Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (A. A-A) is an actor, having appeared in the TV series Lost and such films as The Bourne Identity. He is making Farming, a film of his life story, one of being a Nigerian child who was fostered by a white family from 1967 until near adulthood.
I didn’t recognise his name when I read this article, but I did recognise the scenario. It stirred memories of my childhood when my parents fostered three Nigerian children: Lawal was the eldest, and he was followed by Bimbola and, shortly before their parents returned to Lagos, a young baby girl whose name escapes me.
The death of my father a couple of months ago, aged 93 and still of sound mind, has resulted in the ‘release’ of family archives, including this photo.
I left the following (slightly edited) comment on the article.
This article has a powerful resonance for me.
Some 20 years earlier, my adoptive parents fostered first one, Lawal, then his sister and finally, for a brief few months, another baby girl. Their father was studying at the the University of London to become a barrister while their mother worked as a Post Office telephonist – this was when switchboards were still operated by hand with a network of ‘spaghetti’ to keep untangled.
Living in Blackheath, south London, I don’t recall any overt racism, although when pushing baby Lawal in his pram to the shops neighbours would peer in and exclaim, “Isn’t he just like a doll!”
To which my contrary thought was that he cried and shat just like any other baby. He also suffered from asthma and eczema, which could well have been caused by the stress of not being with his biological parents.
We joined the extended Yuroba family gatherings in Tottenham, north London, on a regular basis. (See pic above.)
I’m certain that this when I acquired my staunch anti-racism and openness to ‘world music’. It’s probable too that my anti-colonialism was engendered by Chief Enahoro, later to be extradited from the UK and imprisoned for treason. He was obviously a much-respected ‘elder’ in his community, and would give my sister and I half a crown each as we were leaving.
Many years later, I met Lawal on Waterloo Station concourse. He told me that he still resented his father who had recently died; upon returning to Lagos he had worked as a lawyer on behalf of poor people, rather than focussing on his family.
That A. A-A is still resolving his search for identity, a “cathartic desire to explain”, says much about one’s innate and core need for a secure family ‘nest’ which allows one to ‘belong’, to thrive and grow to maturity with a strong sense of cultural identity.
There are millions of children born every year who are deprived of that and not all have the opportunity to come to terms with ‘self’.
I hope I can get to see his film Farming, but sadly doubt that it will make it to Indonesia.