… So Is There A Third Face?

     

by Afroplanet

I think it’s fair to say that the age-old Pan-African rhetoric of “Africa for the Africans” can be finally put to rest. It’s dead and buried. Africa hasn’t been for Africans for centuries, and now, it seems that Africa belongs to anyone with enough money to buy up all its land – which is predominately those who possess that old money;  generational colonial wealth. It seems that the average African is not the least bit interested in reclaiming their stolen legacy, or even shaping a new one. Indeed the enslavment period and colonialism has had its toll on the conciousness of African people, but…actually there are no buts; it was all pretty messed up.

Now, don’t go mistaking this for Stockholm syndrome, but you really have to give Jack his jacket – colonialism was a brilliat idea. Africans have been wiped clean of their entire value system and given a new one. Even after the wave of Pan-Africanism that swept over the 20th century that might have had you thinking that the level of ambition of African people, leaders in particular, would have stretched further than just political independence; in most cases it hasn’t. It seems that the main concern for many Africans is to please the supernatural beings imposed on them during colonialism, and chasing the elusive idea of wealth. God and money, in that order. Now in no way am I trying to dictate what should and shouldn’t be important to people; but for the small fraction of the population who wonder why Africans remain subservient in their own land, why Africa still has the highest rate of almost every disease and debilitating condition known to humanity, and why Africans in the diaspora are still so disconnected with their ancestral identity; must be asking why so little has changed since colonial times apart from the faces in political rule. Even the laws are the same.

So upon analysis of contemporary Africa, you find there are two faces. The first face is quite content with their current neo-colonial existence. These would be the aspiring middle class – those who still believe there is something to benefit from this decrepid system that isn’t even working in the countries that came up with it. The second face is that of the traditionalist – those that yearn to go back to a time before the Europeans (but surprisingly not the Arabs) came and conquered – back to that glorified and deeply mystified time when Africans ruled as Kings and Queens. This face can also often be found among the Afrocentric diaspora, who long to take Africa back to that ancient era, and start rebuilding our entire civilisation from scratch.

There is something terribly wrong with both these faces – one embraces the idea of accepting a system that was never designed for our prosperity – or even our presence apart from being the work horses/burden bearers; and the other is simply impossible – life does not move backwards. Plus it also bears the qustion: if we go back to this archaic way of living, who is to say that the African holocaust won’t happen all over again?

So is there a third face? Is there an alternative to these two forms of existence? I would like to think so. I would like to think that there is a New African; a progressive African – who is undeniably proud of their African heritage and the legacies of their ancestors, yet determined to forge a new way of thinking and living, where Africans are free and equal in the eyes of all people, and not just defined by their poverty and colonial monkey suits. Let’s keep this in mind and continue to explore the idea of a New African identity.

“We must become members of a new race, overcoming petty prejudice, owing our ultimate allegiance not to nations, but to our fellow people within the human community” – H.I.M Emperor Haile Selassie I

 

AfroPlanet was a cabinet minister in the Democratic Republic of Congo during the time of independence. After the assassination of Patrice Lumumba, he fled into the forests to escape capture. While there, he ingested a rare precious metal, which gave him immortality. He has since been on a one man mission throughout the African continent, contributing in any way he can. He currently writes for Afreecan Read.

My Sinful Nature

by Iliya Kambai Dennis

Sin is relativistic to faithfulness,
Little wonder, this garment of mine,
Travels to and fro
Regardless of the tura that binds
My desire into doing his will.
Whose kingship isn’t for the world
But is found in the world.

Sin without the course of remorse,
Temptation is a virtue.
Contradictions in the vague;
Pacing and racing the meaning
Of serving a true eternal crown.
Even though I dine with compromise,
My root has not left my
Non chalant attitude towards
Worships.

This is my sinful nature!
Give me a majestic crown,
I will turn my crown to thorn
Give me heaven and all in it.

