Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Beach Solitude

Take the walk, see the sights, smell the air,
See the lights and feel the smouldering heat.
Wide expanse of brick and sand abounds in the city.
Dense population and busy streets; but I hear it -
in the stillness, I feel the hum.

Stirring the senses, the city heat hums in short pulses.
Floats in the air, buried in the earth, flickering in the fire.
The sheen of sweat that trickles down your nape.
Thirty-five degrees is normal weather
Not boiling, just perfect – can one ask for more?

With constant heat, the temperature shifts only slightly.
Skin burning but not evident from the dark membrane.
Shall we lay by the sea shore?
Nothing beats the cooling effect of the beach.
Serenity comes with the bliss of cool blue hues.

Wigs tossed aside, lawyers respond to the Bar's call.
Sipping on happy juice, tensions and tongues loosen.
They seek solace in the secrets of the sand,
Women kneel in supplication towards the tide -
Crucifixes of wood and stainless steel wave in the air.

They pray to the spirit of the sea
‘Cleanse our land, purify our city’, they say.
Corruption spreads like gangrene;
With no expectation for working systems,
They turn to the Sea Salt deity for help.

Instead of clean white sand, prayer garments pristine abound.
Soon, the goddess of the sea will answer – soon.
Knees scuffed daily in penitence, a hope of salvation.
Surely she is strong enough to bring change – wild and wet
Waves come, bringing grit and shells but no relief.

If we pray harder they say, whiten our garments;
Silk not satin - glittery and pure as sheep.
And so they who believe adhere like flock.
Hope lies in the Bar Beach with imprints of our knees.
Dark cloudy skies, pregnant with thunderous rain.

And there is no shelter from the torrents.
The boulders act as breakers but fail,
Flooding the streets with no restraint.
Dirt litters doorsteps with deposits of the sea.
This time no lives are lost but we wonder.

Is the goddess angry with us?
Her reflection she sees in that tall glass building,
Across the road – right there opposite the beach.
The sea rushes forward towards the reflecting tower,
Housing suites of offices – prime real estate of seaside value.

‘Break it down City Council, don’t anger the mermaid’.
We know her rage brings destruction.
The goddess is more powerful than the government.
Instead of going to the polls, we prayed.
We’re wise enough not to incur her wrath, yet she rages.

Perhaps it is the horse rides on the sand.
Could it be the trading, garish clothing and loud music?
The Atlantic - sometimes serene, other times raging.
Around the world maybe, where it is cooler
Bar Beach is anything but quiet.

Drowning in the booze, I scoffed at the Lady Celestial.
Back at the cross impaled in the sand;
Grateful to the goddess for sparing her,
For another day of mercy and grace at Bar Beach.
If only she would understand the tides and stay away.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

#BringBackOurGirls: Lend Your Voice, Don't Stay Silent

A Nigerian guy and his Caucasian girlfriend moved into our house last weekend. Last night as they were having dinner, she asked him if he had heard of the over 200 girls that were taken from Nigeria. He said he had,’since last week’. Then she said… “but it’s in the news because nobody seems to be doing anything about finding them”. She added that international celebrities are lending their voice to asking questions about bringing them back. The guy’s response was: “It’s good for them”. I nearly choked on my salad. I wasn’t sure I heard him properly, neither did his girlfriend, because she said: “I don’t understand”. He clarified, “It’s Hausa people killing themselves. They should go and sort out their problems.” WHAT? I mean, I’ve seen stupid comments like this on Twitter and even in the comments section on blogs but I never imagined I’d meet a human being who actually thought like this. His voice had so much conviction. “Hausa people killing themselves?” I was trembling in anger. My father was born and raised in Niger State. He was born in Wushishi, grew up between Pandogari and Minna. He went to secondary school in Jos and uni in Zaria. He only came to the south in his 30s. My mother is a Jos girl through and through. For all intents and purposes, my parents are Northerners. I am a Yoruba girl with Northern parents. That statement made my blood boil. “Hausa people are killing themselves?” “It’s good for them?” If there are many more people who reason like this then what are the chances that our girls will be found? Here lies the thrust of all our problems in Nigeria. The disunity is deep and real. It’s far reaching, and I wonder if we can truly see ourselves as one – especially in trying times as this. These missing girls could be your kids, or my kids. They could be you or me. When the Nyanya bomb went off, there was no marginalization of religion, or tribe – it was a mass murder, for which nobody has been held accountable. These injustices prevail while we sit, do nothing and pray for the best. There are protests organized across Nigeria today. Here’s a chance for you to lend your voice to something. If you are unable to join the protest, tell someone about it. If you have access to the internet, use that tool to help bring change. We cannot underestimate the power of social media. Yesterday evening I saw a comment on Tiwa Savage’s Instagram page stating that she should have changed her name to Tiwa Balogun and not Tiwa Savage. In the bigger scheme of things, someone is more concerned about Tiwa’s change of name or lack of it therein? We need to be able to prioritize. What is important to us as a people? What is the basis of our value system? While we sit and complain about whether patriarchy should still be the prevalent value system, our economy is being eroded terribly; innocent lives are lost and our standard of living keeps dropping. While we complain about whether ‘celebrities’ are lending their voices to causes, we don’t realize that we’re not doing anything in our little corner. If you think a celebrity is just using a cause to improve his stats with his fans, think about the fact that he/she is actually doing one Indomie pack more than you – who is doing nothing. Every little thing counts… even if it means telling one person that it’s not about Hausa people killing themselves, then you’ve done something. If you’re in Lagos and you can join the #BringBackOurGirls protests, please do so. If what you can do is buy a pack of bottled water for those who are protesting, then do something. If what you can do is spread the word about the protests, then by all means… spread the word. But, please let’s not stay silent. This is about you. Let’s do this for the Chibok Girls. Those girls have faces, they have dreams, they have people who love them. They’re not just statistics. They’re not just ‘Hausa people’. Let’s bring back our girls. *** Originally written for

