Like Zombies they follow the faceless voices that bark orders under the cover of darkness.
They cocked their guns and shot the defenceless.
The world is watching.
The undead move on.
The dead will never be forgotten.
Like Zombies they follow the faceless voices that bark orders under the cover of darkness.
They cocked their guns and shot the defenceless.
The world is watching.
The undead move on.
The dead will never be forgotten.
There was no escaping, there was nowhere to hide, I couldn’t be a wall flower today, I had just found out that today was day I was to be signed over. I called my other, she did not come. There was no taunting today, no Sleeping beauty to my Cinderella, today was the day to let down her hair and come save me.
One of the older sisters had summoned me after Morning Prayer, she asked me to sit on a low stool and began to paint intricate designs in henna on my feet and hands, her designs were basic, I could do better.
I asked her why, she smiled and said, ‘Your time has come’.
‘Time has come for what’ I asked, ‘am I to be released, am I to be killed or what?
She smiled again, fake smile, the kind that showed your teeth but never reached your eyes.
‘Abdul Rahman has chosen you, you are lucky’
And so it dawned on me, I was to be married to Abdul Rahman, a man child I had never met, I had heard the other women say he was one of the mean young ones, he was assured martyrdom, a chosen one, he tricked some of new the girls into speaking English and got them punished, western education, western languages were banned, in defiance all my thoughts were in English, I prayed in English, I sung to myself in English, I counted each day in English, they could steal my freedom but not my thoughts.
And so I waited for my turn, I was told by one of the older girls that it was to be between Zuhr and Asr prayers.
‘It won’t be that bad’ she said,
‘Just think of past good times, at least you will belong to someone’.
I can’t imagine why she thought it was a good thing, may be the sun had got to her head, she’d been here too long.
The call to prayer went out, we washed and prayed… and then it started, I and five other girls were ushered into a room, the youngest was 9, I knew her, we lived on the same street, her parents were rich, they had the big house with a bore hole and would open their gates to let people fetch water for free. They were nice to me when my other decided she had had enough, the world was too cruel, people were too cruel, she was the smart one and I was the beauty. What does beauty do for you when you’re trapped?
‘I told you to come with me, but you wanted to stay’ she whispers.
She has an annoying habit of whispering.
‘Mum and dad would have got over us, they would have had more children, now they don’t know whether you alive or dead’.
We were each given a clean Hijab, a pair of new shoes and a gold bangle, the older sister rubbed my feet with camwood and cheap perfume, the smell made me gag, throwing up might put the Nikai off for a day or two, but would also get me punished. The Imam called my name – the new name.
‘A Muslim husband must look after his wife, she is his property and he is her property, she must do everything he says without question’….
She who submits to Nikai is truly blessed and highly favoured
And he went on and on quoting made up verses, while dabbing his forehead with a dirty handkerchief
I was led over to Abdul Rahman, dressed in a flowing white Kaftan with a black skull cap, he didn’t look at me, I doubt whether he knew any more than I did about marriage, his beard, which all the men were encouraged to grow was a sparse as the hair on his head, he couldn’t be more than eighteen, I doubt if he knew one end of a women from the other. He looked familiar. The Iman asked if he was willing to marry me he said, yes, I was not asked for my opinion. I looked at him again and understood why he couldn’t look at me, what holy book says that a man can marry his half -sister?…
‘Be quiet, don’t say a word and you will go home soon’.
Maybe there was light at the end of this dark tunnel, maybe the parents will get one child back.
I yearn for the days we took smiles for granted.
When our smiles didn’t quite reach our eyes. But we smiled anyway. When it sealed deals, opened doors and started something special.
I miss the reciprocal toothy grins from babies in push chairs.
My smile is hidden behind my floral cotton mask, inhaling this morning’s breakfast.
I move it to answer your call, smiling at the sound of your voice. I receive a thousand deadly stares.
I’m the misanthrope in the midst of people lovers.
My smile moves back behind the mask.
Their eyes show signs of approval
I’ve missed my blog, I’ve been writing in other places and platforms. I decided to do a few courses to get over the monotony of self isolation.
Here’s an entry for a free Harvard course – edX Rhetoric: The Art of Persuasive Writing and Public Speaking
Funeral rites in Southern Nigeria. It’s time to stop punishing widows.