I will take it but prefer earth,
Give me salvation, redemption,
I will opt for condemnation
This is my sinful nature!
Time does not alert me to pray,
Time alert me stray away.

My sinful nature course me this;
To ask what I have been given,
To seek what is at my disposal,
To knock when heaven’s gate is open,
To make my sins sweet.
Give me honey and honey-comb,
Still I will be horny.

Oh! Sweet bitter sin,
Flee from me and give me
Glee of redemption in full.
Without contradiction,
Clutch not my globe, blah!
This globe of compromise,
Kill her with the dagger
Nay, my faith can’t be faithless.

Iliya Kambai Dennis hails from Kaduna state, Nigeria. He is a physics student at the Usman Danfodio University, Sokoto, Nigeria. He loves writing, especially poetry.

Fimisile Forever

 

A welcome-home party was thrown for him at Ilaro, in his family home. My brother Wole, Mum and I travelled there to grace the occasion, collecting Baba and Maami on the way. This was my first time in Ilaro since Mum took me away five years earlier.

The party was already in full swing by the time we arrived. It was a typical Yoruba indoor owambe that had overflowed outside, and the house and yard were packed with uncles, aunts, cousins, distant relatives and friends. The women were all rad, clad in their native ashoke, buba and iro, with large damask headgears of varied colours and sizes on their heads. The men were sumptuously adorned in their agbada gowns, and festooned with coral beads, the boys in white agbada and red ashoke abiti-aja hats, and the dun-dun drumming streamed out loudly from the Damian family compound as singers and dancers mounted the stage set up in front of the house.

Despite all this festivity, there was an air of awkwardness on our arrival. Before we – Baba, Maami, Mum, Wole and I – got past the gate, one of the guests saw us and dashed inside the house. Dad emerged almost immediately and fell – head and agbada – to the ground to greet us. Brother Gbenro, Baba’s right-hand man on the family cocoa farm, came out behind him and followed suit. They got to their feet and Dad hugged Baba fully and tightly while Maami rubbed Brother Gbenro’s back – a pseudo hug perhaps. Somehow it seemed odd. Mum and Dad looked at each other. Mum stretched out her hand to shake Dad’s hand, but Dad went in for a hug. Time stopped. Mum did not hug back. I fought an urge to blurt, ‘What did he do?  What was so terrible? If it was so terrible, why are we having a party to celebrate his release from jail?’ Other guests watched. Darkness flashed briefly in Brother Gbenro’s eyes as Mum’s eyes met his during the awkward embrace. Brother Gbenro hugged Wole and me together, and whispered, ‘Welcome,’ without looking at us. He felt cold, different from the uncle of my childhood.

We were taken around for introductions in the company of the adults. An awkward moment came when a large man with his back to us turned and Baba jerked and said, ‘Jesu!’ and looked shocked. The man bowed and touched his toes but Baba shook his head slowly in displeasure, refusing to acknowledge him. Maami, however, rubbed his shoulder and broke the moment. When the man straightened up I saw he was a dark giant with a full red lower lip and a full beard.

‘Boys, this is Uncle Ola,’ Dad said. ‘My best friend. He is responsible for organising this wonderful party.’

We bent to touch our toes, but the giant reached out for a handshake. We took a hand each, clasping them tightly between our two palms. ‘Ola, these are my boys.’

‘I need not be told.’ He smiled broadly.

The formal introductions over, we were free to mix with the younger people. At first glance it seemed very much a village affair, with most guests dressing customarily. However, after a while I began to notice there were some men present who did not blend in. They seemed, in fact, to hate the idea of doing so, wearing form-fitting brocade jumpers instead of the agbada that every other male was wearing. I first noticed one of them when he fluttered his fingers at me. I blushed and looked away: they talked and acted so feminine it sent icy shudders racing down my back. They clapped their hands dramatically at the slightest statement. When their hands were not clapping or mounted on their waists, they were thrust out like the legs of a cattle egret. Unfortunately Dad insisted on introducing us to all of them. When one of them touched my head during our introduction, it felt like a hundred soldier ants were pillaging my locks. I slapped his hand off a thousand times in my head.

