Surviving The Peace

18 Park Road Aba 3

The aunties who lived in the next yard now had children, and some of the aunties had their younger siblings from the village come to live with them. There were more children, and play was more fun. The aunties now went out more in the day, and returned later in the evenings. The children played in their groups. They were well mannered and well behaved. In some sort of comical ritualistic fervency, they hauled timely greetings at any passing adults. These were totally not unsolicited but as elders poured libation, knowing it’s the right thing, they religiously hunted the ancestors with these necessities. Good morning, good afternoon, good evening, the children will say to every passing adult. The adults always also promptly replied. Good morning, good afternoon, good evening, and sometimes they may add, be careful children, please play fair, please play well. Sometimes if the children observed the adult was in good moods, they may quickly add “Happy Survival!” The adult, unprepared but caught in the moment, will equally reply “Happy Survival!” Both parties will then burst a few suppressed surge of laughter.

Happy Survival! Adults usually exchanged these kinds of greetings among themselves in those days. Children listened, and often heard more than the words meant. Children giggled secretly, sometimes hilariously, sometimes at the backyard, they would stage a drama, mimicking peculiar adults public behaviours and would laugh out so loud at them.

The children carried the feel of this dramas over them. All day and sometimes with coded postures, they communicated among themselves. They used words with layered meanings. They giggled, laughed and sometimes were carried away even when they were amongst their parents or other adults.

These adults have survived the peace with their bare hands, the same way they had fought the war. It was difficult on them. Everything has been difficult on them. They have moved on and the nuances of the war’s various cranial, and dishevelling elements, with its compressed and brewed hangovers, have constantly left them with an overburdening aftertaste, sully mouth and an indelible debris of coloured eyes and bad behaviour. They are all surviving without intervention, counselling or outside assistance. In their villages, in their traditional institutions and various ways of knowing. They were conditioned to believe that God would be on their side when they are good. In the war, they knew and saw God on their side. They saw him as they were killed and plundered in war.

Now, if there is anything else to know, they want to know, whether he is not defeated now? How can they live without a God? As fallen hero, will he rise to Almighty again?

Those who spat up into the heavens, are yet to see the sputum all over their faces. It is really hard, it is extremely difficult to reconcile with your Chi.

On the street, children beamed with admiration and wonder on their faces, as they looked and argued about the colours on the walls of the houses, the motifs and signs painted on them. On others, you a saw a spring on their steps and energy as they darted across the street to touch things, run up the refuse dumps, and come back out again with finds and satisfaction.

From some houses, people looked at you and all the time, you saw them along with the houses and colours, or sometimes the houses as their backdrops. The houses had numbers on them. You can actually learn your numbers by following the houses down to the end of the street. If you counted on one side of the street alone, you could be calling only the odd numbers or the even numbers. If you looked on both sides, you would be calling them in serial order.

You could also go into all the stationary vehicles riddled with holes, pushed to the sidewalks along the street. You can sit and turn their steering wheels, step on their pedals or bounce on their seats while searching and calling out the house numbers. You did not see the empty bullets and the live ones, with pointed ends, scattered on the floor of the cars. You could not touch them or take them home for fear of what the adults could do to you. You did not also see the shelling and mortar cases stuck on wooden garage doors or the running roofing panels abruptly interrupted. No, in your mind, that red roof panel ran to its end and its ultimate completion was inherent.

The first house which usually starts with the odd number and the next one with the even number will stand face to face across the street. One could be a bungalow and the other a two story building with an elaborate balcony on each flour and several doors demarcated by double or single windows. On some houses, the numbers stood on top of the street name, and on some, it stood in front of it and on some, it was the numbers alone.

Children in the yards giggled and laughed a lot those days. Children did not have television programs nor did families have television sets. But they giggled and laughed a lot in those days. They saw enough laughter and had a lot of it, as they came to the front of the yard and looked into the street. Different acts came along. Some sang. Some showcased magical acts. Some flexed muscles and pulled stationary cars. Some were not former soldiers. None begged for alms. Others showed their war injuries and scars. Some told interesting stories, very long ones. Some did it for a shade, a cup of water, understanding and a long afternoon together. They temporarily suspended disbelief, and strode towards the apparition that beckoned them. They momentarily achieved closure and were war heroes returning to the applause of community and the embrace of family. Over new friends, new families and another place, other than the lone place, where they had slept the night before, they had reunited with part of their family. Happy Survival!

