BY OLAYIWOLA FAITH ADEDOLAPO
Outside is beautiful. Grazing beyond it makes one dirty and hopeless. She could not imagine a world better than the one she lived in. So, she tried not to. She immersed herself into a world of perfect timeliness and speed. One, whose existence makes for an avenue to live in one world and wake in another. She is tall and handsome but her handsomeness is on the feminine side. You might just begin to wonder why but her focus is on this piece. She watched the woman speak so fast. Not in her language but in one that has deceived her and her people still today. ‘So, this is a piece which was worn by Olori Emiola, the second queen of Oba Adegbega Adekola, twenty-third king of Samelu.’ The white French woman described the various artworks to them as they walked around the next piece. But her eyes are on this statue- ‘Orisa Olomo’. She watched the guard describe the artwork in her word; old, ancient, lasting, economic, research and religion. She continued, ‘at present, it is worth over a hundred and fifty million dollars and weights over fifty-eight carats of gold.’ ‘You have no idea of what you are saying’, she smiled as she watched Kemisola go into the bathroom. ‘You really do not.’
We walked downwards the sloppy road and moved in shaky forms; lyrical, dreadful and boring. The road moved us to either side until the little girl with the longest hair fell backwards. We all chorused, ‘sorry Omolade!’ She managed to get up from the bush filled with thongs and scratchy leaves. The road looked more enticing than the one that led to the shrine of the chief priest, Oludele, up until Ayeme that looked like the supposed land of the dead. We lifted our water pot slowly back to the head and continued our journey.
We grew silent until Bimbo grew so weary of it. ‘The white men; I heard that they cannot swallow Amala’, she announced. ‘Really? The rest exclaimed. Funke carefully adjusted the pot on her head, moved her head forward and said, ‘I also heard so. Their ofun is so tiny that one would have to move closer to their throats to view it’. ‘How do they live then?’ Sade asked. ‘Abi?’ Some of the ladies exclaimed again with uncertainty written all over their faces. ‘I also do not know’, Bimbo replied, ‘but I am sure of one thing: Awo’s words are true and they must be sent into the Fini forest, where spirits, monsters and the gods of this land live. Their ways are strange and words; too true to be believed. What other evidence do we need?’
‘But, the things they brought were used to fight against Adun land’, Sade replied, ‘as I heard from my father, Adun kingdom was baffled at the incredible things we did. We used the guns and fireworks to scare them. We are now advanced than the neighbouring kingdoms.’ She paused. ‘Is that not enough to prove that they are god sent?’ ‘Hmmm’ came from various angles. We walked past Akanmu and Gbenro’s farms and afterwards met Oloye Otu. ‘Ah, baba! Ema wo le baba. Ekabo. Se dada le de?’ We all greeted. ‘Adunpe lowo Eledunmare. What can we do? We left and came back with good news. You will soon be called to hear of it’. He clapped and proceeded to leave.
‘What good news?’ We looked at one another and left.
The drums rolled. The Gbanda dancing group dressed in blue ofi made into wrapper, buba and gele for the women and buba and sokoto for the men turned their waist to the beats. The villagers all hailed. Inside the palace, chiefs and some white men were graciously fixed on cane chairs while the Oba’s throne was clothed with foam and lion skin. The Oba’s face looked angry. He foamed constantly with his mouth and chest. ‘No way!’ He exclaimed, ‘I cannot give you the pride of my fathers. Do you know that our masquerade and Orisa Olomo is known far beyond the black sea for its grace and blessing it has bestowed on us, the bearers of it?’ He hit his legs continuously against the floor. ‘I cannot let down the gods and my father for your guns and mirror and what else did you say you have?’ the Oba said with a disgusted face. ‘Year in year out, our Orisa Olomo festival brings a lot of people from far and near. It not only makes us famous; it increases our economy greatly. No oh! Oti!’ He spat. ‘Isn’t it, my chiefs?’
The chiefs raised their hands up in support, ‘abi?’
The white men bowed their heads and tried to deliberate on what next to do. ‘See, this man is emphatically stubborn and traditionally driven. For over three months here with the presence of these deadly mosquitoes and cholera, I cannot stay here any longer. I am sure other towns will be willing to give us their gods; James tries to convince Michael on the futility of their mission if they continue to be persistent with their request. ‘We only need a major artwork for the exhibition and you have the King’s daughter. Let’s go!
