Thursday, 6 September 2012

Rest in Peace Dear Father (Okonkwo)

 "Gone - flitted away, taken the stars from the night and the sun. From the day! Gone, and a cloud in my heart." This is what had came through my little heart after saying goodbye to my late father, Okonkwo. Deep inside my heart, no matter how cold our relationship are but he is still my father, the man that brought me to this world. Without him, I would not be here, standing on the earth.
Okonkwo's action in killing himself is not a surprise to me because everything has fallen apart for him. He knows that he can't save our village and the Igbo traditions no matter how hard and fiercely he tries. I believe that he assures himself that he will continue the resistance, even if he has to do it alone. I know him, he will be manly in his actions and fight even to the end. Deep inside of me still remains the feeling of regret and this question still hunting me, "why didn't I help him to fight for the Igbo people?" The only answer that I can give to myself is "acceptance". I need to be accepted. Looking back on how Okonkwo had treated me and how he killed Ikemefuna, these were the reasons why I've betrayed him, these were the reasons why I did not help him to fight against the missionaries because the only acceptance that I've received is from the Christian religion. But no matter how much I dislike my Okonkwo, he is still my only father, a man that I called "a hero".

Now, all I could do is to pray for him: May the road rise up to meet you, may the wind be ever at your back.  May the sun shine warm upon your face and the rain fall softly on your fields.  And until we meet again, may God hold you in the hollow of his hand. Looking back on our memories although it was not so memorable but I know why the reason it hurts so much to separate, it is because our souls are connected, a father and a son relationship. I wanted a perfect ending.  Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end.  Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. Although Okonkwo's death is terrible for me but I need to forget about the past and move on to the future. Farewell dear father and thank you for everything.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

The Unmasking of the Egwugwu

      Sunday- today is the day where the annual ceremony was held in Umofia, the annual worship of the earth goddess in honor of the earth deity. At such times, the ancestors of the clan who had committed to Mother Earth at their death emerged again as Egwugwu through tiny ant holes, this is when the masked spirits were abroad. The Christian women who had been to church could not therefore go home. Some of their men had gone out to beg the Egwugwu to retire for a short while for the women to pass. They agreed and were already retiring, when Enoch boasted aloud that they would not dare to touch a Christian. Whereupon they all came back and one of them gave Enoch a good stroke of the cane. Enoch was so mad that he unmasked the Egwugwu in public. I was there when this tragedy happened and I was shocked to see the revealing of the Egwugwu. I was pondering and asking myself, "is this another sign of things falling apart in our clan?"

      Through what I have learnt from my culture and beliefs, in tradititonal Igbo religion, the ancestral spirit communicates through the Egwugwu. The Igbo believes that during this time, the human underneath the mask is not present; the mask is transformed into the spirit. Thus, Enoch's action by unmasking the Egwugwu kills the ancestral spirit. Besides, I'm sure that his action cause some of the clan members to question their long-held sacred beliefs regarding the Egwugwu and maybe some of them will leave their religion and convert to Christian because their beliefs seems to be gradually torning apart. Apparently, I'm one of them. Nevertheless, this tragedy also represents the climax of confrontation between the traditional Igbo religious beliefs and the Christians and to a great extent, this also symbolize the broader cultural confrontation.

      Eventually, after this cruel tragedy happened, I have no doubt in why I've converted to Christianity. After all the Igbo religion is slowly torning apart. The unmasking of the Egwugwu is one of the example. I will not belief in a religion that is not strong enough. As for me, I'm more attracted to the Christian faith.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Embracing Christianity

The missionaries were given a portion of the Evil Forest. I was afraid that they wouldn’t last there. I am greatly interested in the new religion they are preaching. But, the Evil Forest is the haunted place in every clan. How can they survive there? As time passed by, nothing bad happened to them. None at all! Everyone was puzzled. How can they survive in the Evil Forest? They won their converts by surviving the Evil Forest.
            Although I am attracted to the new faith, I dare not approach them personally. I fear for my father. I know that he will be very mad if he knew that his son is interested in Christianity. Whenever they preach in the open marketplace or the village playground, I was there though. I always made time to listen to their preaching. That was when I knew about church. My heart itched to go there, to be with them. But, I couldn't.

            More and more converted when the missionaries survived the twenty-eight days. They even had a woman! I become more confident on the new faith. Slowly after that, I socialized with the Christians. Never did I think that my cousin, Amikwu would saw me then. He told my father. When I returned, father asked me where am I from. I ignored him. I never did that before. Somehow, I think that he has no right to know.
            Furious, he gripped me by my neck and threatens to kill me if I don’t answer him. He even hit me! Even so, I did not answer him. Finally, he stopped when Uchendu scolded him. When he left, I knew that he has disowned me. Somehow, I was glad. I can embrace Christian. I decided to go to Umuofia to learn in the school. Someday, I’ll return to convert his mother, brothers and sisters. I believed that Christian is the best religion.

