Nigerian Inter-Ethnic Love Stories || Lara & Teshola Idowu
Lara is such an amazing and kind-hearted person! We had the chance to meet up during my birthday getaway in Dubai. She was so gracious, invited me into her lovely home, fed me with the tastiest pepper soup and showed me round her beauty studio. As a fashion and beauty entrepreneur, she sews, teaches, consults and offers makeup services. When she realised I ran this column on the blog, she was very willing to share her experiences and all I had to do was ask.
She's Yoruba, from Ekiti state in Nigeria (though her mum is from Ondo State) and been married for four years to Idowu (although you'd be forgiven if you thought that Tesh was his surname. Everyone calls him that, and even I got it mixed up!). On the face of it, their first Names and surname sure make it look like they're both Yoruba. But Tesh, a financial analyst is Itsekiri from Delta State, though his mum is from Benin. Don't you just love these culture fusion?
In her words "the nature of my job, has exposed me to working with people from different ethnicity and culture from all over the world. This has made me conclude that we are not different one another. What we see as different is what is adding color to this world and making us stronger". I couldn't agree more.
In this awesome interview, she spills on their inter ethnic union, how she has Igbo roots, opposition received, her dramatic proposal and the one food from Tesh's culture that she can't fathom eating! Of course, we have her gorgeous and gleeful photos to swoon over! Enjoy.
How did you both meet, how long did you date for and when did you realise that you were meant for each other?
We met in church and dated for 4 years before we got married in 2013. I think for me, I knew right before we took a flight off the friend zone. I had asked God for a specific sign and on the first day hubby and I really got to have a one on one to get to know each other better, he talked about the very thing I had asked God as a sign.
Tell us about the proposal!
Hmmm…my proposal was very dramatic o! In fact some of my colleagues thought I had more than one boyfriend and all of them kept sending me stuff at different hour, because it was on Valentine’s day. The truth is, I knew he was going to propose that day, but what I didn’t know was how it was going to go down.
He kept sending me different gifts at different hour of the day, so I kept getting calls from the reception, (she had to name me Miss Valentine!) The last call I got was 4:30pm from the reception - it was a chauffeur, he handed me another gift and there was an invitation card inside, that read "dinner for 6pm" with no venue. After I closed from work, the chauffeur drove me to Radisson Blu. Hubby was waiting already. We had dinner, and all through I was drinking and eating everything with caution so I don’t swallow the ring! After dinner, he asked that we go hang out, but first he would like me to see something upstairs. We got upstairs, he asked that my eyes were closed, everywhere was kind of dark, and I started hearing Banky W’s Song “Yes/No”. He got on his knees and asked me to marry him and I said YES!
All through dating & courtship, what challenges did you face? Were any of these as a result of the cultural differences?
Nah. None of the challenges we faced was as a result of cultural difference. It was more of, 'this is how it was done in my home'. And I think a lot of ladies can relate with this. Growing up I was used to going to market and buying things in bulk - like meat and all the other good stuff, so we boil and fry and store in the freezer. Same with tomatoes and the likes. However, it wasn’t like that for my husband as he grew up going to the market like every other day. So, we had to reach a compromise on how it should work for us as a couple.
Growing up and based on your experiences, and those around you, what did you think of inter-ethnic unions? Did you intentionally seek to marry across board or was this just pure co-incidence?
Marrying hubby was pure co-incidence. However, for some reason, at some point in my life, I just had this feeling I was going to be getting married to someone that wasn’t from my tribe and was opened to which ever tribe God will have me marry. I even remember having this conversation with my dad, if he didn’t mind me getting married to an Igbo person because I was dating an Igbo guy at the time. And he was like, "babe feel free to marry anybody you want to marry, your great grand-mother is Igbo, I just decided not to give you an Igbo name". Looking at it now, I think I am the only granddaughter and daughter from my dad and mom’s that is married to someone from another tribe. One of my mom’s brother raised it at some point when hubby and I went to see my grandma, before we got married, but I quickly killed any negative thoughts in his heart. Same goes for hubby. He didn’t intentionally seek to marry across board, even though his parent had an inter-ethnic union.
