Shade

This which we live in, this era of shade … a space where shade is thrown in cyber parks as one would a ball … you know, like back in the old days

A space where shade; this shadow, sly as cigarette smoke, is finally, at last, indeed a substance one could catch … a thing one could feel, as one would a slap, or no, stab, a stab,

 A thing one could smell, miles away, whiffs looming, drifting, our senses have evolved to the vultures sniff, oh did he just throw me some shade? Honey that smells like shade…

So shade is tossed around town, bossing over bitches, tainting lips with cruel kisses as we wince and sip, like one would a sturdy blunt, infecting our lungs with second-hand inhalation, while we pick up shade that was at times never heading for us.

Then in a whirl of rage we fling it back with Olympian fervour, whipping casualties in its way, slaying pedestrians.

This is the era of shade, one where you are only liable to die young if you refuse to evade.

 

Me And Father Christmas

Though I was almost seven and felt too old for the Father Christmas party at NTA, I still pestered our help to take me there so I could experience it in person, if only once.

It wasn’t really a religious occasion as it was a week long party for children to simply be children and the Network to boost its ratings with hours long footage of hysterical toddlers who were excited yet terrified of Nigerian Santa, but never forgot to snatch their gifts from his silver gloved palms in a deserving sulk, before tottering away.

Christmas season in Jos wasn’t about Santa climbing down the chimney, not many cared for the South-Pole monologue, all that was reserved for holiday movies on Saturday mornings when you tuned to PRTVC. In real life, what excited us was getting to receive gifts at the Father Christmas Party, all the while basking in our minute long stint on the live broadcast.

I had never been lost in the fantasy of Santa’s existence. For one thing, Jos Santa was brown skinned and came across with an exaggerated nasal Italian-like accent in his committed effort to sound American. Secondly, one could usually see how the strings that held his synthetic white beard went about his ears. Also, there was another Santa down at PRTVC.

At NTA, Santa’s abode was a pretty green tent with glittering lights and ornaments hung around it. The tent had been placed on a little slope-top in the distant end of the compound. It was all very beautiful. With my palm in Aunty Uche’s hand, I trotted up the slope in excitement. I wasn’t the least afraid when I saw him but I found I was at once shy. I froze when I noticed the Camera focused on me.

Some people in the queue behind were already mumbling. Aunty Uche chuckled nudging me further in. I had barely spent a moment with him when he brought out my gift from his giant red sack then sent me on my way.

It happened all so fast that I didn’t get to wave to the camera and say hello to my family at home. Bereft of satisfaction, I continued to plead with Aunty Uche to take me back, but it wasn’t until we were done with other party activities that she agreed. By this time, the festivities were already closing for the day.

I had burst in to find Father Christmas chatting in fluent Hausa with the camera man who was packing up his equipments. It was a second after I appeared that a startled Santa adjusted his bread and reverted to that nasal Italian accent.

He asked my name and I answered somewhat disappointed at finding him in such a human state even though I had come to NTA fully aware of the charade. He began to laugh, this Santa, and said with a chuckle to the camera man how in his land my name was the word for tree bark.

What sort of Father Christmas is this? I winced at his banter at my expense, then I felt it equally fair to tell him at this point that I knew he was not the real Father Christmas to which he insisted he was!

“But you’re not,” I said beginning to enjoy our argument.

“I am Father Chris-”

“It’s a lie! Your beard is fake and I saw you pull it up, and the real Father Christmas is white even though there is even nothing like Father Christmas.” I giggled wagging my legs all the while seated on his lap.

“You do not talk to elders like that.” He scolded in his true accent, nudging me off his thigh. And it was then I noticed he was quite upset. I felt sorry, but I decided I deserved to also be upset. Hadn’t he just called me tree bark after all?

Aunty Uche moved closer apologizing on my behalf. Then she scolded me all the way to the bus stop. It took a long time waiting for a bus that I grew sleepy by twilight. There came a loud horn at last. I felt her lift me up and stroke my head.

On our way home, in the quite congested bus tucked mostly with the children, parents and traders that had also left NTA, I noticed a chubby man with sulky eyes and a petite bulge for a belly staring at me. I often wonder now if he was Father Christmas.

