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Journey through the Village

I’ve just been transferred to a typical village, characterized by houses built with clay soil framed by netted bamboo sticks and roofed with palm rafts. This is an area close to nature, it is yet to experience the rape of civilisation. Here, mother nature and her children thrive along well – a perfect ecosystem interacting perfectly and harmoniously. There’s serenity and peace punctuated by the song of the birds which themselves are heralds of pure peace and not a warning call to be at alert against the hunters rifle (a product of technological noise).
There’s the smell of soil, vegetation, smoke snaking out lazily from an inhabitant’s bamboo kitchen and in it a little child squinting while trying to fan the dead firewood to active flame. She’s been left at home where she’d be more useful instead of joining the others to till the soil – she’s not matured yet… There’s the smell of fermented cassava still undergoing the process to make the best delicacy of the village…
This is the village and I am the priest!

The Initiation Ceremony of the Girl-Child (Part Two)

We thought that the practice of female circumcision having been abolished, our female infants can now enjoy their childhood in all innocence and joy, temporarily free from the hardship of humanity until their faculties become mature enough to understand them and to deal with them. But the circumcision was but one of the series of rites to initiation into womanhood. The most common and civil and acceptable (by all known cultures and civilizations of the world) initiation of the girl-child into the beauty of womanhood involves the (again) painful exercise of hair plaiting.
Again, why should the village priest care? There is no apparent barbarism or a prey on the child’s dignity in this act/art; it is cultural and globally acceptable. But has anyone really asked why hair plaiting is (almost) globally peculiar to the women. I cannot speak for other cultures, but I am sure of what goes on in the village: hair plaiting is restricted to females and forbidden for males. In fact, a plaited hair is a kind of mark on an female child to distinguish her from male children by the society, until puberty.. So it serves more than cosmetic purpose.
The wailing of the innocent child pierces the quiet noon, as her hairs are being pulled to create beauty out of her mass of hair. The wailing scares away scavenging squirrels and chirping birds back to the forest trees – they had come near the village to keep watch over the abandoned village temporarily left behind by its inhabitants for the days farm work, but thy discover that the village needed no protecting since the cry of the child is enough alarm, or because they too cannot bear the sight of an innocent girl undergoing a horrendous torture.
It is her first time of experiencing such cruelty of the world; it is a cruelty for her own good; a cruelty she must have to undergo to find acceptance by both the male and female members of the community. It is a test she must have to pass. It is a necessary pain for her good. But how is it for her own good? Why must her acceptance depend on such masochism?
So, from her childhood, the girl is taught that her purpose on earth is to give acceptance daily; that it matters not the cost, the sacrifice or pain, her relevance is dependent on how much she’s being desired and complimented especially by the male folks. She’s taught that the first point of her beauty is in her hair. If she’s been born unlucky with the “wrong” gene made up of the wrong hair, she’s deemed cursed or unfavoured by the village goddess.

© Orusegun Olumide

The Initiation Ceremony of the Girl-Child (Part One)

Female child
©José Silva

You may not fully imagine the horror of the little female infant as her grandmother or grandaunt uses an unsterilized semi-rusted old blade previously used on her elder sisters and perhaps aunties and mother, to aggressively perform a gory process of initiation into womanhood and feminity, by slicing off vital feminine tissues of her sexual organ. That was the practice before the sledgehammer of the western culture defeated such barbarism and taught us the health consequences of such practice. Our ancestors had claimed that that rite was the reason for the popularity of virtues and minimality of vices and immorality in their time. And contemporary revivalists too blame the current social decadence on the destruction and abolition of such practices and “values.” These pioneers may not be entirely honest or knowledgeable. Perhaps, the seeming spread of immorality now is only a heightened awareness of age-long vices revealed via the technology and culture of communication and the explosion of population.

