Sunday, 27 October 2013

The Art of Writing Black


‘…art and community in Africa are clearly linked...I believe that it is impossible to write anything in Africa without some kind of message, some kind of protest.’
 

I have been consciously in the Arts for about 10 years now and Chinua, from the grave, seemed to have whispered Africa to my heart and hearing.

After having heard so much about him(and researching on his role as regards Pan-African Human Rights promotion and preservation), I decided to look into his work in August 2013. I also did get a download of Things Fall Apart.

I studied Things Fall Apart and There Was A Country closely. I was driven, however, and more attached to the latter than I was and am to the former. Perhaps this was as result of the clarity of his expression which was richly spread through-out his personal history of Biafra and the maturity and wisdom through he addressed the issue of the role of the African writer.

Before now, I gave just a few African authors more than the attention my academic pursuits demanded. I simply could not identify with their descriptions of the wars, society, friendship, history, dates, names, beauty, love, betrayal, passion, politics….

I understood that the knowledge of Africa was -and still is- salient but they seemed somewhat incomplete and burdensome to assimilate. As though to make matters worse, the subjects Government and History were not on my O’Level scheme of work so I just ran past it without much ado. Then again, with the gist of  Chimamanda of Purple Hibiscus; Chibundu of Spider King’s Daughter and Jude of Walking With Shadows, Africa suddenly leaped into light and became alluring to me. Tinapa and the Carnival spiced it up a whole lot. Ebony Life TV crowned it all.

Inspired by all these, I was determined to know Africa. I  now desperately needed to know her for myself.

My art needed to know her. My life, love, ethics, academics and style yearned impulsively. Yet the African story to me was as bleak as ever until I read Chinua in August.

His description and style of writing in his last book broke the ice for me. I do not pride myself in knowing the completely flawless truth now. But I feel richly blessed to know this much.

I am particularly thrilled by his articulation of the role of the African writer in the multiracial world with multifaceted issues. Given some deep thought to these lines, I become more convinced that never has this issue been addressed this eloquently and honestly. I have to share this with you. These are excerpts from his last book which has spun me in no little way. Especially the issue of whether or not the African writer should participate in African politics:

 ‘There are some who believe that the writer has no role in politics or the social upheavals of his or her day.....I believe that the African writer who steps side….will become like the contemporary intellectual of futility in many other places asking questions like: “Who am I? What is the meaning of my existence? Does this place belong to me or to someone else? Does my life belong to me or to some other person?...The question of involvement in politics is really a matter of definition....”’

The truth be told, this is no little task- African politics being all that it is today. I used to think that only spectators are in the better position to describe or criticize the dance. Then again, no one is the dance or knows the dance more than the dancers who dance the dance.

He further relayed the position as it was in early post-colonial Africa where ‘freedom’ being a state too hard to define or manage left everyone to his/her measure of uncertainty and hesitation, especially the writers and intellectuals.

‘What then do we do as writers? What was our role in our new country? How were we to think about the use of our talents? I can say that when a number of us decided that we would be writers, we had not thought through these questions very clearly. In fact, we did not have a clue what we were up against….A major objective was to challenge stereotypes, myths, and the image of ourselves and our continent, and to recast them through stories-prose, poetry, essays, and books for our children. That was my overall goal….I had no idea when I was writing Things Fall Apart whether it would even be accepted or published…,A major concern of the time was the absence of the African voice….Africa was bound sooner or later to respond….To do this effectively her spokesmen-the writers, intellectuals, and some politicians, including Azikiwe, Senghor, Nkrumah, Nyerere, Lumumba, and Mandela- engaged Africa’ s past, stepping back into what can be referred to as the ‘era of purity,’ before the coming of Europe….This was a special kind of inspiration. Some of us decided to tackle the big subjects of the day- imperialism, slavery, independence, gender, racism…. I borrowed proverbs from our culture and history, colloquialisms and African Expressive language from the ancient griots, the worldviews, perspectives, and customs from my Igbo tradition and cosmology, and the sensibilities of everyday people….by ‘writing back’ to the West we were attempting to reshape the dialogue between between the colonized and the colonizer. Our efforts we hoped would, would broaden the world’s understanding, appreciation, and conceptualization of what literature meant when including the African voice and perspective…. This is amother way of stating the fact of what I consider to be my mission in life.’

