Thicker than water

March 12th, 1971

By Wami Aluko

Meet Aduke, Abike, and Anike, daughters of the infamous Digiola’s. After a mysterious fire burned down their mansion in Ilesha, and their beloved parents with it, these three sisters decided to pack up and start new lives here in Lagos City. The air of mystery and fear that comes with their family name followed them here through whispers and rumours on them and their family secrets. The most popular being that they come from a bloodline of witches who practice the art of black magic. Often living in isolation, we were pleasantly surprised when they agreed to let us into their seemingly fantastical world for a day. We got a glimpse of what an ordinary day truly looked like for them, and as it turns out, these sisters aren’t as creepy as we thought.

Coming from such a notorious family wasn’t so glamorous for these three sisters who were taunted and ridiculed on a regular basis by the people in their community. Words like ‘Ibaje’ – which translates to ‘Spoiled’ – were thrown at them by children at school and the adults in town weren’t any better. Jealous of them and their family’s success, they often manufactured stories such as how their parents signed contracts with the devil to amass all their wealth. For this reason, the Digiola’s really only had each other, forcing them to build such a strong familial bond. The saying, ‘blood is thicker than water’ was embedded in the sisters heads by their late mother who taught them to always stick together and show love by embracing each others differences. This explains why Anike, Aduke, and Abike are so close and intimate, some may say weirdly so.

When asked about how they were dealing with the passing of their parents, I was surprised to find that they were hardly sad. Anike, the youngest of the three sisters, revealed, “Our parents are dead, but they aren’t gone. Their souls live on with us, so we still talk to them every day”. Though their parents may be physically gone, these sisters are still able to commune with them through the spiritual practices they had honed and developed over the years. On their ancestral altar, I saw they featured all of the four elements: air, water, fire, and earth. They also displayed beautiful warm toned vintage necklaces from their grandma, their parents favourite fruits, and a rustic photo-book of their deceased loved ones. All of these items or symbols were used to honour their ancestors and stay connected with them in spirit.

Some may refer to their practice as witchcraft, to them it really doesn’t matter what you call it. For Anike, Abike, and Aduke, witchcraft and magic is just another word to describe ones way of drawing from and tapping into the energy that is all around us. They believe the ways in which people connect to the spiritual realm simply depend on what methods and symbols resonate with them and their lived experiences. As Aduke said, “everyone has their own journey”. To these sisters, magic is just a regular part of life and spirituality is all about consciously using this magic, with intention, however that may look like for you. Every spiritual practice may be as unique as the individual practicing it. It is for this reason that they chose not to disclose any further information about their personal practices out of respect for their family’s privacy.

Here is the (very) short documentary we were able to film with them:

Read the gal-dem’s take on the film here


Written by Wami Aluko

Photography and Creative + Art Direction by Wami Aluko

Styling by Momo

Make-Up by Ayopo

Modelled by Ifeoma, Momo, and Nneamaka

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