A LITTLE INCIDENT IN SHANTY TOWN

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Isaac Mafuel

She was the unwanted distant niece. The little orphaned girl from the village. The one nobody wanted to adopt after the old lady who was raising her had died. AIDS killed both her parents, but the grandma died due to the extreme ware and tare that comes with poverty. (The old lady was made for the archaic world where one would survive on wild fruits, but global warming was waging a war against the creatures of her generation, extinction seemed like the right alternative.)

A distant aunt well versed in calculating opportunity costs saw the potential of having a house maid for free. All she had to do was feed her as little as possible and dress her as scantly as modesty would allow, she was all hers.

“When you feel like repeating the stupid things you do in this house, just remember who is putting a roof over your orphaned head,’ (A roof over her head? Well, anything that covers four walls must be a roof then. Even if it’s just a sieve that lets the rain in and allows one to read the stars from the dirty torn mat you sleep on.) “…the clothes on your body and the food in your tummy (if rags and leftovers count!),” The aunt’s way of ascertaining that the misdemeanour won’t happen again.

But kids are kids and misdemeanours are part of the process of being a kid and so she would find herself with whip marks and scars.

At first she used to cry. But when you have lost everything you had, even if it’s nothing, the tear springs dry up. What is a whip after all? The problem is when your aunt beats you and you don’t cry. Witchcraft is the only word that would explain your insubordination. And don’t dare look your aunt direct in the eyes because when you are a witch your eyes see her innards.

“Why didn’t you just die with your parents, you little witch? Don’t look at me like that. I will take you to the exorcist one of these days, you demon possessed idiot. Don’t teach my children your witchcraft.”

She would look down at her over fitting grease stained dress. A hand me down from the aunt. The one with more patches than the original cloth, her work dress. She had one more which she was made to wear at mass, not for prayers, but so she could play with the baby while the uncle and the aunt prayed to the merciful God, for blessings on their family, I guess.

At first the uncle hardly noticed the dirty orphaned child. Mostly working night shifts as a guard in one of the security companies, sleeping all day, waking up for meals, or for a smoke-the only luxury he indulged himself in. He had somehow managed to quit drinking, but the smoking got worse. Poor people should be allowed at least one vice to sooth their wailing souls, don’t you think?

Years have a way of passing by, and they go slowly when you are a little nobody in the middle of nowhere.

Two tennis balls started coming out of the bud of her chest, the uncle started noticing, “and he saw that it was good”.

With the aunt selling vegies at the market, and the kids at school, it was just the two of them for the whole morning, uncle and niece.

“Bring me the matches.” His way of inviting her to the bedroom.

Uncles are like that. First you bring them the matches, then you must scratch them in some evasive angle of their body and before you know it, your hands are playing with their thing.

“It’s a privilege to hold with your arms the plunger that your aunt adores.”

When you are ten it’s really an honour. After all, your aunt had to wait till fifteen to get married and have the chance to hold it.

“Let’s find out where this plunger enters, shall we?

“It’s hurting, uncle.”

“You will get used. Soon the pain goes and all you feel is sweetness. By the end of the week you will be an expert at this.”

You really get used, though not necessarily by the end of the week. And so it becomes a habit. Plus it feels so good to be noticed by your uncle, at last.

But aunts have a way of catching you when things are getting more interesting and your life is starting to have meaning and purpose. So they chase you from their home. To the streets where “ungrateful whores” like you belong. You must survive on your own.

When your parents die, a part of you dies with them. But when your uncle rapes you, every part of you dies. The aunt throws your corpse out of the house, to the streets where society tramples on your decomposing body. They close their noses to avoid the stench. They trample on you, to pulp, till your dust has no choice but to retreat to the monumental tombstones of society called whore houses. Then they come every night to pay their respects so they can feel good about themselves and use you as an example of what happens when one makes bad choices in life.