Then there was this uncle who comes along, whose peculiar nuance of the war’s various cranial and dishevelling elements, with compressed and brewed hangover, was called Artillery Shock. This uncle could not scrap the surface of his tongue, even when he was also constantly left with an overburdening aftertaste, sully mouth and an indelible debris coloured eyes and bad behaviour. Under the hot sun, along the street, he ran in vigilance. In peace time, he still ran in short steps, turning his head from left to right and back. He refused to speak, as he was not allowed to talk or make noise. When he ran up to you, he gazed demandingly and piercingly at your face. He looked to snatch the answer from your soul, and if you were unresponsive, he moved on. He ate whatever he had hurriedly and gave you what he did not eat, while still running or hopping. He never stopped. He never came into pastor’s place. He could not stop to come into pastor’s place and he did not have any of his smokes.

The evenings have eventual come. Some children in the yard are wiping the traces of sweat marks off their faces. Some have run quickly back into the rooms, flip the curtains, take a quick shot to see if they made the beds and everything is tidy. One is hurriedly washing a pile of dirty dishes and one is washing and hanging some wet clothes.

The aunties were returning from work. In some sort of comical ritualistic fervency, the children are hauling greetings at the aunties and other adults returning from work. Good evening, good evening, good evening. The aunties and other adults always also promptly replied. Good evening, good evening, good evening, and sometimes they may add, did you sweep the room? Did you make the bed? Did you wash the plates? Did you wash the clothes? One who was hurriedly hanging wet clothes, could not find any explaining why they were still wet and dripping water.

Sometimes if the children observed the adult was in good moods, they may quickly add “Happy Survival!” The adult, unprepared but caught in the moment, will equally reply “Happy Survival!” Both parties will then burst a few suppressed surge of laughter and giggles as the evening sun sets the dusk.

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

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

SIXTEEN villages no Sex

At least no marriages were allowed between the peoples and villages of Mbutu Ngwa. Mbutu happened to be one of Ngwa’s sons who had had sixteen sons of his own.

It was therefore logical to contemplate, and reasonable to understand; that those sixteen brothers would envision a larger family and future where their boys would marry girls brought in from far flung villages, which equally ensured incestuous behaviours or offspring from such acts were circumvented among their descendants.

For a productive day and less distraction to the dedicated hours in the farms, men farmed separately from women, the latter being closer home for the children. Sex on the other hand was never a recreational activity. Redundancy or tiredness was inexcusable so was siesta while the sun shone.

Diana’s American dream was well on its way. Now that she could afford it, she also had an additional reason for dreaming a vacation in Switzerland that summer. She has heard so much about the Geneva Lake, the colours and the beauty of the Main Gate to the United Nations with mounted flags. There was the Beautiful Vicotira Hall and so on. While meeting Sylvester was one of the possibilities, she would not let that become the central focus of her holiday plan.

After an extensive profiling and matching of their common and compatibility data, Sylvester was provided with options of mates for a possible long term relationship. He took a chance on Diana, who had earlier indicated interest on his profile. Sylvester was Swiss and lived in Geneva, while Diana was Canadian but worked in the United States. Both were busy and had some flickers of Africa in their backgrounds.

Diana drove from the quiet neighbourhood of Kennesaw to Georgia State University where she would meet Sylvester over launch. His call had been entirely a surprise and was bordering on the spooky.

Though Diana had all guards on, launch with Sylvester that afternoon turned out to be fun to say the least. She found him quiet and intelligent. He apologised for the surprise and explained that the timing of the journey was all work related and somewhat out of his control.

The next day’s evening, Diana drove Sylvester back to her house for a dinner.

“Kennesaw, your town is a beautiful neighbourhood” says Sylvester.

“Yes indeed, the ‘Big Shanty Grade’ has come a long way since 1830 America” says Diana, proud to refer to Kennesaw by its earliest name.

They talked about everything from work to school and youth. At their shared moment of harmless hubris, race issues became approachable and they were both comfortable with the topic and at each other’s perspectives.

For over a century into history, oral traditions and moral conditions, shaped by vested communal interests, later became a relatable foothold, for Christian and Catholic missionary work and the colonial cephalisation, of ‘savage’ cultures, who lived and multiplied, off the coast of the bight of Biafra.

Out of the glimmers of the air around them came those translucent pellets that fragmented their scales. Their brains knew it, their eyes dropped and tears came drooling down. It was a little more than love, but one unknown to them before then. They both held each other kissed and cried; all barriers were melted, and between them, the essence of their common ancestry, whiffed a revered fragrance; entrapping the air around them.

Today, still in their minds, regardless of what corners of the world these strangers meet, ‘Onye Mbutu Amairilaisii’ does not only ignite a warm and safe kindred passion, it also sets off a tone, for a platonic relationship where marriage and sex is taboo.

Say how you feel.

Leonard Chintua-Chigbu
Listening and Creative Communication Artiste
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

 

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.