Blog Interview

The Creativity Lounge — Imran Boe Khan

Poetry is the supreme fiction, madame...” Wallace Stevens said. Poetry is a gift to man as it exposes the treasures hidden in words in a divine manner. Today, my guest is one of the few that are using poetry to paint time. Mr Imran Boe Khan.

Ebube: Please can you tell us about yourself?

IBK: I am a poet and researcher based in Dorset, England. I live with my partner, our two children and two gerbils whose names have caused some argument within our household – their ‘official’ names are ‘Artemis’ and ‘Renfield’, but my ten year old daughter wants them to be called ‘Rocky’ and ‘Chip’. Meanwhile, my two year old son calls them ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’ and ‘Dad’. Aside from trying to resolve these arguments and writing poetry, I work for Amnesty International where I give talks on creative activism around the world and injustice within British courts.

Ebube: What inspired you to start writing?

IBK: When I was about seven, I had a teacher at school called Mrs Gladwell. She was wonderful, and used to sit my class on the floor and sing us all silly rhymes. Whenever I felt anxious as a child, I used to remember her rhymes, and write some of my own. My sister talent-spotted me and commissioned me to write poems in her cards to her boyfriends in exchange for chocolate. I tasted my first rejection as a poet when I was nine. One Valentine’s Day, instead of using my poem (which I still think was one of my best) she copied lyrics from a Spice Girls song. As I grew older, I began distracting myself from anxieties by other means and I became addicted to things that damaged me physically and psychologically, and harmed the people around me. Writing became a way of distracting myself from those addictions, and something I immersed myself in. Ever since, I’ve found huge joy in being absorbed by the music of poetry, either when I’m writing or reading. I feel passionate about promoting poetry as an outlet for people suffering from mental illness – being creative is so important, especially for young people.

Ebube: So far, how many poetry works have you published? If you don’t mind sharing any short poem of yours.

IBK: I’m not sure of the exact number, but I’d say somewhere in the thirties. My partner joked a few days ago that I should have Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter collections because my style changes according to season. I prefer my poetry in the warmer months – In my experience, being tucked up in bed with gloves, a hot water bottle and my son’s ear muffs, and weeping desperately as I sip tomato soup in a forlorn attempt to stay warm, isn’t normally conducive to good writing. Sure, the poem I’ll share is titled ‘Body Squatters Caught Dancing’. It was first published by Juked earlier this year:

Body Squatters Caught Dancing

The knot homed in my lungs will scamper and fly,
depart through orchards of bone,
brushing whatever loneliness feeds my skin. It’ll dance
to the popping beats of my vessels
without even thinking of staying.
My grandma said that’s how you get old,
things come to stay.
She had a tumour squatting in her throat no one found,
said something doesn’t have to be real to be killing you.
Months later she was breathing laser light
and coughing up herself.
Decay was her wilderness, body her spring.
I sensed she was putting off telling me something which might have been important,
like how the vastness which would come between us will shrink to the size of a bee
and spread its hive through my lungs.

Ebube: That’s a very wonderful piece. Can you say writing has changed you? If yes, in what ways?

IBK: Aside from improving my mental health, writing full-time has been great for my little family. My little girl and I have always been best friends, but since she’s been part of the high points I’ve had along my career, she has really opened up to writing, and writes stories herself. I think she’s proud of me – a few months ago she found a black and white picture of a man with a suitcase. She proceeded to colour the man brown and said that was me holding a suitcase of poems. That picture lives dead centre of our lounge, right above the fireplace. As for my two year old son, I think he resents me for not being a pizza chef – the career he pursues. Often I catch him ripping the covers off my books and using them as ‘pizza bases’. He then places bits of soggy cereal on the base which, I believe, represent anchovies. I like to convince myself he’s just teasing me – often he cuddles up to me and asks “How is your poetry doing?”Writing has also made me think about the scenes I come across, just on my daily travels, in a deeper way. It’s taught me to imagine different perspectives and look for the poignant in images I’d otherwise pass by.

Ebube: What’s your writing process like?

