He called me Barack

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Even in winter, he would not fit into that common image for migrant workers, as we see them, walking down the road; that image their children have now grown to see. Those Africans who are only allowed to do odd jobs; Nigerians or Ghanaian. He did not wear thick black head warmers nor layers of jumpers and sweaters. His trousers were not necessarily thick, his shoes not heavy nor had they any additional safety caps, only leather and a good semblance of brogue design.
Their pay was more sizable than his. Some of them even did additional jobs after school runs, after nights spent at the warehouses, picking goods or stacking shelves at supermarkets, or even doing safe security jobs.
It was these men who sometimes dropped off their children in the morning. Little children, some who greeted him with sparking white teeth and umber brown gums; squeaky clean in their lovely ebony tones running happily into a more vast beauty of other happy children playing.
Dike had brought his three little children to the UK when the recent global recession was well on its way. Many Nigerians who had been made redundant from big London city banks and law firms were moving back home.
On the playground each day, he came with a different colour of suit, complete with matching ties. They were affordable and machine washable. He would drop-by the value or sales sections of Marks and Spenser for them. He was handsome in them, calm and carefully nonchalant. When he talked, it was in his scholarly Nigerian english language, now spoken in British accent and not this vernacular.
His now accepted ordinariness did not do a good job of hiding his classy sense of the way things should be. Of many rewards, this afternoon at the playground, a ten year old black boy came running towards him. Behind him was a group of other children; friends in a boisterous group. He stopped at him, and in his hilarious-smile lit face, he searched my eyes, seemingly saying ‘I now know you. It now makes sense. I have cracked the code’ Then he said to me “You are Barack Obama” I was transfixed, but then I smiled.
They all ran off, they felt victorious; all of them in the group; White, Black, Asian. They were jubilant as they ran off.
Still transfixed but not now teary eyed, I felt both rewarded and blessed. It was one of many angelic visits.
For whatever Barack Obama means to our children.., Yes I am Barack.
Listening and Creative Communication
Leonard Chintua-Chigbu
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DADDY I don’t believe in God

“It’s still beautiful though.” finally agreeing with my son. Many years have now passed, when as a young catholic boy, I had shocked my mother with the news of being born-again. I was persecuted to say the least. But that’s not the point. Here was what I have come to understand. My boy is being honest, and that is beautiful. His views and feelings are authentic, plausible and sincere. I saw beyond that sharp pain in my heart, and the mockery that I had lost to the devil, only as true as my limited self was capable of understanding at the time. Then, latter, I was happy and I became more confident of his future… If God is not True, why shouldn’t my boy come to know?

In my art class, I learned how the blue box wasn’t blue, yet it was blue. It had six sides. The side that faced the light was a lighter blue than the two sides I could see. The lighter side had fleeting properties of green, resulting from the ‘yellowy’ sun ray and the ‘bluey’ hue on the box. When I moved my drawing board to another position, I was able to see only one side, and this was easier to draw and paint. This side had almost one colour of blue, but at the end, it was more of a rectangle, a flat shape than a box. I painted in the shadows and the surrounding background, and was happy with my artwork. So was my teacher. We all saw the box with six sides in my ‘artwork’ with only one side.

Our imagination is an important gift and a space of ‘zero’ gravity. It is akin to that grocery supermarket, that is totally different from the kitchen where the food is eventually cooked.

In my art class, I saw how true it is that ‘we’ see in partial dimensions; in familiar shapes and colours, mostly flat. The closer the object, the more our dimensions of thought and perception improve, and our understanding is sorted in perspectives; with either a dominant vanishing point or multiple ones, within a common and shared space. The free ‘will’ or the audacity to imagine is not a rebellion from the absolute Truth, but a bidden of it, occasioned by His dignified non intrusiveness.

But in His ferocious strength Truth snatched the Harlot, the thief, the corrupt public servant, the numbed rich and the poor fishers.

Absolute Truth stands dignified at an inspiring space, in a reassured confidence that through our subjective perception of what is Truth, through sincere and honest curiosities, seasoned by our tempting interactions with the corruptions around our evolving selves, we will become. Truth by imagination frees our heart to question and own our answer.