On my first day of University – my father said to me ‘have fun, study hard but don’t come back and tell me that you’re going marry a southerner’. As usual for an 18-year-old, I rolled my eyes and waited for a tirade about the Nigerian Civil war. ‘Not that’, he continued, ‘they’re nice people, but if he dies before you, you’re in trouble’. I didn’t think anything of it until a friend’s husband died in his early forties and her life was turned upside down by the people she called family all in the name of honouring the dead and that oft repeated phrase – it’s tradition.
The death of loved one is a distressing period in anyone’s life, why in some parts of southern Nigeria do we subject the widow to even more agony?, we dress this up a funeral rites, telling the bewildered widow that she has nothing to fear, that she’ll be well looked after and that her participation and consent to the rites means that she had nothing to do with her husband’s ‘untimely departure’ and that her husband would expect her to honour him in this way. On the other hand, the widower is spared, he is brought freshly prepared meals every day, his clothes are washed and his kids (if has any) are watered and fed. He’ll notice that single women who claim to be his wife’s friends will come and stay and prepare his favourite food, he‘ll have trouble getting rid of some well-meaning do-gooders, but he won’t have to undergo anything uncomfortable in the name of tradition.
Should our tradition treat every widow as a suspect in her husband’s death? Does mistreating the widow and subjecting her to outdated customs bring him back? does it absolve his soul and does stripping the widow of their joint belongings under the guise of saving it for the family help the widow and her children. I’d like to talk to you about what happens to some of our women folk in the name of tradition, how we plunge knives into an already broken heart – leaving them broken, economically barren and at the mercy of the nameless gods. How equality of the sexes is still a dream in some parts of my country, and no matter how educated and economically stable you are, you’re bribed into doing things that are against your moral compass all in the name of tradition.
Please don’t get me wrong, I love the richness of Nigerian traditions, I love the fact that there is a reason for everything we do and everything we don’t do. I love finding out why certain things are taboo, in some parts of my country and openly embraced in other parts. But what may I ask is the difference between a tradition, a custom and an outdated practice? A tradition, I’m told, is a practice that has been passed down over generations and observed by most people of a society or culture while a custom could be short lived and even observed at a family or individual level. Also, while all traditions can qualify as customs, not all customs can be referred to as traditions and any of these can be outdated practices. We’ve said goodbye to some traditions, yet we hang on to others. Is it the economic gain from the funeral rites or do we like imposing punishments on our widows? Twins have always been celebrated in the western parts of Nigeria, and some parts of the south, but in certain areas of the south giving birth to multiple babies at the same time was regarded as curse on the whole family. People believed that one of the twins or triplets was evil and had purposely self-replicated, as no-one could tell which one was evil and which one was good they were both left to die in the forest, occasionally childless couples would rescue one baby and leave the other, who may or may not be picked up by another couple seeking a child. Thanks to Mary Slessor – we banished that custom in the early 1900s. Some traditions keep us in chains, it’s time we broke free, it’s time to pick out the good bits and leave the rest to folklore.
It is said that two things in life are guaranteed – death and taxes, however our tradition, mysticism and the need to blame someone means that unfortunate widow gets lumbered with the frustration and grief of a family coming to terms with an unexpected end. When a married man dies, after the initial shock, and depending on the economic situation of the family, the family gears up for the funeral rites – this process may last up to 3 months. The widow is meant to stay indoors for the first 28 days, the mourning period, she is not allowed to work or make any of the arrangements herself. In the days before her husband is buried, the widow cannot wash or take care of the house, in some cases you might not feel like doing anything, but having this forced on you is another burden to bear, the widow may be asked to sit on the floor or a low stool. Her food is prepared separately, and she is fed by another widow from either a broken or an old plate. The widow is said to be ‘unclean’ she must hold a kitchen knife, or broom stick, this is said to protect her from the spirits which may attack her during this period. Some southern groups believe this the dead man’s spirit is still hovering around and will pass over to the other side, if he sees how dirty or dishevelled his wife is. Washing is regarded as self-care and beautifying one’s self in the midst of tragedy, some think it shows that the wife did not care about her husband, other groups believe that if the widow is truly distressed she won’t have time to shower, or look after herself, the more upset she is more she can convince the husband’s family that she did not have a hand in her husband demise. So if you can give an Oscar winning performance, throw yourself down in the dirt and wail so loud that you can be heard three streets away, it shows you’re not to blame, the family will have pity on you, however if you a bit numb with grief, every barbaric act under the guise of tradition is meted out to you.
