Of Cameroonian descent, Nollywood actress, Okawa Shaznay, shares fond memories of her recent trip to New York
When did you visit New York?
I travelled to New York last October to visit my mother. Afterwards, I decided to holiday in Houston, where I was previously based.
What were some of the places you visited during your trip?
I visited the Grand Central Terminal, the headquarters of the United Nations, Empire State Building, City Hall and Chamber of Commerce. I was fascinated by the Grand Central Station, because it has a unique structure. It is one of New York’s iconic landmarks and the architecture is amazing. It is such a busy place where all the train terminals that connect you to various parts of New York are. I loved the energy of the place and enjoyed watching people from diverse cultures go about their business.
Are New Yorkers friendly?
When you meet with a lot of New Yorkers, the first thing you would notice is that they are always in a hurry. When I visited some shops, I met with some friendly people but on the streets, everyone is usually about their business. It is unlike Houston, where the people are approachable and friendly. Basically, I’ll say New Yorkers are always on the go and seem less friendly.
Did you sample their opinion of Africa?
They are quite informed about Nigeria and my home country, Cameroon. I noticed this when I visited the UN headquarters; New Yorkers working there know about the political situations in both countries. I also met people who are informed about Nollywood movies. I loved that it made them see home in a different way; people living well and happy compared to how Africa is usually portrayed in the western media.
How did you spend your days?
I used to go for long walks whenever I did not have a specific place in mind. I also took leisurely walks with my mum.
What are the similarities between New York and Nigeria/Cameroun?
The stand out similarity between Nigeria and New York, is the busy nature of both places, especially when you consider a city like Lagos. You find that both cities are quite populated and people are always in a hurry. On the other hand, when you compare New York to Cameroon, you realise the atmosphere in Cameroon is laid-back and you don’t have as many people.
What are some of the things you saw in New York that you want replicated in Nigeria?
I would want Lagos to have better travel channels within the city. That would include more train routes that will ease mobility and the horrific traffic experience in Lagos. In New York, there is a good ground transport service.
How would you describe the culture of the people?
In terms of culture, New York is a melting pot of various cultures but then, I noticed that when it comes to cuisine, you’ll come across areas where you’ll predominantly have Italian-based food in restaurants like Emporio & Forlini’s and other areas where you’ll predominantly find Jamaican foods and lots more. So, there’s an interesting cross-section of different cuisines across New York which I found interesting.
Do New Yorkers dress better than Nigerians?
I wouldn’t say New Yorkers dress better than Nigerians or vice versa. Each race is unique and one of the ways they portray their culture is through how they dress. In Nigeria for instance, owambe parties call for a grandiose approach when it comes to fashion.This view holds true especially for the women. I find it beautiful even though it may come as over-the-top when compared to a New Yorker’s approach. Also, just as you have top designer brands in New York, there are top designer brands in Nigeria like LDA, Deola Sagoe, etc. In conclusion, I think both New York and Nigeria are great at fashion .
In terms of economic and infrastructural growth, what is to be learnt from the New York experience?
I think we should learn to take more leaps in order to make things better for our people not only in Lagos but Africa as a whole. Whether it’s through better healthcare or transportation structures, we should encourage ourselves to buy things made in Africa.
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