Mother's Inheritance

My poems speak about the harmful culture of inheriting female pain, shame, unpaid, under appreciated domestic and emotional labour. These poems address the rejection of such harmful emotions and motions that women in our society go through and believe that is their portion just because they were born female. With these poems, I want to let younger African women know that they do not have to suffer like their mothers and grandmothers did and that they have the right to demand better for themselves, and they have the right to go out there and do better for themselves.


They try to cloak you with shame

The shame they dressed your mother in;

the dark, heavy robes that weighed her down.

You must reject that shame.

You must throw it away, fling it far from you

You are your mother’s daughter, but you must reject her shame.

It does not belong to you 

It belongs to those who violated you, the same way they did your mother.

You must not live your life like hers. 

Weighed down by the damage that was done to her.

She was cast into the sea of despair; 

and that shame was a weight that caused her to sink, to drown.

You must reject that shame.

It is not yours.

Set it ablaze with the fire of rejection.

It is not yours.

I retain the right to be lazy.

Our Mothers weren’t allowed that luxury.

They laboured till their hands grew calluses and their backs curved like spoons.

Our Mothers who would leave before the sun wakes and come home after it has gone to sleep.

Yet they are the ones who would sit at a fire or stand at a stove, sweat beading their faces- because He has to eat. 

He who must not touch a soup ladle; lest his manhood shrinks and falls off.

Our mothers never rested. 

They were exhausted.

They are exhausted.

I retain the right to be lazy.

To Him, even to Her, I would not find a man.

What man would be willing to take as a wife, a woman who will not cook or clean?

I am lazy. Because I do not want to be like Mother,

Mother, who has lines carved into her face from weariness

Mother whose roughened palms can wash the blackened back of a pot clean.

Mother whose hair was almost completely grey- at 4 decades and a half.

I tried to make her see- my life does not have to be like hers. 

I do not have to break my back working tirelessly with no single word of appreciation.

I’d rather be lazy

Lazy; while I build myself

Become who I want to be

Without the shackles of being somebody’s eventual wife holding me down.

I retain the right to be lazy. 

I’d rather be lazy 

than drop dead at 5 decades old - and have Him married again before the dust of my grave is settled.

Oluwatobi Afolabi is an artist and writer who completed her bachelor of arts in Visual Arts at the University of Lagos. Her works are influenced by traditional folklore, parental influence, the human condition and feminism. She enjoys horror movies, fantasy novels and discussions about gender equality. She lives in Lagos, Nigeria and blogs at Tobi is also a Revolutionary team member with Through the Eyes of African Women.

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