My son’s dissent, could point to my language, and yet every day, he embodies and preaches the story of God; a language my generation has lost to speak.

Let’s cheer up.

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Leonard Chintua-Chigbu
Listening and Creative Communication Artist
BA Fine Art (Painting) University of Benin 1986

Ending

EARLY years in the Village

It was 1897 morning in Mbutu Ngwa. The dawn finally came, after pitch darkness and chilly cold fog, that precede the sharp swords, of the early morning sun.

Through their high hanging foliage, the giant iroko trees poked the earth below, with spades of the early morning rays. Birds and insects filled the air with familiar shrills and hisses which sum to a different sense of silence.

On the pathways, leaves of little shrubs held out their palms, laden with blisters of the cold morning dew. These awakeners slapped the bodies and faces of men, shocking them to full life, after their drowsy rise.

The secrets of manhood, would forbid a man to be caught on his agida; the bamboo bed, after the early rays of dawn have struck.

While men left early, mothers saw that their kitchens crackled with fire, making ready the morning food. They also made sure the places were swept and that their children were provisioned for the day. Women farmed food crops while men farmed cash crops.

Children played in the open, around the entrance and the centre of the family compound. Mothers determine which of their younger daughters would stay back to play and to look after the younger children.

With their tummies filled with the morning food, they would run to the uga-ama; the far end of compound’s entrance. In gleeful wonder and amazement, they would settle to the sticks, and sand dunes swept by the elements the nights before. These play toys were strangely varied and surprisingly different every morning.

As the mornings wore thin, and their tummies flattened, they would instinctively relocate, to the compound in unison. Into the compound, every child had brought their hand made toys of everything from transformed sticks to folded green and brown leaves. The play would now go on, but in measured slower pace.

On the lintel, between the thatch and the mud wall, Nkechi would be the first to sight the first lizard; the redhead one.

“Nnenne ngwere, chi ikete ogbala?” meaning “Grand lizard, is it afternoon now?”

This sudden and discordant screaming, transfixes the lizard to a point. When the least of them had asked and the shouting has stopped, the baffled lizard would nod its head in quick successions before continuing on its journey. At this point, the children would let out, a triumphant cheer and in a quick dash; they would scatter in different directions, towards their respective mother’s huts to pull out their lunches.

At the second shading of the midday sun, the rustling noise of dried leaves and nearing voices of the returning mothers would bring the village back, to its ambient buzz.

Among the nearby cassava plots, protruding arcs of brown human backs, swayed and glistered in the sun. When they stood, their sagging shoulders carried human faces, lined in sweat and earth.

When they made their way to their huts, each child would run back to the playground, after an exalted dash to greet their mothers;

Welcome! nno! iilola? inotago!?

The rest of the activities would range from play cooking, running around, climbing and mounting all accessible heights.

Things hadn’t changed much for children in Mbutu Ngwa in 1965, when Dedenne joined his grandmother, Mama Jenni, from Port Harcourt. He was only three years then and had fitted in fairly well.

Mama Jenni, unlike the other women traded in earthen pots and wares. She would not be home just yet, but Dedenne would preserve his invented toys of the day, to show his grandmother, whom he had noticed, that his giftedness, meant the world to her.

Leonard Chintua-Chigbu
Listening and Creative Communication Artist
BA Fine Art (Painting) University of Benin 1986

Our Cause

CHIMEBARA cheered them On

 

After things fell apart, the story was not that of broken china replaced by another, rather it was the muddle its white fragments created on the sands of our brown mind.

Reaped off her soil, the new way of life christened her civilisation pagan. She embraced the chorus, which became her confession and the redemption of her virgin soul.

Tonto Nwankwo had worn her uniform to school. She was diligent and had worn them all through school. Now she often shuts her eyes tightly, to become or emerge in the beautiful dress on the advertisement, but has not.

