The African Way

WARNING: This literary work contains sensitive words that some may find triggering. It is not meant for everybody.


Pearl drop on a plantain petal

mama rains down a storm

baby’s temperature is too high

red pustules and crusts marking her skin

something we’ve never seen before

Take her to holy grounds!

only fools trust in western medicine

we will cast and bind and spray and fast

till she is released from demonic schakles

a Doctor will do no good

They say the west is nearly bezirk

men flaunt in colourful robes

women flaunt like men

children flex like adults

anorexia is in vogue

O’ dear African Daughter

our daughters should eat when hungry

eat when satisfied

eat when exhausted from food

eat more and look good

Our daughter must be robust

exercise endangers the organs

Fitness repels the suitors

Your dress should drape on curves

A skinny bride is only half beautiful

And what is a woman without a husband?

She went to school and got a degree

we’re proud of her but where’s her man?

She read too much and forgot to cook

Her place is in kitchen playing suburban wifey

God forbid you live your life

god forbid you ever speak up

if you’re not under a curse

you will be cursed

watch the sun fade with blind eyes

Our children never live long enough

to bury their parents

I wonder whose sins they hawk around

whose shadows chases them underground

whose horrendous voices echos cohesively in their mind

Children carry on the sins of ancestors

It is only an open secret

children musn’t speak in the midst of elders

look in the mirror carefully and point your wrongs

be mindful of the silhouette of profanity

No one wants to be the first

fear tallies us together

hatred segments us into aliens

we stand alone facing a highfalutin coven

admiring the crumbling foundation of many ignoramus generations

Dear African Child

Dear future daughter,

Your existence will neither be easy nor transitional

because of where you were born

On a community soil dampened with ancestral woes

far humungous baggages will be place on your delicate shoulders

luggages you can’t escape, linked by earth and blood

seen and unseen forces will work against you

men will dismiss you because of the colour of your skin

You will have to work for everything you believe in

where it takes men 10x to succeed, it will take you 50

in the world of humans, you are at the bottom of the pedigree

you will be downtrodden and dragged like a Mathyr

But GET UP! You are not a victim.

You must find yourself

you must wipe ur face bare

wash your hands clean

dare to walk the path only few footprints are imprinted

Once you were slaves, betrayed by your own kin

dear African child, you will walk a lonely part

your family is not you friend

your friends are not your family

and your country will hate you

Slavery was not forced on us,

we enabled it.

The truth hurts. and it only runs deeper.

power is the game the nations of the world play

scramble for Africa, haven’t you heard?

Darkness rules the hearts of men, both home and far

in chains they led them off the port in Calabar

They were branded like a feeble mammal

people became the ritzy currency of humanity.

But Get up! You are not a victim

not then and you are not now

The world wanted to do away with you but here you are

fighting tooth and nail till your last drop of blood feeds the earth.

Your greatest gift was never brute strenght, dearest

it is your mind they want, your willpower they crave

if slavery didn’t destroy you then nothing physical will

your precious african mind, stronger than the diamonds exploited in Congo

Now the rules have Changed, the game is different

the system, even at home is meant to suppress your willpower

your voice shall not echo through four walls with iron bars

you can sense them purging out willpower into the abyss of non-existional stillness

But Get up! you are not a victim

let my voice resonante in your head, for as long as you live

the moment you even consider victimization, is the day you lose

Ancestors, slave traders, governments alike will mock you dearly

If you are still breathing, understand you have won

don’t turn your head or reminisce on black history

understand that from now on, you create your own history

understand than when the world will end

you will be the last man standing…alive.

Follow the sun

7.38 AM

The streets are crowded

A glowing yellow ball

seats at a vantage point,

hiding behind rooftops.

Ike tiddled his flute

This early in the morning,

he had to go the farm.

He spent the first hour

lying on his back,

playing the instrument

then he buckled his belt,

and begun harvesting cassava.

Other kids his age would frown

at the thought of picking up a machete

or being stuck in a field

for most of their day.

They would rather play football

or shoot arrows at bush animals

but not Ike,

he didn’t see the need to play

when he had four younger siblings

relying on him.

Both his parents were gone

few rumors have settled across the village

regarding their disappearance.

Some say they couldn’t appease Sango

on the eve of the New Yam’s festival

as every man had to present his harvest

outside his hut.

In the still of the night,

Sango would descend on the land

and claim what is rightfully his.

However, the god was offended

by the measly bundle of cassava

at their doorstep.

He was so appalled that

he broke into the home

to kill them all.

Ike’s mother pleaded for the sake of her children,

asking Sango to spare her younglings

Pity overshadowed Sango’s wrath

so he agreed.

Others rumored that his parents

were so frustrated with their life,

and responsibilities

that they took off in the dead of the night

without so much as a farewell.