Monday, 3 September 2012

New Religion

The second year of our exile, Obierika visited us. He brought along the news of the wiping out of Abame by white men. I wonder why those white men come here. Are they too believed in the Oracle? They must be strong to wipe out the entire clan of Abame. Somehow, I was hoping to see them. I never thought that they would come to Mbanta. Their arrival in Mbanta was rather welcomed, considered what happened to Abame. We do not want to be wiped out like the other clan. I was thrilled about their arrival. Why wouldn’t I? When will be the next moment of my life would I see a man with different skin tone and language?
            I turned out not being alone. Everyone in the village seems interested to see the white man by their own eyes. They came at the right moment as the harvest was over. The white man came with four more Ibo man. He spoke through one of them as interpreter. He told us that he came to ask us to leave our religion as ours are the wrong one. Everyone thinks that they were crazy. However, I was somehow delighted to hear what he said. Something tells me that they said the right thing. The white man promised to let us ride the ‘iron horse’ when they live in Mbanta. I felt like jumping in joy when he said that. Perhaps, I could learn about that new religion they are saying about.
            They sang a song that tells a story of brothers who lived in darkness and fear. I was captivated by the song. Somehow, it answers the question about the killing of twins in their custom and also Ikemefuna. I was relieved when I heard the hymm. I do not understand Trinity but I would like to. Maybe, this religion makes more sense than the Oracle. Maybe, the missionaries were right. Maybe, just maybe, I belong there more than I belong to my father.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Ikemefuna is Gone

“That boy calls you father. Do not bear a hand in his death.” That was what Ogbuefi Ezeudu told my father during his visit while we were enjoying our meal after the locusts descended. The next day, a group of elders came over early in the morning. We were sent out before they began to speak in low tones. I began to feel uneasy; the elders never came for visiting two days consecutively. After they left, father sat still with his chin supported by his palms for a long time. The feeling grow stronger when I saw him in that state: he never had been that way before. When he finally called Ikemefuna to tell him that he was to be taken home the next way, it made some sense to me. He loves Ikemefuna as a son, truly.
            I cried, because part of me knew that Ikemefuna is not going home to Mbaino while the other big part of me felt worthless. Will father be that sad if it was me? I didn’t care of how much father hated me being a woman; I didn’t care if he beats me to death. The next day, despite being discouraged by Ogbuefi Ezeudu, father took part of the ceremony. It was so quiet here; all of us seemed to know the truth. I cried and cried the whole day. It wasn’t fair for Ikemefuna. Why should it be sacrifices – because the Oracle says so?
            I found out that before Ikemefuna dying, he thinks of father as his “real father” and how his mother would be thankful to him for returning her son. He even thought of what he would tell his mother. This made me hates my father more! What kind of father would kill his own son because the Oracle says so? However, what made me really mad was that father killed Ikemefuna because he was afraid of being thought weak as Ikemefuna asked for his help. How can he live with that memory of Ikemefuna calling him ‘father’ yet he is the one who killed Ikemefuna?
            I remembered the time when I heard the voice of infant crying in the thick forest when father came back. It was the same feeling I felt when I knew Ikemefuna is killed by my own father – a sense of rebelling. I hated the customs of the clan. I hated my father for not being able to put down his ego. I hated his values of masculinity. 

Saturday, 1 September 2012

When Ikemefuna,my brother is living with us...

         My brother, Ikemefuna is a lively boy despite the crying him when he first came to our clan. He is two years elder than me, but he seems to know anything and everything. If you can mention it, then he can do it. He knows how to fashion out flutes from bamboo stems and elephant grass; he knows the name of all the birds; he can set clever traps for little bush rodents. He even knows which trees made the strongest bow! How amazing he is! I start to respect him and rely on him. In some way, I felt that he is like my father, my ideal father that will help me in everything that I am not good in and teach me many interesting skills and knowledge. I gain a lot from him.

            Ikemefuna has slowly become part and parcel of our family and I do think that my father, Okonkwo becomes very fond of him. Even he never shows any emotion openly. He treated my brother just like everyone else in my family. He beats him when he did mistakes too. But, I can see and feel that my father is having a high expectation on him. Perhaps Okonkwo sees ray of hope on my brother that he thinks cannot be fulfilled by me. I know he becomes important to my father when he allowed my brother to accompany him, carrying his tool and his goat skin bag. This was my job previously but Ikemefuna has taken over my job. It is good for me also as I can carry fewer burdens with my brother has taken over it and become the eldest son in the family.  At least, my life is less of beating from Okonkwo after Ikemefuna has come. And I am not sure since when on, my brother has started to call Okonkowo as father.

