Queen Chanel Chin, who is the wife of the Oluwo of Iwoland, Oba Abdulrasheed Akanbi, tells Punch’s Femi Makinde in this chat that there’s one romantic thing her husband did that she loves.
You are not a Nigerian, where were you born and how was growing up?
I was born in Toronto, Canada. That is where I was born and that is where I grew up. My growing up was lovely. It was great. I grew up in the midst of people from different backgrounds from all over the world. My father is a big reggae star. I love music and it was fun.
We learnt that you are a Jamaican, is that not correct?
I was not born in Jamaica. My mum is British and my dad is a Jamaican.
Do you love reggae music?
Yes. Reggae music is the best! I love Reggae Calypso; Afro Beat and a whole lot of others.
How do you feel being married to a monarch of a big town like Iwo?
I feel great. It is a dream come true. We are happy and our family is complete. I am opening a new chapter of my life and I find it interesting. It is a new experience and I am learning every day, I learn new things about life and I am a mother. I learn new ways to be patient and to be kind. It is indeed a new chapter of my life and I am enjoying it.
A dream come true? Were you dreaming of getting married to an Oba?
Not really. But when I was much younger, I dreamt of coming to Africa and I am here in Africa now, so, it is a dream come true. I read about Africa, about great things like Egyptian civilisation, Cleopatra, Queen of Sheba, Ethiopia and other interesting places in Africa. I knew one day I would come to Africa but I didn’t know when or how it would happen.
How do you feel wearing a crown since other queens around here don’t wear crowns?
I feel great wearing a crown because it brings awareness to our history. Our great progenitor, Oduduwa, and his wife, Olokun wore their crowns. So, it is not a strange thing that I wear a crown. Oduduwa crowned his queen. Oduduwa’s wife sculpture in Ife is there and there is a crown on her head. Oduduwa came from the East and all of their queens there wore crowns in the old time. Cleopatra wore crown and Oduduwa’s wife, Olokun, was the first to wear a crown. So, I feel very honoured to bring that back. There is nothing new or strange about it but it is just a way of bringing back our history. People don’t need to look at it as a strange thing. But they should just ask, was the wife of Oduduwa crowned by Oduduwa? If she was crowned by Oduduwa then, why don’t the present day kings allow their queens to wear crowns? If Oduduwa crowned his queen, then there is nothing wrong if the queens of today also wear crown like I do.
There are historical facts as well as archaeological findings that confirm this. These ancient queens, who wore crowns were not regents but queens and Oduduwa’s queen did. This is confirmed at the Ife Museum by the professor there. There is an archaeological finding that confirms this at Ife Museum. The picture of this archaeological evidence was presented to Kabiyesi by Prof. Ogunfowokan and it is in our palace. I will give you the photograph to confirm this. Oluwo is doing this to underscore the important position of women and I think he should be supported. This will give opportunity to women, that women should be given their due recognition. If our progenitor could crown his queen, why are we stopping queens from wearing crown now?
Do you share the same set of crowns with Kabiyesi or do you have your separate crowns?
I have my separate set of crowns. I don’t wear his crowns. We don’t share crowns. We don’t have the same size of head, the shapes are also slightly different. But I can’t wear the ancient crown. That one is meant for Kabiyesi alone. I wear the modern crowns but I cannot wear the ancient crown, that one is exclusive to him.
How will you react if Kabiyesi marries another wife?
Hummmm. It is the culture here and there is nothing I can do. Although I won’t be happy, I don’t think he wants to marry another wife. I will accept it because it is part of the culture here. Although it is part of the culture here but things are changing. Polygamy is giving way to monogamy in this modern time and I think it is a good one.
Are you the first wife?
Yes. There is no other wife.
Has your status as the queen changed your fashion sense?
Definitely. As the queen, you have to be conservative, you have to dress in a way that will portray you are a decent woman. Moderation should be seen in everything you do including the way you dress and I love it. You have to be a role model to many, especially the younger women in the town and even to the older women because of the position you occupy. There are things you must not be seen wearing. I cannot wear bikini and things like that.
Do you miss the way you used to dress before the change of status?
Not necessarily because I am in a new chapter of my life now. I am a wife and a mother. I don’t want to dress the way I used to dress when I was younger. I want to reflect my status as the queen in the way I dress so I should no longer be thinking of the way I used to dress before I got married to Kabiyesi. I am a leader and I must be seen like that.
How do you relax now?
When I want to relax, at times I read. I read documentaries; I read documentaries about King Solomon. I like to light scented candles. But there are lots of activities at the palace here on a daily basis, so there is no time to relax all the time. I seldom have time for relaxation. There is free feeding of the indigent ones, the Iwo/Osogbo Road and the Iwo/Ibadan Road were fixed by Kabiyesi and we are always very busy. There are a lot of things to do here.
Do you still go to see movies?
No. We don’t have time to do that because there are lots of programmes here. Sometimes at night, we watch African Magic on television before bed time. I’m a new mother and at times, we watch TV together with Kabiyesi at home.
Did you have any link with the Yoruba race before you got married to Kabiyesi?
I had Yoruba friends in Canada before I came to Yoruba land and I listened to a lot of Yoruba music and watched Yoruba movies. Things were not difficult for me when I came here because I was already exposed to Yoruba culture even when I was in Canada.
Who is your favourite Nigerian artiste?
They are many. I like P-Square. I really like Davido, Olamide, 2face and others.
Do you dance to African traditional music?
Yes. I listen to K-1, I like Sunny Ade.
I mean traditional drums the drummers beat at the palace. Do you like it?
Yes, we have them at the palace. I like talking drums and other drums. When we go out, they beat the drums, when we come back, they do the same. I am learning to recognise them and to understand what they mean. The drums wake us up in the morning and it is interesting.
Do you miss Canada?
Of course I miss Canada because I was born and raised there but this is my new home now and I am finding it very interesting. I am satisfied and I am happy being here.
Is your status preventing you from being free the way you would have wanted to be?
You know when you are Olori, it is different life. There are people with me almost all the time. And of course, I am a mother and a wife so, I can’t be free the way I used to be free when I was single. Now I’m a leader to the women in the town. There is not much wakawaka that I want to be doing. This is a new chapter of my life.
Has motherhood changed the way you dress?
Of course. That is, again, being a mother, I am a wife and a leader to the womenfolk in the town and I have to dress like a queen. I want to be respected and appear in a dignifying manner, so I had to change the way I dress to reflect my position.
Is the Kabiyesi romantic?
That is our private affair and I don’t want to share that with anybody. But what Kabiyesi did that is romantic is that he said I am the most beautiful queen all over the whole planet. It was very controversial but it is very romantic.