Chinua Achebe was born on November 16, 1930 in Ogidi, Nigeria.”The sun will shine on those who stand before it shines on those who kneel under them.” — Chinua Achebe, THINGS FALL APARTABOUT THINGS FALL APARTTHINGS FALL APART tells two overlapping, intertwining stories, both of which center around Okonkwo, a “strong man” of an Igbo village in Nigeria. The first of these stories traces Okonkwo’s fall from grace with the tribal world in which he lives, and in its classical purity of line and economical beauty it provides us with a powerful fable about the immemorial conflict between the individual and society. The second story, which is as modern as the first is ancient, and which elevates the book to a tragic plane, concerns the clash of cultures and the destruction of Okonkwo’s world through the arrival of aggressive, proselytizing European missionaries. These twin dramas are perfectly harmonized, and they are modulated by an awareness capable of encompassing at once the life of nature, human history, and the mysterious compulsions of the soul. THINGS FALL APART is the most illuminating and permanent monument we have to the modern African experience as seen from within.https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/565351/things-fall-apart-by-chinua-achebe/
Hi everyone! How was your day? I have a story to share. So bring your seats and mats to the fireplace, listen attentively and may the nightingales sing us a lullaby when we retire to bed.
Once upon a time there lived a wise man by the name of Mamad. He never lied. All the people in the land, even the ones who lived twenty days away, knew about him.
The king heard about Mamad and ordered his subjects to bring him to the palace. He looked at the wise man and asked:
” Mamad, is it true, that you have never lied?”
” It’s true.”
“And you will never lie in your life?”
” I’m sure in that.”
“Okay, tell the truth, but be careful! The lie is cunning and it gets on your tongue easily.”
Several days passed and the king called Mamad once again. There was a big crowd: the king was about to go hunting. The king held his horse by the mane, his left foot was already on the stirrup. He ordered Mamad:
“Go to my summer palace and tell the queen I will be with her for lunch. Tell her to prepare a big feast. You will have lunch with me then.”
Mamad bowed down and went to the queen. Then the king laughed and said:
“We won’t go hunting and now Mamad will lie to the queen. Tomorrow we will laugh on his behalf.”
But the wise Mamad went to the palace and said:
“Maybe you should prepare a big feast for lunch tomorrow, and maybe you shouldn’t. Maybe the king will come by noon, and maybe he won’t.”
“Tell me will he come, or won’t he?” – asked the queen.
“I don’t know weather he put his right foot on the stirrup, or he put his left foot on the ground after I left.”
Everybody waited for the king. He came the next day and said to the queen:
“The wise Mamad, who never lies, lied to you yesterday.”
But the queen told him about the words of Mamad. And the king realized, that the wise man never lies, and says only that, which he saw with his own eyes.
The African Storytelling Tradition
When I, the storyteller say: Ifochakpii! You the audience will reply: Waa!! (Pronounced as ‘War!’) This is Igbo people’s storytelling tradition. There are different ways of introducing a story to the audience. To the Igbo people it starts with a chant-like ranting that tries to capture the attention of all present. So the storyteller greets his audience in that manner as they reply him in excitement. The storytelling mood is a lively one and such introit may play a role in keeping the mood so.
Storytelling is a unique culture in Africa. Storytellers are revered across the land. We may compare them to the present day actors because they actually act. I can compare storytelling to the modern day stage drama. Storytelling is respected because it passes ancient knowledge and wisdom from one generation to another. It’s a time when everybody, young and old gather to listen and learn about the tradition of a place and life’s virtues through stories told by their ancestors. Though much of these stories have been lost or modified with time, the morals, which is the crux remain intact. Sometimes they act as bedtime stories meant to aid or lull people to sleep. All over the world storytelling precedes reading.