Learning about the Negritude –black intellectual and political liberation struggles/ independence movements, I have begun to appreciate the likes of Wole Soyinka; Steve Biko; Nnamdi Azikiwe; Kwame Nkurumah; Jomo Kenyatta; Julius Nyerere; Partrice Lumumba; Nelson Mandela; Walter Sisulu; Aime Cesaire,  and Leone Gontran Damas. To understand my place in my society as a writer, I appreciate that history is a wonderful place to begin even as I consider the ‘Great Story’.  Chinua further writes that…

‘If one didn't realize the world was complex, vast, and diverse, one would write as if the world were one little county, and this would make us poor, and we would have impoverished the novel and our stories …we must hear all stories. That would be the first thing. And by hearing all the stories we will find points of contact and communication, and the world story, the Great Story , will have a chance to develop....The  reality of today, different as it is from the reality of my society one hundred years ago, is and can be important if we have the energy and the inclination to challenge it, to go out and engage with the peculiarities, with the things that we do not understand.’

Without this we just churn out great material that serves no salient purpose. This is more so the case, I think, when certain themes are over flogged to the utter detriment and disregard of others. Africa, as it is in the 21st century, has so many great themes which we may consider.

I would love, for instance to read a novel about what the internet has done to Africa or the survival of our values and African languages in moments soon after now. I would love to read about Osuofia and the devasting culture shock he comes face to face with as he tours the world. I would love to read native African thoughts on inter-racial romance. I would love us to address adolescent relationships and sex education; the streaks of social networks and technology as it drives our world faster in varied directions; human rights campaigns….I would love this and much more. This is not just because such would  entice and
entertain me but because these are things that will make my

 parents understand this generation more. Also these are things

that the present age can identify with and propagate.


Today, I celebrate the contemporary Negritude as includes Helon Habila; Chimamanda Adiche; Jude Dibia and several others who have built new standards for the African literary picture. An Africa perhaps with not as many polygamous homes, kolanuts or witch doctors. An Africa with deeper themes, simpler diction and clearer thoughts. One which we should develop as the days go by.
 
‘…nobody is asking the new writer or intellectual to repeat stories, the literary agenda or struggles of yesteryear, it is very important for them to be aware of what our literature achieved, what it is has done for us, so that we can move forward.’
 
 It is a great thing that we have Book Festivals now and Literary Prizes. These are quite commendable steps. However, long-term mentorships would go a very long way in walking Africa to its literary future.

As an African writer I always should remember that…

‘… it should be the quality of the craft, not the audience that should be the greatest motivating factor….’

and that

‘The triumph of the written word is often attained when the writer achieves union and trust with the reader, who then becomes ready to be drawn deep into unfamiliar territory, walking in borrowed literary shoes so to speak, toward a deeper understanding of self or society, or of foreign peoples, cultures, and situations.’

 

I therefore ask that even as we script out the most exciting and sensational of what Africa is, should and will be, let us never forget the values that bind our art and the one voice whispering to us all, Africa.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

African Rights


Seriously, the journey of humanity –our journey- has cost us quite a ‘bit’: World Wars; disasters, genocide, hatred, protests, revolutions, pacts, treaties, laws, peace, love, pacts, more love, then tough love, contempt, tyranny, dictatorship, dissatisfaction…the list is endless. But humanity has survived to an extent that she can be called a survivor. However, she can take only so much before she gets to that ‘here’ when she can be stretched no more. At that point she gets taut and things get ugly. This has been the case for us for as long as most of us can remember. Peace is so disturbed every now and then that peace uninterrupted is disturbing. Then again humanity is special, delicate, deserves to be unconditionally respected and allowed to enjoy quality existence - or these are the implications of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). This document is an international outcry setting out the standards and aspirations of a quality existence a man, woman, boy and girl should have both individually and collectively.

However, these are mere aspirations and have since then been left to global and regional international institutions to expand and define. So at this point, it is fair to say that, though ‘Human rights are the rights that humans have just because they are human’, there is no universally accepted scope of what they may contain or not permit as they case may be.

Albeit the case, I am particularly fond of Africa’s de jure stance on Human Rights as can be found in
the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights- my being African has got nothing to do with this. Yes, yes…the Charter goes ahead to heartily embrace the relevant global international aspirations as reflected in the UDHR: the rights to life…freedom of expression, association…thirty solid articles as they are, yet neatly articulated in the African Charter.