The Delight of Pembrokeshire

One of the best things about doing a Masters in Creative Writing at Swansea Uni is the teaching staff. It was one of the decisive elements for me with regards coming for the course and so far I have had no regrets. So it was with great joy that I received the information that one of my tutors was having a production of one of his plays done in Pembrokeshire – and we were invited. Awesome. As part of the Dramaturgy module, we were expected to see as many plays as possible, to enable us broaden our perception of dramatic writing and production. Going to see this play up in Pembrokeshire was like being in Fun School, and this brought out the 16 year old in me. Arrangements had been made for us to spend the night at the Druidstone hotel. We were getting a neat deal for a night in a cottage up at the hotel, and we rescheduled our Monday plans to allow us spend a luxuriously lazy day up in the countryside. Now, as an international student, the extent of my sights and sounds of Wales was just Swansea and Cardiff. There was the occasional stare at the map in wonderment at the idea of places like Bangor, but for me, Swansea a pretty good estimation of Wales. How terribly myopic. That Sunday, together with 3 other lovely ladies, I went on my first adventure outside my Swansea cocoon. I had planned that I was going to have my earphones plugged in my ear and I’d spend the 2 and half- hour ride peering at my Kindle. I mean, what exciting thing could hold my attention for the length of the ride? From coach ride experiences, I knew watching the unending stretch of black tar with white markings was no productive use of time. However, the ride to Pembrokeshire was different because as we drove further away from the city, the beauty of the countryside hit me. I wanted to know more. The clear blue skies met the lush green fields in the horizon in a sprawling display of colour. It felt like nature was showing off and there was no better evidence of it as there were long stretches of fields with lambs grazing and sheep adding light speckles of white against landscape. It was indeed a good day to be out there, and it opened my eyes to how limited one can be if one does not go out there. With school and other lifestyle adjustments, it’s extremely hard to take time out to see beyond the university community and city. However, the entire experience of being so far away is lost if one doesn’t explore beyond one’s oyster. I chided myself with these words as the fields rolled on both sides of the roads. When we got to the little town of Haverfordwest, I asked if we could do this more often. But we had only just started. We looped through the narrow windy roads of the town as we tried to navigate ourselves through Little Haven, and Broad Haven to get to our hotel. I had been told that the Druidstone was a hotel by the sea but nothing prepared me for the immense beauty of the Irish sea. I soaked in the sights of the towering grass and moss covered hills. Beside the hills were sharp crags and cliffs against which the force of the winds and the tide of the sea created a beautiful contrast of the ephemeral and the solid. Because right there, standing by the edge of the cliff, the waves, sand and skies transported me beyond the physical. There are no accurate words to describe the way the bluish green tones of the beach juxtaposed against the brown and grey of the cliffs. I wanted to be as close to the sea as possible. This was nothing like Swansea... it was like being let into an intricate Welsh secret. I wanted to be there forever. That Sunday night, as I watch the talented Welsh actor, Richard Elfyn, work his magic on the stage at the Druidstone, my heart yearned for the possibilities for creativity. It was creativity that could only be birthed by being in a place so wonderfully kissed by nature. At 7am the following morning, I slipped into my running shoes and headed for the beach. Walking along the trail, I imagined the people who had walked this path before me. I wondered about their lives, and their dreams. I wondered if they looked out in the sea and felt its powerful allure. I wondered if they told their children that the highland cows were special to them. I wondered if the farm hands that cared for the ponies looked into the beautiful skies and dreamt of a brighter future. I wondered if they realized how totally blessed they were to experience the Pembrokeshire Delight. After that trip, I came to the conclusion that it would be remiss of me to end my time as an international student at Swansea University without exploring more parts of Wales. My trip to Pembrokeshire was an eye opener. It said to me that I could find beauty, peace and joy in the simple things. The Pembrokeshire Delight was a perfect amalgam of these simple things. *** This piece was originally written by me for The Swansea Waterfront