Source: http://www.pinterest.com/femalegenitalmutilation


My concern is about the village girl-child and her world. She’d being born into a situation of rejection or of second class citizenry. The news of her birth had left the father sullen; for she would be a minus hand on the family economy; she’d be taken away and owned by another man someday and so she’s not really her father’s. He is aware of this reality and accepts it with regrets and hopeful expectation for a “proper” child who would have the strength to defend and protect and hand on the family patrimony to his sons. This is the situation of the newly born infant girl child. But thank goodness her consciousness aren’t fully developed; at this stage, her sadness will be felt on her behalf by her mother until she grows to learn and master the arts and acts of the world.
One would ordinary think that all women, having consciously and painfully endured the burdens of the cultural society, would not wish the same fate on their female offspring, but the actual result is baffling. For she’s initiated into the painful feminine world by her fellow women folks, with pain and cruelty, at certain display of resistance and ‘incorrigibility’ she risks banishment and ostracization. From the moment of infancy, the old midwives who double as the sagacious women leader, usually near relatives, perform on the innocent girl what they call “a trimming of her sexual appetite,” that is, clitoral circumcision. How abhorring! Not just that such idea is ridiculous, it has been ineffective, since some of these would-be sex-saints surprisingly become promiscuous, because the real process of moral training was taken for granted. It remains to be seen whether the Western sledgehammer of barbarism had won the battle because there are evidences that in real villages, this practice is still held and valued…
The Village Priest is new in the community and has heard such rumours. And his instinct to life and his allegiance to defend it at all cost push him to begin an investigation and initiate a solution. But to really cure a sick culture one has to nip it at the bud. With his hand buried deep inside the pocket of his soutane that has being clutching his rosary while reciting series of Ave Maria in trembling, he is determined to bring such reign of empty pain to its terminus.

FOR OUR VILLAGE


Ours was a rough spoken village,
Our city was not smooth at all.

The morning greeted us with life,
As all strode into the square.

Thereafter, you will see our Fathers in their highness,
With their agbada on the okadas,
And their caps challenging the skies
To a swearing contest.

Our chiefs are well loaded,
On their beads and glory,
But with their legs they make to their destination
There was no need for a car,
It was enough that we knew who they were,
Our chiefs,
And our glory men.

Our women walked in high freedom,
As their breasts flapped in greeting alongside every bow and sway.
Who cared if they were seen,
After all, it took a lot to touch,
For see you can but touch you must not.

Our young ladies were the masters at what they could do best,
Their legs grown grey and pale,
From their enriching skin lotions,
Their knuckles darkened as the one of the mines,
Much like a zebra colouring.
Who knows, if it also colored their hearts too.

Our young males knew the standard,
Day unto night They fought to enrich their swag,
Even with those empty pockets,
That have forever sought the visit of any type of currency
See, our city was rough spoken,
And our village, held in this regard.

By Arome Zaye Springhs

The Market Woman

The African Market Women

The village market is located around the King’s Palace; this strategically sited palace serves both administrative and juridical purposes: it makes taxation easier, the discipline of the market is controlled by the palace guards and in worse case of conflict and dispute, guilty parties are brought into the palace, before the supreme judge, for justice. So, since time immemorial, the market has served some judico-economic purpose. But my concern is not about this ancient judiciary system. I’d rather choose to give a vivid description on the hardship of any individual person who occupies the “seller” part of the seller-buyer marketing relationship.
Most of the sellers are women. The patriarchal culture assigns all jobs and duties that involve “sitting-around” to the women folks. Only that “sitting-around” jobs have been known to consume more physical and mental energy the male-jobs that are merely physically tasking and seasonal too – a similar and natural example is the process of birthing where the male flexes his muscle in a quick five minutes (at most) action and leaves the other nine months jobs for the woman; so it seems both nature and culture assign heavy tasks to them yet render them as weak; while the macho, widely lauded for his strength in reality does too little in comparison.
So, the women are sent to sell off what was physically reaped by the male muscles; through this, they are daily tested (among many other things) to prove their quality of a “good wife” – her success is scored by the entire community and not just her husband. She sits there, counting on the good will and understanding of the customers; some of them are too aggressive for her meekness. Since she knows what is at stake she must have to step up her game, blindfold her conscience so as to meet aggression with aggression. It is better to be called names by one insignificant stranger-customer than for her to be evicted from her home, her life, her existence. But discernment, caution and prudence must rule because a misjudged insignificant fellow might just be a very important kinsmen or a collection of insignificants might mount up against her.
Aggression does little or nothing anyway. The important thing is to look attractive and appealing to every stranger-Customer but facially and in the presentation and arrangement of her products. Note how she constantly yearns for acceptance…
Some days are just bad and terrible. These are the days when some cosmic forces choose to be against her: one such days, the tropical sun would be at its highest degree of intensity, her nursing baby would keep wailing for hours while her fellow sellers are too busy to help out, her customers are scared off, her goods are unsold, she develops some flu, she remembers that the possibility of dinner for that day depends on her effort to seller. But what effort? She can’t coerce a buyer or make up one..
The panic is higher for those who deal on perishable goods. Their failure for the day is vivid enough in the amount of goods that are thrown away and are palpable evidence for punishment by bludgeoning – a legitimate punishment she dares not speak of, neither to her family nor to friends, but perhaps to an invisible Being who acts invisibly.
If she survives her punishment, she must be diligent enough next test to avoid another. So she returns to her duty post, putting all her female prowess in play, but careful enough not to attract the attention of the palace officials nor her Masters.

