TO GET TO House of Rainbow you turn off the Apata Road from Ibadan at the Moco petrol station and then make your way down a rutted track through a cluttered market. Ibadan is Yoruba heartland, the region’s commercial hub and the home of what was once Africa’s most illustrious university. The university has lost its sheen today, and now a few tawdry skyscrapers rise over the mounds of rusting zinc and bustling activity that characterise Nigeria’s third-largest city. Here, on Ibadan’s western fringes, shanty commerce rubs against gated residential compounds, and at the end of the track you enter one and find three buildings, in various stages of distress, around a car park.
You knock through the locked gate on the door of a ground-floor corner unit. When you are appraised through the keyhole, the gate will be unlocked and you will enter a living room with white plastic chairs set in makeshift pews around an altar, beneath a rainbow banner with the word peace painted on it. Pastor Jude Onwambor – a furniture salesman by day – will remind you that while you are to ‘comport yourselves decently’ on arrival in the compound, you are now free to take your feminine attire out of your bags and become your true selves, the ‘daughters’ or ‘darlings’ (dar-liiiiiiiiiiiings!) you really are.
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