You can read my previous post here on Alpha Series – ‘A’s story and Alpha Series – B’s Beast. You can also check out similar posts on the Alpha-series on Kofo’s blog here , here, here, and here . Enjoy!
“To first control a people, you must first control what they think about themselves and how they regard their history and culture, and when your conqueror makes you ashamed of your history and culture, he no longer needs prison walls or chains to hold you – John Henrik Clarke”
“To colonize people’s minds, you must first demonize their cultures, then their traditions…”
Cold heartless stories always began here at my community under the mango tree by the moonlight with stacks of fire-woods built like an army raving mad, shinning red and yellow, providing warmth.
Crouching my old heavy weight towards the small mat on the wet floor, I settled before the youths lingering around, waiting for my weekly night tale especially the ones I told after today’s festival.
Carefully, I looked around them hoping to find Berema seated somewhere in the crowd, she always avoided my weekly tales. I could see Awusa sitting with the drums, waiting patiently for the time he would have to beat us a rhythm in between my tales. I smile at him. Such a handsome, promising young man.
Casting my mind back to when I was younger, I decided to tell a tale of myself. So I forged names and locations, obviously the youths will be too engrossed to even think it is real and so I began…
“Callistus was his name…very odd! The white men had named him Callistus saying he would one day be a priest of his people; even though the white men spoke funny languages, people still looked up to them like some sort of gods.” I hear Awusa as he beats his drum in a thundering rhythm. I continued smiling…”his mother laughed after she was explained to, saying the white men gods have chosen her son as his beloved. She gladly handed him over to them to train him in the way of their most high god.”
“Considering the path his son was chosen for, Callistus father hated the white men and their funny language the more. He revered the gods at Bonny island. He revered the gods of his people. His son would never bear Callistus. His son will never be a priest. His son will speak his native tongue. The white men tried to deceive him by buying him fancy items…but Callistus father never agreed. He fought to keep his son from the claws of the white men. He fought to keep their language.”
“Callistus father was unfortunately killed in the dead of the night. No trace on who did, no clue. Callistus mother gave him up the very next day to the white men, saying Uba n’uwena…uba funie wulu puena. He hated his mother for that, and he swore never to become a priest.”
“Colonization became a fun game. The white men had taken over the shores of their island, teaching the people in Bonny island the language of the Queen; English language, threatening to shoot when the people antagonized. It became an arrogant form of patriotism. The Britain were seen as great people. Their god was the one true god irrespective of the people’s gods.”
“Captain Hart was appointed a chief, right after Callistus father passed on and he agreed to send off some of his youths to the British consul for special training and empowerment. Of course, the community was greatly rewarded for the exchange and that was the day Callistus forgot what it meant to smile.” I stretch my tired back as I let Awusa sing a sad song, beating his drum at intervals.
Curiously, I look around again for Berema. This time I sight Finima and hope that Berema will be somewhere around. I continue. “Callistus was taken with some other youths out of the Bight of Bonny and straight to England. Somewhere along the line, they were divided and he was sent to live with an old priest…Reverend Father Pepple.”
“Constantly, Callistus tried to find the greatness in the England that he found himself. Every day, he would attend the mass with the priest and constantly be reminded that Jesus loved him. Callistus did not know about this Jesus. He had heard that the Queen’s god was superior to all the gods at Bonny Island. He was trying to understand that…now Rev. Fr. Pepple was talking about Jesus.”
“Clueless about Jesus and mass, Callistus approached Rev. Fr. Pepple one night and said…Father, I not a knowing your Jesus but if you are take me back to my people-ing, maybe your Jesus will be understand. Rev. Fr Pepple had replied saying, do you not know that Jesus loves you?”
“Callistus responded saying…I not know this thing you have say all the time but maybe if I go back to my people-ing and I tell them about your Jesus, we and I can coming to love him too in our village?… How dare you say you want to go back to that evil forest of yours? You will stay here and be my server and learn the way of the Lord, else I will hand you to the Queen.” I waited for Awusa to beat the drum, but boy was long lost in my tale waiting on my next line. I sighed as I continued…
“Capable of being killed just like his father, Callistus stayed and endured. One night, he sat up, ran to Rev. Fr. Pepple and spoke of marriage and when he realized priests don’t get married, his resolve of running away from the prison became stronger. How would they choose him for a life of suffering without his people, without a wife, without children? All for who? Some Jesus that he did not know. He began to wonder, is Jesus a woman?”
“Casually, Callistus would take a long stroll at the water port when Rev. Fr. Pepple went to say mass for the sailors at sea and hoped that someone would come to rescue him. He hated his life here in England. He missed the water crabs, the fishing games and the people. He wondered what his mates would be doing. Some would have married. He missed the Kalabari dish and spices. The British people ate too many rubbish, he could not understand. They fried their fish and baked their beans. Nonsense cooking style. He kicked a stone.” I stretched for ease…I was tired of my story.
“Continue grand Perekule, the youths all murmured. Don’t cut the story short today please.” I look at the tale starving youths all looking like me back then…I wonder what they will do if the white men came now to gather them away. I stand to full height watching Tamuno as he clasped his hands in desperation “I will continue next week…my weak bones are tired and need some rest.”
Composing myself regardless of the burning sensation I felt in my chest, I strode calmly towards my hut. The night was cold and almost over. Today was a busy day. The children needed sleep. I hear footsteps running after me, I know it is Awusa. “Grand Perekule, should we come to your hut? We could give you a massage as well while you tell us the remaining story…”
Craving the need to succumb to his request, I swallow a nudging smile. I turn back to see him surrounded by the other youths, all with pleading eyes. I know I need the massage but I do not want to continue the story tonight. Taking a deep sigh I respond “Grand Perekule will continue the story tomorrow…we all have had a long day, let us take a good rest, dreaming of our fore-fathers while we return afresh in the sunrise for the first time, to complete Callistus story…Aba nu’punella lolo.”
Catching my stick which was about to fall, I continue to my hut “Nu’punella Grand Perekule…Sleep well” the youths shouted after me. I reach my hut. It is dark. I reach out for the side lamp. Where is Berema?