I MUST NEVER FORGET ADEOTI GBEMISOLA FOR HIS POEM: NAKED SOLES, THAT SET MY CREATIVE MIND OFF THE HOOK-THE AUTHOR, NOVEMBER 2014
OUR CARNIVAL OF NAKED SOLES
The stunning and chilly air, an African Night of entertainment. In the mood for a festive season. The fluffy clouds are gathering, the thunders are rumbling, the atmosphere is set. Suddenly it all stops, a dense cold blanket of air engulfs all. The moon starts rising, gently. Instantly, spirals of dusts starts sailing through the air. This was when the reverberating sounds of the drums become audible.
“Look, the distant rumbling of the drums are here! The drums of ecstasy!” The old woman joyfully exclaimed. “The ecstasy of our people. Come on, come my children. It is finally here, the great drums of joy. It lifts my spirit to th seventh heavens. The moon is almost full; its true silver color has blossomed. The evil wind of oppression has blown away forever. Mmegbu and her people have been defeated forever. We have triumphed over them; they can no longer touch us. Therefore, let us go!”
LIKE US ON FACEBOOK
“Go where, Ncheta?” The people asked anxiously.
“To our carnival of naked soles. A priceless and cherished heritage. What we are here for. Down the narrow paths of Ohu. Our once unwilling feet now match gallantly on the thorns of
pain. The thorns may pierce our soles, but it is in ecstasy. We celebrate our victory over oppression, slavery, perpetual servitude, captivity, discrimination, marginalization and hardship.”
The people in their various colours, shades and sizes gathered around the white cladded old woman. Ncheta was her name. They formed a ring around her, dancing with so much reckless abandon. Ncheta was not left out, she swayed her old and tired hips like a possessed water spirit. The full moon glistened away as the drums increased its tempo. Their naked soles stamped heavily on the thorns of the narrow path of Ohu. It was the carnival of naked soles. A carnival to celebrate liberation, freedom and deliverance from the ditch of slavery. As if in automation, the drums and the dancing stopped. A cold blanket of air hung over the clouds. A knowing tension gripped everyone.
LIKE US ON FACEBOOK
“I can feel the spirit of Ugoeze overpowering me,” Ncheta said still swaying her hips. Her voice sounded so out-of-the-world. “He is carrying me off to a long, long, long time ago. A time when the snakes had legs and the fishes lived on trees, when the red haired rabbit never ate potatoes and owls flew in the morning. A time when the sun was blue in a bright white sky!”
“Was there a time like that?” The people asked, terrified and trilled the same time.
“Yes there were times like that,” Ncheta answered in her out-of-the-world tone. “It was at that time a man called Ugoeze was born. Born, a royal birth. He towered above the clouds. His skin was darker than the coals of Enugu. His body was carved so skillfully, it makes me doubt if God created him in a day. He looked like a demi-god. I dare say; “he is the only person to be looked at and the word-“perfect” will dance out of the mouth.” Quote me wrong!”
“Oh, what a perfection molded into a mere mortal! That explains where we got our perfect body from! A great gift to cherish forever!” The people said in an unreserved admiration.
“One terrible year, the soldiers of Mmegbu raided our village. They butchered our people in large numbers. Those monsters beheaded our great king and his wife. They carried the ‘beaded’ heads of our royalties and laid it at the feet of King Tigbue of Mmegbu kingdom. Ugoeze was carried away. Away, with his two year old brother Nna along with thousands of others. To their land, far across the Blue River.”
“What a pity?!” The people were now in tears.
“Pity them my children, pity them. Our prince, the heir apparent was taken away alongside our brothers and sisters. Yes, I can see them clearly. The footpaths of Ohu narrowed as they marched on. Their footsteps were sluggish, they were being unwillingly dragged. It was not gallant as that of soldiers; it was the steps of slaves walking into the unknown. Strokes from the tiny raffia canes of the soldiers urged them on. It stung them painfully, it never made a sound. Their sweat soaked backs have absorbed the sounds of the raffia cane. Sending spirals of shock down their spine.”
“Our sweat soaked backs! Our backs of endurance, enduring our pain. Hanging our heads in shameful cowardice.” The people could almost feel the sting of the raffia cane.
“They matched on slowly. The iron chains and collars of captivity rattled and glistened in the sun, slightly burning their skin. The naked children slaves with their spindly legs and protruding bellies walked in front. The men and women followed the children closely. Not even a penteri was used to cover the dignity of their sexuality. The soldiers of Mmegbu robbed them of their dignity, my dignity and our dignity”.