 

It Happened In December…

Tis the season that always trails me back to the December holidays of my childhood. Now even though we were a happy close knit family, loneliness can still become an inevitable trait when you are growing up the only girl in a house with two boys.

I was the doll house, plastic kitchen appliance fanatic who could spend an eon alone with my toys playing school, and of course acting drama and frying plastic carrots and aubergines on my faux cooker with a serving of sand (for rice) or hibiscus leaves plucked from the front yard if a Nigerian soup was the delicacy for the day. Such realism!

Let the boys be boys. I was content to be the rebel against becoming a Tom. There was simply no room for if you can’t beat em, join em. Monotony eventually created a new tactics though; if you can’t beat them, lure them! So I would loiter around with my dolls exaggerating the glee in girly play to unconcerned ears, laughing a tad louder than necessary until I was in all truth lost to the bliss of that world.

They were nevertheless determined to be boys as I was to stay feminine. And this was always our holiday conflict. But then we discovered the love of art, and this was where the lines came to be blurred.

Gender roles fizzled as though it was not yesterday that unity had settled, as dawn travelled into dusk each day to meet us lost in magic markers, glitter and crayola. Drawing, painting, fixing mammoth jigsaws, playing board games (with sore losers) and reading more story books upon story books. The thrill of exploring imagination with the delight of togetherness; in creative arts we found a bond that let us discover more of each other and ourselves.

The sound of dice rolling over the cardboard games we had later invented would trail deep into the echo of candle lit quiet evenings, when NEPA knew to hug the power supply so we could bond a while longer without the distraction of television.

It soon came to be that when one sibling wanted to play the rest of the team was first fished out, for what was the point in that drawing of daffy duck if the others were not there to watch? And the puzzles would lie frozen on the centre table until the other sibling had recovered from illness so we could continue together.

The more we bonded, the more some days did come where you could find the two boys of all that was masculine and boyish indeed playing a game of suwe with their sister, and so came the days the sister would hobble about a ball, though breaking all the rules of soccer until she shoved it in the imaginary post (most times with hands.)

This was the gift Art brought to my childhood holidays; togetherness.

Seasons greetings…

 

Obudu Mountain Resort  

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Photo Credit: Cuba Ukoh

Lush green colossal mountains as though it is all a glimpse of heaven’s hills, rain then sunshine, rain and sunshine … shivering as we float in clouds; these intermittent fogs. Locals strolling in skimpy clothing, for they have known no other climate. In the distance, cows perch easily on mountains like a child’s unsymmetrical drawing. The beautiful smell of rain, over and over again, delicacies, diary factories, the waterfall, daring explorations to holy-mountain, bicycle rides through quiet artificial streets, racing past coffee brown cabins, pretending we have forever, intoxicated with life and careless laughter. Cold as ice, warm as home.

 

We called it Gwags

Youthful arms entwined in the beginnings of love stories, pristine off-campus housing–mansions in comparison to the bare russet bungalows of the town’s original inhabitants. The prevailing scent of suya, kosh and dosh sellers competing for attention … Ice-cream parlours next to business centre’s next to Mai shayi stalls, with backyards of stretched un-tarred paths; best friends to lonely dogs. Government primary schools with hopeful children, congestion, tempers flaring, automobiles racing the sun … laughter, youth, laughter, age. Then those two lanky horses, of one rich Mallam, majestic with grief, unashamed of their peeking rib bones. Scorching noon’s; preludes to damp evenings, Oh lord, Generators…

  Boarding School  

 

Boarding school was the scent of green bar soap, spotted with garri, cabin biscuits, granulated sugar, cornflakes, and something else you could never place. It wasn’t a stench, this unexplainable whiff, but it was a flavour wrapped in a lingering feeling that made you almost sad in a happy kind of way. It was memories of simple moments; the sounds of iron buckets, squeaking hostel bunks, puerile rivalries, love letters, twilight before sunrise, obnoxious teachers, the smell of charcoal irons on checkered uniforms, film shows after dinner, and bursts of evolving knowledge … in the classrooms, in the dorms, at the sports field, and beyond. Boarding school was the aroma of growing up.