‘No James. This god is explicitly designed to gather men for money and fame. If a small statue like this can generate so many interests here in Africa; imagine how much more it would in Europe. We should not settle for less when we can have more.’
‘But…’ James looked more convinced that they are in for nothing. Michael stared at him in return with a ‘get-smarter’ look. ‘No but. If we try once more and they prove to be still stubborn, we will find a way to get it.’
Michael shook his head in disapproval.
Michael turns over to Oba Adegbega who had begun to lose desire in the conversation. ‘Oba Adegbega, this piece is…’
I watched Oba’s face turn cold with fury. I try to wonder on what went on in his head: shame, regret, anger or reproach? I tried to wonder on what happened before he gave me to this beast he was arguing with. ‘She is our goddess and not a piece.’ Michael, still looking unimpressed with the respect and virtue given to the wooden figure replied, ‘okay, this goddess is only needed for an art exhibition at in Paris. It will be returned almost immediately as soon as we are done with the show.’
‘Our goddess is our mother and not to be shown as an exhibition’, the king replied with emphasis drawn on his face.
‘It is only for…’
‘The eyes of the god are upon you’, Oludele, the Oluawo of the land dressed in full white except for the cock on his left hand said as he walked in and stopped almost as soon as he set his eyes on the white men. ‘What are these fowls doing here? Should they not have been sacrificed to the gods?’
‘Oludele, the wise one; the voice of the gods; you are welcome.’
‘Kate, you are smarter than this. Kate, you are smarter than this’, Kate said walked up and down the lobby that led from the kitchen to her study room. She is dressed in a yellow satin on a white jean. Her yellow and white sandals to match were made out of leather with several shining beads fixed into them. She is black; not the blackness of the lost race or the forbidden soul but that of a desire to be better each passing day. Her blackness is Nigerian. One which has lost itself to the past but goes into the future to find the past in its unfiltered form. When the remaining four were gathered, she brought out her hand from her pockets and folded them together. ‘Hi guys.’
‘Hi’, they all replied
‘Are you ready?’ She looked at them.
The morning grazed out in little focus while the sun came out with full strength. But that would not be a problem to us this morning as the market cried out for more people to fill it. It would be soon, the Orisa Olomo festival. I saw myself stand in front of the two feet entity as father would call it. Its eyes were as black as the devil’s while its hand carries a moulded baby. I wondered why no woman could be allowed to see it but a stranger could. Michael had described to me how the god looked like. It is said that no woman goes to Orisa Olomo and comes back to cry. Therefore, no woman enters the shrine twice in a lifetime and whatsoever is done should lay sealed. He said that he does not believe that a god without hands and feet could give a child. ‘She is without life!’ He shouted. But I never told papa. I could not imagine him being locked in the prisoners’ quarters again after he spoke against Oludele. Oludele had asked that Michael and his interpreter, James be thrown into the Fini forest but he king had refused because he could not afford to lost his daughter’s husband. He did not know how eager I was to let go of that death-filled marriage. It was beyond sour; like lemon mixed with a lot of ground pepper. I knew that I could no longer bear the shame; the shame of being a wife to the white man. I remembered that day every morning I woke up close to the beast I called husband….
The drums rolled tremendously at the pleasure of the king. In few minutes, the king rose up and danced towards the centre of the field. He danced to the approval of the people who hailed and nodded severally. The king then raised his right hand and said, ‘enough enough!’ The drums and dance stopped almost immediately. The king turns around and stares at his people. ‘My people; I am sure this is the moment we have all being looking for. I shall proceed to hand over my only daughter, princess Aduke, Omoba Adegbega Adekola to the white man whose fame for the protection and exhibition of famous and worthy cultures has earned him so many awards and recognition, Mr. Michael Stone.’
‘Buy your royal beads from Upetu! Buy your royal beads from Upetu! Buy yours for the festival to come.’ She cried out to the visitors of the market. That day, she wondered why sales were so few. She was known to be in the market every seven days. ‘Where are my customers?’ She wondered aloud? As she bent down to select another piece from her laid down tray, she heard the sound of gunshots. She looked up to see various men and women run helter-skelter and trays, foodstuffs, water and gun splashed all over the market. She ran.
