I still remember all too clearly sitting at the foot of Papa’s chair, other children around, a kerosene lantern flickering somewhere in the room. He would regale us with thrilling tales, colorful stories of the most bizarre plots.
About Mbe nwa anuga (The tortoise) – The ever cunning character with his clever machination and fierce lesson-laddened retributions.
About Nduru ubeke (The dove) – The hardworking meek dove declaring the just grievances he holds over his employers mistreatment.
Can you forget the Lion? – He ever appears Lordly and strong in every story.
The Sheep – Ever wise, ever humble.
Stories of three headed spirits, journeys into lands of terror, stories about the envious wives, the vengeful brother, wicked step mother.
In these, twisted in the most elaborate forms, laced with subtle lessons that your mind can’t help but pick in the most entertaining way possible.
And the songs? The litany and replies of the folksongs. Chants in the deep mimicking the depth of the spirit tunes.
These memories mark my childhood. The countless nights we would spread our mats outside under the moon, bathed in The s tar light recounting the folklore we have learnt from our parents. Exchanging bits of information in a trade-like fashion. Someone just told you a story, it is only fair you reciprocate.
Thoughts of school far from our minds, the events of the world meaning little to nothing, we only want to stay within the world where we can witness Mbe nwa Anuga (The tortoise) outwit the swine causing him to dig up the soil with his nose even to this day.
African culture is heavily oral. Outside the aesthetic of speech, we relish in the aesthetic of stories – embellishing them with the most strange tunes to rope in the spirit.
Today? How many of us still pay attention to this time honored tradition?
How many of us still impact moral lessons and awareness in the young ones with colorful tales that transport their imagination to a much greener world?
Do you spend such bonding moments with your children?
Do you pass on this crucial part of our culture that is unfortunately condemned to die in the gallows of the television and social media roping in our minds away from oral interactions which are most vital to human relations?
I still recall the expressions in papa’s face as he changed them with the tune of the plot. I look forward to seeing my children sprawled under the foot of my own chair, their eyes glistening with anticipation and curiosity, their hands supporting their heads from under their chin, all their attention enhanced for the fascinating tale their Papa is about to tell.
I can picture this future in my mind. An image modeled after my experience, it makes me smile. To teach my children just as Papa taught us, to send them to bed with such complex tales that is guaranteed to keep their imaginations wondering, to relish in the lessons threaded in between every line.
‘Soon’ I mutter to myself.