The Village fruit market

The Local Village Pub

Village Pub

After the day’s work, the weary farmers converge around the singular monopolized local pub, spending their last dime that could have been more useful for a pot of soup. The scorching sun had roasted the life out of them and the possible means of restoring their humanity is to drain themselves in the pool of badly diluted alcohol that ends up as an effective poison in them instead of a means of consolation.
Not that they have nothing doing at home, but there is a special pleasure they experience while they sit in a round table sharing their ignorance about world and national politics. Many of them have become so bored with the feminine and infantile chitchats around their home and long for real men chatter.
Sex, they thought in their youthful age, was the best means of expressing pleasure, but they’ve come to understand the demands of the responsibility of child rearing and its associated sorrows. So, in the late stage of their life, they have come to develops an alternative source of pleasure. Although this new source of pleasure does no wrong to anyone neither does it unjustly bringing a new individual into a poor family and an unhealthy world to suffer, but it causes a greater harm by neglecting the already existing seeds, rendering them fatherless while their fathers are still alive.
So, they meet up every evening at the pub, drinking to stupor, mounting debts upon debts, bringing shame and disgrace upon themselves and their family. Their wives are blamed by her fellow women for being unable to control their husbands, for being un-woman enough to kept them home, for failing to put to use their feminine prowess especially in their cooking; for it is often said that “the way to a man’s heart is his stomach”. Only that some male stomachs hunger for other things but food, mainly for toxic liquor which the wife does not produce; some male hearts have laid their treasury in the local pubs.
My sorrow about the patronage given to the local pub is about the real victims of the toxic liquor. Most men return home, after shaming and soiling the family’s name all over the village streets, to finally display their drunkenness and insanity by pouncing on their children for no just course and converting their wives’ bodies to punching bags, raining blows on these innocent victims of alcohol-charged madness.
After several months and years of swimming in this unholy pool, their body organs begin to give signs of weariness. But how can they suddenly change a habit that gives such ridiculous consolation? How can else can they cure pain than ingesting dosages of pleasurable liquor? The difficulty of their withdrawal is heightened by the jeer from friends – a clear sign of encroaching feminity. He would rather lose his life than to lose his ego – and indeed he gets what he wishes for, death.
At the end of it all, some metaphysical forces are blamed for the death, at best; at worst, the old innocent victim, the wife, is again blamed for being a bad and wicked wife. No one talks of the local pub or the monopoly of its owner’s greed or the poor choice and pride of the dead fellow. But to pay proper homage to him, his companions gather in the pub to drink to his spirit.

