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Friday, March 26, 2010

When is it time

There is a small amount confusion amongst us mothers from my part of the world. First has been the relief that we can now claim to have ‘seat’ in our husband’s family as a bride is not considered a wife until she has what is called the fruits of the womb. We also have a saying that a bad child belongs to the mother while a good child is the one that has not pointed to his father’s house with his left hand never mind if the child is left handed or not. The world we are now a global village and so we are expected to be part of a global community with our diverse cultures and customs. This is the rub where the old and the new seem to have a divergence of opinion. My mother will tell you that you must do it as it was done in her grandmother’s time if we do not want to eat unripe fruits that will set our teeth on edge! By translation therefore discussion on sex is completely off.
In the old days it was enough for you to announce that your monthly cycle had started for you to be given half hints, innuendoes and unfinished sentences. That was the best you would from your mother or aunts about the meaning of monthly cycle, what it means to you and what you were to expect. You were pretty much left to get the answers yourselves. The dictum was, nice girls do not discuss such things! I remember being mystified each time was discussing with my young aunts about if they had seen their ‘time’ as the monthly cycle was quaintly referred to then. There was the added myth that it was the best time to get pregnant! I remember when I was young I kept away from anything male during that time!
It evolved from being described that way as the ‘time’ to the description we gave it .We simply said we had a ‘visitor’ and therefore excused ourselves from our peers if cramps made the day difficult. The myths and misconceptions had grown and we gleaned from our biological textbooks what sexual education we could if we were interested. The ignorance about an open and frank discussion cost some of us dear, even taking the ultimate cost of lives from illegal abortions.
It is different now, open and frank discussion on sexuality has become the order of the day.The question now is how soon should you start such discussions? We have those who feel that innocence should be maintained for as long as possible. That a child should be allowed to remain a child but there have been increasing cases of paedophiles that makes nonsense of such longings.
We have lost our innocence from the days of accepting sweets from an uncle or aunt and most homes now frown definitely at the idea of live in house helps of whatever sex even heamphrodite! One worried neighbor put up a sign “MILITARY ZONE KEEP MOVING< GUNS AND DOGS ON DUTY’! why, he had teenager daughters and they were a sensation on the street with their skimpy clothes and habit of taking a walk along the road anytime the father had to go work.
One pissed off mom said she didn’t think the girls had mothers. She could not answer the question though when I asked how soon she could start talking to her children about their bodies. To mothers from the Western world they’d probably wonder how far back in the middle ages am I referring to? But my friends who are mothers and from my part of the world, would understand the embarrassment of a mother whose daughter just started her monthly cycle, she well went to the supermarket, they walked along the aisle until they got to the space where sanitary towels (why do they call them towels Mummy?) are kept and she simply picked one up and quickly hid it amongst the other purchases
She sweated looking for opening sentences when they got home. There were no guides about em you know,, er.. your and the child opens up and says ‘oh mum I saw you bought sanitary towels, did you remember to buy mine I will be due for the monthly mayhem next week.
What? May what?
The mother got an education.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Logic of Faith

