by Chidera Eggerue
As a Nigerian person, one thing I’m going to do is SHAKE BUM at any given opportunity. Just smack a drum somewhere and my body will hear it! If there is anything I know Nigerians and Carribeans have in common, it’s that we eat, live and breathe celebration. I think we deserve to snatch every chance we can get to express our happiness and joy physically. Mutually coming from a history of having our happiness oppressed and suppressed, adds deeper weight to the unbreakable spirit we carry.I didn’t attend my first Notting Hill Carnival till I was about 22-years-old. In my Nigerian household, Notting Hill Carnival was considered a rather unsafe and violent environment to willingly put yourself in so I was never allowed to attend. Of course, I learnt how to lie. If the plan failed, Carnival was worth catching an L for. The great thing about Carnival is that for the most part it’s a daytime event, so when I would lie about where I was going, I would just say to my parents that I’m going to ‘a blogger event’. At the time, I was fashion blogging so the lie would be smooth and believable. To cover my tracks even further, I would make sure to leave the house in a relatively simple outfit, with my actual baddie outfit hidden underneath my oversized tee. The funny thing about all this is, I never for once felt bad for lying to my parents about attending Carnival. Enjoyment is the essence of life and as Nigerians love to say, ‘I can’t come and die’. I think my parents’ anxieties came from what they would see intentionally being pushed in the news to discourage Black people from joyously assembling in one place. I expect to see a lot more of that spiteful propaganda this year. The intention is to create tension so that Black people will eventually be erased from the centre of their own celebration and instead, it can be gentrified for white commercial consumption.
When I think about my memories of Notting Hill Carnival, they usually involve other people. There must always be a plan: where are we meeting? What are we wearing? How are we doing our makeup? The night before we meet at the mutually-agreed location (usually someone’s flat) would involve a FaceTime outfit-planning call. Hyping each other up on the phone is a must. Wearing batty riders? Mandatory. Can’t forget the handheld fan, the Fenty lipgloss, and the portable charger that all need to fit snugly in the bumbag. If you’re carrying too much, that’s on you. One thing Carnival will teach you, is how to effectively pack light without compromising the sexy outfit.
You can’t forget the bend-over test: does your outfit allow for a clean 90 degrees rotation at the waist without tension or tightness? If the answer is not yes, you better change into something you can throw your ass flexibly in. Anybody who has been to Carnival before knows that no matter how excited you are, no matter how good it looks with the outfit, please leave your good shoes at home. You will regret it. The roads are crowded with people just trying to find the vibe like you are, so occasionally you will feel a shoe on your foot - or you might even trip over litter. If you’re wondering what shoes are appropriate to wear, I would recommend a good old pair of Crocs - they also pass the 90-degree bend test for when you might need to drop down and bounce your bum Megan Thee Stallion style. You won’t have to worry about getting them dirty because they’re easy to clean. As I type this, I am side-eyeing my Crocs. They better be ready for the chaos I’m about to put them through this coming Carnival.
If there’s one thing about the process of preparation that feels like a movie, it’s the electric atmosphere of all the girls getting ready and doing pre-drinks together in the house. Let me set the scene: it’s 11am and the bluetooth speaker on the table is blasting a Spotify Bashment playlist. As you hear a Vybz Kartel tune you haven’t heard in a minute, you shout ‘AAAAYYY!!’ and bend into a bouncy whine immediately, only to realise you have accidentally knocked the arm of your friend who has been desperately trying to curl that same stubborn section of hair for the past 5 minutes. She snaps at you in frustration but the irritation doesn’t last. She can see the Wray & Nephew cup you’ve just put down on the table; you’re lit and she’s up next once she sorts that bang out. While softly dancing, you help her with her hair as someone else is preparing the pre-drinks. The tension eases as the next song comes on. If that bluetooth speaker were a person, it would be beaming with validation right now. Your friend’s hair is finally sorted 2 songs later and now it’s time to get some selfies before leaving. This is usually my favourite part of getting ready with the girls; it’s the calm before the storm of creased makeup and sweaty, matted post-carnival hair.
Now it’s time to get on the District line and really, this is where the Carnival begins. The train is packed and you can tell everyone is heading to the same place. There are only two occasions when I don’t mind being on a loud and rowdy train: when England is about to bring it home and when it’s time to celebrate Caribbean British history. As you’re on this packed train, it’s cute to observe people’s outfits and face makeup. It’s the effort we all find a way to put in, to take part in the celebration. Once we all get off that train, it’s like walking through a portal into a land of elation. From this point, what happens at Carnival stays at Carnival, baby!
There’s something about watching Londoners having a form of escape, that makes my eyes feel a bit moist. I can’t lie, London is such a depressing place to be in - especially now more than ever in a post-pandemic crisis. We deserve this. Notting Hill Carnvial 2022 will feel like a celebration of survival this time round. May we find our way and may we all live to shake bum another day.