“We feel as naked as them, Ncheta,” the people moaned.
“Ugoeze, our prince was there with them. Helpless. He always had his eyes on his two year brother who was in front of the slave procession. Keep quiet, it is becoming clearer! I can see Nna, he just stumbled and fell. He needs water, his chest burns of thirst, just as my heart. “He needs water!” Ugoeze screamed. “He will have enough to drink. What impudence!” That brute, that Mmegbu General said as he bashed Nna’s head on the walnut tree.”
“Ncheta stop, our heart is bleeding,” it was an unanimous bleeding from the people.
“So is my heart. Ugoeze is still helpless. He saw his brother’s brains shattered on the walnut tree, some of the shattered contents landed on his lips. Yet, he is being urged on by the silent stinging strokes of the soldiers. It quaked his very marrow and a painful lump came to his throat. It was too painful for our prince to swallow.”
“We will swallow the painful lump for him!” The people echoed with concession.
“I can see the city of Mmegbu, in all its splendor of hate. The soldiers are approaching the city with their war booty. The city gates are opened, there is so much laughter. The Mmegbu women are exquisitely dressed to welcome their gallant soldiers that butchered their enemies. Their neck are bedecked with gold and their bodies had the scent of jasmine. I can see their pretentious laughter; they are laughing through clenched teeth. Laughing at our horrible horrifying nightmares. Wait! What are they doing? They are mauling the slaves, they are throwing stones and dirt at them. Those foolish Mmegbu women are giggling at our men; they are pulling the strings of their manhood. Even Ugoeze! Without fear, that unwashed woman is pulling the strings of his royal manhood.”
“The strings of his royal manhood! The very strings that sired us!” This was taunted by the people in anger.
“It is the Honor Night. King Tigbue confers the honor of Ogbundioma to his brute of a general.The slaves are shared out to the King’s household and the households of the nobles. The blemished ones are reserved to be thrown to the lions. This was King Tigbue’s favorite show. A show for him to savor the agony of his captives. Ugoeze was handed over to the beautiful princess- Ogonna.”
“A beautiful princess? Can something good come out from Mmegbu?” A small boy said, wondering in disbelief.
“Oh don’t have a single story about a particular place. There must be at least a good egg in a basket of rotten eggs,” Ncheta chided the small boy.
“Why did King Tigbue unleashed his army of brutal soldiers on us?” The small boy asked. He was now shaking with fear.
“Do not worry my child, it will never happen again. Ogbundioma will never bash your head on the walnut tree, Nna has paid that price. The Mmegbu king was intoxicated with power, he had so much power. He ruthlessly wielded this power over the surface of the earth. He subdued hundreds of kingdoms and sacrificed thousands to his glory. H heard great news about our village. A vibrant land, bursting with promises and vitality. Our king has refused to bow to him. King Tigbue needed an unceasing ego massage.”
“Unceasing ego massage?” The people were confused.
“Yes, unceasing ego massage. Like everyone who was intoxicated by power, he needed his ego to be massaged. He needed an unceasing assurance of his supremacy over everything. Our King vehemently refused to fan the embers of King Tigbue’s ego. That was why his angels of death swooped down on us. We became slaves to the people of Mmegbu. It was such a tragic experience. Our women were genitally mutilated, a sacrilege. We never circumcised our women. I can hear their cries as their legs are being forced open. Is that not the brutal General with a rusty blade robbing them their dignity womanhood?”
“Womanhood! A dignity to be cherished; not thrown on the dirt for the pale pigs of Mmegbu to trample upon. What a shame! What a pity!” The people wailed in agony.
“Our men faced worse fates. They worked on the plantations wearing padlocked masks! Why? So that they might not taste the fruit of their labor! Some died of hunger, poverty, neglect and compulsory starvation. The people of Mmegbu never cared; their king was enjoying his ego massage. The stinging strokes from the slim raffia canes were still silent. The sweat soaked backs of our brothers still absorbed the sounds of the cane.”
“Still soaked with sweat? For how long; Ncheta?” It was a question for those who were in dire need of freedom.
“Be still my children, our tales of woe are not over. This everlasting king of unceasing ego massage did something terrible. He ordered Onye-Uzu, his blacksmith, to forge a sword for him. A sword using our men as life coals to fuel his smiting furnace. King Tigbue called it the Great Sword of Blood. The first of its kind! The first to be forged with the blood of men! The blood of our brothers!”
