Much Ado About Left Hand

Childhood in Enugu was many things to me. It was plucking mangoes along quiet lanes in GRA, trading cashew for all sorts of things and off course, Christmas at Ngwo. Childhood was also being accompanied by my mother to school at the beginning of an academic year. She had one assignment, to tell the teachers to let me be.

You see, I am left-handed. And being left-handed is (or used be) considered a taboo or bad omen in many cultures. In Nigeria, if it was discovered that a child is left-handed, the entire “community” comes together to cure her/him of the ailment using different antics the most common being wrapping the hand with a bandage and tying it up as though it were broken.

So, my mother would go to all my teachers from kindergarten to Primary 3 to let them know she approved of my being left-handed sternly warning them to refrain from correcting me. But school was a tiny fragment of the problems I would face. If I swept, people would ask, “will you use your left hand to sweep in your husband’s house?”. When I stirred food, they will ask if I would use my left hand to turn garri for my in-laws. When I give them something, some would insist I use my right hand. I dare not talk about my experiences eating outside the home.

Recently, a lady came on Twitter to share her experience with a man who would not collect money from her because she offered with her left hand. As usual, the mob descended on her, everyone with a differing opinion. For most people, their argument was premised on culture.

What is culture? A people’s way of life you say. Or a set of imposed values that apparently guide people to utopia? culture should and must be contextualised. I have said before that a culture that refuses to adapt would not survive generations to come.

The left- and right-hand logic argues that the right symbolises good omen while the left symbolises bad omen and bad luck. Let’s agree for a minute that that is true. Using the same logic, we can arbitrarily say that Anambra represents a bad omen while Enugu represents the good. It doesn’t really matter, right? It’s just symbolism. We can take further by disusing our left leg, eye, left nostrils etc why must we stop at just the hands?

Culture will not change because a generation passed away. It would only change when we begin to re-engineer the minds of people. Left-handed people like me have lived through years of verbal abuse because we by default, (and as it should be) gave or received something from someone using a part of our body. How much longer can we condone such abuses?

We have come a long way from the ’80s and ’90s. However, we must begin to have open conversations about the context of our belief systems. For a mere body part, there is much ado about the left hand.

19 Comments
  • Nala
    Posted at 14:27h, 17 November Reply

    Deep Sigh.
    Are the older generations even ready for this conversation? I hope it’s no longer a thing in this day and age.

    I am right handed but I always always wish(ed) I was left handed. I used to even act it sometimes when I was younger . Gosh! It’s so sexy biko.

    Now I’m older, when I enter buses I continue to act with my left-hand to pay the conductors , my intention first, is to find trouble. Second, is to see if they’ll refuse collecting their money . Some won’t make a fuss but will also use their left hands to receive the money but the other conductors will make it a big deal at first (initial gragra), I’ll then ask them “left hand no be hand ”, then they’ll collect their money eventuarry

    • Chizzy Nwokoye
      Posted at 15:56h, 17 November Reply

      Haha!

      I’ll adopt this approach when next I enter danfo.

      The older generation are not ready for the conversation and the younger ones are continuing in their stead.

      I stand the risk of hasty generalisation

  • Ruth
    Posted at 15:06h, 17 November Reply

    I actually admire the dexterity left handed people exercise in doing this with it.
    I’ve tried it unsuccessfully, but wish I could.

    Just like you have rightly said there is not much ado about it & I think more persons in the society are adapting to it.

    • Chizzy Nwokoye
      Posted at 15:53h, 17 November Reply

      While I agree that a lot of people are adapting to it, I was shocked to see the number of young people on Twitter who were opposed to the notion.

  • Lilian
    Posted at 15:55h, 17 November Reply

    The same people mastubating over this use won’t make a fuss if their boss so much as handed them a piece of paper with their left hand . Abroad ,whether left or right no one cares just hand over the dang object!

    • Chizzy Nwokoye
      Posted at 16:04h, 17 November Reply

      Different standards for different folks

  • Sandra
    Posted at 15:56h, 17 November Reply

    God bless you abundantly for this write up. We have had a lot imposed on us disguising under “culture abi tradition”.