Tortoise: Main Villain & Hero
Growing up in West Africa I came to learn that Tortoise is the dominant character in most stories. He is called Mbo or Mbe in Igbo. Some clans gave him, his wife and children other names. His wife is called Alibo in Ovim. I can’t remember his son’s name but it may not matter for now. The Tortoise play funny and shrewd roles. He is generally perceived as a cheat who goes about causing mischief for others. Sometimes he gets to win, other times he is a loser and a lesson for the little ones. The Tortoise has been featured in many stories, few I can remember myself. He has duped the Boar in one story, deceived the host of birds that lent him a feather each, cursed the spider that saved him from the ghost town and dealt with spirits. In fact he is a star in the African folklore scenario.
Yet why he was chosen for these wonderful roles is what I have not been able to understand. We have bigger, faster, smarter and funnier animals but the Tortoise was picked to play lead roles in most of West Africa’s traditional folklore. Naturally the Tortoise is a slow, lazy and seemingly dumb animal but in tales he is a kingmaker, a genius or the wise one. Looks are truly deceptive in African folklore.
Why should we preserve stories?
Apart from the Tortoise that fell from the birds’ firmament party, no one in reality and fiction had the privilege of falling from the skies. What I mean is that nothing just happens. Every story serves a purpose, be it fact or fiction. And no society is complete without a history, a story. So stories are careful documentations, written or oral. We have histories and traditions to discuss today because people had kept accounts and details of them. I’ll write more on this topic in a separate blog post.
For now, can you tell me which African story is your favourite?
Okay guys, I traveled to my country home or just say my village. I was welcomed by squirrels racing on the rooftop. I thought it was a cat at first but cats don’t fly on tree branches. I finally saw one skinny squirrel holding his chin. It wouldn’t wait for me to get my camera. Honestly I have heard about snakes on a plane, puss in boots but not squirrels on the roof. So I’m going to write a nutty letter to this squirrel mafia, terrorising my rooftop.
First of all, I’m not mad at you. I’m not in any way mad. I wouldn’t blame you too. Though I love trees, I blame them for growing too close to my house. The branches shoot over my roof and you now have a new playground for your family. Your tree-barn has become too little, not enough for your nut provision that you introduced your nuts to my rooftop. My roof is your barn now.
I arrived home to find you my roof’s new landlord. You brought your siblings and your kids maybe. And they are all naughty, yes they are nutty. You probably expelled some of the lizards that pack in to homes left for long. So you are up there, feeling invisible – out of my brooms reach. Throwing nuts through cracks down my room and bed. I sometimes wonder how you summoned this courage to live in my roof, exercising vigorously at my disadvantage. You squirrel is something else, beautiful and surprisingly strange. I had never seen squirrels live in rooftops.
During your noontime play, I caught a glimpse of you, holding your chin with those broom-like hands and maybe thinking about your nutty economy. Dear new landlord, I’m grateful that you sleep at night, just like myself. If not, I would burn this roof and watch your nuts disappear with it.
– A distressed squirrel tenant.
There’s a land behind those ancient hills
Hidden in the thick greened forest,
One of mighty foliage, brushes & roots
Dark green shrubs gather by the riverside
Ripe fruits plunge into the quiet waters
And fish schools scatter in excitement
Brown and black crabs meet to get drunk
Squirrels watch them, amused from treetops
The forest is awake, nature’s fine circus
At all times, the quiet cloud is navy blue
And king of forest do fall in love with it
When the cloud blush it rains softly; mildly
And little creatures which live in the land
Look up to the ever smiling forest king
‘Oh, how handsome his face look’, a cricket said
‘He is really in love with the selfish cloud
But we won’t understand why she always refuses
To love the handsome king back!’ some pigeons answered
‘I tell you that she is possessed, who should resist the forest king?’
The wolf alpha added, as he looked up
‘The forest king won’t talk yet, all he did is stare and smile
How savagely awful!’ Some pine trees whined
‘If for nothing but admiration is the reason to love
I choose not to love’, the philosophical Woodpecker concluded.