After the burial, the widow’s head and armpits are shaven by other widows in the family and, in some cases, her pubic hair is also shaven. The hair is burnt and if the woman is pregnant, the hair is buried. The shaving of hair is said to break the links between the widow and the deceased. The link is already broken I say – but the memories never fade.
Along with the trauma of losing a loved one, the widow is in constant fear of saying or doing the wrong thing, she cannot grieve in private, she cannot work the mourning period, some women do go back to work after a 5 weeks, she risks losing her business or her job and has to put on very public show to demonstrate how much she loved her husband. You might ask who pays the rent and buys the food, the widow, in some cases she is coerced into handing over joint property and money – all in the name of tradition.
In some cases, the widow is ‘given’ to one of her husband’s male relatives as a new wife, this, she told is to protect her children, so the children do not suddenly find themselves with a new stepfather. In today’s economic climate I don’t see many men queuing up to take in the new widow and her children. Have the upholders of tradition ever looked at how this affects the man who is forced to take on a new wife?, the wife is encouraged to relinquish all claim to livelihood and property that was jointly owned, this is then split between the family and the ‘newly appointed’ husband, the widow has a decision to make, marry or be kicked out of the family house, lose all your belongings or marry that relative you have always hated. How can women in the 21st century be forced into this marriage of inconvenience just to appear respectable in the eyes of the in-laws? why in this day and age do we treat our women as second-class citizens that have to be stripped of all dignity when a loved one passes? So, what happened to my friend? After a Christian burial which she paid for and other traditional rites, she refused to ‘marry’ a relative and nominated her 13 year son as her protector. A move which got the traditionalists and Christians scratching their heads. The family have not only lost a son and may never see the grandchildren but have lost access to property and belongings, the real reason why some of these traditions have not yet died a natural death. Or could it just be a simple case of older widows wanting to mete out the same penance to the younger widow because they had to endure it. It’s time we woke up, stopped punishing widows and promote the best elements of our traditions. The food, the music, the multi-faceted culture and the grit that we show in the face of adversity, these are the things that makes us Africa’s most populous nation.
A rapturous applause erupts as the big hunks of rubber hit the tarmac, seat-belts are undone and the guts of the overflowing overhead cabins began their ungainly descent. Cabin crew plead and shout for people to sit down and wait until the airplane stops. No point, Welcome to Lagos, where everything and everyone moves at the speed of more than 100 mph.
We walk to passport control, the heat embraces you gradually and then envelopes you in an unwelcome cocoon, you look at the big air conditioning units and wonder why they hum and blow sticky stale air instead of the manufacturer’s replica arctic conditions.
All around me people began to shed their layers, others soldier on and dab their brows with their clothes and dirty handkerchiefs. How else are they going to show the fruits of their early morning cleaning gigs and evening care work?. I deftly retrieve a dropped headscarf, the elderly owner whispers her thanks, looks up and then repeats it again in English. I tip my Fedora and glance at my reflection, she chuckles.
“Daddy, it’s too hot, the youngest says
I take off his shirt and put it in my pocket
“He’ll get bitten”, she says.
Finally, she speaks. I preferred the silent treatment, gives me time to think. We get to the desk, she proudly passes over the 5 red passports to the immigration officer.
“Look at this one”, gesturing in my direction with his head and speaking in his native language to no-one in particular, the other officers duly look up and give me that look.
The men’s look is the universal – lucky old man, definitely punching above his weight.
The women’s look is the – dirty old man, what he is doing with a woman half his age? I can read them a mile off. The wife says my inferences on body language are presumptuous and rude. I’ve lived long enough to know that look.
I’m 71, in great shape, with a full head of hair expertly cut into what the wife calls ‘hipster’, I should be on a cruise and discovering the world, not being civil to a pair of pot-bellied officers, and trying my best to imitate the stiff upper lip that we Brits are famous for.
‘Immigration man’ makes a show of scrutinising then stamping each passport and hands them back with a smile that is more of sneer. The wife looks away and busies herself with the kids. His accent betrays what part of the country he’s from. I thank him in perfect Yoruba and ask about his family, the look on his face is absolutely priceless, his mouth opens to answer but nothing comes out, I chuckle as sweat pools on his brow and armpits.
My joy at his discomfort is short lived, as minutes turn to hours, and the luggage the wife had lovingly marked SMITH FAMILY is nowhere to be seen. The carousel built for more conservative times, groans under the weight of globalisation, I begin to pace, the tightness returns, I breathe deeply to calm my breathing, I must finish the game before I pop.
