Jan 29, 2012
Nigeria Has No Business Being Soft
There was no electricity & no one wastes petrol running the gen at night. Banana palm leaves as large as elephant's ears wave noiselessly from the neighbor's yard. The wind puffs the edges of thin curtains. Devoid of the incessant background electrical hum & empty of any light but the dim glow of a cloud-scattered moon, softness was all that was left.
It should not have been soft there. Nigeria has no business being soft. The stillness there had the texture of a tropical retreat. Nigeria has no business being still either.
It must have been the witching hour when I woke... 3am... Its also possible I dreamed it.
Africa has never been a mother to me. But this was the 1st time I had an inkling of what people meant when they called Africa the "Motherland." The silence was rich, even womb-like. I notice that in Africa, my husband sleeps the slumber of deep satisfaction. In America, he sleeps the slumber of pure exhaustion. In America, he snores. In Africa, he does not.
We slept, surrounded by the verdant hills of Ilesha, sheltered by mountains locals claim are filled with gold. Ilesha is a Yoruba town. Everyone is Yoruba. Everyone speaks Yoruba. Everyone expects you to greet them in the Yoruba way (a curtsy or semi-prostration out of respect if they are older).
Traditional religious practices are rooted in voodoo & run deep in this town. But in the early morning dark I only knew a lingering sense of peace. Peace in Nigeria? That in itself was magical. Like a secret. Shhh. Don't wake us from our dreams.
I was told Ilesha was written about during pre-colonial times by Europeans, one of whom remarked on its orderliness. One of indigenous West Africa's earliest & best examples of a planned city. After the frenzy of Lagos, Ilesha's pace is easier. It quite relaxed me so I was not prepared for the unexpected. My children saw a discarded engine on the ground next to several concrete blocks in the town center. On top of the engine was a severed dog's head. Ogun, the Yoruba god of metal, has a fondness for dogs.
That same day we saw the dog head, we noticed several young men standing around the town circle, some carrying or brandishing machetes. For some reason I thought they were getting ready to perform or were on their way home from work. Turns out they were opposing political party supporters who were getting ready to rumble. There were no police to call. There would be blood. Someone might be killed. You locked your gates, locked your house and waited for the fighting to blow over. Whenever voodoo or spasms of violence possessed the town, we were well-protected behind the buffer of my father-in-law's nightly family prayers not to mention the concrete & steel compound walls.
The next day someone mentioned that a man had been stabbed the night before and might have died. No big deal. It was all over now. Back to business as usual. Just another day in Nigeria.
posted @ 12:25 AM