‘The mission is to properly inspect the museum. We need not to make any suspicious move or we shall be summoned for questioning. I am aware that we cannot take any mobile phones in; neither can we move away from the museum guard. Well, except you wish to visit the toilet. So, I have prepared this earpiece for everyone. Here; have it’, she handed over the earpiece to all of them. ‘Sound check?’
‘The men should not stay here any longer. The gods are angry with you. They no longer speak. And I am sure that I am deaf. So, why should I not hear?’ Oludele looked pissed off at the king but hid them behind his voice.
Oba Adegbega came down from his throne and walked towards the end of the room. He stood beside the window and looked afar. ‘Oludele, the eyes of the gods; who speaks beyond the mysteries of human. I hear you. But my daughter! My only daughter! Shall I now leave her to the white man?’
‘Kabiyesi, you should have thought of that before you gave her to them. Ah! And I warned you! Kabiyesi, I warned you that the gods were displeased with your acts and they requested that we throw them into Fini, the land of the gods. And now; but now Kabiyesi, if only they could speak for us to hear!’
Kabiyesi turned back to look at Oludele. ‘Hmmm! Oludele’, Oba Adegbega called, ‘I know that I have made so many mistakes. But now, what should I do?’
‘We are in this dilemma together.’
‘But Kate; the piece…’
‘The goddess’, she corrected with her eyes fixed on the young lady.
Alright…the goddess, how much does it worth.
Yes, a clan. She looked away.
‘Michael, please. I beg of you’, I pleaded with my face filled with tears. I pleaded before Michael. ‘Return Orisa Olomo back to her shrine. She shall not withhold her wrath against you. Michael, did you forget what I told you?’ Michael looked confused with her strange acts, ‘about what?’ ‘I told you about the man at Apele who stole the Orisa Olomo about four hundred years ago. He died of leprosy! He was later thrown into the Fini forest’, she reminded him.
‘Okay’, Michael looked unconvinced. He raised his hands up in wonder, ‘these are the types of lies they have fed you with that has refused you from thinking by yourselves. Have you ever wondered about why one would create a manly image in a dwarf form and then ask that real men should bow before it? Anyways, what can you know? You are just some set of anim…gosh!
‘Insult us! Make jest of us!’ I shouted back at him, ‘is it not because you are more developed than we are? We are the animals, the slaves and the needy. That is why you all try to take advantage of us and turn us into slaves; your slaves.’ I got back on my feet and looked fierce than before.
You know nothing about us woman! You should ask better from that man who you call father. I have no time to discuss nonsense with you. Let us leave before the war gets closer. Michael tried to place Orisa Olomo but is stopped by Aduke. I began to shout, ‘I will not leave my father and my people alone to suffer in the hand of some African barbarians. While I, princess Aduke would go to an unknown land to enjoy life when I really am unhappy. I am not going anywhere. I will stay here still the war is over. Then I can join you with the goddess. Just give me Orisa Olomo.’ We struggled together for the goddess until Michael stopped. ‘Okay then since you have proven to be stubborn, Michael brings out a gun from his behind pocket and stretches it out to me, move!’
I felt my body warm up against nature. It betrayed my strength and zeal. I moved with fear boldly inscribed on my face. My hand shivered. My heart stopped. I saw a black dark tunnel which I entered. And as I continued to walk inside it, my eyes became so dim and dim…
‘This piece was the famous Orisa Olomo of the Samelu kingdom. It was a statue of its kind; one which has lasted in Paris for over thirty years as against the belief that it would spread leprosy within and beyond its vicinity. It was endowed and embolden with gold to protect its clay form and it is proven that it has helped to preserve the lifespan of the goddess.’ The museum guard place her hand on each other and smiled at her tourists.
‘You said that it has been proven that the gold embodiment has helped to preserve its clay nature. But has it been proven that the clay itself cannot last? A clay from Africa?’ Someone asked from behind.