Faith is a derivative of conviction and the conditions of conviction are based firmly on your experience. If no one has ever given you a slap, you would be hard put to accept that it could be painful. Do we thus wait until we have experienced the Almighty before we accept His existence or do we look through his creation and in experiencing the laws he has embedded in them do we then have faith?
How do you hold faith when you go to work, smile desperately at the boss and hope he will not call you round to his office, adjust his tie as your Adam's apple suddenly lodges itself on the wrong side of your throat and you stare at him waiting for him to spill the beans! Then he simply asks you if you have submitted the weekly report. Then you were on the edge of your faith thinking he was a nice guy.
How do you hold faith when you are afraid to answer the phone as you know the caller at the end of the line is your account officer and your bills have been due for more than the required grace period? You are sitting at the edge of your faith my friend when you lose count of the number of job applications you have filled and as your choices diminish your preferences take a dive into slime and you would apply for any job!
You are done fighting, you are done beefing about the egg heads who sold out your tomorrow even before you planned for today. Man! You are done! Pretty nigh extinguished in fact! You are done, see? Because you just counted the pennies in your pocket and it is only enough to buy death! Really? Don't go over the edge of your faith.
Sounds trite, but as boring as it is to read, there is always reason enough to wake up and smile. Move away from the edge of your faith, feel the steady beat of your heart, the next beat might be the change you need. God knows it is true! After all you are actually reading this! Imagine!
How do you hold a faith when your neighbors think you are better dead with his knife in your throat? How do you feel love when you are tied, and helplessly watch the slaughter of your closest and dearest? When being a member of a community might be invitation to murder or suicide depending on which side of the divide you happen to be standing.
It is the night when you stand watch for the whispering sounds on intolerance, the rumbling groans of hunger for blood spilled unevenly on the ancestral floor.
Masquerade in high places masked from the reality of their short sightedness to show the humanity of our common pain,and deprivations.
When to be a member of the street, you need to have everything yourself, your own road, your own water, your own electricity and the honourable thieves garbed in their obscene wealth will pay a few hungry soul to separate your head from your neck in order to re-arrange your destiny.
Friend, you ask, where in heaven’s name are you to grab at faith here?. Half a century of hope washed down the drain from the myopic vision of the same elders who paid your neighbor to kill your loved ones?
From the recesses of your tortured pain, the sun is still shinning! The atrocity of the rain to fall on the farm of those who have made you cry! The impersonality of a creator who returns to each and everyone the measure of their sowing.
That is the logic to your faith friend, that even this will pass and one day, all seeds at their appointed time will ripen and to each will come the just harvests!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

what is your name?

That simple question came to me as I went to visit a friend of mine and as custom demanded I had to go in to see the grandmother. As I knelt traditionally to greet she placed a hand on my shoulder and asked my name. I gave it to her. She smiled and peered at me, saying the name sits well on me and hoped that my surname will be fulfilled in material particular. A third friend who came with us was a bit nervous as she had English names and she hesitated before giving it. We knew the reason why she was reluctant to give her name to the old lady.
The Yoruba like most other tribes in my country are particular about the name you bear. It is a long process and carefully thought out. The parents would have been watching and observing events around them while the child was in the womb.
Names sometimes describe events, like a child that is the cause of a reconciliation between two warring families or even internal wrangling would be called amongst other names ‘Omolaja’ (Child has settled the rift’)
You do not attend a naming ceremony empty- handed. You must come with a small gift for the child. On the table will be the following amongst other items
Kola nut which signifies that the prayer for the child to be wise and strong as kolanut is used only in important events involving royalty.
Honey: we say honey is sweet and the child’s life is going to be sweet, In essence may all the good things of life fall ripe into the destiny of the child
Salt never goes bad we say and so the child’s life will never go bad.
A diviner is usually called in early, about dawn on the eight day to determine the path of the child and the name the child has brought from heaven
Some children have names that they have brought from heaven so those names are seen as automatic names. These are names for twins, (Taiwo & Kehinde) the one that comes after the twin (Idowu) and the one that comes even after that!(Alaba) We have love names, (Aduke) that is names signifying affection and then the real name, which the diviner would be asked to do at dawn before guest start to arrive. The father has already a list submitted to him by his father, his grandmother, and then his own names and the mother is also asked to bring her own name for the child. All guest invited who want to name the child must be ready to dip their hand in water, pray and then give a name.
Parents in the old days adhered strictly to these format and today they feel strongly that we have eaten unripe fruits and so our teeth is on edge with all the foreign names we have taken on to show how civilized we had become!
What is in a name? Plenty! Our names tell stories of the family fortunes, trials and more. A name can be a prayer, a supplication, a profession or class caste identity. Some names indicate what happened during birth. I breech birth is automatically called “Ige’ and such children are regarded with some awe and it is assumed that such children are tough. Then we have a child who comes into the world with the placenta wrapped round its tiny fist, such children are called ‘Aina’
We are a highly spiritual tribe and believe strongly in reincarnation and so you find names signifying the return of loved grandfather, father, or some such relation indicated in the names as Babatunde, Iyabo, or Yejide the list in by no means endless.
There are also names given to children of the supernatural world who have come to torment their parents by repeated births, Such names as ‘Durojaiye’(which is a plea to the child to please wait to enjoy the world) and more.
A child was thus usually asked to remember his name and the home he comes from.
It is only an illegitimate child that will point to his father’s house with is left fingers also meant you have not answered to your name.