What did the families think? Any iota of reservations or concern?
There was absolutely no concern whatsoever, except from my mom’s brother that I mentioned earlier. I think for both families, they were more interested in our faith.
Different ethnicities tend to approach wedding planning and affairs differently. What was your experience. In what ways (if any) did you infuse your cultures in the ceremonies?
I have always said that even if I was getting married to a Yoruba guy, I was going to find a way to wear a Benin attire, because I had always loved it. There’s just something about that attire that gets me all the time. Our engagement ceremony was where we infused both cultures and shopping for my husband’s traditional outfit with my Mother In-law was my favourite part. My mother-in-law is Benin whilst my father-in-law is Ishekiri. Because our wedding was a day’s event we could only change twice, which meant my Yoruba traditional attire and then my husband’s Ishekiri attire. If we had a 2-day event I would have had my full Benin attire - my mother in-law was willing to bring someone all the way from Benin to dress me. That was the only part I really wished we could incorporate.
What aspect of your spouses' culture have you come to appreciate, and what's the one thing you'd strike out from his culture if you had the chance?
I really don’t know much, but I would say i've come to appreciate the food, dressing, and the people. They really rally round their own and even if they don’t know them, they love to see their own grow. And a perfect example is Efe who won the recent Nigerian Big Brother reality show. A lot of people voted for him just because he’s from Warri.
I don't think I'd strike out any thing. Again because I don’t know so much about his culture and that’s because he doesn’t know that much too. We're basically a Lagos version of our ethnic groups.
Let's talk Food. Tell us one new dish you've now tried as a result of your union and what you think about it. Which can you cook or have you learnt to cook? What's the one dish you dislike from your Spouses' culture.
That would be Banga Soup! I love Banga and I know how to make it “the revised standard version way” using the packaged extract instead of the proper boil palm kernel, get the oil out and all the other good stuff. However, one thing I haven’t been able to bring myself to eat (and hey, my delta people don’t come for me ooo, because I know this is regarded as a sin) is 'Starch. I think it’s because I can’t just get the fact out of my head, that it is the same starch used for clothes that is being eaten. There’s no way it’s going down my throat.
Do you speak each others' language and if no do you want to or/ feel inclined to learn?
No. From my side, I have an opening line whenever I call my mother in-law and that’s it! But she gave me a Benin name on my traditional wedding day.
How would you name your kids?
I personally love Ishekiri names. There was this popular Nigerian TV show a while back called 'Super Story' and I fell in love with the name 'Temisan' and said I was going to name one of my daughter’s this. This was a long time ago. I didn’t know it wasn’t even a Yoruba name, until I started to pick up names for my kids and realised it was an Ishekiri name. So, our kids would have all the cultures well represented in their names.
What practical steps would you hope to take to ensure your kids are exposed to the good sides of both cultures? And how would they learn the language?
Learning hubby’s language is likely to be a lost cause, because he can’t speak his language. They sure would learn how to speak Yoruba. However, the plan is also for them to learning how to speak certain foreign languages and French is on top of the list.
What's your top three marriage advice for new couples - inter-ethnic or not
- God: Let God, be everything and the head in your home. Let him be the first person you turn to, commit everything into his hands and he will direct your path.
- Communication: Don’t bottle anything in. Talk about everything no matter how little you think it is.
- Hangout: Try as much as possible, to go on dates; movie nights, eating out, taking a long walk, attending events together etc. It helps in building the bond you both share.
For those who are biased towards certain ethnic groups, any words for them?
All of us are human beings first, before any other thing. Most of the bias we have formed is because of someone’s experience or assumptions. Why don’t you form yours? You will never know except you try! You too think about it. How can everyone from a certain ethnic group be bad?
A million thanks to Lara for sharing with us. We look forward to Temisan and the rest of the kids! Hahaha. Like her, it's hard to imagine me eating starch as well, but I guess that's the beauty of these unions and the beauty of our diversity in general. And how super cute was that proposal!?
I know you enjoyed this, so don't forget to say so in the comments and share with someone else!
pS: Catch up on the other Inter-Ethnic Love Stories here
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