IBK: I write when I can. My partner and I have two young children, so it can be tricky sometimes. Often, I find myself writing when the children are asleep. My little boy finds it difficult to sleep on his own, so normally I write in his bed as he tries to get to sleep. I type with one hand and cuddle him with the other. The problem is he can only get to sleep by pulling and digging his nails into my ear, and I’m defenceless because I’m balancing a laptop on one knee, so I can always tell how much I’ve been writing by the amount of physical pain I’m in and how bruised my left ear is. I haven’t been able to bring myself to look at it for the past few days and a small part of me wonders if it’s even there anymore.

Ebube: 😁 wow, okay. Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?

IBK: I think that, for most forms of creative writing, being able to empathise, and key into a particular emotion, is crucial. I’m in awe of Samuel Beckett for his ability to create wonderfully absurd plays that say a huge amount about us as human beings. Many of his characters are waiting – as we are – and it’s in that waiting that a lot of life takes place. As people, I think we respond to writing that we can relate to and emotional truth plays a big part in that.

Ebube: What does literary success look like to you?

IBK: Ah, this is tricky because it’s so subjective. Personally, I feel really satisfied when one of my poems or essays finds home in a publication that I enjoy reading. There are things that I aspire to – literary awards and book deals, but the most tender and acute urge I have is for my family to see me as a writer – and a good one. I want my children to look at their birth certificates when they’re showing their own kids, and for the word ‘writer’ to make sense beneath my name.

Ebube: Who are the writers you can say have had an impact on your own writing?

IBK: I love this question – there are so many but i’d pick Michelle Bitting, T.S Eliot, Samuel Beckett, Sharon Olds and Edward Albee as my top 5.

Ebube: What are you currently reading?

IBK: I’m worried my answer is going to be a bit of a let down – I’m doing a PhD at the moment and I’ve been reading ‘Beginnings’ by Edward Said. I did read a good bedtime story to my little boy a few nights ago though. The book’s called Jungle Jive and it’s about ten pages long (the pictures take up most of the space). I particularly recommend it to folks who like reading about what monkeys get up to on their birthdays. Not to give too much away, but an electric- guitar-playing elephant makes an entrance at the end and is quite possibly my favourite character of all time.

Ebube: What are the issues you try to address with your writing?

IBK: It’s rare that I sit down to write with the intention of confronting a particular issue, but it does happen. Usually it’s based on a human rights issue that I’m passionate about. Looking back at my poems, I’d say the key themes are obsession, intimacy, faith, paternal relationships and race.

Ebube: What should we expect from you, do you currently have a work in progress?

IBK: I’m hoping to get a chapbook out at some point next year. My daughter put some of my poems together in a folder as part of my last birthday present. It’s inspired me to have a little collection published.

Ebube: That’s so sweet of her. Alright. Mr Imran Boe Khan thank you so much for being my guest today.

You can reach him on social media via
Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/ImranBoeKhan/
LinkedIn: Imran Boe Khan.

Thank you for reading this. Are you a creative seeking a platform to help publicise you and your work. Feel free to contact me by mail: ebubennenna@gmail.com. Much Love💜💜

Blog Interview

The Creativity Lounge — Abuh Monday Eneojo

Hello Everyone, I have been off for a while reviewing my plans for my blog. I’m glad to announce a change of name from The Daylight Series to The Creativity Lounge.

So in the spirit of a bigger and better comeback, Let me present the person under the spotlight on today’s episode of The Creativity Lounge, Mr Abuh Monday Eneojo.Ebube: Welcome Mr Monday. We would like to know more about you beyond your name so if you don’t mind, tell us more about yourself.

Monday: The only thing you’ll find behind my name is space.😁 Behind the name, Abuh Monday Eneojo, is a poet who loves mother nature and her children. This love has gotten to a point where I stare for minutes, sometimes hours, at things people overlook. I stare at insects, birds, the firmament, muddy planes, flowers etc because I am always dazed with awe of how they came to be. Well, this habit has earned me the nickname, Romantic writer.
I don’t only stare at them. I also take snapshots of sights I tag wonderful. So, if you go through my phone gallery you’ll find nature. I think this is where I State that nature is my Muse. Being a poet is the first. I’m what many would call ‘jack of all trades’ but mine comes with a mastery in one, poet.
I am also an on air personality at a campus radio station in Kogi State University. I started the whole talking on radio after the publication of my first anthology in 2018. The whole journey in broadcasting industry began after the launch of the book. A friend of mine, a broadcaster, walked up to me and said “You’re a very good poet and you write very well. Why don’t you reach out to other lovers of poetry via radio”.
It’s a move I still appreciate today because it has tackled to a great length the issue of being heard as a writer. I hail from a small Hamlet in the muddy planes of Agbeji-ologba in Dekina Local Government Area of Kogi State. That’s where my father says I’m from but the last time I checked I came out from the womb of my beloved mother in the ancient town of Ilorin.

