We Are Not Cursed #8

PART EIGHT

Edited by: Darlene Jones

 

 

 

“Ha! It seems there were more girls in attendance today.”

“The dedication … It’s about to happen soon, right?” The older of the two servant girls moved closer to Okuoba, eliciting an answer from her with a knowing smile.

Not too far in front of them, a shrew darted across the low greenish-brown grass that flanked the footpath. A few more followed shortly, leaving behind trembling blades in the wake of their passage.

More than two market days ago, both servants had accompanied Okuoba to a session where young Ngwo girls on the threshold of womanhood were collectively lectured by the Umuada in the village. On their way back from the village square, Okuoba had happily shared with them the reason for such gathering.

Throughout this last meeting, however, Okuoba sat inattentively while stories and details about Ani, the goddess of fertility, were relayed. What rather preoccupied her mind was the mystery surrounding Nnanna’s death. The more she thought about it, the more unanswered questions sprang up. Questions meant for the deities, especially Ani also known as the Earth goddess.

She wondered why the goddess would let Nnanna’s killers go scot free—at least that was the way she perceived it at this point. Ani was meant to deal with abominable acts against the land; acts that stopped life without proper reason or physically reduced a person to an animal.

Soon, she would be required to stand before the shrine of Ani along with other marriageable maidens. But of what value would it be to take oaths and then formally dedicate herself to a goddess who couldn’t protect her family?

“Do young girls in your village go through the same ritual?” Okuoba said, but quickly reminded herself that the girls were just servants. Their largely unfortunate circumstance, which had subjected them and a few others to servanthood in Ngwo, made her wish she’d not asked the question in the first place.

The older servant, who seemed to ponder over the question, shook her head. “No. I don’t recall being told about any ritual before womanhood.”

“It seems your enthusiasm is waning,” the other servant said, her brows knitting in the middle as she stared at Okuoba. “Surely it must be the anxiety of embracing womanhood, calling a man your husband and someday—perhaps, very soon—carrying his baby inside you.”

Okuoba’s abrupt stop caused the servants to do the same. She placed her hands on her waist. “The dedication is a fortnight from now.” She looked straight ahead at nothing in particular. “I’m not sure I want to be a part of it anymore.”

The servant girls immediately squared off in front of her. The look of surprise on their faces soon turned to worry and it spoke louder than their respectful protest.

“No! I won’t be there. And don’t remind me it’s the tradition of the land.” Okuoba felt her blood beating in her ears as her muscles stiffened in anger. “My brother’s spirit yearns for justice. Justice from gods, who have now turned their backs on us!”

Both servants looked at each other, but didn’t utter a word.

Okuoba resumed walking and soon afterward they closed up with her; one on each side. Together, the trio covered a considerable distance in silence, moving past men and women with hoes and axes who were either heading for their farms or were on their way home; palm wine tappers with calabashes and thick fat ropes slung over their shoulders; naked little children in playful mood trailing behind their older siblings.

The elder servant broke the silence. “Who knows if the locusts and then the strange humming that killed many of our people by sundown were sent by the gods. Had it not been for your family and a few more in Ngwo, we would’ve been dead by now.”

Okuoba eyed her. The implication of those words had landed heavily on her conscience like a stone on an eggshell.

The younger servant gestured. “I’ve realized that it’s not in man’s place to question the gods; rather he ought to show complete reverence at all times. This ritual … what if it’s a gateway to your own happiness as a woman?”

Okuoba had once been told by her mother that Ani had denied some women in Ngwo from giving birth because of their grave crimes.

She was about to speak when the familiar voice of Ibeabuchi, calling her name, yanked her attention to the connecting road leading to her father’s farms.

“Asampete nwaanyi!” Ibeabuchi’s voice rang out like that of a happy man. His smile was all teeth. Across his shoulders was a long stick and drooping from its ends was a roasted kill. “Even a blind man can tell of your beauty with his palms.”

Okuoba wondered where her childhood friend had been since the past two market days.

Ibeabuchi hadn’t even been at her brother’s funeral.

Part Seven||Part Eight

__________________________

Translation:

Ani/Ali/Ala — Earth goddess or goddess of fertility is believed to be the wife of the thunder god, Amadioha. “Ani” as a word means “ground.” During the precolonial era in Nigeria, the Igbos attributed this name to the Earth goddess because they believed everything (living or inanimate) had a base.

Umuada/Umu Ada — An association of women who are natives of a community and are also married to men from the same community. This association still exist in Igbo land and is highly respected.

Asampete nwaanyi — Very beautiful woman. In some texts, it’s translated as “handsome woman.”

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35 thoughts on “We Are Not Cursed #8

  1. I had wanted to ask you when this story took place and I deduced my answer straight away, it must be around mid 1800? It’s a journey I don’t want to end, and the story is progressing nicely. Still holding my breath! Great job brother!
    🙂

    1. You’re right, sis. It’s set in the precolonial time in Nigeria when men traveled on foot and depended on their personal gods for protection and survival. Glad this story still holds your interest. And your comments as always are heart-warming.