The irony of it though, being that you don’t start to live until you die, at least once. Jesus noted the same when he talked about a seed dying so it can bear many fruits. She died more than once so the fruits were a hundredfold. Anger, vengeance and all that constitute chaos. She had learnt not to expect much from anyone. She was a lone wolf plying the uncharted roots of individual survival. All she had on her side were sharp survival instincts, and she put them to good use.

Because when you are twelve and living in the gutters, it doesn’t hurt much to have the skill of pleasuring men, it’s an ace up your sleeve.

 

 Isaac Mafuel is a creative writer, theatre director, Actor and facilitator. He trained as a journalist with the University of Malawi.  He is passionate about literature and the theatre. He is the Co-founder and creative Director of Theatrik Interventions (a theatre group that focuses on Theatre for Development (TFD). He also works with Theatre for a change Malawi as Interactive and Legislative Theatre Project officer. Much of his writings are inspired by the characters he meets in his line of work. (Theatre for a change works with women in sex work and sexually exploited girls among others). His love of books led him to found Barefoot Readers Initiative. A youth led movement that sources books and donates them to Primary and secondary schools in need. (Barefoot is publishing a poetry anthology which they intend to sell to raise funds for their course.)

 

 

 

… 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.

Killing Mosquito with a Cannon: Lagos Ban on Live Bands

Overture: Ssh in the City        

The Lagos State Government has proscribed performances by live bands in pubs, joints and restaurants in the state, in what could be regarded as a renewed crusade against noise pollution in the state. The General Manager of the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency, Adebola Shabi, pointed out that this decision was necessitated by the increasing rate of complaints by residents. This is not its first time of cracking down on bodies for not complying with the extant laws on noise pollution in Lagos state. In June 2016, 70 churches, 20 mosques and 11 hotels, beer parlours and clubs were shut down for contravening the law.

Interlude: State Form Fool

Lagos, the former capital of Nigeria, prides itself as the country’s ‘Centre of Excellence’. In recent years, the state government has been relentless in uplifting the face of its territory to keep up with its ‘excellence’ tag and to meet the standard of other great cities and regions of the world. The government’s effort to transform Lagos into a mega city has been felt in transportation, housing, commerce, security and the infrastructures being put in place to make their lofty ambition a reality. One aspect of the ‘Lagos life’ that is yet to bear the mark of the transformative agenda of the state is the noise pollution that its inhabitants are grappling with.

Though a state bursting with excellence as its slogan constantly reminds people, the state has underwhelmed in its efforts to tame the beast that is noise pollution. Lagos is by far the noisiest city and state in the entire Nigerian federation and probably one of the noisiest places to live in Africa and in the world. Automobiles are disturbing by the sounds produced by their nagging engines and the hooting of horns by impatient commuters. Music record and movie hawkers go about with huge speakers booming out loud music and commercials in their attempts to attract prospective customers. The irresponsible and uncalled-for use of sirens by our political leaders and security personnel contributes to the noise. Loud noises blaring from churches and mosques are some of the pollutants that Lagosians contend with. Sometimes the noise is produced from elaborate parties. It is at sunsets that beer parlours, pubs, joints, restaurants and club houses come to life with live bands performing to the delight of  people lusting after the entertainment pledged by the performers. A stranger to Lagos would most probably regard the scenario before him as a sort of riot or any other chaotic condition.

With the above near chaotic state picture of Lagos matched against its mega city ambition and the health danger that noise pollution poses, one cannot help but to justify the decision of the government. Be that as it may, it is just one way of looking at this issue. There is a side that the Lagos State Government should have looked at that was neglected. Perhaps if they had done so they would not have arrived at the decision they have taken.

Scherzo: No high notes, no high notes!

With Nigeria’s unemployment rate at an estimated 4.5 million, one would think that any masses-oriented government would seek to reduce the number and not to add to it. The action of the Ambode led Lagos State Government seems to have no qualms with adding to the number. He may not intend that but that is what his action is saying. Relaxation, hospitality and entertainment business is a long chain that includes the proprietors of the places, employees of the ventures, DJs, marketers, petty-traders, people in business relation with the enterprises and people who want to have some fun and take their minds off the problems of this country. Banning live bands will put off some people from work; affect economic activities and livelihoods of some people. This will add to the unemployed population of the country that if underemployed people are factored in, the figure will soar far above the estimated 4.5 million.