I like to watch the sun rise, to wait while she cast her beauty on earth,
So I wake early to fly my kite, to gather the stray bugs, worms and locust,
The fields are my playground, a partner to hides and seek,
I watch the sun, her golden smile, and light it brought to my community,
I adore pretty butterflies that dress in fine hues and dresses,
I dig holes for my little flower stalks, hoping they grow in no time,
I wait for the moon to rise at night, peeping through the window
With hope that when it comes, it will wait far into the cold night,
And if she came I would watch her shine through those dark skies
I danced alone in loud evening storms, raise my hands
To grab slippery raindrops as they fall mildly upon me
Even when lightning sang and her cousin thunder clapped,
Each day and night was always a new beginning
Memories of home are joyful and happiness
When twilight came
I took a walk, for some air
And down the roadside I went.
There a young man stood
Bearded heavily unlike myself
Throwing corn seeds into his mouth
And grinding them with such relish
That his brown teeth showed off
He stood a little close to my fence
And I decided to go chat with him
He smiled when I came close
He doesn’t look like someone from here
Yes, I seen those tribal marks somewhere
He must be from the North,
‘Sannu!‘ I hailed
‘Sannuku!‘ he replied
Eying me carefully
‘Do you wanti some agwado?’
‘No thank you.’ I replied
I saw his garment flow up,
Sailing with the mild breeze
Like a kite on rampage
The dress leaned deep into his flesh
And his muscles exposed
‘Kai, do you speak Hausa?’ he asked
‘No, very poor in that regard,’ I answered
‘Okay oh,’ he turned to call his cattle
Then I realised he was a shepherd
I relaxed a bit, wearing a new smile
My new friend must have something
To tell me about his travels and animals
He saw my smile and grinned
‘Tell me about your best and worst times,
Of shepherding and your herd’
I started without thinking…
‘My best time is when my herd feed
On a valley full of healthy green grass’
He said in nearly perfect English
‘When the sun is high above the firmament
When cows give birth in the dead night
And when I hear my favourite calf moo,’
He closed his eyes to remember more
‘What about your worst moments?’
It seemed I shoved him back from his dream,
For he suddenly opened his red eyes
And shot a blazing stare at my mouth
‘Why are there wars in Africa?
Why men kill each other?
Why are streams dry
And oceans rising?’
He asked with a frown.
‘I was born into such society
That settle disputes with violence
There’s hate, tribalism and distrust
Tribe against tribe, people against people
And hate is substituted for love…’
He pulled a twig off the long grass
‘How can we live in a society without love,
Without faith and trust for one another?
Why fight and not dialogue to achieve peace?
Why bomb a land already stricken with drought?
And cause lack of food and drinking water?’
The air grew colder…
‘I tell you I have seen things. It is time to go home…’
He said painfully, holding his stick back
‘Well as for my worst moments
I see people suffer, Yes I have
For nothing sake, I hate to see children suffer
And people suffer for other people’s crimes and atrocities
It makes little sense to me but that is the world,
We love and live in. Injustice, inequality, intolerance, ignorance…’
I could see through his pain…
‘It is only love that can save us all,’
He said as his flock gathered together
Tssski-ing, he called them, making a clicking sound from his tongue,
Hanging his long stick and hat behind his back,
He waved heartily and marched off, leading his cattle away,
I realise that the world still have some beauty and good in it
Sannu… Hausa salute
Agwado… Corn in Hausa
The Hausa/Fulani is a tribe spread across West Africa and predominantly in present day Northern Nigeria. They are known for their unique culture, tradition, arts and food.
Gather around the fire and read this story with me. It’s a long bedtime tale.
An honest farmer had once a donkey that had been a faithful servant to him a great many years, but was now growing old and every day more and more unfit for work. His master therefore was tired of keeping him and began to think of putting an end to him; but the donkey, who saw that some mischief was in the wind, took himself slyly off, and began his journey towards the great city, ‘For there,’ thought he, ‘I may turn musician.’
After he had travelled a little way, he spied a dog lying by the roadside and panting as if he were tired. ‘What makes you pant so, my friend?’ said the donkey. ‘Alas!’ said the dog, ‘my master was going to knock me on the head, because I am old and weak, and can no longer make myself useful to him in hunting; so I ran away; but what can I do to earn my livelihood?’ ‘Hark ye!’ said the donkey, ‘I am going to the great city to turn musician: suppose you go with me, and try what you can do in the same way?’ The dog said he was willing, and they jogged on together.