Local beer parlour. source: http://www.thenigerianvoice.com

The Time They knew Nothing

Once more, the village priest yielded to the urge of taking his rosary beads on a strolling rosary recitation. He was in mufti partly for disguise, partly to avoid stains from the cheerful children. And indeed, the village street was packed full with too many of them this beautiful evening, in their high pitched laughter, running about in zigzag and broken circles, both enjoying the chase and dreading a loss of the cheerful race. The female ones gather in their quiet corners playing “the moms” out of sheer admiration or societal silent socialization and imposition. They appear to be enjoying their makeshift kitchen duties making soups and cakes while they pass about a baby doll for breastfeeding. The youngest among the infants play in the sand, distracted by the new findings that their finger can really make marks on the surface of the earth; and when they are no longer distracted, they wail for attention to their cursing older sisters who have to break their union with their fellow to-be-women taking care of a baby doll in order to attend to a real baby.
Little do they all know how hard the real world is: that real cakes are not made from cheap sand just available anywhere; that some sand are actually bought (this they would have found unbelievable or funny if they have the sense for it already, but they don’t). Who would tell them that to make cakes, you need some measures of flour and other ingredients and heat, which are all not given freely by the earth, but demand sweat and blood, money and pain? Who would tell the little boys that time on earth should not be wasted in idle chattering and little pranks; that there is no time at all in the world; that anytime at all must be used productively? Dolls aren’t babies; babies are not as light as they feel on their backs; real babies wail and frustrate you; they aren’t dumb or morbid; they feel pain, they can’t express these pains, but make us duty bound to interpret and solve their pains.
So we adults toss our heads at such infantile naivety as though we were never there once. Some more aggressive ones among us, yank these cheerful kids from their world of innocence, try to spank them back into reality while raining abuses on them for neglecting their house chores.
And after several years of these forceful socialization into the real world, they gradually adapt to the world of pain and suffering. They’ve been successfully yanked off from the world where they knew easiness to the world of hardship; from bliss to terror; from simplicity to complexity; from childhood to adulthood.
And so the village priest watches this circle of event with his hands firmly holding on to his beads buried deep down his hip pocket. He tries to intervene but he is told how scandalous his thoughts were. The child looks up to him with tearful eyes as she is being denied the life of infantility by time, by people, by the world. But the priest saves his next speech for the pulpit hoping that the world would hear him clearer then.

Paternalism

source: http://www.pinterest.com

The image of the father in every paternal setting is the same old stern perpetually-angry-and-frowning bad tempered old man. In the village we might want to add the characteristics of a loosely wrapped wrapper heavily knotted just on top the pelvis, with a six to eight inches of a chewing stick lazily dangling from his mouth or aggressively masticated (depending on his disposition at the moment). His morning ‘chores’ include: picking up the old chewing-stick to continue from where he left off last evening, he takes a bottle of Schnapps to offer libation in thanksgiving for another day, then the rest of the day spent around the household is shrouded in yelling, silent foaming, heavy spanking, and (sometimes) deadly fatalistic bludgeoning.
Between the girl-child and the boy-child I can’t say for certain who is the worse victim of his aggression. Perhaps, his son (here, I want to be careful not to be influenced by Freud other than Fact). But the father wishes that he teaches his son how difficult the world really is, how tough he must be, he mustn’t be a loser, he must grow to full manhood and achieve those dreams the father wasn’t fortunate to attain. So, he is intent on pruning every traces of effeminacy from him. Only that this pruning process leaves mortal wounds and scars to be told (sometimes in boast) to friends, to be recanted or handed down to the next generation.
For the girl-victim, she is mainly the business of the mother; occasionally the father intervenes when it becomes a case of affront. But usually, the father sets in at the moment of late puberty when he begins to monitor her movement, her visitors; he begins to believe every rumours (woe to her then if she’s being resented by a neighbouring auntie; that would be a perfect chance to avenge some unexplainable grudges, most likely out of some feminine envy). At this time, he doesn’t trust that she could have all her male childhood friends around her anymore without experimenting some actions they’ve only enjoyed as sweet gossips and probably caught advanced youths secretly performing… the father can’t take chances. Prevention is better than cure. So, why not beat her into fear; fear of the sacred? He must preserve her for a handsome dowry; only virgins attract huge bride price.
For the aggression against his supposed companion (which is a Christian term, because in Paternalism, she is simply a property), that will be a discussion for another day…


Perhaps, being improvised turns everything to potential means of profit.

