Lákíríboto by Ayodele Olofintuade



A review of Lákíríboto by Ayodele Olofintuade. A twisty thriller about the fate of a sprawling family in Lagos. Lákíríboto is a queer, feminist, revenge thriller like no other, in which murder, betrayal, and witchcraft collide - with explosive results.


When they go low, we play petty limbo—a celebration of the power of pettiness.

Ayolede Olofintuade starts Lákíríboto by defining what the Yoruba term Lákíríboto means, or more accurately, by identifying who a Lákíríboto is. After exploring the use of the word in reference to queer relationships, descriptions of trans and intersex people, and even the kola nut, they end with a definition that I believe best sums up the novel:

“Lákíríboto is wild and will not bow her head in shame. Lákíríboto is the perfect descriptor of all the people in this book because they are all queer as fuck.”

The stubbornness in their refusal to bow their heads—the penchant for pettiness—is a crucial part of the story. This is what truly resonates with me. The multitude of definitions surrounding Lákíríboto beautifully mirrors the female characters in this book, who are undefinable. Despite relentless attempts by family members to force their ideals of who they ought to be onto them, these women defy categorisation.  And many people are trying to keep them small on all sides—the elders who relegate Kudirat and Moremi to servitude as housegirls; Tola's mother, who forcefully pressures Tola to stay with her abusive husband; and Morieba, who is shunned for her loud devotion to non-conformity.

Morieba summons this spirit of Lákíríboto in one of the most powerful scenes in the book. Olori Ebi, who can only be described as the villain of this novel, mockingly calls Morieba 'Madam Lákíríboto ' in a derisive fashion. However, Morieba keeps thriving despite having to overcome the adversity he's put her through, and she declares:

“I am Lákíríboto,that woman that haunts your nightmares!”

In this moment, you can sense the immense power as Morieba confronts the man who has made her life a misery for so long. While she was never one to bow her head in shame, this was the moment she embraced being everything that Olori Ebi feared—why try getting the acceptance of someone who hates you, especially when they've only ever looked at you with disgust?

There's something unmistakably and wonderfully Nollywood about this story. Nollywood films typically follow a structure. Stories where bad people do horrible things and then are made to suffer directly because of their actions or by the actions of the gods (a theme we will revisit later) until they beg for forgiveness at the hands of the people they wronged. To see this trope with Black queer women, who usually are expected to accept the bare minimum? Nothing short of powerful.

Returning to the subject of gods, I loved that Olofintuade portrays them as distinct characters. Esu is delighted at Olori Ebi's attempts to curry their favor, while another decides to help Kudirat against Olori Ebi's request. At one point, they become spectators and watch the drama unfold; even the Gods themselves revel in the spirit of pettiness.

This spirit of pettiness is embodied most beautifully in Rita, as reflected in the quote that drew me to the novel in the first place:

“Me, I be Rita. I'm unforgiving, vengeful and petty as f*ck.”

Through Rita, as a conduit, Olofintuade further draws the connection between the petty and the divine. At one point, Rita beats up a pastor who is trying to use prayer to 'cure' her. True to her 'vengeful and petty as fuck' nature, she yells:

“'I am God.”

Rita acting off her impulses is badass in many ways (if harmful to herself and Tola). What's more audacious than fighting the very pastor who implies your existence is a curse? Her very instinctual movements stand in sharp contrast to Tola, who seems molded into passivity by her suffering, her situation made worse by her depression. Unlike Tola's family members, who seem content to blame Tola and the rest of the main characters for anything and everything,

Olofintuade draws an empathetic eye towards the women's suffering without shaming them for not 'fighting back'. Even Morieba, who to me is what I'd personally label the novel's most remarkable character, as she's the rich butch lesbian, faces the fear that comes with being outed.

It's through smaller, sneakier, and pettier actions that the women in the novel can fight back. Tola takes money from her husband, Wale, and refuses to give it to her father, Kasali, at his request. Pretending that she doesn't have it despite his begging. Moremi and Kudirat always feign low intelligence around Wale so they can perform their duties in peace knowing Wale (a grown doctor) feels threatened by Kudirat achieving good grades. A special shout out to the maids who provide an education that surpasses 'ten schools combined, as Kudirat says , in the art of being petty. They teach her to spit in their boss' food and drinks, steal money without being caught, and get cheaper ingredients to make a profit from cooking. If anything, Olofintuade wonderfully showcases the power of the housegirls through these petty acts, as they simultaneously manage much of the household.

Once I had finished Lákíríbo, I was puzzled over its classification as a thriller, but the pace at which I devoured its pages built a fast and hungry anticipation. It was thrilling to read a novel that shows power in rejecting the "rise above" rhetoric for the oppressor's sake and celebrating the community that is forged in the bonds of pettiness. I think that shows it best when Morieba has her own 'one thousand, five hundred Naira gesture', a skill mastered by all Yoruba women since birth'. A recall of Olori Ebi , who did the same in the beginning, as she reclaims the moment in which he attempted to shame her—playing petty limbo instead of taking the high road . I thoroughly enjoyed this book (in case that wasn't obvious) and would recommend Lákíríbo to anyone who is even vaguely interested in reading it.

Buy the book here.