However, the great thing about the Charter which sets it apart from other regional human rights treaties and documents is the singular fact that it recognizes that the individual, as an individual, has a role to play in the implementation, promotion, preservation and protection of human rights. The details of these duties are to be found in Articles 27-29 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

So crazy am I about two of these duties- contained in Article 29 paragraph 2 and 7. Paragraph 2 states that the individual shall have the duty to, ‘…serve his national community by placing his physical and intellectual abilities at its service’, while paragraph states,

‘To preserve and strengthen positive African cultural values in his relation with other members of the society, in the spirit of tolerance, dialogue and consultation and, in general, to contribute to the promotion of the moral wellbeing of the society.’

For me, these provisions are the most beautiful things about Human Rights in Africa. The individual
is mandated to ‘change the world’. This is actually a law. A must. With this, it is now clear, as it should be, that Human Rights is not just a liberty. It is a big responsibility for the present age.

This is a great call streaming loud and clear to all of us to come out; to stand out for Africa among the likes of Chinua Achebe- who laid out the African civilisation for the whole world to appreciate; Wole Soyinka- who is involved in numerous international artistic and human rights organisation (including being the United Nations named UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for the promotion of
African culture, human rights, freedom of expression, media and communication); Fela Kuti- who vented his disregard and disagreement with misrule in Africa through his music; Jeta Amata- who through his movie, Black November, brought the world’s attention to the gross environmental degradation and its lethal consequences occasioned by the oil spills in the Niger Delta which have been unattended to; Mo Abudu- who through her Pan African Televison Network, Ebony Life TV, transforms brings to the international scene, through entertainment, a more sensational and befitting version of Africa that what the rest of the world have been deceived into believing;  Ken Saro Wiwa- who devouted himself entirely in the non-violent struggles of his people who suffered extreme environmental damage from decade of indiscriminate petroleum dumping; Gani Fawehimi(SAN)- who through law practice stood out, lived and shouted for human rights; Omotala Jalade Ekeinde- who has equally proven herself in human rights activism through her participation as a United Nations World Food Programme Ambassador; the Walk the World campaign in Liberia; her NGO the Omotola Ekeinde Initiative for Youth Empowerment; and her recent campaign in the course of which she shot a video asking Shell and the Government to Own Up, Clean Up, Pay Up and take responsibility for the Oil spills in the Niger Delta….It is official. The list of Africans who have stood out for our rights are inexhaustible. And for me, this is Human Rights.

As we have witnessed, Human Rights violations are getting more systematic and organised by the day. Smooth operations.

 Treaties are nice, but activism and individual duties need to be further encouraged and sank deep in the grass roots where the worst of these violations all occur and rights need to see light.

These days, dictionaries fail me so I will just go for it…

In the Twenty First Century ‘civilised society’, Human Rights is humanity’s only claim to a good life and it is her duty to stand out; to contribute; to make this happen. After all…It is Human Great; Human Rights.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Let's Talk About Sex!!!!!!!!!

‘Ke-di-ke’! And it’s true


Only a few topics make our hearts skip two beats like ‘Sex’. It is more or less the next universal language besides music -and perhaps fashion. Its power and prowess spreads like fluid fire through every sector of our lives: academics, religion, entertainment, family, media, social networks, work place ethics, interpersonal relationships, group co-existence, societal morals and values; and the Law. The very mention or hint of it catches our attention. We give it some thought in one way or the other at least once in 24 hours. Then again, it is discarded in inter-personal and ‘mature’ conversations as a dirty and immature thing to consider.  It is equally an arguable contention that ‘sexy’ is the twenty first century’s standard for smart, smooth and attractive. Sex sells almost everything from books, music, clothes to toothpaste and SIM Cards. It is here and it bothers me today. So let’s deal with it.

 I am not one to give definitions –the world is flooding with those. We have cliché lines like ‘Sex is special’; ‘Sex is dirty’; ‘Sex is adventure’. And hey! I feel sex is just sex. It is a factor out here to make man’s existence more exciting; a girl’s life more interesting; a woman’s role more inspiring and a boy’s life more defining.