            Once in a while, I will think of how my brother was being separated from his own parents and family. Then I will start to remind myself to treat my brother as nice as possible to be the closest one of him here, in a clan that is away from his clan. We have lots of fun together. We plan yam seeds together, hunt small animals together and I like to listen to his stories-telling. His folk seem like would never finish be told. Even some of the folk have been told by my clan’s people, but I felt different with a freshness of a different clan when the stories were told by my brother. I enjoy it very much.

            Besides of teaching me, caring me and playing with me, I slowly realize that Ikemefuna has influenced me in many ways. I felt like I have grown up after staying with him for almost 3 years. I try to follow his steps in doing things as I respect him. I know he likes to watch our father tapping palm tree in the evening and so I follow him. I no more spend my evening in my mother’s hut to watch her cooking. I think I am more masculine than before. I am happy that I can slowly get near to my father’s expectation and not to let him down. I am trying hard now. I want to be like my brother. 

Friday, 31 August 2012

My Father and I

              My father and I have neither a good nor close relationship. Yes, do not be surprise about it. I am just not the best for him. I can’t achieve what he wants me to be, I am not as strong as him and I know that he is disappointed at me. But, I just don’t know what to do about it. I know I could never be like my father.

                Living together with Okonkwo as a family, I hardly able to feel the love from him, as a father. He constantly nags me and beats me whenever I did something wrong, even a small little mistake. Perhaps he thinks that by doing so he could turn me into his idea of what a real man is. Not only that, I am always the frequent object of his criticism and remains emotionally unfulfilled. I felt so stressful to be the eldest son of the famous wrestler and leader of the Umofia clan. The high expectation of my father towards me is too hard to be achieved and I barely can breathe. Love- this is the only thing I hope from him but why can’t Okonkwo as my father give me? Why is it so hard to get even slightly of love from him? What so ever with the thought of being weak if he shows his love towards me? It is his pride more important or me, his son? I just couldn't understand.

                My father always encourages me to sit with him in his obi and then he will tell me the stories of the land –masculine stories of violence and bloodshed. I know it was right to be masculine and to be violent but I really have no interest in those violence stories he is interested in. I still preferred the stories that my mom used to tell me like the stories about the trickster figure the Tortoise, and about how Vulture worked to bring rain back to the people. Sometimes I just don’t feel like feigning that I no longer cared for women's stories. I really hope my father can understand me and let me be myself.

                There was once I saw Okonkwo beating Ojiugo, his youngest wife during the Week of Peace. Even when my mom and Okonkwo’ second wife pleaded him not to do so in the sacred week, my father just wouldn’t stop beating Ojiugo. I know him well. He is not the kind of person would stop beating someone half-way through, not even for fear of a goddess. Another even terrify experience I have was my father beat his second wife, Ekwefi and fired his gun at her during the Feast of New Yam. Thank God that he did not manage to shot her. If not, I really can’t bear to see the bloody scene. Can you imagine how violent my father is? I just couldn’t be like my father type of person. Surely, I will not beat anyone even he or she did mistake. 

Thursday, 30 August 2012

The Arrival of Ikemefuna in My Family

         Ikemefuna was a fifteen-year-old boy from a neighbouring clan, Mbaino. I remembered vividly that it was on Monday. My father, Okonkwo returned home with a lad of a young virgin after two days in Mbaino. And Ikemefuna was the lad my father brought back. He was given to our clan, Umofia as a sacrifice for killing one of the women of Umofia. Okonkwo as the leader of our clan was asked to look after Ikemefuna in the interim before his fate was decided. That time, I was so afraid of a new person going to appear and live together with us in my house.

            My mother was being told to look after Ikemefuna by Okonkwo when Ikemefuna was brought home. His arrival was surprising us and questions were not allowed to be asked. When he was taken to my mom’s hut, I could see beads of cold sweat all over his body. His face was as pale as a sheet. I knew that he was terribly afraid. In my heart, I felt pity of him although his existence made me feel very much uneasy. Perhaps he could not understand what was happening to him or what he had done that caused him to be taken here, away from his clan. How could he know that his father had taken a hand in killing a daughter of my clan? The feeling of not knowing anything and been taken out from house, then handed over to a stranger is not something that I can imagine and understand.

            Ikemefuna was so afraid at first. He spoke nothing but "when shall I go home?" Whenever i heard him saying so, my tears would course down my cheeks. Once or twice he tried to run away but it is understandable as I would do the same if I were him. How suffer it is to be apart from his family. He even lost his appetite in eating. I really didn’t know what I could do for him seeing him suffered like this. But my family treat him just like he is one of our family members. My mother is very kind to him and treated him as one of her own children. I saw my mother taking care after Ikemefuna for three weeks when he was sick and when he recovered, he seemed to have overcome his great fear and sadness. I felt relieved to see Ikemefuna without his trembling and fear. I didn’t know why I feel so to him. The strange feeling of wanting to be close with him came into my mind from nowhere. I just could not bear to see him alone. 

           I hope I can be his friend here in Umofia. But what would my father say about me if I tried to befriend him?