‘Oludele! My daughter. Help me call my daughter; I am sure the gods are still willing to save us. The people are dying. There is war everywhere. My daughter. This land. What shall we do Oludele? It can never be too late for the gods.’ The king firmly held on to Oludele cloth. They stare firmly into each other’s eyes like those at war against each other. Oludele stood unmoved by Oba Adegbega’s tears. Olori Emiola runs into the palace. Her hair looks like the scattered hen of a hairdresser while her feet are covered with mud and liquid greenish substance. Oba Adegbega removes his hands from Oludele’s cloth. She spoke between her breathe, ‘Adegbega Adekola, you know that I pleaded with you to let my daughter get married to Areola, the blacksmith. But you refused. You insisted still she got married to a white man whose history and origin, you know nothing of!’
‘Help me tell him’, Oludele shrugged.
Oba Adegbega walked away while his wife ran after him, ‘Kola, get me my daughter! The famous father in-law to the white man, my daughter is invaluable to me if she is not to you. Get me my daughter!’ Suddenly, a mad man stops the king sand laughed. His teeth were as the root of Igbadi, the local herb used by the hunters to energise their gunpowder to become more effective. ‘The gods has spoken! The mad man then ran into the palace and sat on the king’s throne. The palace seemed like one that was being chased by some fiery spirits. The king noticed the eyes of the man to be like the eyes of Orisa Olomo. He tried to shade all form of spiritual thoughts about his present dilemma. He could not afford to go insane at this critical point in his life. ‘I said that the gods has spoken’, the mad man called out again. ‘Can you not see them? See!’ He pointed towards Adegbega’s throne and his staff, withdraws slowly See another! He pointed again towards the king’s staff. ‘They have spoken: you shall be enslaved into the world of the barbarians. While the god, Orisa Olomo shall remain in the unknown land for two thousand years. Only thy daughter, whose innocence and endurance has been seen by the gods, shall be made to see the parts of the wonders the goddess herself shall exhibit. Hahaha! Oba Adegbega, it is over! It is over!’ He laughed awkwardly as he left the palace.
As she placed her hands on the glass that shielded the statue, the guard woman shouted, ‘stop! We informed you earlier that no one was allowed to touch any of the artifices. It is not allowed. Please, everyone should take a step backwards. Almost immediately, the glass sparked with various colours of light and came down suddenly. The tourists all ran back to avoid being injured by the edges of the glass. The statue then let itself off the golden apparition and walked towards Kate. Everyone from various parts of the room brought out their phones and cameras to take a life video coverage of the scene. Kate bent down to hold Orisa Olomo.
‘Strange things are going on at the museum here in Paris. The famous Orisa Olomo statue has been confirmed to have walked by itself toward one of the tourists. The woman whose name is still unidentified has refused to speak to anyone about the statue. This is BBC world news….’
‘Welcome today to the news at five pm’ ‘Give me Orisa Olomo or she would do the worst.’ These are the words of Katherine Richard; an indigene of Nigeria who came here to Paris to become a better person. But the question really is: does Orisa Olomo really exists?’
Good morning Michael, I greeted him in between my yawn. I looked across the boat that sailed towards France. The room looked like what I met the day before. The flowers, and hard bed smell alike; Titus fish. I arched for one; just one fish to eat after a long trek from my village to Calabar. I rose up from the bed to see him stand with a fat white man at the end of the bed. Looking disturbed, I asked, ‘Is he the waiter?’ Michael snubed me and turned to face the white man. ‘Here is she. Her name is Kate’, he said with a smile on his face. ‘She is all yours.’
I watched Michael’s smile turn pale towards me. I tried to search for one moment of truth. ‘Why did Michael lie? I thought. Should I tell the man the truth or was he going to sell the mother goddess?’ I thought. ‘Michael, what do you mean?’ When he refused to reply, I began to shout, ‘are you leaving? Will I not come with you? Michael!’
Michael refused to reply and left with the door firmly locked behind him. The white man stares angrily at me and began to unbutton his brown leopard trousers. ‘Keep quiet young lady’, he shouted at me, ‘you will do as I say. Alright?’ I moved slowly backwards and tried to get hold of the flower vase. ‘Who are you? What do you want from me? Where is Michael?’ I asked as me and the man struggled endlessly again one another. He finally got hold of me and punched me still I became too weak to fight back. I screamed.