 Now let me explain while getting down to basics. Sex is a delicate issue, element, factor … –whatever you choose to call it- that plays a very great role in how we eventually turn out or never turn out in almost every other facet of our lives. It is a long term shelf property. You just cannot afford to joke with it. Life would have been a lot simpler- and boring- if it were not here. But it being here has led- and is still leading- to a lot of beautiful, ugly and amazing things that I cannot afford to deny its weight. However, I do admit that it is a very large topic to exhaust in just one post. So for now I am narrowing down to sex in the life of a youth. Youth meaning from ‘kuchi kuchi’ to ‘Hi mum. This is the girl I want to marry.’

Before I go all academic, I want to state boldly that kids know and are conscious of a lot more than
we give them credit for. Me ma I sabi say wen I bin small, the thing dem wey I sabi eh, e fit full River Niger remain change wey go fit still throw big bash. What I am saying is that the mind of the African child can handle a lot more than we think. The topic of sex and sexuality is a remarkable part of their lives from a time earlier than we can imagine. The study of Psychology brings to light that a human being is quite conscious of pleasure and pain and the means through which it could be attained and avoided from the minute he is born. At some point the human baby is fascinated with passing faeces. Yes. This gives her sexual pleasure. The cool relieving feeling of being unburdened. Yeah! Then at another he discovers that whenever things get into his mouth he is in ‘heaven’. So the next time he sees something tangible within reach it’s gotcha! And Wom! Ohhhhhh! Such satisfaction it gives with the tongue dancing all around the object feeling the rough or smooth surface area of the object. Juicy too. When they cannot reach any object, their thumb goes in. These are stages that they must pass through and interrupting it or punishing them for it totally out of place as this would lead to adverse effects.

Then again the child grows to have sensations whenever he touches certain parts of his body. He begins to wake up with unsolicited erections. She suddenly prefers male company more. She appreciates handshakes but hugs would be just right. At this point they are more than ever prepared to listen to lectures on this seemingly brand new world of great sensations. Like a saying goes ‘When a student is ready a master will appear’. Like it or not the child has questions on his/her mind. She wants to know where babies come from. He wants to know why erections do not just mind their own business and stay away. There are countless other questions that run through their minds and have become the major topics for peer pass-times.

But in a society that predominantly neglects discussing sex with kids, these kids are embarrassed to even hint the topic amongst adults. ‘I do not want dad or mum to see me as a bad boy.’ On the other hand dad or mum either does not pay attention when a girl visits him constantly, or simply does not mind that her phone vibrates a lot more -that is if her eyes are not already perpetually glued to it.

They grow right before our eyes yet quite a number of us eventually say that we do not know what happened. The amazing thing is that by hook or crook they must learn something from someone who is somewhere. It must happen. This is a fact. What dad will not address some other man or boy out there will. What mum does not tell them they will discover. God bless the internet, these kids are faster than kids have ever been because there are over a million and one sources at the tap of their finger. No try them o!

The topic of sex and sexuality is such a salient part of our lives as individuals and as a society that it should not be taken for granted. The more reason this topic should be handled by the world’s greatest leaders: parents, big brothers, big sisters, pastors, teachers, mentors, uncles and aunts. By this I mean the proper handling of the issue of Sex Education by those who are in the best positions to handle it.

In the course of my research for this work I came across several great sources that have exposed me to so much information that I began to wonder how I coped before I read them. One remarkable material which I shall review here is THE SEX ED HANDBOOK, A Comprehensive Guide for Parents by Dr. Laura Berman.

The fourteen page material is broken into two major parts. The first is purely textual but is complemented by the second which comprises of visual aids. In the first part there are six subdivisions which contain very simple lessons for the teacher and the pupil involved as is spread in a step-by-step format for different age ranges starting from the scratch.

It begins with the posited idea that ideally Sex Education should begin at birth…

‘Yes, even a toddler can understand (and needs to understand) information about how her body functions and genitals. Why? Because if she leans to be ashamed of her body or is confused about her body, this can present later in life as body image issues or shame surrounding her sexuality.’

Dr. Laura goes on to tell us great ways to teach the child to embrace his/her body. One of such include:

‘Tell her the correct names for her body parts, and use them every time. Don’t use nicknames to refer to her genitals. This teaches her that her body is something to be hidden or masked. Correct terminology helps her to understand and embrace her body without reservations or shame.’