I was relieved when Wole caught my hand and yanked me outside to join the throng of dancers.

Later, after I had danced myself into a sweaty mop, I returned to the living room to cool off and catch my breath. I sunk into a seat beside Uncle Ola. Dad joined us, oozing alcohol, drenched in sweat, laughing, alive, his locks all over the place.

‘You sure do know how to get your groove on,’ Uncle Ola said.

‘To commot for sanko na beans?’ Dad said, wiping the sweat from his face, panting, sprawling in the chair.

‘Flex my guy,’ Uncle Ola ordered him, and stroked dad’s thigh close to the hip. Dad put his palm over Uncle Ola’s hand and squeezed it, and rested his head on Uncle Ola’s shoulder and closed his eyes. An elderly female guest who passed by us at that moment hissed so loud that Dad opened his eyes. He looked at her and she glared at him, and he took his head off Uncle Ola’s shoulder and settled back into the chair instead. But he kept his hand where it was.

‘Wale, dear,’ Uncle Ola said.

‘Yes, Uncle.’

‘Please go ask one of the girls to bring us some food.’

I got up and went over to one of the girls serving and delivered the message. She asked me what exactly they wanted to eat. So I went back to get their proper orders but they were no longer in their chairs. I looked around but did not see them. But I did run into the men with the cattle egret hands. They were quieter now. They were eating, and somehow seemed to be staring a lot. The one with the soldier ant palm called out to me:

‘Omo Tolu!’

I pretended not to hear him above the music.

‘Omo Tolu!’ he screeched again.

Someone tapped me from behind. ‘Boy! He is calling you!’ – another one of them. This one left his hand too long on my shoulder. He ushered me over to their nest, all the while with his hand on my shoulder. I hated it. I hated him.

‘Hello, Omo Tolu. How are you?’ the one who had called me said, making space and motioning me to sit beside him.’

‘Please sir, my name is Olawale and I’m on an errand for my dad.’

‘It’s nice to meet you, Olawale.’ His voice sounding like a strained accordion.

‘We have met before, sir.’

‘Yes, but you can’t recall my name, so it’s necessary we meet again.’

As if this second encounter with this man was not disturbing enough, the other men in jumpers were looking at me, into me, smiling.

‘My name is Biodun,’ he said, ‘and I don’t like being called sir. Sit.’

‘Okay.’ Reluctantly I did so.

‘I use to work for Baba, and was very, very close to Tolu, your dad,’ he said.

The man beside me nudged him sharply and said, ‘Haba Biodun!’

‘What?’ he said to him. ‘Am I lying?’ Then he turned back to me. ‘Even closer than Ola,’ he added, with emphasis.

‘It’s nice to meet you, sir.’

‘The pleasure is mine, darling,’ he said, smiling and crossing his legs. ‘You are a lot like your dad.’ – now squinting his eyes as he looked me over.

‘Thank you.’

‘I only hope you don’t end up like him.’ He said this with a straight face.

‘Kai Biodun! E don do for you abeg!’; ‘It’s okay now, Biodun.’; ‘Omo you too talk!’ the men beside him said, speaking over each other.

I wanted to leave. In my head I had stamped on his feet and plucked out his eyes a hundred times already, and I liked it. But this close I saw that he was more manly than I had earlier thought. His body was skinny but his arms were toned, and thick with soft-looking hair, some of which spread across his chest. His hair was cut low, and he had a neatly trimmed and sharply-outlined moustache. His lips were dark with a dab of pink in the middle and his eyes were feline. And he looked at me like he knew that I understood the crap he was saying. Like he had stripped me naked a thousand times before our first introduction. Like he knew me in a way I was ashamed of being known. I didn’t know how he managed all that, or how I knew that we were more similar to each other than was convenient, though I did know that I hated this similarity to the core of my being. Yet I stayed, because a more decisive part of me wanted to be seen by Biodun, the part that was curious, that wanted to be led, to be surprised.