Ike doesn’t recall much from that night,

except that his mother sent him

into the other room in their minute two-room hut,

and instructed him to not come out

till dusk.

In the morning, his parents were missing.

In Ike’s world,

there was no time for football

but on this particular day,

the sun was deterrent to his job

He straightened his posture,

and in a burst of fury he exclaimed;

“Oh Osun, You know my heart and all I wish to do

is plowing the earth so I may feed my siblings.

I have no shilling,

only a leaky thatched roof above my head.

Why must I be cursed by the sun for my ambition?”

When he finished, the sun grew black

Ike froze in fear.

He wondered if the day of reckoning

the high priestess spoke so frequently of was nigh.

He could feel his heart implode in his chest

and minutes later, the sky became bright again

but something had changed.

The ember hue beamed eastward,

away from the field.

Ike picked up his machete and gear

He ran across the fields into adjacent farms.

He ran into the village,

past the maidens bearing terracotta pots upon their head

He crossed the village stream

and came to a halt at the east border of the village,

before the forbidden forest.

The forest was home to the gods

Only the high priestess and witch doctor

were welcome to enter for their customary rituals.

Without much pondering, Ike ran into the forest

He came to a halt at the foot of the tallest palm wine tree he’d seen.

That was the vantage point of the sun, he was certain.

He dropped his gear and tugged his weight up the tree.

Once at the top, he could see not only the village,

but other settlements,

even the city of Lagos,

where the traditional King lived.

He was amazed at the view surrounding him.

It occurred to him that he wanted more.

He wanted to explore life outside his village.

Eventually, he conceded to the blinding sun rays

and climbed down the tree against his wishes.

What he saw bemused him.

At the foot of the palm tree.

Ike was looking at a polythene bag

filled with iron ore.

He considered grabbing it

and running away

but he was no thief,

and besides, only a dumb fool

would steal from the gods.

“It’s yours,”

A familiar voice came from beside the tree

Ike stretched his neck to see his mother.

“The gods are rewarding your good will,

you could leave this village and live comfortably in Lagos,”

she continued, “or you can come with me, Ikechukwu.”

He wanted to wail and roll in the dust.

He had no strength left in him.

Eight years have passed since he last saw her

His eyes locked with his mother’s

and he knew if he left with her,

he wouldn’t have to toil the soil another day in his life.

He would have peace.

But, he wanted to be more

so he held her face, pecked her cheeks and bade farewell.

He grabbed the bag and begun his journey home,

away from the fading sun.

The tunnel

 

We thought we could escape our troubles. We thought if we climbed the ladder fast enough, no one would stop us.

 

Across the bed from him, I sat.

“I like you, I really do.”

He blushed, licked his lips and placed a palm on my thigh. I liked that. I shut my eyes and allowed myself to dwell on this simple pleasure. His hands lingered from my thighs up to my waist before grazing my cheeks. I opened my eyes to meet his pearly hazel ones. It was the first time I permitted myself to look so closely into someone’s eyes. It was intriguing to see them dilate. He parted his lips and I listened to the words that fumbled out….

A Volcano erupted in my heart. My being was shaking; like an earthquake, like an explosion went off in my head. My ears could bleed, my voice was gone, My lips were quivering from the horror when he said, “I trust you”.

I jumped up, and for a second or five, I was patting myself as if searching for something. His face grew worrisome and he constantly asked me what was wrong.

“I have to get out of here”

“Where to? this is your house”.

“Nowhere,” I replied, “Just need a walk.”

I sprinted out the room into the night. My legs were moving, one after the next. The people I walked past were staring at me, as if in shock or sheer curiosity. Maybe I have something on my face but I’m acting as normal as I possibly can. My mind is a war zone, the more I try to focus, the more nothing seems to make sense. All I see is a tunnel of darkness that I’ve never been brave enough to walk through to the other side. But now, it beckons me and right there in the park, I could make something out of the rusty air. A tunnel.

“Idara,” I heard a voice call from within the tunnel. It sounded like a child with a thick accent, Western African perhaps, “come”.

“Why” I muttered hesitantly

“Because you will never be able to face your truth if you don’t”.

I heard the fluttering of wings, and seconds later a butterfly was in front of me, so close it could perch on my nose. In a blink of an eye, it’s wings would change from violet polka dot to black with white streaks then to brown and white with blue streaks then again, and again, each time, a unique blend of colors. I was too mesmerized that I almost didn’t notice that now there were two of them, and in a millisecond five, then twelve and they just kept multiplying. They formed a line before me and begun flying into the tunnel. I pushed some air down my lungs, took a step and then another and I was inside the tunnel.

