Michael Iluma, a senior studying International Relations and Acting at the University of Southern California, who hails from Abuja, Nigeria, provided two pieces of folklore for this collection.
The interview was run, within his bedroom, on West 30th Street in the outskirts of the University of Southern California campus.
Folk Performance: “Thunder Fire You” (A Nigerian Phrase).
“Because we’re both Nigerian, we understand that there is a saying for just about everything…” – Stanley Kalu
STORY: Yes…so something we say at, let’s say like we’re talking and let’s say my friend says something to, like, come at me, you know, diss me—disrespect me—I’ll be like “Thunder fire you,” which has a religious sentiment to it but also, like, you know, God strike you down and strike down what you’re saying.
Background Information: The statements religious leanings are representative of Nigeria’s mixed heritage as a nation deeply steeped in both Vudun and the Abrahamic religions of Islam and Christianity. Each religious culture places high value on the power of the spoken word, therefore, it becomes imperative to counter-act words with words.
Michael enjoys this statement because, as apart of the Nigerian Diaspora, he is currently displaced. The reenactment of statements of this sort remind him of home and provide an initial common, vernacular ground between himself and other members of the Nigerian Diaspora.
Context of performance: As aforementioned, the term is usually employed only as a reaction against disrespect.
Thoughts: The phrase, to me, has a natural link to the Abrahamic “eye for and eye, tooth for a tooth” philosophy or, in more colloquial American terms, “fight fire with fire.” It’s interesting to notice similarities within rather disparate cultures. My initial thought would be that such crossover would exist simply because we live in an increasingly globalized world but that wouldn’t make sense historically. I suppose, such similarities suggest that there’s a fundamental human attitudes that occur across cultures.