They had not gone far before they saw a cat sitting in the middle of the road and making a most rueful face. ‘Pray, my good lady,’ said the donkey, ‘what’s the matter with you? You look quite out of spirits!’ ‘Ah, me!’ said the cat, ‘how can one be in good spirits when one’s life is in danger? Because I am beginning to grow old, and had rather lie at my ease by the fire than run about the house after the mice, my mistress laid hold of me, and was going to drown me; and though I have been lucky enough to get away from her, I do not know what I am to live upon.’ ‘Oh,’ said the donkey, ‘by all means go with us to the great city; you are a good night singer, and may make your fortune as a musician.’ The cat was pleased with the thought, and joined the party.
Soon afterwards, as they were passing by a farmyard, they saw a cock
perched upon a gate, and screaming out with all his might and main.
‘Bravo!’ said the donkey; ‘upon my word, you make a famous noise; pray what is all this about?’ ‘Why,’ said the cock, ‘I was just now saying that we should have fine weather for our washing-day, and yet my mistress and
the cook don’t thank me for my pains, but threaten to cut off my head tomorrow, and make broth of me for the guests that are coming on Sunday!’ ‘Heaven forbid!’ said the donkey, ‘come with us Master Chanticleer; it will be better, at any rate, than staying here to have your head cut off! Besides, who knows? If we care to sing in tune, we may get up some kind of a concert; so come along with us.’ ‘With all my heart,’ said the cock: so they all four went on jollily together.
They could not, however, reach the great city the first day; so when night came on, they went into a wood to sleep. The donkey and the dog laid
themselves down under a great tree, and the cat climbed up into the
branches; while the cock, thinking that the higher he sat the safer he
should be, flew up to the very top of the tree, and then, according to
his custom, before he went to sleep, looked out on all sides of him to
see that everything was well. In doing this, he saw afar off something
bright and shining and calling to his companions said, ‘There must be a
house no great way off, for I see a light.’ ‘If that be the case,’ said
the donkey, ‘we had better change our quarters, for our lodging is not the
best in the world!’ ‘Besides,’ added the dog, ‘I should not be the worse for a bone or two, or a bit of meat.’ So they walked off together towards the spot where Chanticleer had seen the light, and as they drew near it became larger and brighter, till they at last came close to a house in which a gang of robbers lived.
The donkey, being the tallest of the company, marched up to the window and peeped in. ‘Well, Donkey,’ said Chanticleer, ‘what do you see?’ ‘What
do I see?’ replied the donkey. ‘Why, I see a table spread with all kinds of good things, and robbers sitting round it making merry.’ ‘That would be a noble lodging for us,’ said the cock. ‘Yes,’ said the donkey, ‘if we could only get in’; so they consulted together how they should contrive to get the robbers out; and at last they hit upon a plan. The donkey placed himself upright on his hind legs, with his forefeet resting against the window; the dog got upon his back; the cat scrambled up to the dog’s shoulders, and the cock flew up and sat upon the cat’s head. When
all was ready a signal was given, and they began their music. The donkey
brayed, the dog barked, the cat mewed, and the cock screamed; and then they all broke through the window at once, and came tumbling into the room, amongst the broken glass, with a most hideous clatter! The robbers, who had been not a little frightened by the opening concert, had now no doubt that some frightful hobgoblin had broken in upon them, and scampered away as fast as they could.
The coast once clear, our travellers soon sat down and dispatched what
the robbers had left, with as much eagerness as if they had not expected
to eat again for a month. As soon as they had satisfied themselves, they
put out the lights, and each once more sought out a resting-place to his own liking. The donkey laid himself down upon a heap of straw in the yard, the dog stretched himself upon a mat behind the door, the cat rolled herself up on the hearth before the warm ashes, and the cock perched upon a beam on the top of the house; and, as they were all rather tired with their journey, they soon fell asleep.