‘Abeg abeg! Wo! Let me talk o,’ he said, snapping his fingers and waving his palms in the air. When the chatter died down, he faced me again. ‘I’d love us to be good friends.’

‘Okay.’

‘We have a lot to talk about, when my friends will not interrupt.’

‘Okay sir.’

‘Biodun, please.’

‘Okay, Biodun.’ I said getting to up my feet.

On turning around and walking away I felt stabbed by the eyes of everyone in the room, especially those of Baba and Maami, who were staring at me, at us, at whatever had just happened. For some reason, though I was guiltless, guilt trapped my feet. Baba motioned me to come to him. With difficulty I did so. He asked me whether I was being disturbed. I said no. He then instructed me to keep away from Biodun because he was a bad influence, and that if he ever approached me again, I should report it to him personally. Baba then motioned to Biodun to approach him. When Biodun came Baba ordered him to never approach any member of his family henceforth, ‘Even after I am dead.’ Biodun apologised, excused himself, went out through the door and did not return. His friends drifted away, talking quietly among themselves and casting glances at Baba. I went back to where I had been sitting, dried out, and wishing I could go home. But no: we would be here till the bitter end.

Shortly after, a masquerade dance drew all the guests outside.

I was about to follow them when, pushing his way through the crowd, Wole rushed in with another young man breathlessly in tow. For a moment I didn’t recognise him. Then I did: Seun, my best friend from school, who this party had been making me miss so much. How had Wole known? I didn’t care. It seemed all of a piece with everything that was happening that evening. I hurried into his arms. I held him tight. He squeezed back. The rush.

‘Walemi… This is you,’ he whispered.

‘This is me,’ I agreed, not understanding him.

Wole, perhaps bored with looking at the ceiling and waiting for us to be done hugging, coughed.

‘Oh, my manners,’ I said, breaking off the hug, Wole’s cough becoming convulsive, and pulling Seun to my side, my fingers in his. ‘Wole, this is Seun, my best friend.’

‘He almost strangled me with that same hug outside,’ Wole said.

‘I didn’t know Wale is a twin,’ Seun apologised.

‘Well, he is,’ Wole said, his hand around my neck. ‘And this carbon copy loves him so.’ He pecked me on the cheek.

‘I love you too, darling,’ I said, smiling, shocked for a moment, but looking in Wole’s eyes still.

‘Me jealous now,’ Seun said.

‘Oh don’t be, dear. This is a battle you won’t win,’ Wole said. ‘Meanwhile, your attire is fabulous! What is that, damask?’ – feeling the hem of Seun’s flowing, royal blue kaftan.

‘Yeah. I’m sorry I didn’t know the colour code,’ Seun said.

‘Mmm, see how Wale is glowing like egusi soup,’ Wole teased, winking at me.

‘Egusi ke?’ I said.

‘Abeg, I’m hitting the dance floor again,’ Wole said, ‘Man, those guys are killing me! See ya!’

Seun and I found a corner and sat. We talked and the years seemed to thin away between us. His hair was, as it had been even when he was eleven, snow-studded, but there were now soft strokes of sideburns on his cheeks and a moustache above his upper lip. He still had the delicate look he had the first time we met five years ago as junior pupils of the Ilaro Grammar School. But now he exuded a more adult, more alluring air. The kind that made me want to resume holding him; that made the walls around us fly apart, and my world rave and storm within, even while appearing intact and still outside. Thoughts that would ordinarily shock me and make me fight myself spiralled and splayed out inside me.  And in that moment I wanted them to. Fighting was not an option. I liked it!