“The volume of applications for jobs I have written since I finished the university in 1990 will compete favourably with drafts of another novel in the useful hands of Chinua Achebe. Yet I don’t have a job”

Her luring nostalgia to stories of the past, when her people’s eyes were single and their bodies were flooded with light, has become her besetting sin. These thoughts would strike her with the ravenous poison to a dissenting exodus and she would die again.

She had been told of a single story from the past; that her ancestors had a homogeneous perspective to why they were here on earth. There was a shared cohesive meaning to why they lived in community with everything on earth, and accorded all objects the universal, equal and earthly rights to soul and life. Though it was a limited society, but it deserved no such death sentence as it is obvious in her life today. Everything is out of reach, both the old and the promised salvation.

“The bare and glistering skin of my forefathers’ muscles sang the praise of the trees; as their sponge ‘sappo’ cleansed it’s sweating grime. Today our finger no longer fertilise the earth, our black skin is detached from the sun and they are even of less significance now than the colour of this advertised dress”.

Nothing meant anything. Frozen in time, the school uniform hasn’t led to the beautiful dress yet. The excessive coverings of the dress has rubbed Tonto’s people of the wisdom of their sparse covering; which was an echo of their archetype for necessity, frugality and singleness of purpose, not sin, poverty or permittivity, as now suggested.

With her right hand, she reached into the left cup of her brassiere, lifts the heavy lump of her tugging breast, into a beaker she exercised milk, kissing her teeth and fighting off tears, for the more than likely death of another child. Her six months premature daughter, Chimebara Donny Chintua-Chigbu is going to die in ten days.

“In the past three years after marriage, I cannot remember one single day I have not been pregnant. Yet I am not carrying my own baby yet, she cries. Looking up, as unto heaven, she asks “Or, am I a witch?”

Chimebara kicked, squirmed and let out cries in spout and puffs of air as she struggled and fussed to breath. She never opened her eyes and maybe saw nobody.

Chimebara never came home, was never buried but reinvested at the request of these angels who studied to help other children born under the same circumstance.

Under the glass shield, encased in the incubator and cared for ‘Baby Precious’, as she was tagged, and as her place was in the number of uncounted infants, trees and endangered animals who died every second in the world’s remotest corners, Chimebara fought for life as though death never ends it.

She was positive; she told a story in her kicks. Her father, Dike Obiora clutching the hands of his wife smiled, at the spirit of his daughter who has told him so much than a lifetime can tell a struggling man.

Leonard Chintua-Chigbu
Listening and Creative Communication Artist
BA Fine Art (Painting) University of Benin 1986

Please, I need your comments and questions. Thank you.

Our Cause

 

DICK was a student Teacher

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Today was Tuesday the Twenty Seventh. The month of January, in the year of our Lord, Two Thousand and Fifteen, the day Mr Dick Hamilton; the student teacher was fired. My name is Harry and I will tell you all about it.

“Good morning, Mrs Smith”.

“Good morning Harry and how was your weekend?”

“It was alright Mrs Smith. Miss, I was at my Dad’s, so, so I couldn’t do my homework”

“Not to worry Harry, am sure Mr Hamilton will sort it out later”

Mr Dick Hamilton came differently. Gold coffee; his aura was plain and formal, and he left an innocent air of vintage sophistication and confidence. He was charitable with what he knew and wore his age and experience with a casual hint. With no conscious effort, he became an unavoidably focus and a contradiction of a student teacher.

Jack’s father of all people also liked Mr Hamilton. The other day, he said something like this, “minorities is good and we’ve come a long way with sorts and chocolates…” Ha-ha, that doesn’t make sense. Yeah? But, anything that sounds like m&ms, smarties and chocolates, I’ll reckon must be something nice he’d said.

“Thank you Mrs Smith and Good morning children” said Dick Hamilton as he starts his lesson for the day.

Mr Hamilton’s starter came on beautifully. He is made it more inclusive by differentiating, the answers as it appeared that only the high and middle ability children were leaving the rest of us behind. It was getting to five minutes. He began to quicken his pace. He calls out to me, saying that I have been good, although I had been day dreaming.