The Farm Work

There is nothing that would incite procrastination of farm activities than the hot skin-roasting heat from the tropical sun. The memory of yesterday’s burn is still fresh on the mind of the children farmers; so grumble internally, protesting and cursing – but it only ends internally. But externally, they intentionally delay every errand, wasting time doing nothing, running around the hit searching for what can’t be found. They simply don’t understand, simply because they aren’t the providers of the house (though in a huge sense they help the providers provide everything they provide). So, since it isn’t their job to provide but to consume, what do they care if the entire farm is swallowed up by weeds and bush. So they delay not because they do not know it’s a responsibility (of course they benefit from it), put they are simply scared of being roasted again. Farming under the tropical sun is the real effect of the Genesis curse addressed to Adam. “No one boasts with suffering,” the locals often say.
So as they prepare for one more round of sun-burn, they must take all they need to ease the anger of the sun-god. Water must be the first content of the farm kit. It is only at childhood that one can be easily fooled by the cool morning hours that would make him forget to take along his jerry can of water to the farm. As children, it is very common to fall into this error and it is likewise very common for the elders to intentionally ignore them and let them learn from their repeated mistakes. Since everyone has his or her own share of water, the child would eventually be a perfect exemplification of the biblical foolish virgins when the scorching sun begins to shine brightly.
So they set off, far far away, deep down the forest. The distance makes it a “farm”, anything close-by is merely a garden. Gardens are meant for sustenance, farms are purposefully commercial; gardens are for emergency kitchen needs, farms are for large-scale production; gardens are worked on at “leisure hours ,” full working hours of the day are devoted for farm works; gardens are for the infirmed and lazy, farms are proof of family loyalty; gardens are found just behind the house, journey to the farm drains you of your strength, gives you thirty minutes to recover from the exhaustion and the heat… and work begins.
**
[I don’t see the need to describe the ordeal of the farm work, my English vocabulary is so insufficient to describe the state of mind, the taste of sweat, the smell of soil, the sting on the back by sun, the tension on the vertebrae, the scolding for being too lazy, the injury on the toe caused by a misplaced hoe, the sting bite from the insect, the buzzing flies (the most annoying), the hunger, the thirst, they frustration… ]

Why the heck do we fight and quarrel?

The tendency to fight and quarrel over significant or insignificant matters has been part of the history of man; for history is replete with too many great battles and wars between equal powers and unequal powers, struggling for various courses. Bioarcheological findings have further revealed, through the paleontological observation of broken skulls and limbs, that the primordial human society was not any different from ours with respect to violence and conflict. Again, during the era of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and the subsequent period of colonialism, the ideology of the “us” and “them” blinded certain race from recognizing our mutual relationship in the one universal brotherhood of humanity. Furthermore, era of globalization that has declared the world “a global village” seems to have heightened the tensions and differences (and in differences) among humanity. The recurrent consequence of every cases of human conflict is always a fatal rupture of bond between man and his fellow man, between man and the rest of creation and between man and his spiritual goal
Thus, the present situations in the world has continuously propelled every well-meaning citizen of the earth to always ask and investigate the themes of conflict and conflict resolution, of human co-existence and of fraternity and fratricide in the recognition of broken human relationships found in families, social institutions and indeed the universal human relationship; to understand the psychology behind human conflicts so as to better manage them wherever they exist and from this understanding promote and encourages peaceful human mutual coexistence especially between the strong and the weak, the underprivileged and the most-privileged, and every other forms of unequal social relationships.

The City Hustle

Lagos

Can you see that yellow colour? It’s the colour of gold and dust, of gold covered in dust, it’s the colour of the hustle; it smells of sweat. It carries feet of worn off soles. I can smell the fume; I am deafened by the sound calling out for patronage…

The street is real. The street is hard. But we raise with the early blaring horn awakening us from complacency and despondency, calling out to us to begin the day once more in the mine of dust. We aren’t yet healed from yesterday’s work, but we don’t have any choice here. Any giving in to laxity will tell on the evening table and the tantrums and nagging of our helpmates – only that their help are not visible enough…

The yellow smells hardship but comes with a sense of pride and dignity. It may be the basest of earthly jobs but it comes with honour. For we try our best to be sincere with our dealings that the invisible hands of Providence do not delay his incoming favour – only that it’s taking too long so much that we feel tempted and indeed often yield into the temptation to go extra miles simply to put something on the table – something better than that of yesterday dinner, simply to please iyawo.

The yellow colour is a colour of hope. For we’ve heard tales of our forbears who had gone this same path and emerged victorious. Even though that number is but too few to guarantee the surety of a positive turnaround, yet one instance suffices to keep the home burning.

The yellow reflects the brightness of the sun: though it burns our skin charcoal black, it would nevertheless give growth and fertility to the seed we have sown.

We commit our hustle to the hands of the Creator, that our hope in him may never fail.🙇

The hustle is real

Oluwa bless our hustle!

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