Suddenly and annoyingly one of Biodun’s friends, who should have quietly passed us, stopped for a second in the doorway. He took a long look at us, hissed, ‘Shelleh!’ and cat-walked away. I instantly made to go to Baba, but Seun caught my hand.

‘Where are you going?’

‘To tell Baba.’

‘Tell Baba what?’

‘That the man is bothering me, of course.’

‘Why will you do that? Are you a kid?’

‘What do you mean?’

‘It’s no big deal, is it?’

I shook my hands away from Seun’s. ‘You were not here earlier when they called me over and were quizzing me.’

‘They?’ he asked. ‘Which they?’

I pointed to where the rest of them were now seated. Biodun had returned.

‘Who?’ Some guests stood in the way: at first he could not see them. ‘Christ!’ he exclaimed when they moved off. ‘Who invited them?’

‘They’re friends with my dad.’

‘Hmm. Well. Okay,’ he said, reclining in his chair.

‘Okay what?’

‘It’s nothing,’ he said, taking my hand again. ‘Besides he was referring to me.’

‘Oh, okay. Your name is Shelleh then?’ I asked.

‘Nope. It’s a slang.’

‘A slang?’

‘Yeah. You know, like “babe”,’ he said, laughing.

‘You are the babe?’ I asked, tickled as well.

‘Okay, let me lay it out for you. When someone, probably a guy, calls you names like Shelleh or Ti bii it means he thinks you are camp.’

‘Camp?’

‘Yeah, you know, girly, colourful, stuff like that.’

‘I’m not.’

‘I know, but it also could mean either he finds you sexually attractive or believes that you might find guys sexually attractive.’

‘Ti bii is a Yoruba word and does not have anything to do with sexual attraction,’ I said. ‘So please tell me another lie.’

‘Now you tell me,’ he said, ‘what does ti bii literally mean?’

‘It means, “of that kind”.’

‘Yeah, yeah… you see,’ he said, sitting up. ‘It means “of that kind”; “like that”. The guys who like guys like that. Like those guys with Biodun, and Biodun too.’

‘Like that,’ I echoed.

*** Excerpts from Fimisile Forever, a novel writing by Nnanna Ikpo.

Nnanna Ikpo is a Nigerian lawyer and storyteller with a Master of Laws degree in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa from the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, South Africa. He runs his personal blog, ‘Letters to My Africa’,(www.nnannaikpo.blogspot.com) and is the Communications Officer at the Sexual Orientation Gender Identity and Expression(SOGIE) Unit, Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, where he is also a doctoral candidate.

I called him ‘Dad!’

“This is 1940. Ovien is 30 years old; a thin tall man with well-built shoulders. No house entrance in his village nor even the entrance of his in-laws could collect his height – Ovien bent generously to pass through. Ovien has never seen this girl before.”

Ovien is travelling 87km from the tiny village of Etefe to Samagidi on his old Raleigh bicycle to fetch his woman. His accompanying kinsmen are so happy that at last he would stop being a displaced and unfocused bachelor. One of the men, Onosevwe, seems the happiest. Onosevwe’s grandmother is from Samagidi, so he feels like Ovien owes him some ‘bottle’ loyalty. As they rode, Efia, the youngest of the men made a joke at Ovien: that he would be unable to enjoy kissing his wife since the interproximal space in his dental are too wide. ‘Your aye, your wife will end up sucking up your saliva from that ogogoro contaminated mouth of yours’, he laughingly added. The stress added to the word ‘contaminated’ so made one of the other men, Oshoaye, laugh that he almost lost control of his bicycle, swerving from right to left and left to right on the road. Thanks to the gods that Oshoaye was cycling behind them all. They are cycling on a single earth-path road with grasses and shrubs of all sizes statue along the road.

