“ Mummy, daddy Tayo is coming” my five year old daughther says, pulling at her top that had a smilling sponge bob on it.
“ Okay” , l reply , trying to hold myself. The pain was too much. “ have you done your assignment” l managed to say. She comes closer.
“ Mummy, what is this” she says and points at my arm.
“ Don’t worry it’s a stain of …..emm”
“ Mummy you are injured , what happened” she asks, drawing ‘ what happened ‘ with her soft innocent voice. I casted my gaze on my arm. The scar was still fresh and the bandages were the colour of deep sienna.
“ l fell, it’s the stairs” l replied and she shook her head.
“ Sorry ma” she pulls at my pink skirt. “ mummy I want cornflakes” she says.
“ Ok dear” l answered , reliefed that the lie worked. I didn’t want her fragile heart to be tinged with the darksides behind the silver cords of my marrage and at same time l think she deserves to know the truth. She deserves to know that it wasn’t the stairs, it was her father’s belt. She deserves to know that all isn’t well.
“ Do you want milk ?” l asked, pulling the tin of peak milk closer. My daughter shrugs. I knew she was allergic to it but it had become a custom of my to ask. I cast my gaze on my beautiful queen. She came when l needed the comfort. She came as a proof that l was not barren. She came when l had turned a regular member at the township hospital. She was my prize. With her l had a foot in and the other out. I couldn’t believe how my world came crashing down. Didn’t they say, if you plan it well it would be well. Why the difference?
When we meet, five years ago, it was at the musuem. It was a busy day at the bank , so l had to visit the museum to clear my head. He was tall, handsome and yellow. We stood next to each other in his brown suit with a Kodak camera handing on his neck. I didn’t regard his presence at first. I stood still and stared hard at the great pieces of Ancestral craftmanship when he started the conversation.
“ I don’t see reasons why we can’t sue this Britons, the originals are there in their museum” he said, and turned to my side .His tone belied disgust. l was surprised at his pronoun, his use of ‘ we’ as if we already knew each other, as if l was the board of Arts.
“ Oh, they are still our fathers “ l answered, “ and moreover, we have people trying to do it”. He smiled and l managed a dry one. 𝘏𝘰𝘱𝘦 𝘩𝘦 𝘪𝘴 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘰𝘯𝘦 𝘰𝘧 𝘵𝘩𝘰𝘴𝘦 “ 𝘨𝘪𝘷𝘦 𝘮𝘦 𝘺𝘰𝘶𝘳 𝘯𝘶𝘮𝘣𝘦𝘳𝘴?” l had thought. He took his Kodak and he took a picture of the carved mask.
“ Carving this type of piece takes time, don’t they? Some are from lkot lkpenne in Calabar. Those men handle chisels well” He said and gesticulated with his left hand on an imagenary tree stump and his right hand cupped around the handle of a chisel.
“ Yes they do, but as you can see”, l switched to a very low tone, close to whispers. “ This one is a glue work, wood dust filling” l said. I felt a strange feeling of accomplishment that l had betrayed the museum’s false status of ‘ Original Art’ .
“ Oh Oh, l said it” he said smiling. His smile was angelic. I was impressed. “ l told francis, but he won’t agree. This is a glue artwork, not the said original. Can’t you see this side, it is too smooth. Our fathers made theirs well and oyinbo people stole them. We make our own and we still cheat in the process. I would write about this”
“ Where do you work? “ l asked.
“ l am a writer, Kulture Art Masterclass, we deal on arts and arts news “ he answered , smiling again.
𝘛𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘮𝘶𝘴𝘵 𝘣𝘦 𝘺𝘰𝘶𝘳 𝘩𝘰𝘣𝘣𝘺, l wanted to say , instead l fed the fire.
“ Wow. You guys are doing great jobs. So that is why you came?”
“ Yes, and please, where do you work?”
“ At first bank, Ore central branch”
“ Why do you love art? “ He asked. Trust me, the fire kept burning and the by evening, l was typing my digits on his phone. From there we became friends and months later in a union. We were happy. I paid for everything from what l had saved up. I used my connections to get him a job. We were happy, really happy and feeling blessed for the first two years before the heap of words.
𝘏𝘰𝘱𝘦 𝘶 𝘢𝘳𝘦 𝘤𝘩𝘦𝘤𝘬𝘪𝘯𝘨? 𝘐 𝘸𝘪𝘭𝘭 𝘵𝘢𝘬𝘦 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘵𝘰 𝘰𝘯𝘦 𝘮𝘢𝘯. 𝘐 𝘸𝘰𝘶𝘭𝘥 𝘣𝘳𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘢 𝘥𝘳𝘪𝘯𝘬. Then when they were tried.