My fingers trace the raised skin that tells the story of my last lucky hand. The St Christopher pendant that use to nestle in the centre, now pushed aside by the angry looking keloid, the wife suggested makeup – it stained my shirts. I survived a knife attack is now my go-to line.
My therapist says I need to express gratitude every day. She constantly reminds me of colleagues consumed with cerebral malaria, dengue fever and a myriad of tropical diseases, they now need people to tend to what goes in and what comes out. She thinks I should start a support group for expatriates caught in sticky situations.
“You’re good with words and coaxing the truth out of people”, she says.
I tell her that my appetite for superiority has got the better of me, I’m tired of waiting, my last hand will make the wrongs right.
A life changed by a deck of cards. A game I’d played a million times before, may be it was the sun, the therapeutic effect of the palm wine or the optimism of young bodies. I was played and had to give my name to settle my debt. Money wife they said – I could pay off my debts and get on a plane with my limbs intact.
The wife is here to bury her father, I’m here to play my winning hand and take back my name.
‘Comfort me! Make it feel better’, she shouted
Jane stared open-mouthed, could devotion be classed as bad parenting? Time to cut the apron strings.
Green pastures, black gold.
Mouths to feed, crops that don’t grow
Hunger, toil and sweat ignites discontent.
D offers a dilemma of which deliciously fabulous diva to choose as my number one.
I could start from the wonderful Donna Summer who wasn’t a diva in the real sense of the word, but had a huge impact on disco music in the seventies and eighties or I could go for the the lady that reigns supreme in my mind and is one of Motown’s greatest stars- Ms Diana Ross. Too hard to choose – they both make the list.
I’m starting with the Disco Queen – She made us Feel Love and sang about a State of independence, a lot of deep meaning in that song.
Donna Summer sashayed into our lives in 1975 with Love to Love You Baby, as a child I didn’t quite get it, but then the penny dropped. She said she recorded that song’s breathy, moaning vocals lying on her back on the studio floor with the lights out, thinking about how Marilyn Monroe might coo the words. It was and still is right on the money, methinks!
In an industry where stars are here today and gone tomorrow, Donna Summer will always be remembered for creating iconic music that sounds even better today. 41 years after it was released I feel love sounds fresh and original, I still can’t dance to it, but boy do I love it. Her career had its ups and downs, but she always created music that got her back on top reclaiming the spotlight.
Donna passed away on May 17, 2012, from lung cancer, at her home in Naples, Florida. When she died President Obama released a statement, saying, “Her voice was unforgettable, and the music industry has lost a legend far too soon.”
RIP Ms Summer.
Diana began singing in an all girl group called the Primettes, she sang with friends Mary Wilson, Florence Ballard and Barbara Martin. Barbara Martin dropped out, but the remaining members of the group went on to become the internationally successful 1960s R&B and pop trio the Supremes .
They were signed to Motown Records by label founder Berry Gordy Jr., in 1961, they scored their first No. 1 hit with Where Did Our Love Go?(1964), and went on to break music records by having a run of five singles topping the charts— Baby Love (1964), Come See About Me(1964) Stop! In the Name of Love (1965) and Back in My Arms Again(1965) — and becoming the first U.S. group ever to have five songs in a row to reach No 1.
Diana left the Supremes in 1969 and released classic the Top 20 Reach Out and Touch Somebody’s Hand and the No. 1 Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.
‘Girls just want to have fun‘ was a staple at parties when I was growing up, When the distinctive cords of Ms Cyndi Lauper came over the stereo, we got up shook our stuff Time after Time... -..We weren’t all coming home in the middle of the night, but our mamas were asking the same question – ‘when you gonna live your life right’. Rumour has it that the original lyrics of what became “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” reportedly had misogynistic undertones, Cyndi looked at it and decided to change into an empowering song for women. It is still empowering women today.
Cyndi composed the music and lyrics for the Broadway musical Kinky Boots, Harvey Fierstein wrote the book. -.it tells the story of a struggling British shoe factory’s young, straight-laced owner, Charlie, who forms an unlikely partnership with Lola, a drag queen, to save the business. Charlie develops a plan to produce custom footwear for drag queens, rather than the men’s dress shoes that his firm is known for, and in the process, he and Lola discover that they are not so different after all. It opened in Chicago in October 2012 .In May, Lauper won for best score for Kinky Boots at the 63rd annual Outer Critics Circle Awards. Lauper won the award for Best Original Score. Lauper was the first woman to win solo in this category.