      PS: I just checked my spam depository only to find your comments. Your ardent reading and contributions are a big blessing and motivation to me.

  2. “Even a blind man can tell of your beauty with his palms.” 🙂

    This Okuaba ehh…nawa for her kind beauty. Good instalment. I enjoyed reading from the point of view of a different character. Okuaba seems like one strong young woman. I hope to encounter her more. Also, I wonder why Ibe’s showing up all of a sudden. I guess he thinks he could appease Okuaba with the roasted kill.

    Well, can’t wait for the next episode to see what happens between these two.

    1. Hehe. Sometimes a woman’s beauty can make a man ask questions or stare without the thought of stopping. I think Okuoba falls in that category, LOL. As for Ibe, the dude is one crazy dude. Next week will tell us more about him 🙂

  3. A new perspective and the tension mounts, you know your craft well, my Nigerian brother! I am enjoying this drama! I regret that I’ll miss next weeks chapter, but I will catch up when I return home! Thank you, friend! 🙂

  4. You continue to serve us snippets of local lore and culture – educational and entertaining, Uzo.

    When tested, the initial reaction is to reject – until and unless faith prevails.

    I’m looking forward to the next episode.

    All good wishes,
    Eric

    1. That’s absolutely true, Eric. Unless faith prevails, the subsequent reaction to a painful situation is turn away from the one we serve.

      I’m happy you’re enjoying the tradition–quite rich in its own way–incorporated with this tale.

        1. Wow, it’s an honour to share with you the greeting similar to Namaste. Here it’s ‘Ndeewo.’ Here it’s a greeting and can loosely stand for ‘Thank you.’

          1. So, how do one use it… ‘Ndeewo’ when you just enter his home :)) … or as you leave… or both times (like we use Namaste).

            And what is the hand/head gesture (the equivalent of folder hands accompanying namaste).

            1. Oh yes, like ‘Namaste’ a similar gesture accompanies ‘Ndeewo.’ For a man greeting an older person, he’s meant to bow his head and extend his ‘right’ hand with the ‘left’ holding it for a shake. For a woman greeting a man older than her (not wife to her husband because it’s odd), she bends slightly at the waist for the man to tap her on the back as a sign he has accepted the greeting. This woman to man greeting is not general, though. My part of Igbo land are one of the few that still uphold it. For the woman to woman or man in general, she also bows and does the same as earlier stated.

              I love Indian movies and love it whenever the characters say ‘Namaste.’ It’s so sweet, so angelic.

              1. That sounds so dignified and respectful at once. Wonderful!
                I must confess though, my son and others of his generation (my son is 17) are totally American and namaste is an alien gesture to them, except when greeting people in their grandparents generation. I insist on that… at the very minimum. 🙂

                Ndeewo, friend!

              2. When I was still living my parents they also insisted on this because they feared it would be lost due to western influence. Now, I value it more than the western form considering the strong significance attached to those gestures.

                Ndeewo, MJ (Haha! That’s beautiful)

  5. Kudos to you, Uzoma. Once again, I love how you pique my interest throughout, imparting rich cultural material while also moving the plot forward with interesting dialogue and characters! Looking forward eagerly to more, more. Good luck and enjoy….

    1. Many thanks to you, Sirena. I’m happy you’re enjoying the tradition–quite rich in its own way–incorporated with this tale. It makes it…Africanah! 😀 Till next week, then.

    1. That’s a brilliant question/thought, Lena. I bet she’ll literally freak out or better put, will curse the gods. You’ve given me something to think over while trying to write the second half of this story. And I’ve to thank you in a special way for it. Your readership is much appreciated.

    1. Oh, it does. From the women’s angle, I believe I could share more about my culture and tell the story with boring my readers and myself :).

    1. Aw, that will be an honour. Because of inadequate time, I feel guilty of not giving proper attention to my favorite blogs (which includes yours). Thanks for the handsome feedback, Sheri.

  6. Where is this leading? Something’s not right, the air is changing, there’s a chill growing in the momentum. Like how you’ve set this up for next week, just not sure what your hiding yet, but I’m still caught up in it and am liking the period the story is set within at present.

    1. Haha. You’re right. I intend to take my readers by surprise in the next installment with something which probably is least expected. I’m happy and honoured too that you’ve continued to share your thoughts on this story.

  7. I like the mystery and also, the young woman’s question, how could she dedicate herself to a special being if her family was not protected. Not all cultures appreciate their women having their own opinion. I like this! Great writing, I agree with seanbidd, you have a chill growing and momentum!

    1. You’re absolutely right, Robin. Many years ago (the period of this fiction story), it was a taboo for a woman among my people to voice her opinion without permission. In this story, Okuoba’s frustration and questions only adds to mystery, granting me the opportunity to share with the world this aspect of the Igbo tradition. Glad you are still drawn to the story. Your kind support is much appreciated.

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