𝘠𝘰𝘶 𝘸𝘰𝘯’𝘵 𝘵𝘢𝘬𝘦 𝘨𝘪𝘯, 𝘦𝘩𝘦𝘯 𝘫𝘶𝘴𝘵 𝘵𝘰 𝘱𝘶𝘴𝘩 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘩𝘰𝘭𝘥 𝘴𝘰𝘮𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘶𝘱 𝘺𝘰𝘶𝘳 𝘩𝘪𝘱𝘴? 𝘠𝘰𝘶 𝘸𝘢𝘯’𝘵 𝘵𝘰 𝘬𝘪𝘭𝘭 𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘯𝘢𝘮𝘦? 𝘔𝘢𝘺𝘣𝘦 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘢𝘳𝘦 𝘤𝘶𝘳𝘴𝘦𝘥. 𝘊𝘭𝘢𝘳𝘢, 𝘱𝘭𝘦𝘢𝘴𝘦 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘮𝘺 𝘴𝘢𝘬𝘦 𝘨𝘰 𝘵𝘰 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘵𝘰𝘸𝘯𝘴𝘩𝘪𝘱 𝘩𝘰𝘴𝘱𝘪𝘵𝘢𝘭, 𝘮𝘺 𝘧𝘢𝘮𝘪𝘭𝘺 𝘯𝘦𝘦𝘥𝘴 𝘵𝘰 𝘬𝘯𝘰𝘸 𝘺𝘰𝘶𝘳 𝘴𝘵𝘢𝘵𝘶𝘴. 𝘏𝘢𝘷𝘦 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘵𝘳𝘪𝘦𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘶𝘳𝘪𝘯𝘦 𝘵𝘦𝘴𝘵? 𝘐 𝘸𝘢𝘯𝘵 𝘵𝘰 𝘴𝘦𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘩𝘰𝘴𝘱𝘪𝘵𝘢𝘭 𝘵𝘦𝘴𝘵 𝘳𝘦𝘴𝘶𝘭𝘵𝘴. 𝘊𝘭𝘢𝘳𝘢 𝘸𝘦 𝘢𝘳𝘦 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘨𝘳𝘰𝘸𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘰𝘭𝘥𝘦𝘳. 𝘞𝘦 𝘯𝘦𝘦𝘥 𝘢 𝘤𝘩𝘪𝘭𝘥.
When l had my first miscarrage, l felt like dying. She came with her sister with that stony face that l had once looked up to as a source of love. I felt like l had betrayed her. Some how l was happy at least it was a confirmation of all l had longed for.
“ Sorry, God would bring another one “ she said, holding my pillow. She left that same day with her sister. My mother — inlaw!
“ Mummy, daddy Tayo is in the parlour” my daughter said, holding the bowl of cornflakes to her chest.
“ Okay” l answered. I wiped my hands on the dryer. The water leaf was boiling in the pot.
𝘞𝘩𝘰 𝘤𝘢𝘳𝘦𝘴? They should asemble
what is the point?. Have they been in my shoes. Do they all know what it means to loose all joy and happiness. I thought they were all sage. This same people l helped in getting Jobs at the government secretariat. This same people that called me ‘ our wife’ according to tradition when all was well. They had their hands for him. It was all visible. ‘ our wife, you see , you need to submit to your husband’ then daddy Tayo would turn to my husband, with his firm voice as the head of the extended family. ‘ you should’nt be hard on her, your place in this house has no provision for this. You see in my house…..’ He would then launch into stories about his own family, things that worked and what didn’t come through. At the end, the case would be ‘ resolved’ and they would settle on my dish , those vultures.
“ Mummy, should l peel the maggi” omowumi, my daughter asked.
“ No “ l replied firmly, blocking another chance of licking cubes of chicken flavour seasoning cubes.
“ Mummy please” she pleads, her eyes swimming.
“ No, would you leave me alone!” l shouted. She flinched and left the kitchen crying. Why drag the poor little girl into it. Those who are in need of disregard are those gathering vultures trying to quench a fire they were all but giving life to.
The wall between love and hatred they say is very thin. The beatings started few months ago. Perhaps he had been advised by the all-knowing voice back at his village.
It was a quiet afternoon, l wanted to visit my friend across the street. my daughter was at school , so we were alone. I dressed and l went to him. I told him l was leaving. He said nothing. I turned to leave , then his rage returned.
“ Don’t you have sense at all?” he asked, pulling his trousers.
“ But it’s just the next street. We would have our boy at our time. Your behaviour since you returned from the village is quite strange” l said in my calmest voice.
“ Are you by any means referring to my mum, is she the reason of your problems”
“ You know everything, Adewale. You know what l mean. Mama is not happy, but she should show patience…..and …” l was hit by a fist, l recoiled and held my face with both hands. As if that isn’t enough, he proceeded with his belt.
“ Mummy Omowumi, won’t you come and greet me? ehen , l would fine you o” daddy Tayo’s voice rang from the parlour. “ Omowumi come and take what l bought for you” she stood by the door way.
My daughter turned and was about to leave , when l shouted defiantly.
“ Stay were you are, don’t go”
I was surprised at my voice. A voice that wasn’t my. I droped the fish in a bowl, wash my hands and held my daughter and went to my room. I would never attend that meeting. ‘Today would be different’ l said to myself . If they want a male child let them get it elsewhere. I would leave for my daughter and she alone.
Oladejo Victor Olayemi is a budding artist and a secondary school
graduate. He lives in Ore, Odigbo, Ondo state and wrote in via firstname.lastname@example.org