‘THE GIFT OF YEMOJA’ by Ajenifuja Adetokunbo (7/8)

“What an elder sees while sitting down, a child will never see it if he climbs an iroko tree.” “A dog destined to be lost does not hear the hunter’s whistle.” Osunfunke didn’t care about these twin proverbs. Not anymore. Her father’s favourite sayings to his children. Nothing could stop her from marrying her heart-throb! For this white man to whom her heart belonged, she would rather be that dog in her father’s proverb. She had said this to herself but her mother overheard her. Ibidun had walked up to her daughter from behind. Osunfunke had been standing at the threshold, placing her left hand on the agorodi or dwarf bamboo door as though to close it. She would have heard her mother’s footsteps if it wasn’t for the music from the parading gangan drummers. On seeing her mother, she had quickly sidestepped from the threshold; leapt across the dusty compound like a deer that had narrowly escaped a hunter’s gunshot. “I’m not beating you. Come, come my daughter. All we are saying is for your own good.” Head lowered, Osunfunke began fiddling with the edge of her wrapper and blouse, an indigo fabric which she had tie-dyed by herself. She trusted her mother’s word more than her father’s. That old man would claim he had forgiven a child but would later punish the child when it was least expected. She was stepping close to her mother, timidly like a teen age girl; a maiden of twenty-four at that. Ibidun, like every other mother in the community, was neither too harsh nor too lenient on her child. “My princess, my pride,” Ibidun started stroking her daughter’s beaded earrings and the cowries in her shuku coiffure, “the precious gift of Yemoja, my compassionate mother who heals a child from her sweet, cold water. You are the offspring of great Osogbo. The land of indigo dye. Of rich kola. Of brave warriors. You are the pet of my mother that makes playful tunes from her bangles of brass. My mother who rules the kingdom of the ocean and dances to the awe of the moon…” Ibidun went on and on. This was Osunfunke’s oriki or ancestral praise. In Yoruba land, every territory, every creature and deity had unique oriki. Osunfunke was smiling now. She imagined herself in the bosom of the river, dancing with Yemoja and getting a share of her tinkling brass bracelets. Many a time, Yemoja had appeared to her in her sleep. Osunfunke was always pleased by the tone with which her mother recited this oriki. Sometimes, Osunfunke would be singing and dancing like a wild fire but her mother knew it. She’d been possessed by Yemoja or Yeye Osun. Osunfunke, meaning “Osun’s child in my care” was a gift from Yemoja. Ibidun was the second out of the four wives in her husband’s household. Barren for a decade, she decided to worship Yemoja and the goddess had finally put a smile on her face. “May Osun purify your mind,” Ibidun said to her daughter after the recitation of oriki, “now go and resume your work. The sun has retired already.” She rushed to the dyeing spot; row of five earthen pots half buried beside the house. Ibidun had purposely recited the oriki to make her daughter become active at work. Osunfunke always flopped in her designs when sad or troubled. They needed to make huge sales. Tomorrow was another market day. Ibidun and her husband had scolded Osunfunke in the room. She was asked to desist from the white man whom the villagers reported seeing around her. “A foreigner knows nothing about our traditions” they had said. The white man and his friends had arrived at the village for the Osun festival. They had come with their video cameras that scared the children at first, for they thought they’re shotguns. The festival had ended some days ago but the white men had refused to leave. “My African Monalisa” he would call Osunfunke and she would smile even though she never knew the meaning. “May Sango strike me dead if I consent to your union with that white man,” Her father had sworn, “Those men who held out their hands to greet our chiefs….Maybe he would use his fist at me if he comes to seek your hand in marriage. I can never allow you and my future grandchildren to be lost in a foreign land like catapulted stones. How would they be initiated into our clans…I want grandchildren who can recite eulogies to our gods. Grandchildren who can dance to the beats of gangan and bata drums. It doesn’t matter if you’re a girl child. All I want are descendants who can uphold the glory of our culture and traditions.” “I hope you heard your father, ” Ibidun had added, “Does your white man know that the pride of a bride is her virginity? Does he know that a man does not touch a woman until her wedding night? Does he know anything about our bride price? When you give birth to your white, white children, can he permit you to bring the children for our ancestral rites? Can he let Ifa Oracle be consulted in order to unravel our child’s destiny?” To all these questions Osunfunke had been dumb, staring at the mud floor. Children should not look up at their parents when being scolded or make any sound until they’re personally questioned. She’d gone down on her two knees in obeisance after the scolding. She didn’t how why she’d fallen for this white man. She had loved everything about him; from his skin that almost hurt the eyes like noon sun, to his emerald eyes, to his fine silver hair like those of groomed sheep. He had shown Osunfunke all the sceneries captured with his camera; the image of Arugba, the virgin maid bearing the huge sacrificial calabash on her head, image of the Sacred Grove, the ancient deities, figurines, shrines, masquerades, huts and their brown copper roofs or raffias, naked children swimming in the stream, women laundering on stones by the stream, villagers pounding yams in mortar and wrapping up the foods in leaves.”Very beautiful” he had called them. During his photography adventure, he had stumbled on parents whipping their children so mercilessly and he had yelled “Stop that, woman!” He had taken the shots anyway, thinking it was only a witch that could chastise a little child in such manner. Osunfunke had gifted her white lover some tye-dye and batiks. Drunk in excitement, he asked his white friends to capture both him and Osunfunke with the fabric in his hand, but his African princess had kept her distance and shyly looked away from the camera. He wanted Osunfunke to follow him abroad to teach his people the art of tye-dye. Osunfunke could not even dare take him to her father’s compound. All these memories drowned her mind in melancholy when the white man had returned to his country. For one market week she drenched her sleeping mats with tears and made horrible designs that drove half of the customers away. One day she slumped and passed out. When resuscitated, she became deaf and dumb. She was vomiting all the concoctions and herbs her father prepared for her healing. Finally they took her to Osun’s priestess. The white-clothed woman unraveled a water-filled pot and sang the oriki of the river goddess. And she spoke to the panic parents. “Osun is angry with you both. But your daughter shall be healed. This ailment is a warning…In the future, Osunfunke should be permitted to marry a man of her dream so long as the man agrees to abide by the tradition of our land surrounding marriage. She can move with her spouse to any land in the world but she must be coming back home for the Osun festival and other necessary rites. Our mother is not against any race or tribe. She’s a loving mother of all.”

Written by Admin


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