“By the trails of Dunbar
We all walked, including father
White, we walked
hungry and sore
Herons, pure and slender
calling to one another—our slaughter.
Mosquitoes probing their last drink from our flesh
As we walked to the marsh.
Our hearts racing fast,
ready to breathe its last.”
There was a time when children played in the kindness of the sunlight and sang to the coolness of the moonlight.
A time when the soil was as fertile as a young maiden; her sacredness was the yardstick for an unblotted union between nature and mankind.
A time when young men kept at bay the rod of fruition.
A time when old men and women ate in earthen pots with their bare hands and drank from calabashes abandoned to the rain’s blessings. A time when the manhood of a boy was tested by rites and crowned with facial scarifications.
It was indeed a time our world knew no form of ‘civilization’—we were mere craftsmen, farmers or traders; we were like no one else in the world.
It was also a time when our folklores, traditions, myths and beliefs was set to the time of fate to begin to fall apart, gradually.
The tale I am about to tell, is one born of courage and bred of defiance. The story of all stories and the beginning of the end of African slavery.
The story of my father—Oba.
“Who could boast of dining with lions?
Whose loins were decorated with visceral?
Who was most famous for trapping nchi?
Oba, my father—
whose lineage glints in the moonlights;
whose manhood accrues
to his true son.”
Ours was a village surrounded by guava trees whose leaves were covered with dust carried by the evening winds.
The ambers of mpanaka softly glowing from cooking hearths and in front of huts were an added beauty. The ground still dry even from the torrential rains of the previous night.
At the foot of the hill, huts sprawl raggedly in crumbled forms—a dull clutter of symbolic white and black ash of various designs, each according to the representation of each family name. From here, the peaceful state of Omambala is felt, strongly.
Except for the little ones who added a spark of delight and drank of laughter from the old during their evening games.
Children held hands in a large circle, while one ran round them with a stick which is dropped at the back of anyone within this circle singing:
“Onye elela anya n’azu, nmuo na-aga n’iro”
This person was expected not to look back but to know when the stick is dropped and pick it and they take turn again, running. Anyone who does not pick the stick is inevitably out of the game. This process is repeated till the game ends.
But this story is not about the games played at moonlight, it goes farther than this—it’s the story that would soon be told for generations to come. The story of devastating defiance and coarse courage.