“Ezechiteokeabiama! God of rightful justice! Have you not seen our brothers being turned into piece of metal. Who will fight our course? Are we so helpless as not to deal with those who poked their fingers into our eyes!” It was a slow and sorrowful chant.
“The people of Mmegbu pushed us to the cold, hard wall. We had truly acquired the bitter taste of freedom. Ugoeze has worked his way into Ogonna’s heart. He never lost his princely charms. Nobody in the palace still remembered that he was a slave. I can’t believe my eyes, is that a smile on his face? Has he forgotten our roots? How can he be dining with the enemy?”
“Oh! What a wasted son! What a wasted prince! What a wasted effort!” There was a strong trace of disappointment in their voice.
“He finally married Ogonna,” Ncheta dropped the bombshell.
“What? An only palm fruit does not get loss in the fire”, the people lamented.
“I say again; be still. Let us not be faster than our shadows. Ugoeze never forgot the taste of his brother’s brain, it still remained green in his memory. On his marriage ceremony, Ugoeze challenged his father-in-law to a duel. Hush! I can hear him saying: “King Tigbue as arrogant as beastly. I use this occasion to challenge you to a duel. A duel to avenge the brutal raid of my village! A duel for the liberation of my brothers and sisters whom you forced into slavery.”
“What a courageous son! Someone that is worthy to be proud of.” The people were now happy.
“The proud King Tigbue reached for his sword. What is that look on his face? Ogonna had exchanged his great sword of blood with Ugoeze’s own. Tigbue needed more ego massage. He accepted the duel and as such, he accepted his doom. The strength of our men who burned in the blacksmith’s furnace to forge the sword strengthened Ugoeze. He beheaded King Tigbue. A man of valor! He has liberated us! Doom to Mmegbu.
“All hail Ugoeze our knight in shining armor.” An ecstatic young man declared.
“Ugoeze is more than a knight in shining armor. He is our knight in glittering armor. The scales of slavery have fallen off our eyes. Our enslaved brothers have fallen upon the Mmegbu soldiers. We have triumphed over them, we have conquered them and we are victorious indeed. No more unceasing ego massage! No more life coals for the King’s sword! No more working with padlocked masks on the plantation! No more silent stinging strokes from the slim raffia canes.”
“What happened to Ugoeze?” The people asked anxiously.
“Ah! It breaks my heart. It is impossible for me to tell you about the Ugoeze’s Legend without leaving a bitter taste in my mouth.” Ncheta said in tear stricken voice.
“Bitter taste?” The people were confused.
“A very bitter taste. It is like drinking sweetened milk and using stalks of aloe Vera as dessert. General Ogbundioma lived up to his name. His arrow pierced through Ugoeze’s heart. He died in Ogonna’s arms. He made his people promise him something. Meanwhile, he had planted his royal seeds into Ogonna before he died.”
“What a hope rising! A new beginning! It is dawn in the dusk!” The people were deeply touched.
“He told them to go through the narrow paths of Ohu, every year. He said that they must converge at this very walnut tree were Nna’s head was bashed into pieces. He died and went up to the heavens. However he had fallen off a rope on his journey to heaven. Ugoeze will one day come to us, we don’t know how long. We believe and pray that on one of our carnivals of naked soles, we will meet him at the walnut tree.”
So we followed Ncheta and continued our carnival of naked soles still dancing to the rythymic harmony of the rolling drums.The thorns continued to pierce our naked soles and blood gradually seeped out of the wounds moistening the ground with soft red spots. We screamed, not in pain, but in ecstasy of freedom from eternal servitude. We were helpless with our joy! A great load has been heaved off our shoulders.The dancing and drumming resumed, it was at its peak. Ncheta still danced like a possessed water spirit.
Our eyes darted around with expectations. Even after all these years we still hoped to see Ugoeze at the walnut tree. We know he is gazing down on all of us waiting for the perfect moment to swing down and be welcomed into our new world. How he would adapt will never be a problem.The clouds were gathering in the distance. Their soft fluffy forms were cascading down on us. The rumblings of the thunder fulls the air, the spark of lightening becomes our fireworks. The rains were coming down soon, it would drench us and platter mud on our bodies. We do not care because it is a sign of victory!
CLICK HERE to like us on Facebook
MINI GLOSSARY: From Igbo to English
Ezechiteokeabiama: God of rightful justice
Ncheta: To remember
Ogbundioma: The legendary killer of good people
Ogonna: The in-law of God
Penteri: A short piece of clothing
Tigbue:To beat up
Ugoeze: Kingly pride
FOR THE YOUNG AT HEART