Ebube: For what you referred to as “space”, that’s a whole lot .So how has your writing journey been so far?

Monday: Great. The beginning was not easy. I had to do what many would call strenuous just so I could gather money for my first publication.
I think all the hard work is starting to pay off.

Ebube: Let’s talk about publishing and marketing poetry in Nigeria, tell us a bit of your first publication experience.

Monday: Publishing in Nigeria is quite affordable when you have the resources but marketing is expensive and time consuming.
I took about 20 copies of my first book, The world within, to a local book shop few days after launching it in the confluence state. I was expecting a call from the book vendor but he never called.
Duty called and I had to visit his shop again. The meet was quite strange because he told me that no one reads poetry. All they want is prose or drama, he said.
I knew from the onset that people don’t appreciate the art of poetry anymore so I didn’t for any reason thought about sales. I just wanted people to read my book and let it’s content soothe their flaccid mind.
First experience was tough but it made me smile.

Ebube: To be a writer you must read, how often do you read other works of poetry? Can you say reading has influenced your writing?

Monday: Not too often. Yes! Reading has influenced my writing greatly. Recently, I observed that the aftermath of every literature I read was the birth of a poem. So, I practically write after reading. It helps me greatly.

Ebube: So tell us your top 5 works of literature? Maybe the best of all you’ve read this year.

Monday: 1. There was a country by Chinua Achebe
2. Emeka by Fredrick Forsyth
3. Moby Dick by Herman Merville
4. The wives’ revolt by J.P Clark
5. Yellow Yellow n Kaine Agary

Ebube: Name the authors you can say have influenced your own writing?

Monday: William Shakespeare, Chinua Achebe and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Ebube: What can you say is the role of writers in the Contemporary Nigerian Society?

Monday: Writers carry the burden of the society. It becomes heavy on them as they paint their pain in different genre and words.
The role of writers is somewhat large. Every writer takes the responsibility of correcting societal ills. Though it varies in our contemporary society today. Some writers especially performance poet, paint beauty.

Ebube: One of the poems in your collection is on rape and another on religion; what are other issues you write about and what inspired you to write about these things?

Monday: I have many female friends…and I most times go very intimate with most of them.
One of them walked up to me one day and told me how somehow, a relative, almost raped her.
The news shocked me.
Prior to that time, I read some news on the national dailies most of which gave account of rape victims. These events plunged my pen into the poem you read.
Religion. I was once religious, very religious. This state hunted me. It hunted me cos my personal belief about certain things restricted me to do some things. So, I was criticized when I started doing those things.
Writing for me is retroactive. So, inspiration is conditioned to situation.

Ebube: What do you hope to change with your writing?

Monday: Gender inequality, religious hypocrisy, Slavery, Violence, Rape and other societal ills.

Ebube: Now we know you, what should we expect from you in the coming writing seasons?

Monday: I’m currently working on the September edition of Piary (the e-book will be made available next month) and a drama. The drama is in memory of my late aunty who suffered greatly in the hands of culture.

Ebube: Do you outline what you write or do you just write the way it flows from your mind?

Monday: I write the way it flows. It’s better that way for me.

Ebube: What piece of advice are you willing to share with someone on a writing journey very much similar to yours?Monday: Write until you write!
Speak until you speak!
Imagine until you imagine!
Consistency makes for permanence. Talk people up with the words you want to engineer and they’ll never talk you down…Write what you feel the way you feel it.

Ebube: Alright. That would be all for now. Thank you for your time. You can connect with today’s guest via Facebook- Abuh Monday Eneojo
Twitter- MondayDpoet
LinkedIn- Abuh Monday Eneojo

Thank you for reading this. Are you a creative seeking a platform to help publicise you and your work. Feel free to contact me by mail: ebubennenna@gmail.com.Much Love💜💜

Blog Interview

Daylight Series #2 with Fireflamez.

