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  • Rhianna Ilube

Hermine: "I felt at home. I felt at peace." (1978)

Hermine moved to England from Jamaica at the age of 15. Before then, she had never considered what it meant to be black: "I didn't even know what white was." But life in England quickly taught her about discrimination, which profoundly affected the way she viewed the world.


As a teenager, Hermine tagged along with her older brother to a church social, where she met a young Nigerian man and soon got married to him. With four young children, they moved to Nigeria together in 1978. "I wanted a better opportunity for my children," she says. "For them to be able to get to university on a fair ground."


In Nigeria Hermine soon got a job at Swiss Air, where she worked for over 20 years. Her husband sadly passed away in 1986, but Hermine stayed on. She continued to live in Lagos, building a life for herself surrounded by other Nigerwives, her family and her friends at the airport.


Hermine's mother and sisters used to visit her regularly from London. Reminiscing on one such visit, she writes:


I remember with fond memories the visit Of my Sister with her husband to be. I was over the moon, and the thought did cross my mind that they might settle here as well but it wasn’t to be.


But she did bring a great deal


of excitement.


She did her traditional wedding -


and in a typical Nigerian way we cooked and cooked and had coolers of drinks and food.


Listen to Hermine's story below and read along with the transcript here:


Extract 1: "I wanted a better opportunity for my children"


In the extract below, Hermine talks about her motivations for moving to Nigeria. She talks about the ways the education system in England failed black children, and why she believed Nigeria would be a place to raise her own.



Extract 2: "I didn't know what white was"


In this extract, Hermine speaks about her complex relationship with church, and how she eventually reconnected with religion in Lagos.


Extract 3: "There I was, arriving in Nigeria like Hopalong Cassidy"


In this extract, Hermine describes her emotions and memories of arriving at the airport in Lagos... listen to find out which famous singer she saw on the plane!


Extract 4: "Maybe it was my ancestors calling me back"


In this extract, Hermine talks about how living in Nigeria affected her identity as a black woman, and what wearing Ankara material meant to her.


Extract 5: "I had to get a job, but where would I start?"


Hermine talks about how she got her job "by the grace of God" with Swiss Air in Lagos, where she worked for over 20 years.


Extract 6: "The first Christmas after my husband died, she came"


Hermine talks about her days socialising with other Nigerwives, and how she used to enjoy being visited by her sisters in the 80s.


Extract 7: "They will go out of their way to make things easier for you"


In this extract, Hermine reflects on the kindness she received from Nigerians, especially after the death of her husband.






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