watch the show 'Orange is the New Black', so this is in no way a review. My rationale is, if I wanted to see girls in uniform getting it on, I'd commit a crime & drop the soap once incarcerated. That may not be the mindset of avid viewers, but that's my prerogative. This post title is a multiple entendre; 'orange' symbolising caucasians who taint their identity in the hope of being embraced by the minority-ethnic society; 'aint' because there is no substitute for being black; 'new' symbolising the contemporary understanding of what it means to be a millennial black person; and 'black' being all encompassing of minority-ethnic groups and culture.
Dress : Topshop | Studs : Betsey Johnson | Heels : Dorothy Perkins
I was amused by the comical lashings Bieber received from African-American entertainers on his Roast, but was shocked to learn the motivation behind his tomfoolery; an apparent bid to be black. This post is the result of biting my tongue after the Rachel Dolezal 419, and the backlash of Kylie Jenner's cornrows. It seems one too many caucasian individuals are moulding a media image of 'black' centred around hyper-sexualisation, delinquency, and self-glorification. I'm a black female who's always remained on the right side of the law, is not particularly curvaceous (and I'm content that way), not to mention quiver at the thought of even plugging my blog or personal achievements publicly.
Bishopsgate Institute, Liverpool Street, London
I was invited to a private tour of the Bishopsgate Institute to learn more about their eclectic archive collection & was particularly taken by the Bernie Grant items in the basement (which should be curated for an exhibition next season - October). Grant donated commercial racist paraphernalia such as racist postcards depicting black individuals as monkeys munching on bananas, Robertson's golliwog-emblazoned jam jars, and Darkie toothpaste, to name but a few. I was saddened to see how black people were depicted only a few years ago. I never dealt with racism growing up in Nigeria because there was no distinction between me and the next lass. Moving to the UK and dealing with my first racist attack aged 10, I remember being confused by the mixed race boy calling me a monkey when he must be half a monkey himself! I had never valued my caucasian counterparts as being any better, as I excelled far above them academically, and was equally regarded as aesthetically pleasing (in primary school). So why was the rest of society placing one race above the other on TV, in songs, and in the employment market?
Black people have come a long way in carving a culture and identity that is progressive. Gone are the days where I felt the need to lie about my ethnic origin; everything from 1/12th Australian to a smidgen Portuguese was claimed. Now we live in a society where Azonto is played on CapitalFM, Judges can discuss JayZ's Magna Carter album, and ankara can be bought in mainstream retailers like ZARA. To pull us back to a time where our features were mocked, and our aspirations were proudly curtailed under the mantra 'british jobs for british people' would be regressive. I am proud to mentor individuals who aim to conquer the workforce, change policy to be more socially inclusive, and revolutionise the media to accommodate our increasingly cosmopolitan world. Shows like The Real showcase women from different minority ethnic groups discussing socially prevalent issues affecting ALL women, highlighting there is no distinction in the issues we face based on race!
Headband (Scarf) : Twenty8Twelve | Necklace : Market (Turkey) | Bracelet : Market (Nigeria)
How can a caucasian female be praised for rocking the same cornrows her BME counterparts are mocked for naturally having? Why is a big booty the pinnacle of a fit body only when squatted for? I could go on and on about the double standards with race and popular culture, but its tiring. Wahala no dey for a more universal appreciation of black culture, but whats really being done with it? As erroneous as it may be, there's this glitch in society that allows for better reception if from an alternative source. The Jenners, Biebers, and Rachel Dolezal's of the world need to wake up and use their platforms to effect positive change, rather than just indulging in self-gratification. Some may argue that's exactly what the latter did with hers, but it was deceptively packaged. Tired of seeing figures build empires on the premise of being an anomaly in the industry, when the same cannot be replicated vice-versa.
I am not saying "[black] culture] is just for black people alone to enjoy and cherish. Culture is for everybody." Spike Lee...but as inclusive as its enjoyment is becoming, so also should its positive output be. 