A lot of musicians have answered the call to pursue their dreams while a lot more lack the boldness to do so. Today on daylight Series is a young man that is touching lives with the melody he creates and his on of a kind uplifting lyrics. He is here to stay. He is Fireflamez (readers cheering and clapping 👏 👏)Ebube: Now tell us, Who is Fireflamez and how long has he been in the industry?

Fireflamez: Fireflamez is a seasoned wordsmith,singer and Rastafarian. He started his Musical career professionally back in 2011 as a commercial/hardcore Rapper but never really dropped any song until 2013. From then he has a couple of recorded and yet to be recorded songs. Fireflamez was formerly known as Lee Whizzy. But during the wake of 2015,he received a Divine Inspiration that cut through every part of him touching his lifestyle,religion,genre and also a change of name. So from 2015,he became known as Fireflamez and so the process of rebranding was set on course. Right now he is a devoted member of the Rastafari Movement and a Conscious Rastaman. Fireflamez sobriquet is “Ur Neighborhood Rastaman“. He has 2 major hits at the moment,which can be found online by just one click. As we all know,rebranding is a process that takes time and a whole lot of practice especially when it has to do with a Rapper becoming a Singer and embracing Reggae Culture totally,so at the moment he is consciously working on a couple of majors(Singles and Collabos) that will be released very soon.

Ebube: How can you describe the journey so far?

Fireflamez: Well,to me the journey so far has been tough but fun all along. I have had my bad times,too many challenges but still I only had one thing in mind,which is to keep pressing and pushing on. The most important of all is that God has been good and gracious to me in the long run. The journey so far has a final destination and I won’t stop until am there.

Ebube: The Nigerian Music Industry has its ups and downs, what are the challenges that have surfaced so far?

Fireflamez: The challenges are too many but the most challenging of all is our geographical location on the Music Map. It’s really hard for an artiste from the South-South to power up and come out clean in the limelight. It is a must that u have to move over to the Western part of Nigeria to become something. That has been my number one challenge. Besides that,I have had the issue of finance, proper support and a good fan base. Labels signing u up and then letting u wrath behind the scenes also has been a challenge. Although, am still an unsigned act, I can now boast of a good fan base and many supportive listeners and lovers of my brand. But however I may put it,God isn’t left out of it because he has proven to me that He is God indeed. He has propelled and placed me where I can now receive some fresh air.
So now I want to use this medium to thank all those supporting the brand

Fireflamez. Pls keep supporting and recommending Fireflamez to ur friends because it will only take a little more push before we hit the limelight. And to my people out there,Never give up! Thank u so much. I am Fireflamez, Ur Neighborhood Rastaman.

Ebube: (smiles) Your song “INEVITABLE” is one of those songs that hits a listener in the chest and inspires her, what inspired you to write and sing that song?

Fireflamez: Inevitable is a part of the Divine Inspirations I had and as a matter of fact,there are still a whole lot of them to be unleashed. Inevitable was written out of my love for the street and the ordinary ghetto youth whose only aim is to be successful despite not having anything. So it’s a message of encouragement and perseverance not to give up on ur dreams and goals because ur success might just be at the corner.

Ebube: Let’s talk about “THROUGH MY WINDOW” which is my favourite of your songs, what made you write that song?

Fireflamez: Through My Window isn’t just as the name implies but it means a whole lot. It means to see things from my own perspective,to understand things the way I understand them. Through My Window carries a message of hope for a better tomorrow,the sweetness of life and the love of nature. It was inspired mainly by Jah because this days,there’s really no freedom of speech and so the only way to pass my message without obstruction was to pass it through the Music lane. That way,everybody gets a piece of it. Besides that,the lyrics itself is an irony. It has deeper things embedded in it.

Ebube: As a Nigerian artiste, you have a platform, how do you intend to make people’s lives better nationwide and globally?

Fireflamez: I don’t intend to make money from my music and then the people listening to me are being misled. I want to do songs that will inspire them,teach them and give them hope in every ramification. I want to inspire the world positively!

Ebube: To you, how important is music to the world?

Fireflamez: Music is highly spiritual be it secular or gospel. It has been in existence from the very foundation of the world. So to me,Music is very important to the world because its a part of us and it cuts through every aspect of life.Ebube: What genre of music does your songs fall under?