“Alright, our topic for today’s lesson is…”

Smooth! His introduction blended well, with his questioning which invaded our ‘privacy’. O! Sorry, did I say that? No, I meant that his introduction blended well, with his questioning which investigated our previous knowledge of the substance of the lesson’s topic.

It’s a bit quiet today; everybody is behaving themselves. I remember when Mr Hamilton was new and we used to wind him up. He’s learnt this behaviour management tricks fast, I must say.

Like the African fireflies, the splint of an invading curiosity crawls from the depth of darkness. As it scrapes the crust of the knowledge it seeks, the sparks illuminate, and ‘a fact’ sees the face of the risen sun.

Mr Hamilton crawled gently. He remembered not to be too ‘teachy’. When he was new, ha-ha, he used to talk too much. Now, here is the secret, “Save Your Breath” Start banter amongst us and just stand by the sides to tend the fire. In teaching these kids, it’s best to use them to develop and answer their own questions.

Moreover, we don’t listen much these days. This is because there is a lot going on around us. You could practically get run over by everything, if we listened as much as adults want you to. You could even lose your own life listening to an adult, trust me on that.

Also we think all adults especially teachers are boring, and sometimes don’t make sense, as well. Now, Mrs Smith thinks I need a statement, can you beat that? I don’t need statement from anybody, because I can make my own sentence with my own name. I bet you don’t get it too.

However, If we don’t learn by the way you teach, you have to teach how we to learn; pupil’s Voice ‘innit’? Ha-ha, I know my rights, yeah, and ‘every child matters’

Mr Hamilton has enjoyed some respite since his trainers succumbed to his wishes to tailor his training to the dictates of the monitoring university’s tutor. This has not happened without a few blunt communications from him. So much has been at stake, by implication, and it’s been an uneasy calm and Mrs Smith has been out of the class more around here since then.

“Write on your whiteboards guys…”

Shush! Mr Hamilton is looking at me. He’s coming this way. I hate this Assessment for Learning thing teachers do.

 “Harry”

“Yes, Mr Hamilton”

“If I have double of what you have, and you have TWELVE, what do I have?”

“TWENTY FOUR, Mr Hamilton”

“Super! Well done. Guys on Harry’s table, I owe you all a sticker each at lunch time.”

Whoosh! That was close. How did I pull that off? But how was I supposed to learn these answers when am not soothsayer or psychic? Sometimes I don’t see the point of coming to school. Phew! He almost gave me a heart attack! What did he do that for? Well that one was a nice one though. I like him.

My father says that Mr Dick Hamilton is one teacher who’s got a better head than his own name. Of course my father, like most adults, sometimes, doesn’t make sense too.

But surprisingly, he is one thing my mom agrees with my dad, whenever my dad mentions names of teachers in my school.

I really like him a lot.

The mini-plenary pulled off well. So was the task for the day and the plenary. However he must evaluate his lesson plan and reinforce our understanding on ‘tens and unit’ to further address our misconceptions, for progress into the next lessons. But sadly, there wasn’t going to be another lesson.

Those who learn are sometimes better to be fully immersed in the darkness caused by the ignorance of what they seek to understand. They should even feign ignorance, if that will pander on the ego of their trainers.

However, one of his own; Fela Kuti, quickly dissents in his fluting, saying “Teacher don’t teach me nonsense”

This story is best told when darkness is on one side and light on the other. Then the light will permeate the darkness, and there will be Light.

While darkness is always dark, LIGHT could sometimes be faint. Only light can be made brighter, even then to brighter brilliance.

Like the way the story started, it was today Tuesday the Twenty Seventh. The month of January, in the year of our Lord, Two Thousand and Fifteen, at a quarter hour before mid-day that Mr Dick Hamilton; the student teacher was summoned to the head teacher’s office.

Now, I was not part of it but it was decided again that it was expedient that one person should die for many people, than for many people to die for one person.

I was also not part of it but reasonable amount of spurious evidence was stacked against him. He was sent off and implored never to foist himself on the Sanhedrin of another primary education’s sanctuary.