But about midnight, when the robbers saw from afar that the lights were
out and that all seemed quiet, they began to think that they had been in
too great a hurry to run away; and one of them, who was bolder than the rest, went to see what was going on. Finding everything still, he marched into the kitchen, and groped about till he found a match in order to light a candle; and then, espying the glittering fiery eyes of the cat, he mistook them for live coals, and held the match to them to light it. But the cat, not understanding this joke, sprang at his face, and spat, and scratched at him. This frightened him dreadfully, and away he ran to the back door; but there the dog jumped up and bit him in the leg; and as he was crossing over the yard the donkey kicked him; and the cock, who had been awakened by the noise, crowed with all his might. At this the robber ran back as fast as he could to his comrades, and told the captain how a horrid witch had got into the house, and had spat at him and scratched his face with her long bony fingers; how a man with a knife in his hand had hidden himself behind the door, and stabbed him in the leg; how a black monster stood in the yard and struck him with a club, and how the devil had sat upon the top of the house and cried out, ‘Throw the rascal up here!’ After this the robbers never dared to go back to the house; but the musicians were so pleased with their quarters that they took up their abode there; and there they are, I dare say, at
this very day.
Good night 😊
When summer finally came, a lot had changed
The last snow melted and the sad land woke
Grasses started growing, covering the outer earth
So those who burrow scrambled out from the dust
Soft airs and tidings surround the mountainside
Sending sweet emissaries around the valley below
Vines, myrrh, mistletoes and pines sprout happily
In the morning, the sunshine will not glitter on ice,
Instead the heat grew and the wood inhabitants felt it
First, the Squirrels thought the world was going crazy
And their cousins, the burrow rats seconded them
‘The frog choir will soon resume’, a brown Cricket observed
‘And if they do I am going to go crazy!’ a Sparrow replied
‘Not if they played on a softer note at least’
A Linnet added to the conversation
‘No way, they have all got bass! Male, female all bass!!’
A sad Bee, which sat on the tip of a tree leaf answered
Now, fresh grass brought the Deers and mountain goats
At the Otherside across the rocky land, the Stream flowed
Leaps of water, joyful that her prisoner had let her free
‘Crap! I mean did anyone notice that the cats are back?’
Some stray mice broke the niches silence
‘They have our land smeared with urine, them Bobcats!’
‘Yes, they think it is their fatherland. Well we better hide’
Now the wolf pack had no cold anymore
So they prowled the earth with more ease
Picking trails of rodents through the thick woods
The Mountain stood, usually a still, motionless figure
One that kept some admirers intrigued
As the ice melted, water trickled down to the land
And the wild wood fauna felt sad for her
For they believed she was weeping at her loss
‘She has been like this since the Ice King left’,
The soft voiced black and white Pigeons sang
‘She is heartbroken! Why will the Ice King be so cruel?
He even took her icy cloak and see, now… now she is naked!’
A duck said closing the eyes of her young with feathers
‘I think she looks pretty amazing, so much joy in pain
No one cares much enough, I think she needs a hug’
A tortoise with a huge shell opined
‘No she needs a gift’, the Wolf pack alpha barked
‘She is the worst person I ever met!’ he added
The other animals had to retreat to their homes
Or if you are too small or slow, just find a hideout
For the wolf pack, the villains of the valley
Had no mercy and they do as their word sound
‘What do we offer her, a fine rose shrub maybe?’
Another wolf suggested as the roses around hid
‘No, well anything. If she continue that way
I bet you the streams will overflow and we will have no land
To hunt, to plunder and to rule!’
‘Well, if being solitary is the best way of getting rid of vermin
Then it is the best shot at self discovery’
The philosophical Woodpecker reasoned from the tree top
Onye aturu ilu kowaa ya, ego eji luo nne ya efuola ohia.
Before I start this post permit me to greet Igbo people; those who own the proverbs I’m about to explore; Ndi Igbo kwenu! Ekelem unu o. Ndewonu.