It is at these proscribed places that upcoming musical arts hone their skills. The renowned Highlife maestro Prince Nico Mbarga, whose ‘Sweet Mother’ is regarded as Africa’s anthem and a song that was voted as Africa’s favourite by BBC readers and listeners in 2004, started his career with a hotel band in the eastern part of Nigeria called The Melody Orchestra in 1970. His Rocafil Jazz reeled out their tunes from hotels around the country. We can go on and name several musical arts that started from the hotels, beer parlours and club houses. To most of this young people, music is what keeps them occupied, provides their daily bread and keep them at bay from crimes and the temptations to engage in them. We must heed to that ageless warning that says; na pesin whey no ghet work devil dey take do spanner for hin workshop.

Forget the complaints about disturbances from the live bands. This hospitality places and the good music they entertain us is the lifeline of Lagos. It is hard to conceive a Lagos without this side attractions or distractions; it depends on how you want to look at it. They are all over the state. They help Lagosians to unwind after a long working day or week. The ban on live bands is a severance of the people from what gives them joy and helps them relax from the stress of the hustle and bustle of Lagos life.

Intermission: All noise is equal, but some noise is more equal

In Nigeria, there has been a long standing mistrust between the government and the governed. It is no longer news that Nigerians regard those in power as irredeemably corrupt. They also regard all the regimes that have governed the country as only after the aggrandizement of their families and close pals. Any legislation that tends to put off the masses from their sources of livelihood is usually regarded as an attempt to damn them and make them over-reliant on the high class. If matters come to a head, be sure that those who feel undone may resort to arms to topple the regime and make themselves masters of their fate. The outcome of this action is usually devastating. The story of the Jacobins in France is an ample example.

Why did the government single out places of hospitality for their war against noise pollution and only sound out warning to places of worship? If we banish our religious sentiments for a while, we would admit that religious houses are a great source of noise pollution in Nigeria. In this latest move of the government, they only sounded out warning to them without allowing the law to apply on them on this issue. It is a blatant case of some animals being ‘more equal’. This selective approach to the execution of a law is not just the right way of clamping down on a perceived anomaly in the society. As a matter of fact, it is a negation of the doctrine of the Rule of Law that advocates every person to be regarded as equals before the law.

Noise is a large part of us in Nigeria. It surprises me that some are complaining of noise. I cannot help but to wonder about the quarters that the complaints are coming from amidst us the people of the street. Perhaps it is a cover-up by the government to achieve their usual selfish aims, unknowingly to us. It is hard to understand their selection of noise pollution by the environmental agency of the state when worse situations are in need of attention. With the apocalyptic threat posed by environmental degradation and pollution of the air by industrial fumes, one would think that this issue is at the forefront of the government’s war on pollution of all forms. But no, it is noise pollution – a lesser evil, so to say. It is not hard to comprehend why the government continues to pay little attention to that aspect. They own all the big factories in Lagos and they are behind the plundering of our natural environment.

Finale: It’s senseless to kill a  mosquito with a cannon!

One thick man, after too much thinking, said ‘no use cannon to kill a mosquito’ (I think it was Confucius that said it).  It suffices to say (with what been pointed out above) that the government’s approach at combating noise pollution in Lagos by proscribing live bands at hospitality places is the wrong move. It can be likened to attempting to kill a mosquito with a cannon or to crack a peanut with a sledge hammer – it does more harm without actually getting rid of the ill. On behalf of the poor people of the state, we would like to see the government reconsider their actions and reach a decision beneficial to all parties.

 

Elisha Gwanzwang Godswill is a Nigerian obsessed with knowledge and has a wide variety of academic interests. He hopes to research Conflicts, especially as it relates to Africa