And his wage was taken from him.

I was told that three days and three nights, while bent over by the indignities and chastisements of an empty pocket, he fell forward to the ‘truth’, that his ‘time’ has just been given back to him.

And that forever, the ‘wage’ they took off him, will palter miserably; against the bounty of the ‘time’ he has gained back from them.

Leonard Chintua-Chigbu
Listening and Creative Communication Artist
BA Fine Art (Painting) University of Benin 1986

I need your comments and questions please. Thank you.

Our cause

Our cause is a battle against our worries and fears which say ‘Worse things will happen to us’

We say that though there is no such life as one without challenges, or rose beds without prickly thorns, we tell the story of life’s challenge to illustrate that they are finite.

Our friends will come out with an after taste that they too can pull through their challenges.

In celebrating the ephemeral nature of all life’s impediments, our story is a collection of how all troubles ENDED.

Therefore, at any point you wish, you can, DONATE to support our cause.

 

 

 

UNCLE Bennett’s Struggles

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It’s was 1987 in a 5Star hotel room. I was visiting a lady friend and Uncle Bennett came visiting too. He was not my uncle but that title stuck with him as he was later to be known by the rest of us.

He was bald, deep chocolate black and had a clean set of white teeth that beamed whenever he smiled. And he smiled and laughed so often.

Everything about him said how rich or comfortable he was. These things were diabolical enough in themselves to persuade any lady to prioritise him in their short list of suitors. I was soon to relinquish my status as visitor as I joined my lady friend to play co-host to Uncle Bennett.

In this old city, the Sahara desert was our closest neighbour. It came with its allies of frightening blares of sun rays and sauna hot heat waves before the hours of the early noon.

Amidst bare running wheels, beautiful cars strode through the streets. Behind their air-conditioned wound up windows, their occupants were always clean, glossy and untouched.

The main street was a colourful crowd scene of flowing gowns and turbans whose sails navigated the hash head winds with deft seamanship. In this steer fry was the few like me, whose western clad exposed their sauna blacked bodies. Their faces were covered in dusts, caked in dripping sweat like a Shakespearian mascara gone terribly wrong. My satchel and bleeding cracked lips said nothing of the thirst I endured.

I met Uncle Bennett again in a much pious place. Our introduction had been done two years earlier, so he needed to talk. I listened.

He was everything we had thought about him but he wasn’t in heaven. He was in a dizzying loop of finding new girlfriends easily, and sadly losing them just as quickly.

“I was once married, but she left with our son. Women had been for me just for the obvious male reasons. I was the man and there was the belief that gifts and roses will always sway them. I was wrong”

“It’s difficult when you have started out for this long and things change on you. Yes, they change for the better, but the new reality is frightening and am confused whether am not working against taking the steps I should take”

“I have anger problems. I am scared to keep my girlfriends long”.

“I have kept my relationships short. They only last between one trigger to another. I can only last seven days, and that was okay for the player. Now I need, but can’t handle a long haul”

“I will be happy if somebody I love can love me… Am not sure anybody will love me after they see me explode”

He talked, I listened. We were seen together more and I heard quite a few complaints and accusations, but time wore on and we kept at it.

Much older now than he was in 1987, his teeth still beamed in sparkles. More to the sparkle on this Facebook photograph, is his wife of these many years and their eighteen year old son, next to him in Old Trafford. Their daughter had also joined them from Cambridge University.

Manchester United went ahead to win that home match, which was no news at the time.

 

Leonard Chintua-Chigbu
Listening and Creative Communication Artist
BA Fine Art (Painting) University of Benin 1986

I need your comments and questions please. Thank you.

 

Our cause

Our cause is a battle against our worries and fears which say
‘Worse things will happen to us’

We say that, though there is no such life as one without challenges,
or rose beds without prickly thorns,
we tell the story of life’s challenges to illustrate that they are finite.

Our friends and readers will come out feeling better,
with an after taste that they too can pull through their challenges.

In celebrating the ephemeral nature of all life’s impediments,
our story is a collection of how all troubles ENDED.