Moving on, at ages 2 to 3, she points out that no matter how shocked you are when they start asking questions, they must not be hushed. She proffers several means through which more ‘educated’ and helpful guidance could be rendered. She also outlines that…

‘This would also be a good time to teach your children that their private parts are their own and that no one else should touch them, other than their parents/ caregivers who are helping to wash them or wipe them. Also let them know that other people’s private parts are off-limits too.’

She strongly holds that the lessons of ‘good touch’ and ‘bad touch’ at this age, insisting that children should be taught that if someone ever touches them in  way that they do not want to be touched, they should say ‘Don’t touch me that way’ and that they can also tell you or a teacher. Use of illustrative instances that could pass for good or bad touch would go a long way.

The child questioning spree keeps growing and flowing. ‘Where do babies come from?’ or ‘I hear a kid at recess talking about an “erection” What is that?’ She proffers stages in which to meet the demands of these large questions. At this stage it would be timely to give a simple explanation of that special place in a woman’s body called the uterus/womb. It is equally ok to say that when a man and a woman love each other and are (insert your own values here, such as when they get married, X years old, etc.), the man has sperm and the woman has an egg. The man’s sperm fertilizes the woman’s egg and a baby grows.

When they ask about how the sperm and egg gets together, she advises that we use the visual aids as provided in the second part of the handbook for clarity and simplicity. They you teach the chid that the sperm is produced in the man’s testes which is inside his scrotum and the egg comes from the woman’s ovaries.

‘The sperm and egg meet in her fallopian tube, and then the fertilized egg travels down the fallopian tube to the uterus, In the uterus, there is a nice cushy layer of nutrients and the fertilized egg starts to grown there.’

Then the big question comes… ‘How does sperm get into the woman’s body?’ At this time you have to boldly and categorically tell the child, Look…

‘When a man and a woman (insert values here such as ‘love each other’, ‘only want to be with each other’, ‘are married’), the man puts his penis inside the woman’s vagina (anatomy lesson having already occurred) and the sperm comes out of his penis in a fluid called semen’ and it goes up into her uterus to her fallopian tube, where it meets the eggs.’

There, you have said it. Congratulations! You can blink now. However, your job is not over yet. Before the child gets into puberty, she advises that it…

‘…is a good time to talk about how semen is made, ovulation, menstruation, tampons/pads, wet dreams (nocturnal emissions is the correct term). Don't forget to include the other changes that happen with adolescence, such as hair growth, deepening voice, sweat production, oily skin, growth of breasts and penis and sexual thoughts/ feelings.’

It is your duty to convince them these changes are totally normal and happen at different times to everyone. For girls, it could occur between 9 and 14, while for the boys they come along a little later.

‘Reassure them that they can come to you any time they want with questions or concerns as they start to go through this sometimes scary process.’

It is very important you sit with them in a relaxing atmosphere to discuss the issues of masturbation, orgasm, pregnancy, homosexuality, lesbianism and nocturnal emissions. You can tell the girl child that it is ok to have orgasms in their sleep as well.

‘Explain what an orgasm is simply by saying that it is a really pleasurable feeling
that comes from your penis or vulva being touched. To be more in-depth, say it’s an intense contraction of the muscles in the area that feels like a beautiful release.’

You must however, come to grasp with the fact as they get older sex education should become less of a monologue and more of a conversation. Several other related issues may come up such as oral and anal sex, Human Immunodeficiency Virus, safe sex and birth control.

Herein Dr. Laura further went on to advise that when we start talking to them about the mechanics of sex we should simultaneously be addressing our hopes and dreams for their sex lives.

‘For example, what you’d like for them their first time (to be with someone they love and trust, who is going to respect them and care about making them feel good, who loves them and whom they love in return, someone who is going to be with them the day after and not talk about them, someone who deserves the amazing gift that their body and sexuality is).’

You must reinforce these lessons and values through constant checking on them, revisiting the issue and always being available, open and patient enough to listen.

Note Abeg!!!!!!

‘…just because you are having these discussions with your children doesn’t mean that you are giving them the green light to have sex.’

Always insist to their face, warmly but firmly…

‘I want you to have the information so that you aren’t confused or misled by kids at school, but that doesn’t mean I think it’s okay for you to have sex right now. I want you to wait until (insert value here…you get married, get a degree. Turn X years old….)’

