Peter Fajemisin, a Nigerian-born Londoner and computer programmer, contributed this Nigeria in London post for our World in London series.
When I hear the words “Nigeria in London”, it automatically brings a big smile to my face and the words vibrant, lively, successful, established, hardworking, Pentecostal and all round fun come to mind.
The trick to enjoying Nigeria in London is to embrace the uniqueness and richness of Nigerian culture.
If you are free on a Sunday morning, then pop down to KICC (Kingsway International Christian Centre) church, where you’ll be highly blessed by the Pentecostal atmosphere. You’ll also hear a combination of traditional and contemporary music from the cultural influence of the 46 nations that regularly attend, accompanied by preaching by influential and highly respected Nigerian pastor, Matthew Ashimolowo.
Nigerian promoters and entertainers have had huge success with comedy, music, and other events in London. IndigO2 is a popular venue and, looking at the current trend, Nigerian entertainers are moving ever closer to holding their events at the 23,000-capacity O2 Arena right next door.
Other Nigerian hot spots include:
Black Grape Music Venue and Gastro Bar brings breakthrough black music and Afro-Caribbean cuisine to the masses. Its inclusive atmosphere sets it apart as an accessible and welcoming touch point where everyone can enjoy the best in good food and amazing live music. There are regular events from stand up comedy, to urban music performances to jazz. Black Grape‘s popularity is driven by the collective energy of owners Eddie Kadi (A recognised UK presenter, comedian artist and MC), Yolanda Brown (British jazz, urban and contemporary saxophonist and composer) and the manager Tokunbo Oyelola.
Aso Rock Restaurant is a business whose owners – a London-based family of Nigerian-born parents and their UK-born kids – featured in the most recent series of TV Channel 4’s The Family. For me this symbolises the multiculturalism of London and more importantly the acceptance of Nigerians in London. Aso Rock’s best sellers are rice and stew, small-small meats and meat pies.
Obalende suya express was one of the first Nigerian fast food restaurants in London; their specialty is suya (meat grilled over spitfire and seasoned with very hot spices). They have tailored their suya and other Nigerian cuisines to be reasonably spicy to cater for the taste buds of those who can’t handle extremely spicy foods. But if you want, you can ask for a really spicy version: it’s like a soft-hot smoke bomb going off in your mouth! Obalende has been dubbed the “African MacDonald’s” so it you are ever south of the river, visit this Peckham institution for a taste of Nigerian take-away food.
For Nigerian film lovers, Nollywood is ever prominent in London with several events taking place frequently. And London’s BFI recently hosted a day for New Nigerian Cinema, bringing together directors and film makers to brainstorm ways to achieve higher standards so they can compete in the international film industry. You can watch Nigerian films on the big screen at the Odeon Cinema in Greenwich, and there are several Nigerian channels available on British TV via Sky.
You will find a very vibrant and established Nigerian community in London. I think London provides an opportunity to experience a multicultural society at its finest. You really will find “the world in one city” in London.
Do you have any other tips for enjoying Nigerian culture in London? Let us know in the comments below.