Therefore, at any point you wish, you can, DONATE to support our cause.

 

 

 

TEN years since she Died

Ten years since she died

It was April fool’s day 2005. Dike Obiora was forty-two and Tonto Nwankwo was thirty-eight years old. “Sir, Madam has died” says Mallama the house girl. Between their difficult thirteen years of marriage and a dreadful time now ahead, Dike would cling on these dark clouds, perhaps to find and surf their silvery crests. The doctors explained the primary cause of death was heart failure and secondary as cancer of the colon. Tonto had lost the last drop of her blood to the killer tumour which she had fought 18 months long. Crucial on Dike’s mind was their children. How was he to explain these concepts; death and bereavement to them?

“My soul is tired for the things that have been done on it. My body is weak. I am older than my age and sometimes I am ashamed of what you could remember behind this thick love you have for me. I have squandered everything for nothing, not really nothing but what my heart yearns for, though most times I am led to nowhere by it. You have often done more than I could have done for myself; definitely anybody has done for me. The emptiness catches up with me and so often overwhelms me…”

Dike awakes. He finally walks into the room where the children were watching television. They barely noticed him. Confused and wary not to alarm them, he took another deep breath. “Guys, please ‘pause’ the cartoon channel and listen to me for a minute”. As they turned their heads and flashed their pools of clear large eyes towards him, he clinched his hands and took another deep breath.

“God has taken mummy to heaven to rest. You all know that she has suffered a lot this past year and half”
“Yes Daddy” they said. They were merely seven, six and three years old. He was unsure how they were processing the information, but he resolved to be strong for them and to never let them off his sight for a very very long time.

Tonto was a sweet soul whose troubles were overwhelming. Her mind wrinkled as it destroyed her body. Despite her rage and destruction, she was consistently a troubled mind and never a wallowing sordid soul.

“I heard a voice when I was 3 years old. Something told me He was God and that he loved me. I was over joyed and loved it. The days after, I heard it so much as he came around so often, that I began to live in dread of it” she says.

Tonto loved her mother, three sisters and two brothers. They probably loved her more than she felt. But for every other person who tried to love her, the trauma of her natal scourge snuffed every effort to fill her gnawing emptiness.

“I struggle for love, may be because I don’t understand love. Like every child, I want to own my own sisters, brothers and mother. I should have the same surname with my siblings because I share the same womb with them. I want to be theirs. I don’t want to be accepted, because that says something about being an outsider. I don’t want them to be nice to me, because that is about hospitality, may be to a stranger. I want to be them, family, and love, not given but co-owns, not logical but emotional. You understand, don’t you? She asks.

What tears the fabric and tissues of a child’s soul and refuses to heal for 38 years? What wakes a baby from sleep to stack adulthood, and keeps her up for 38 years? moans Dike.

“I hate you Dike. You think am not good for you, you want to marry one of those girls when I die. Good man, you think you have won? I will tell everybody what evil you have been to me. You don’t like me. You snuff off everything I ignite. You don’t encourage me. You are always competing with me. I am never sufficiently good enough at anything. You love your mother, your sister, my mother, my sisters more than me”.
Dike reaches out to love his wife, but sometimes in logic, and once again fails.
“You always make me feel guilty. What is the point of this love when you make me feel am no good? Your love, your mother, everything, even God, yes God, all of you can go to hell”

The phone rings “Hello sister, yes I am fine today… yes, yes. I just want you to know that it is my husband who’s killing me. He is responsible for my illness and death when it comes. Yes, yes. Thank you, sister. I love you too”

Towards the last days, on her death bed, she came near to that conviction that she has now gained her family’s undivided attention. They love her. They are all now preoccupied with her in that special way she has always wanted. If this was it, then she may have lived all her life to get it. She wanted her ‘mommy’ and it was all worth it.

Leonard Chintua-Chigbu
Listening and Creative Communication Artist
BA Fine Art (Painting) University of Benin 1986

These are real life stories. I will love hear your comments,  questions, and suggestions please. Thank you.