Having gone this far, you must be sure their usage is surprised or at least be in the same room when they are browsing. Make sure their laptops, phones are used within your control and explain to them the reality of online sexual predators. And let the ground rules be clear on pornography and sexting (sex chatting). Total abstinence!

The media is your friend

Dr. Laura believes – and I agree- that we can use the sexual messaging in the media to our advantage
by making it a ‘teachable moment’. If a sexual scene comes on screen, do not just snatch the remote control and change channels. Turn it into a conversation…

‘Remember when we were watching that movie and they started discussing oral sex? Did that make you uncomfortable? Is that something kids at your school talk about? Is it something they do?’

You should give your child the chance to come alive, trust and bond with you without shame or fear.

The Role of Self Esteem

I love what she says here:

‘Teach your children that their sexuality is a gift and a joy and that it is something

that should not be tossed aside or used and abused by others.’

She further advises that we should not let the kids know that sex feels great and is wonderful experience…

‘…but only under the right circumstances and with the right person.’

If it is not the right time or person, it can be disenchanting or saddening, in place of inspiring and exciting.

‘Tell her… you want her first time, her every time to be beautiful and amazing, a time when her body is respected and valued, not used and discarded.’

Dr. Laura did a good job on this if I may so myself. Then again I’d like to add that Sex Education is equally part of our spirituality. A proper and timely one enhances our ability to relate with ourselves and openness on our part to God.

The Bible relates to us in Genesis 1: 26-28 that God chose to make man in a specific form so that we may be perfect to take his (man) place in the dynamic of things. When God was done, He was so fascinated by how and the result of the creation of the human race that he blessed with breath and live, and gave them the  charge and capacity to reproduce. God also gave us a special place amongst creation and a special relationship with Him. The Bible further relates to us in Romans 12:4-6 and 1 Corinthians 12:22-23 that each part of us is special, important and useful in completing the big picture of our lives and that even the seemingly ‘lower’ ones are to be treated with much care.

Sexuality as an issue in the Bible comes up again in the John 8: 1-11, the situation of the adulteress who was about being stoned to death. Nothing that was said about her shook Jesus- they must have called her all sorts of names. Their rationality probably was that she was different brand of human who did not deserve to live. However, when Jesus rose His head, he said, ‘Let anyone among you who has no sin be the first to throw a stone at her.’ Let anyone of us who does not share in this nature of being a sexual being filled with sensuality and desire stand out. Let anyone of us who does not have to face hormones stand up. Of course no one was that bold to lie because they had been convicted by their very own conscious that all shared in her ‘imperfection’. But the special message in this is that Christ said to her, ‘I do not condemn you, go and sin no more.’ Go and live above imperfection. Go and be conscious of your beauty. Go and handle thing properly next time.

Every child, man and woman in the human race is an image of beauty both inside and out. Consciousness and education is the key to unlocking this and letting us come alive. The Bible holds in Proverbs 22:6

‘Teach a child the way he should go, he will not stray from it while he lives ’

I do not negate the fact there are ‘more important’ things to talk about with the kids other than sex. But if you do not have that conversation with them to teach them the right things ‘on time’ you may not have that chance again in the future. You may be turning your child into a raving sex illiterate by simply neglecting that part of his/her life and personality. You are daddy/mummy now but you will not always be instructor. They need to hear it now that their heart is going ke-di-ke  to ask questions, watch and listen.  In addition it will afford you a wonderful intimacy and a refreshing relationship on a whole new level with your child/ward. So c’mon! Let’s talk about Sex baby!

Friday, 11 October 2013

I look at you... and you inspire me

 
Nigeria, Africa and the rest of the world are flooded with tastes and trends. Channel E is saying one thing. The Fashion Police is saying another. The Fashion shows and magazines seem to be in a world of their own. The near weekly ashebi temptation does not make things less complicated. The various pictures of our lives of our lives make us go 'Hey! I need that suit'; 'I could use a pair of blue suede shoes'; 'I can not go wrong with Ankara'; 'Malaysian hair always works'; 'Platforms take you anywhere'; 'Red is the colour'...Omo e...who invent fashion sef !? And this is just one category of us.

