Any mention of the Niger Delta region of Nigeria tends to elicit conversations around the political and environmental consequences of its oil wealth. The region is often synonymous with the devastating consequences of neo-imperialist interests in oil, and the resulting environmental degradation. However, there is value in attending to this space with different kinds of lenses. This talk takes interest in the character of the urban Niger Delta that lies at the intersection of indigenous sensibilities and urban identities, especially as mediated through comedy. I'll be considering how claims to geopolitical, relational, and personal power emerge from the narrative construction of urban and regional identity.
The city of Warri in Delta State, Nigeria, has a robust urban identity (Wafi) that is often recognized in Nigerian popular culture for how much it insists on itself. I will be exploring the prevalence of this urban identity in the Nigerian stand-up comedy industry to demonstrate how “Wafi” comprises what it means to be located in the Niger Delta as a cultural region. It is a space teeming with ethnic diversity and multiethnic communities, rich in oil wealth that through being juxtaposed with indigenous poverty and infrastructural dilapidation foregrounds the intra-colonial plight of micro-minorities. Thus, when someone claims the urban identity of Warri, they also claim these elements of the space, without needing to have specific ties to the space as indigenous ancestral lands. What does it then mean that a version of this identity has been foundational to the stand-up comedy space in Nigeria?
About the Speaker
Comfort Azubuko-Udah is an Assistant Professor of English and African Studies at the University of Toronto. She received her MA and Ph.D. in English from UCLA. Her doctoral research was focused on engaging various less spectacular spaces in Nigeria, or attending to already heavily-discussed places and objects with an uncommon lens that does not privilege the global over the local. Comfort has written about attending differently to urban spaces in various scholarly, creative, and editorial pieces published in the Journal of the African Literature Association, on Bozalta, and by KCET respectively.