Today’s post is based on my first trip to Nigeria as an 11 year old, many many moons ago!
Eight o’clock in the evening and the power had gone off again, the sky was jet black and the stars twinkled like diamonds, my brother and I sat with my nearly identical twin cousins watching them cheat at Monopoly, they kept coming up with rules I’d never heard of and saying this is how we play the game in Nigeria!. Grandma sensed the tension and suggested a story. She didn’t bother when we were watching t.v, she couldn’t get our attention she said, we were more interested in the box with little people she would say.
Grandma didn’t speak English, her stories were in Yoruba(local language) –with sprinklings of Pidgin English. She started the words Alo oh Alo! (story story), we replied Alo (story) – she had our attention… Esther the little girl from the next house walked in and my cousins began to whisper.
“What is she doing here?” said Kenny – I called her twin one
“We don’t want her and her friends spoiling the fun, she’s possessed by some spirit.
“How do you know?” I asked
“Look at her face, she has cuts and bruises all over her face and she fits and then goes into a trance every so often”
“and does that make her a spirit child? I asked, and as if on cue, Esther fell and started fitting
“See, I told you!” said twin two, “she is talking to her spirit friends”
My grandma got up and rolled Esther onto her side.
Esther had epilepsy – her parents did their best, but people in the area especially children of my age made fun of her because we thought she was possessed by a spirit.
Her extended family helped by taking her to church and praying, they took her to the local medicine-man, who prayed for her, offered libations to a few different gods and made her drink and bathe in a thousand different herb infused potions
I have lost touch with Esther, but as an adult I look back and think how easy it was to let beliefs, customs and ignorance cloud my reasoning and judgement.
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