At another wing, some of us go all high spirited to live in the moment. 'Sexy is what it is!' Flaunting the 'melon twins' and 'macho distractions'. As much as these are already a handful , we have another special category that has given up on fashion and appearance to descend to anything. There are also those who go for the 'Bottle Neck Total Conceal'

I think we should just all Watch it! A large crowd is watching. The society is such a delicate chain of events that a simple mistake or misbehaviour on our part could destroy a person forever. Think of it, an innocent child may secretly admire you and mirror absolutely everything you wear. And to such a child 'sister cleavage' is the true definition of a cut-throat sensation.

We hear and know of things about lifestyle, personality, class, presentation and poise. Shockingly, this is part of our Christianity too. Presentation is everything and all parts of our lives are essential to our ministry of getting the world to see God in a refreshingly inspiring light.

Your body is the temple of God and you are the very sensational face of Christendom. What you choose to wear or not to wear, though entirely your decision, is part of your life as a Christian and equally the fulcrum on which the faith and strength of quite a number balances.

Fortunately, I will not ask you to wear this or that or to toss those away. However, I will have you know that you have a gift. You have a great mind

For God did not confer on you a spirit of bashful, but of strength love and good judgement(2 Timothy 1:7)


Let that mind, independent of all impure and external pressure, decide for you.

Through scripture the man of God is made expert and thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:17)

Then again, I will say this to you. Africa celebrates countless people for their impact in the world and in history. Most of this began with how they presented themselves; what they stood for; what they chose not to wear or say and conversely what they chose to appear in and say; the decent and positively explosive energy they bounced of on the world, and the influence they had and still have on men, women and children alike.

Looking good is an amazing business. Wonderful in all its demands, commands and reprimands. So when you decide to throw on that jacket, pair of shoes, Ankara, pleats or even have that 'it' hair cut/ hair do, keep in mind that either of three things may happen (you might inspire, disenchant/disgust, or have no effect at all on everyone) but one thing must. Eyes look at you!
 


 

Thursday, 10 October 2013

The Four Faces of Love


I have a secret to spill and no one else must hear of this.

There is a woman in my life whose person I now tell you about. A woman whose life has dealt great blows on me. Before I tell her name, I shall tell you four sins that the world hates her for. Perhaps you will decide to be more liberal or kind to hold otherwise. So keep an open mind and tell the winds of scrutiny to be still until you are sure you can be as objective.

For now, it is safe to call her M.

‘Nnanna’, that’s what she calls me and my palpitation, in responding, betrays me. She looked into my eyes a lot initially when I arrived making ‘silly’ faces at me. Blowing me kisses every now and then and taming my tears to cease at her presence or touch and my body to giggle on her tickling.

Initially, I felt enslaved as it bothered me that two people could control my thoughts, emotions and physiology. I felt a little less than a baby. ‘I have my pride and power!’ often I would prove with loud squeals in the middle of the night and throw the whole house into World War II. I was entertained to see them all run around like zombies looking for this or that to pacify me. But then like a vision in white her two hands would reach for me in the darkness with warm palms clasping my sides, ascending to a warmer pillow, then as usual the milk works would follow. I loved my life.

However, with time M had grown more and more distinct as the thoughts my mind became more conscious of the tastes, textures and colours of the life I lead and the world she is now the centre of. I could recognise her even with my eyes closed. She teaches me every day to laugh, cry and be lucid. Often relaying that as much as I appreciate splendour, occasional lack and silence is healthy. There has always been this thin filament that gets thicker every day between us. Perhaps it is because of her four sins, the four faces of love:

The Face of ‘Sister’

M tells me great things. Little and simple in their packs. She always slips in gold nugget whispers at times when my mind was most wildly receptive and my ears impulsively itching to listen.

She beautifully steps back and forth in my life keeping at my pace and often a little slower and faster. She challenges my abilities to think, be answerable and gives me the chance to be a man. While she stretches my patience she strengthens my faith. She always applauds my feats and mildly urges me on in flashes of polite contempt. Then again she is not always present to witness my growing stupidity but always make me aware that she looks out for my explosive moments and prays for me in the silence of my tears.

