My Mom lived through the Biafran war. We didn't talk about it until now.
By Now or Never host Ify Chiwetelu
These are the conversations I have had with my parents about the Biafran War:
"Oh, you don't want rice for dinner? During Biafra we didn't have food!"
"New clothes again? In the war we were selling everything we had."
As a child, the Biafran War to me was a never-ending lesson in gratitude, and reason to never complain.
The Biafran civil war began 50 years ago in Nigeria, when several Nigerian states formed the Republic of Biafra in an attempt to separate from the country. The war between the Nigerian government and Republic of Biafra ravaged the country for two and a half years. It's been described as one of the bloodiest conflicts in post-independence Africa, killing and displacing millions. Both my parents lived through it.
Most of what I know about the Biafran War I learned in university. In the African studies classes I took, it was my go-to subject for essays and research projects. I've read books (academic and fiction) and countless articles, but somehow, never spoke about it with the people closest to me who lived through it all — until now.
Talking to my mom about her experiences of war shouldn't have been as surprising as it was. I have read accounts of what life was like for many Nigerians during those years, but it was shocking to hear similar stories coming out of my mother's mouth. I wasn't fully prepared for the emotion in her voice as she mentioned a terrifying refugee camp experience, the death of her nephew to kwashiorkor, or my grandfather leading the family on foot away from their home.
We are far from done talking about this. I know there are memories that she still hasn't found a way to speak of, and stories that she has trained herself to forget. I'm grateful to have began the process of remembering, and honoured to have been able to record this conversation with my mom.
To hear my conversation with my mom, click the 'listen' button above.