My mind was simmering with thoughts and they were chaotic but with the light from the butterflies illuminating my path, I felt less anxious. I noticed the walls had phrases and sentences inscribed on it and there was a sense of familiarity I had when I read them, I remember them because I lived them.

At the tunnel entrance, I read:   “you were always there for me.’ I recall smiling when I wrote that. I recall feeling lonely afterward.

“when I count my friends, I count 1 person 10 times”.  I know who that was for, it came from a sincere place.

the next one read; “you’re the bitchiest bitch out there, but you’re also the only person that piggybacks me home when I’m drunk”. Actually now I just think she’s a bitch.

The farther I got into the tunnel, the more cynical the phrases were. “This may probably be the last time you see me, I’m not going anywhere but I can’t promise I won’t wander off.”

The other read: “I can’t stand the pain, it makes me cry. I want people to care, I want things to work out”.

At this point, I noticed that the butterflies were reducing, disappearing. I was feeling unsure again, anxious. In an attempt to forge on, I staggered through the never-ending corridor with my resilient companions.

The next I saw went thus; “it’s not in my nature to express myself so wouldn’t it be weird, stupid to people if I started expressing myself? wouldn’t it seem like I was impersonating someone I’m not?” 

I sidled on like a lummox drunk in a grave-yard, I refused to look at the walls any further. I tried focusing on making it to the end, but my mind wouldn’t stop buzzing and I kept on wishing I was out of there, I’ve never been more restless.

My gaze settled on one final inscription on the wall and I couldn’t help but read it through; “so once again I was alone staring at the walls as it were empty like my soul.”

I stopped. Thrusting my back against the wall, I read the phrase again as I slowly sank to the ground. The lights fluttered around me urging me to rise to my feet. I couldn’t move, I’d lost all my strength.

“I was alone…the walls…empty like my soul, alone…walls..empty, empty….

The butterflies wouldn’t stop but I ignored them whilst they continued to vanish.

“Get up,” the voice was back. “Come Idara”

“I can’t,” I yelled, my voice resounded through the walls. I watched the butterflies fade until the last resilient wings were flapping right before my nose. Its light began to flicker and went dim until it was gone. Everything went silent and cold. No insects. No buzzing. No light. Just me alone in the dark tunnel.

“I can’t,” I whispered. “I can’t”

 

Neither Here nor There: Nigeria

I want to go to Nigeria, where the sun stays high and proud beaming down as palm trees morph into shadows pasted across our faces and the evening breeze sweeps fine sand beneath your slippers as we saunter into a supermarket in search of palm wine and ice-cream.

I want to go Nigeria where the houses in the city are made from bricks walls and aluminum rooftops, bearing no semblance whatsoever to historical buildings and mud huts with thatched roofs adorn the villages, creating better insulation than modern cooling units.

 

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I want to go to Nigeria where Jazz infused with beats from African Fuji drum feels the atmosphere, where culture fills the street, forcing us to groove. One of a kind.

I want to go to Nigeria where the granite kisses our feet in the safety of our abode sending chills through our spine.

I want to go to Nigeria where undiscovered talent roams the streets, raw and unrefined, savants fill the public school systems. Undiscovered. Lost.

I want to go to Nigeria where the sun scorches our skin; concentrating our melanin, where warm air intrudes our space, messages our skin as salty vapor diffuses to the surface.

I want to go to Nigeria where the traffic is as psychotic as the nation’s economy, where the rules to driving are non-existent and drivers have got no respect for the road and road side sellers barely respect their lives or anybody’s personal space.
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I want to go to Nigeria where Saturdays are for house chores and football games and Sundays, for church but the best part is anticipating the Jollof rice. Our so-called Sunday rice ritual.

I want to go to Nigeria where fear is frequently mistaken as respect and respect is perhaps misinterpreted as foolishness, where people heed to the rich for some bewildering reason and balding politicians run the nations meant for the youths.

I want to go to Nigeria where powdered milk, garri, groundnut and iced water is perhaps the most cherished dessert and Suya is the first course meal.

I want to go to Nigeria, where the market is big, variable and torturous to maneuver. The women echo in harmonious tunes wearing colorful materials whilst showcasing their products. The sound of bargains resounds in the air which is also saturated with different kinds of scents. The women gossip on ends about each passing consumer.

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I want to be in Nigeria, where one man struggles from five to eleven to make minimum wage. His two kids and pregnant wife smile regardless when he comes home and a frail stench of kerosene lingers in their environ. They sit together under the moonlight and he tells the tales his father told him of him about their forefather’s British colonization while flies buzz in their air. I want to be in Nigeria because this scenario depicts a typical day in their world,  an oil on canvas painting mixing green and white representing only one thing, Hope.

Unashamed. Hopeful— though  I’m neither here, neither there.