When I am weak, she warms me with love and understanding. She always tells me that I am her inspiration, her pride. She inspires dad to. Whenever she is here dad is hardly ever in a bad mood. Again she knows when to step in to my rescue and when to side him for our good. This is one of her faces of love. A love which gives her the right to have…

The Face of ‘Lover’

With this face she is a shield to my immaturity. She flaunts me like a trophy to the world. In this new light she sees me as perfect and exclusive. She always listens to me and gives me several chances to grow up, appearing to understand even when I am most inexplicable. She never gives up on me and she is always kind.

She is humble enough to let me see her tears and but they are gone the next minute and love is sweet and simple once more. Her secrets are my secrets. My life is her life and all my projects are a joint priority.

However, she understands that she deserves her space and I deserve mine. She is not too coy to be silly around me and to let the whole know that she is in love. For this reason, most of the time, it is us against the world.

I admit that she completely owns my mind when she wants to. And no one takes our love for a ride. She teaches me to love in simple and most spontaneous ways. She trusts in my fidelity and fancies how I try to struggle from her charms to no avail. Funny as it may seem, I occasionally want to run away when the love explodes in multiple unconventional definitions. But those times cage me in the more. Then again to achieve this, she has to have…

 

The Face of ‘Friend’

As time passes in my life I independently accept that I can never be independent. She makes this so true. Often I find myself looking at her, inspired by the extent to which she has succeeded in outliving all that used to stand in her way. She sees danger in nothing and is fired up simply by the thirst to lead a wonderful life. Every part of her is a super-story. Her academics, finances, spiritually, family, love-life, career, purpose and gifts. She wonderfully bears this face to a lot of others besides me and has inspired almost everything to come alive and stay that way. She is good. She is beautiful. However, she is often misunderstood and challenged by those who believe that her speed is a threat and an eye-sore. But then, how she handles this so maturely marvels me all the more. When she tells me the bitter truth, she does not blink at all and that scares me. But she knows how to have a good time and does it properly. She does not pretend to be a fan of my madness but quite a lot about me gets to capture her undivided attention and I feel so V.I.P. when this happens. Truly, she can never achieve this without wearing…

 

The Face of ‘Mother’

After raising five kids- in collaboration with God and dad, she does not only have more than her own fair share of labour pangs, mood swings, morning sickness and the works, she has a stellar personality, great taste in meals, entertainment, fashion and books. She is such an amazing companion, hostess, student and coach. Often she plays all three at a time and suddenly the world to her is one big classroom. We still cook together once in a while and I have to learn to accept the painful Vitamin A that the onions cannot do without. ‘Run to wherever and return! This onion will not cut itself ’ she says in her silence observing you as she seems to be so engrossed with the vegetables or the stove. Who says that the kitchen is not ‘inspiring’?

The again, in some inexplicable way she manages to love and remember everything about everyone. Five kids and a husband should be competing for accommodation in that little heart of hers, but this seemingly little heart seems to expand with an amazingly explosive rate. No one can touch its ceiling, no one can reach its depth. She knows every subject of every homework. She joggles the expanding social circles, health, emotional and psychological needs of us all and even more. And she does this so perfectly it scares me.

From tooth brush lessons to puberty to sex and relationships, everything is on her schedule and in her purse. No wonder she hardly ever falls sick or cries. She enjoys a healthy marital relationship with dad and together they are impermeable. So it’s better they do not even sit on your matter because it is their way or the high way. In this light, I hate to admit, most of the time their way is the best way. Every stroke of the cane and TV deprivation was just perfect for our upbringing and maturity.

M is my mother,  Mrs. Doris Chinyere Ikpo.  I do not boast in her being flawless but no woman can be as perfect as she is to bear these four faces of love at the various phases in the lives of my sisters, dad and I. She is not only an inspiration to me but also a standard. Each day I wake up to her is a festival for me. She is every place I want to go to. She is everyone I want to talk to. In her, God shows himself to me ever loving, ever kind. Still, she may not be much but she means the world to me.

As you add a year’s feather to your hat, I declare that everything that means happiness to you is strengthened. May all your days be filled with joy, peace, complete happiness, inspiration and the All-preserving presence of the Most High God . We love you mum. We love so much. And we pray for grace for all mothers to love God; lead beautiful lives; raise wonderful kids and husbands; and to bear the four faces of love.

So this is the woman in my life, I hope you do not judge me so. You know my secret and now you owe me.

But I plead and plead again, if you see my mum anywhere, tell her that you know that we love her because we loves her so much.

Happy Birthday mum.

From your family.