The path is bald, hard and smooth; grasses no longer visited from the soil since frequent foot taxi rigs a chance. Oshoaye is so fascinated by anything Efia says especially when he shows off with the little Grammar he learnt from staying eight months with an Irish-American SMA priest in Ughelli before he was dismissed for touching the heavy buttocks of the Catechist’s daughter, Ighovotu. It is not Efia’s first ordeal with a woman. When he was 16 years old, his mother refused to give him food for the whole day, after his elbow kissed the breast of a young girl during the annual Omanuku festival.

This is 1940. Ovien is 30 years old; a thin tall man with well-built shoulders. No house entrance in his village nor even the entrance of his in-laws could collect his height – Ovien bent generously to pass through. Ovien has never seen this girl before. While the others basked in the rays of the jokes which fell on their sojourn, Ovien dulled at some point. He has only been told by Onosevwe that there is a beautiful young virgin, 17, by name of Ishaka who is ready for marriage. Onosevwe had convinced him that the girl is well brought up and that her family are reputable farmers. In his usual style, Onosevwe exaggerated that her family farm once a year and their harvest is enough to sustain them for the year and they would still have reserve to sell to lazy villagers. Ovien loved this part. A wife which will bring so much luck from the gods to his lands. Onosevwe has no good taste for women. His three wives naturally incite laughter when the men gather under the palm-tree before dusk for a keg of ogogoro as though it was a requirement for gaining the next day’s oxygen. Ovien fantasized a woman who would halt discussions among villagers whenever she walked pass. A woman he will proudly order to come summon him at the squares when a visitor arrived or when supper was ready. Yet, he did not know if he preferred a chubby or a slim lady. Whenever, he has asked Onosevwe how his would-be wife looked like, he thoughtlessly replied with an uncensored laughter: ‘She is edible!’

In his day dreaming, they arrived at the estate of his in-law, Olorugun Godwin Ishaka. An estate endowed with plenty of earthen huts. The compound is compressed with bare-chested young men and bare-footed young ladies. The old men and women are seated awaiting the irresistible arrival of drinks and food. The young ladies want to see the man who has travelled so far to marry, Onome. They want to enjoy a mental picture of how their own marriage day would be and what exactly is to be improved. There must be something to improve! Something Onome’s wedding would lack! Olorugun Ishaka’s youngest brother led Ovien and his cohort into the assembly while everyone cheered. Ovien is overwhelmed as the tall slender black blurred-eyed girl is led to him with her mother in front singing her praises; everything reminds Ovien of Onosevwe’s description: ‘She is edible!’ He wants to grab her before she could get to him. He imagines she would slip away like a man trying to trap a frog in a wet palm.

Ovien is lost in ecstasy as Onome knees before him presenting half a glass of Old Dry Gin. It is the customary drink of blessing at a marriage ceremony among the Urhobos. The bride is expected to crawl a short distance from her father’s position where she receives the half glass to where her groom sits. She reverently swallows some of the Gin and then presents the leftover to her man. A celestial yelling accompanies the empty glass lifted up with the right-hand of the man. Ovien left the glass turned into his mouth until his bride has to bring it down. He’s very happy, he couldn’t believe the rites were closing in gently. ‘Daniel! Respect our in-laws, don’t keep them waiting! This is not one of your bottle store, it is just less than half a glass’, whispered a kinsmen whose eyes had followed the glass and supervised the liquid running down the gullet. It was Efia who echoed a less comic opinion: ‘I feel the glass hung between his valley-like front teeth’. At the release of this, low volume chuckles wired around.

The rites came to an end. Ovien bundled his ‘edible wife’ onto the carrier of his bicycle with her wooden luggage on her head, riding off to Etefe village. Ovien whistled all the way with the kinsmen pouring ceaseless praises on the woman. This time, Onome’s mother and her only brother rode along as well. They were married for 56 years and blessed with three boys. The youngest of them, Okpako, I called him ‘Dad!’  

 

The author, Larry Onokpite is from Delta State, Nigeria. He considers reading and writing as great forms of spirituality.