Fireflamez: As a Rastaman, my music naturally falls under the Reggae genre. But mind u,Reggae itself is a tree and every tree has branches. Under the Reggae genre,u have dub,reggae blues,roots and culture,dancehall and so on. So am an all round Reggae artiste,it only depends on the type of inspiration I get,that will determine the branch of Reggae that it falls under.

Ebube: What’s your word of advise to those JJC musicians looking up to you in the industry?

Fireflamez: The message is simple. Be positive and straightforward in ur dealings. Let ur No be No and ur Yes be Yes. That way,we’ll all lead a good life with peace and love.

Ebube: Finally, what should your fans, top notch supporters expect from you?

Fireflamez: Am a positive thinker so they should always expect something positive and sometimes,highly spiritual songs.Ebube: That would be all for now. Thanks for being on my blog.You can find Fireflamez onIG: @Iam_Fireflamez
Twitter: @Iam_Fireflamez
Facebook Page: FireflamezFor bookings: barrymoorefireflamezphilip@gmail.com

Blog Interview

Daylight Series #1 with Miss Faith Moyosore Agboola.

Never in any of the pre-existing epochs of Nigerian literature have a vast majority of people risen to answer the call to write and tell our stories. Out of the need to create a fun and encouraging platform for this rising league of writers to learn and connect, Miss Faith Moyosore Agboola started The African Writers platform on the 24th April 2016. She is a storyteller, inspirational writer and speaker, filmmaker and poet. I had the privilege of interviewing her and she has a lot to share with us.

Ebube: What inspired you told start The African Writers.

Faith: It’s a lot of things. But I recall that I was a young writer seeking for a home like ours. When I didn’t find one online, I searched for other means. Got an opportunity to intern at one of Nigeria’s leading newspapers and I learned so much. Once I was done I knew that not many young writers would be lucky to have such an experience. I then decided to create an online community that connects us with one another, shares information and features our works. I also knew that it needed to be fun and relatable hence the style. So it was basically born out of a personal need that I realized was a general problem.

Ebube: So far, do you think you have done a good job with your platform?

Faith: I think we have done well. There’s a whole lot more to be done. But I’m grateful for the progress so far. We are about 18,000 currently and we have organized two successful major writing events – African Writers Meet 2017 & 2018. We also get a lot of dms daily thanking us for existing. We are definitely making impact. I want to do more though and hopefully this 2019 would usher us to doing more. There’s is room for growth and improvement and we will not stop striving for more impact.

Ebube: What advice would you give a new writer on TWA, someone just starting out?

Faith: Don’t compare yourself to other writers that started before you. That is a recipe to failure. Let them motivate you but don’t let them make you lose faith in your ability. Everyone started out clueless and rough but with practice and learning we all grew. So trust in your work and allow it to bloom.

Ebube: Have you always wanted to be a writer?

Faith: Honestly, not really. Wanted to be a TV presenter but reading a novel at age 11 and writing an episodic series on a book for the entertainment of my classmates kinda switched my mindset. I discovered I had a skill from the reception I got and I enjoyed creating the characters and the stories. It was beautiful and from that moment I decided that Ill do whatever it takes to become a worldwide bestselling author. Still on the journey.

Ebube: What book or author has most influenced your personal writing?

Faith: Hmmmm. To be honest, none. I love psychological thrillers, romantic suspense, romantic comedy and adventure. So maybe I’ll say the genre has influenced my personal writing. I’ve read diverse books across these genres. There has to be love, comedy and alarming stuff in my work. Its just what I like.

Ebube: How important do you think reading is to writers?

Faith: Honestly very very important. You CANNOT be an excellent writer without being a heavy reader. I have discovered that the more I read the better I get. If you want to be a poet read and listen to tons of poets. The same goes for all other genres. There’s no way around it. Read!

Ebube: Recommend three books people should get a hold of.

Faith: The Bible, The War Of Art & Steal Like An Artist.

Ebube: For you, which comes first, the plot or character?

Faith: The character. I think up characters and let them tell the story.

Ebube: You engaged TWA on a “warfare” against writers block last year. What was the outcome and what’s your take on Writer’s Block?

Faith: Lol, Warfare, I like. So I noticed a lot of writers tend to stop creating because they think they are suffering from writers block. For me writers block is a myth and a product of your mental state and emotions. The purpose of the challenge was to get them to write irrespective of how they felt. Write even about writers block. At the end of it, a large majority of the participants realized the truth it was just their mindset. So I can joyfully say it was successful.