More recently, Cyndi has been celebrated for her humanitarian work, particularly as an advocate for LGBT rights in the United States. Her charitable efforts were acknowledged in 2013 when the singer was invited as a special guest to attend President Barack Obama’s second-term inauguration.
Cyndi started the True Colours Fund, a non-profit that seeks to “inspire and engage everyone, particularly the straight community, to become involved in the advancement of LGBT equality.”
Cyndi says: “Everyone—whether straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender—should be allowed to show their true colours, and be accepted and loved for who they are. Every American should be guaranteed equal treatment, at school, at work, in their relationships, in service of their country…and in every part of their lives”
There are a lot people behind you Cyndi, thank you for showing your true colours.
I don’t think anyone has a bad word to say about my second diva – Queen B – aka Mrs Carter, aka Sasha Fierce. This lady might be a diva, but she has a heart of Gold, in December 2016 she was named the Most Charitable Celebrity of the year, she’s not spending all those dollars on herself.
Recently Queen B has been doing what all mums do – go grocery shopping! Look for bargains and push a trolley (shopping cart to you guys in the US) around the supermarket, what’s the big deal? she’s a diva, I hear you say…she shouldn’t be doing that! she has minions to do that for her…. yeah I know, but sometimes you just want to touch and feel what you’re buying. Good on you Mrs Carter I say.
The latest story about this diva is the ‘Who bit Beyoncé non-story? – as if anyone would dare get close enough to touch her face let alone sink their teeth into her, a whole load of cods wallop (fishguts🤮) and speculation going nowhere is my verdict!
What’s interesting is that Beyoncé lets this speculation fester rather than shutting it down. “She doesn’t provide the answers,” says Canadian journalist Lainey Lui. “She makes us look for the answers – you don’t just enjoy Beyoncé, you study Beyoncé. To create this distance, this mystique, requires discipline – the discipline to release your work into the world without being tempted to explain it. So it really doesn’t matter whether anything is proven or disproven. It matters more that she remains elusive.” and why not? She is definitely a female version of a hustler… Divalicious.. I still want to know where this non-story is going and what the point of it is. 15 secs of fame for the alleged biter, we have yet to see.
Queen B is a mistress of contradiction. Her on-stage persona exudes this sexy all knowing diva, she says its all just for show, She embodies female empowerment, struting her stuff in her videos and singing her heart out, she controls as much of her destiny as she can – we all know we can’t control it all! Beyoncé owns her brand and slays it eveyday, even her wiki page reads like the beginning of a well written and researched biography – Beyoncé runs her world.
Inspirations: Beyoncé said in an interview with GQ magazine that”Even the silliest little thing that you hear on the radio, comes from something deeper. ’Bootylicious’ was funny, but it came from people saying that I had gained weight and me being like, ’I’m a southern woman, and this is how southern women are.’ My motivation is always to express something or to heal from something or to laugh and rejoice about something.”
Beyoncé Giselle Knowles was born in 1981 in Houston, Texas.
She started off in a teenage girl group called Girls Tyme, the group changed their name to Destiny’s Child in 1996. In 1997, Destiny’s Child released their major label debut song “Killing Time” on the soundtrack to the 1997 film, Men in Black. The following year, the group released their self-titled debut album, scoring their first major hit “No, No, No”. The album won the group three Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards for Best R&B/Soul Album of the Year, Best R&B/Soul or Rap New Artist, and Best R&B/Soul Single for “No, No, No“. The group released their Multi-Platinum second album The Writing’s on the Wall in 1999. The record features some of the group’s most widely known songs such as “Bills, Bills, Bills”, the group’s first number-one single, “Jumpin’ Jumpin'” and “Say My Name“, which became their most successful song at the time, listening to it today, it is still classy and relevant.
Fast forward to 2003 and Beyoncé branched out from the young supremes to release Dangerously in Love and her fame and well justified Divadom has been skyrocketing ever since.
Her latest work Lemonade was released on April 23, 2016, it was nominated for nine awards at the 59th Annual Grammy Awards (2017), winning Awards for Best Urban Contemporary Album and Best Music Video. Its leading single “Formation” received nominations for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Music Video, while “Hold Up”, “Don’t Hurt Yourself”, and “Freedom” were nominated in pop, rock, and rap categories.
Lemonade was listed as the sixth greatest album made by a woman of all time by NPR.
Nuff said. Beyoncé, keep on slaying it girl.