    • Chizzy Nwokoye
      Posted at 16:05h, 17 November Reply

      Well said, Sandra.

      Thank you

  • Munchy
    Posted at 08:51h, 18 November Reply

    I was privileged to be born in a family with lefties…so I got to compare how we both think and do things and I must say lefties are sharp minded and just as normal in doing things just like us righties….

    My dad was left handed but was beat back then by his dad, teachers and relatives till they forced him to start using his right hand…it affected him a lot in his studies and even in his playing football so he swore never to allow that happen to his children.
    In a family with 5 children,we are 2:3(lefties:righties). I wish I could even use both hands so wen my right is tired I switch to left…lol. Both hands were created for use just like our legs and eyes and ears!
    Wonder y if someone is misbehaving they would say he thinks left left or if your left hand scratches u,it means u will lose money or if your left eye sud twitch it means sumtin bad wants to happen,Ike gwuru…so left is bad? Why don’t they cut theirs off☹️
    PLEASE THEY SHOULD LEAVE OUR LEFTIES ALONE!

    • Chizzy Nwokoye
      Posted at 11:04h, 18 November Reply

      It was always a pleasure watching your family

  • Angela
    Posted at 09:28h, 18 November Reply

    Actually i am left-hand so i don’t see any thing wrong in using it. Just that in Nigeria we see it as an abomination but to me is a blessing because as a left-hand person we are stronger and determined in doing things. For me i use d both hands but my left hand is more active.

    • Chizzy Nwokoye
      Posted at 11:04h, 18 November Reply

      Thank you, Angela

      I started off using both hands but when people tried to impose my right hand on me, I stopped using it

  • CeeJay
    Posted at 21:30h, 18 November Reply

    Chizzy, this is a great piece, and I hope it goes beyond here.

    For me, it goes beyond changing our cutural narratives to helping preserve the brain functions of the individual. Forcing a child to change hand use pattern actually affects certain neurological functions which play out in a lot of ways including stuttering and being withdrawn. Studies have shown so and I have an elder sister to show for it.

    My last child is ambidextrous, with more inclination to using the left. I’m excited about it in some ways, and I’ve decided to let her be…I dare say I even encourage her. It’s selzy joor

    • Chizzy Nwokoye
      Posted at 21:43h, 18 November Reply

      Hahaha

      Thanks Ceejay
      I agree with your assertion. Someone told me today that I could be left-handed at home but I should switch to my right in public.
      My explanation of our use of hands being a brain function fell on deaf (socially conditioned)ears

      • Katchy Nwaebiem
        Posted at 11:58h, 23 November Reply

        Lefties are are amazing . One this the stigmatization has done “positively” is to make y’all almost ambidextrous, because of the need to accommodate the plenty cultural wahala.

        That said, we can do better especially our generation.

        • admin
          Posted at 19:34h, 23 November Reply

          Haha!

          Fun fact, I was naturally ambidextrous but switched completely to my left when society wouldn’t let me be

  • CeeJay
    Posted at 22:01h, 18 November Reply

    Chizzy, this is a great piece, and I hope it goes beyond here.

    For me, it goes beyond changing our cutural narratives to helping preserve the brain functions of the individual. Forcing a child to change hand use pattern actually affects certain neurological functions which play out in a lot of ways including stuttering and being withdrawn. Studies have shown so and I have an elder sister to show for it.

    My last child is ambidextrous, with more inclination to using the left. I’m excited about it in some ways, and I’ve decided to let her be…I dare say I even encourage her. It’s selzy joor

  • Joanne A
    Posted at 10:15h, 06 January Reply

    This is really sad, trying to change what is natural. I was born left handed and my school tried to change me. Now I’m ambidextrous. I still don’t understand why different has to be a bad thing to some people.
    Like you said, we need a new mindset. Nice post.

    • Chizzy Nwokoye
      Posted at 08:00h, 07 January Reply

      Oh dear

      It’s deep-seated cultural beliefs. I started ambidextrous before switching to just my left hand

      Thanks for dropping by

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