our mothers’ stories
JN: Have you ever wondered what your mother's life was like before she was a mother? I'm JN Benjamin, and a couple of months ago, I went to visit my mother - Mrs. Utuk - at her house in south London, where we gathered on the living room floor to look at old photographs and talk about 1970s Nigeria. This is our mothers’ stories.
Mrs. Utuk: You see this girl? She used to write letters for me to become her friend. And I didn't know, I said, I live in the same dormitory with you why are you writing letter for me to become your friend? I didn't know that there was lesbianism!
JN: [laughs] She wanted you to be her girlfriend?
Mrs. Utuk: Yeah!
Mrs. Utuk: And when I refused to be her girlfriend, you know, on every punishment list, there was, cause to go to the, in the dormitory you have time for dinner, you have time for siesta, you have time for reading - and they will ring the bell. When they ring the bell to go to the dining room, if you don't go there quick enough? They put your name on the punishment list. So as soon as the bell rings, you gonna run to the dining room. And sometimes I'm not even there, but my name will be there. Because they were my senior.
JN: O-ho! So she was punishing you because you didn't want to be her girlfriend?
Mrs. Utuk: She was punishing me! Because I had refused...
JN: [laughs] that's so funny
This episode of our mothers' stories was recorded in April 2021 at Mrs Utuk 's house in South London. It was produced by me, JN Benjamin. Special thanks to Hugh Garry from Storythings, Sarah Myles from rise and shine, and Benin Khalil, if you'd like to look at some of the photographs we've been talking about in this episode head over to Instagram, where you can find us @ourmothersstories.
Michelle: Angelica. I just had to call you I'm at
the beach. Something I don't understand. Call me back. My phone. [muffled]
Angelica: That's my friend, Michelle. I met her at uni. We clicked instantly and became very close. Even after she moved back to Portsmouth. We still talked every day, either on the phone or over voice notes, but something was different this time.
Hey, babe. Sorry. I missed your call. My sleeping pattern has been so messed up. Anyway. What happened? Are you okay? Call me back.
She just stopped replying to me,
Michelle. I'm really worried. I haven't heard from you in three days now. Whatever it is. I swear you can tell me, just call me back.
Michelle: Hey, babe.
Sorry. I didn't get back to you.
Um, I've had to take some days for myself. I'm in a really weird place right now and I'm still processing what happened at the beach. I feel like I feel like I'm going crazy and no one's going to believe me
Angelica: I don't understand why you were avoiding me. Do you want me to have a panic attack? Call me back now.
I could not believe what she eventually told me.
I can't sleep. I'm not eating, please. We have to tell someone
Michelle: Angelica, you promised this is exactly why I didn't want to tell you I knew you'd react like this
Angelica: Michelle, please just pick up the phone. We have to talk about this,
Ella: Do you know what your jab was for today?
Ella: Is it fair to constantly remind someone of something they will soon forget that will only serve to agitate them in the meantime? This is something I've been thinking about a lot over the past year when, sometimes by necessity, I've tried to explain the pandemic to my 98 year old grandmother. Gladys.
Gladys: Cornovirus? I got it have I?
Ella: No, you haven't got it.
She has vascular dementia and her grasp of the pandemic is weak
Gladys: let's go in. It's just that when you stay in, you miss the people in your life, by this sort of um
bit shut away really. It's just weird not really knowing what's going on
I've got the telly so I understand what's going on on the telly the
Boris Johnson (on television): rigorous safety checks and is proved to be effective, then we moved again, a UK wide approach taking account of recommendations from a group of scientific experts,
Ella: because you've got no hearing in that ear. And you've got 5% in that ear so
Gladys: not much, not much,And now people are more covered up like that
I can't understand what they're saying It's been going on ages.
Ella: How long do you think?
Gladys: Well, I would say three weeks
Ella: it's been
nearly a year
since you went out.
Gladys: It must be, yeah, time does go by so quick
Mary: Drum roll. Okay. Are you ready? Are you pumped? Cause in the blue corner we've got clinically depressed and weighing in, at, none of your damn business. It's Alex Bertulis-Fernandes.
Alex: Yes, this week I'm nominating one of my favorite funny bitches, Jena Friedman an American standup comedian writer and filmmaker Jena recently, earned an academy award nomination for best adapted screenplay for her work on Borat 2, or to use its official title Borat subsequent movie film, very nice
Mary: so tell me, Alex, why are you nominating Jena Friedman for entry into the funny bitches hall of fame,
Alex: I nominated Jena because I think she's absolutely amazing. Her writing is so good. One of my favorite clips of her is on the Conan show. And she's talking about how America needs to treat Nazis the way they treat women.
and she's got like great lines, like it's a tough time
Jena: for women, or if there are any Republicans watching by women, I just mean wombs.
Alex: She delivers these like really astute cutting lines with like a sort of giggle and a smile. And I've tried to sometimes talk about difficult stuff in my stand up. And she's someone who I really looked to as a role model for how to do that, because she's saying things people are afraid to say, and, you know,the audience isn't always on side to start with, but she seems to bring them around.
Jena: If we
in America treat Nazis the way that we treat women. At the very least, they will never become president.
Diggers and Authors
Ornella Mutoni: Hello, and welcome to Diggers and Authors podcast, a podcast, exploring re-issue culture surrounding African music, and who is reaping the benefits of this. I am your host Ornella and in this episode, I had the pleasure of speaking to Victor Sohonie about his label, Ostinato Records. We talk about how he discovered Sudanese artist, Abu Obaida Hassan and what he has learned about platforming artists and crate digging in Africa.
Vik Sohonie: There's these, these amazing stories. I think, you know, when you come from the global south, like we both do, um, It becomes very enthralling to learn about the histories of the global south in particularly how connected they actually are. I mean, I remember just buying cassettes at the market in Djibouti, the first time we went, because we didn't have access to the archives.
So it literally just being people, buying stuff at a market. Right. Uh, and I ended up buying like 50 cassettes at a cassette shop. And even then the, the owner of the cassette shop says, you know, you're taking all this out of the country, I said yeah, I know you're right. You're right. That's why I'm only trying to buy 50, but I guess 50 is still quite a bit, someone at the store said, uh, oh yeah, I'll go get a Hassan.
And then Ahmad asked them in Arabic. Yeah. We're looking for him. They're like, oh, you're looking for him. I think he's dead. And in the corner of the store, a man just sitting on his phone said, you're looking for Abu Obaida and I said, yeah, do you know him? He said, yeah, his wife is my sister. So, you know, I think there has to be, I mean, my approach has changed where I'm almost exclusively now working with archives because archives to me are it's a transfer of a power relationship where you are negotiating an entry and access and do something you're not just coming and taking.
Ornella Mutoni: If you want to learn more, including episodes on record labels in Mali and in Ethiopia, you can find Diggers and Authors on Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.