Orange Aint The New Black

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

I was sent "Adventures in Saying Yes" - Carl Medearis by Baker Publishing Group to read and review. "Adventures in Saying Yes" is a biographical account of a Christian missionary working in the Middle East who learns that "saying yes to Jesus always leads us on an adventure", and shares graphic tales which he hopes will "encourage people to work through fear". Carl speaks colloquially about his travels in the Muslim region, and the obstacles he & his family faced in order to share the message of Christ in the Middle East. Carl explores three main themes: fear; failure and faith. I have pooled together key quotes from the book, and also the quotes he used in the book, to convey the overriding message in the hope you're as moved & inspired as I was. 
"A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles" Christopher Reeve
Fedora Hat : Marks&Spencer | Shirt : TK Maxx | High Waisted Chinos : Rohan 
"We are continually faced by great opportunities brilliantly disguised as insoluble problems" Lee Lacocca
FEAR - "Fear is anything that potentially threatens your sense of safety and security", and "Worry (fear's half-brother) brilliantly masquerades as helpful information...worry is based on worst-case scenarios". "Fear that breeds worry...will lead to paralysis, hatred, anger, irrational decision, and avoidance of those you're called to love". If a thought or action leads to those results, you need to learn to distance yourself from it by adopting these 3 helpful steps: "Step #1: identify and confess your fears; Step #2: identify where these fears came from; Step #3: Jesus works". "Helpful information and Godly wisdom will lead to positive action, freedom, loving others, faith, and hope". Learning to look fear dead-square in the face can help you triumph over it, or sometimes, even use it to your advantage; "fear is a powerful motivator"
"Perfect love...casts out fear" C.S. Lewis
"I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it" Nelson Mandela
Canal Walk, Shoreditch, London
"I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed." Michael Jordan
FAILURE - "Failure is part of everyday life" and if "Jesus came for failures", then you can rest on the assurance that you'll be picked up after falling from divine strength rather than your own. "We can either allow ourselves to get stuck in our own rigid expectations or we can ask and look for the greater good" but "sometimes the greater good comes in a cauldron of disappointment". Discerning what is 'from God' is difficult, but we learn from "each embarrassing situation [we] survive [because it] makes [us] less scared about what [we]'ll face in the future".  
"Pain nourishes your courageMary Tyler Moore
Watch : Guess | Perforated Leather Plimsolls : River Island
"There are some things one can only achieve by a deliberate leap in the opposite direction" Franz Kafka
FAITH - "It's the sick who need a doctor, not the healthy", so understand that falling flat on your face, and losing every ounce of respect, dignity, or hope even...is all part of the plan. God isn't a masochist, but He's powerful and needs us to acknowledge it. That sometimes requires shedding us of everything we hold on to for support & identity, and wholly "com[ing] to him with our fears and insecurities...[to] get the needed affirmation" of who we are in and to Him. It may sound messed up, but think about it from a loving parenting relationship perspective; sometimes a stubborn child needs to run away and fend for themselves to see just how good they had it at home. Prodigal son anyone? "Don't be afraid to fail" because God's got your back; "God doesn't give up on us". It may not look like it cos the chips are down, your account's dried up, your social life is barren, your looks are withering and your dating life is non-existent, but it's all happening for a reason. "At the feet of the Father is where we find courage again". Carl drums home that we shouldn't psyche ourselves up with positive mantras because when you're down, you just don't want to hear it. Live in it! Bask in your woes and recognise your failure. Don't paint it as anything else. Instead, know at the back of your mind that whatever happens, was meant to happen. "There is an answer to failure. It's not giving up". 
"Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds" John 12:24

Adventures in Saying Yes

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

I'm honoured to dedicate this post to my incredibly talented cousin & renowned Nigerian artist, Kenechukwu Emmanuel Nwadiogbu aka KenArt. I started BLEURGH in University as a creative outlet and I'm grateful for the opportunities it has created for me, and welcome a chance to use it as a platform to showcase other professionals with a creative vision. KenArt falls perfectly into that category; a 300-Level University of Lagos (UniLag) Civil and Environmental Engineering student with a penchant for popular culture and fine art. With his previous work aptly titled 'The Beautiful People' commissioned by the likes of famous author Chimamanda Adichie, music producer Don Jazzy, and Nigerian musicians M.I., Tiwa Savage, Davido, 2Face Idibia and Burna Boy. It is my great pleasure to have the opportunity to share his latest creation with you all and theme this post around what he has called 'The Unveiling'.
Dress : Miss Selfridge | Necklace : Wallis
The Unveiling is a simple pencil portrait of the current Governor of Lagos State; Governor Akinwumi Ambode. KenArt sheds light on important figures in African political history and that is what drew me to promote his latest piece. I have no political interest in Gov. Ambode, but was moved by the humble gesture to immortalise him far before his electoral success, that I couldn't resist tooting his horn here. When was the last time you took a risk, put in the hard work, then patiently waited for the right time to unveil a masterpiece? In our instant-popcorn culture, we have lost the essence of patience, and an understanding of diligence. I, for one, see it and want it...now!
Watching my cousin at work, I see the result of hard work, perseverance, and timing. If a shortcut is taken, the finished result falls short of being deemed a masterpiece. Without critical analysis during its creation, the end result's flaw may become the centre of attention, and an ill-timed unveiling could expose the work to amateur reviews, public scrutiny & a lifetime of feeling inadequate. The work of an artist can be nothing but admired. As a lover of art, I can do nothing more than humbly bow, in admiration of the traits one must adopt to truly create such work. We can all learn a thing or two before unveiling ourselves and our work in future.
The Unveiling's purpose is to create change & touch lives by reflecting who its subject (Gov. Akinwumi Ambode) truly is. He learned through patience and practice, how to perfect each pencil stroke and properly define his subject's rigour, prestige, flaws, and much more. It is in this process of learning that KenArt grew as an artist in his own right, acknowledging his own flaws and carving out a niche for his work in a saturated commercial market. KenArt's hope is that his art will bring an end to the search of light and knowledge, by the wholesome welcome of expressive art defining the meaning of life. 
"Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others" Jonathan Swift

The Unveiling

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