Ebube: You just had The African Writers Meet-up, how was it for you? Did it end as expected?

Faith: It was everything in one. Stressful. Fun. Impactful. Tedious. Smooth. Rough. We surpassed our target number of attendees. We had amazing speakers deliver deep insights into the world of African literature and the digital space. The spoken word slam was also successful and the winner is currently recording his poetry EP. The anthology is in progress. We had some hitches most definitely and doing this is a huge learning curve for me. I am most convinced this year will be better and an improvement on all that happened. Grateful for the community that keeps cheering us on.

Ebube: On a light note, pick one of these: Tea/Coffee, Movie / Book, Morning Person/Night Owl, City/Village, Social Media / Book. Paperback/EBook.

Faith: Coffee! Both! Night Owl! City! Social media! Paperback!

Ebube: A final note to any writer struggling to make something useful out of a writing career.

Faith: To be a successful writer you have to be patient. Ensure that you are truly in love with the craft and that you are determined to give it your very best. Its a long journey of reading, practicing, putting in the work, sending out your manuscripts/articles and sharing online. But one work can change your life forever and make everything worth it. But what would be bad is if you gave up on the brink of such greatness. My advice: keep putting in the work. Keep trying, eventually your success would make up for all the time, energy and money invested.

You can find Miss Faith onInstagram: @storiesbyafmThe African Writers:Instagram: @africanwriters.Twitter: @WriteGrowBecome.Website: http://www.theafricanwriters.com.

Articles

HUNGRY GHOSTS.

I started an online leadership course on the 3rd of January and I finished it yesterday. I was so excited about finishing the course so I could add a new certificate to my collection. I went through the course visualizing my name boldly written on my certificate that I forgot I was learning. I was absorbing the leadership models they taught, I memorized it actually but I felt like I would only be a fraud until I got the certificate to prove that I learnt something. The actual knowledge probably came along with the certificate.
But then, I finished the course and till evening my certificate never showed up. I was not comfortable. I was so restless because of it and I sent a mail complaining about it and till now I haven’t gotten a response from them. I still couldn’t get myself to be comfortable about the situation so I took a long walk listening to music along the way. By the time I was done, it became very clear why I felt unease. It was simply because my ego was hungry. It was disappointed. What did I even need the certificate in the first place? Post it on social media and have the satisfaction of people probably look at me as busy or have something they don’t have, blah blah blah.
It took my mind to something I once read about a Chinese Buddhists belief in hungry ghosts. Buddhists being very rich in imagery say a hungry ghost is a creature with a big empty stomach and a thin long throat and a pinhole-sized mouth. “Hungry ghosts are unable to take in or assimilate what they desperately need. The problem lies in their constricted throats- which cannot open for nourishment. They wander aimlessly in search of relief that is not forthcoming.”
I have always argued that the human being has selfishness inherent in her nature. We all get visited by this hungry ghosts, it all lies in how long we allow them to stay. If internalized cripples our being, making us blind to the fact that what we already have might be enough and we never stop to be grateful for it. We just got a job, we are thinking of a higher position, we have a partner and we are bothered about kids etc. The ego- in itself- does not want to be second to anyone and all it cares about is attention whether it comes in a positive and negative way.
I held on to that course to make me feel good about myself atheist temporarily but the hungry ghosts come crying when things don’t go as they planned? I decided to also post this as a creative, it applies to my life as well, what happens when you put your hopes on a project you pick up and people don’t appreciate the work you put out there. You are a writer but the internal longing for more pushes you for a more form of validation a sort of permanent proof like a creative writing course to feed your ego and stabilize its hunger and then you realize when you’re done that it is not enough. Then another cycle of endless longing and attachment begins. Everything is not always about you in fact if you don’t succeed at something, people will only talk about it only a couple of days, months, at most a year and then everyone returns to feeding their hunger ghosts. This little revelation made me feel better yesterday and I hope it makes whoever is reading this- probably feeling stuck like I was- feel better

Short Fiction

WE ARE THE BETTER ONES.

NO CHILD CHOOSES whom to be born to but I am happy I landed on the better part of life;If truly it is. My parents always take Junior, my twin brother, and I to the village for Christmas. The unveiling of new relatives is endless and expected and reunion with the ones already known is often less and less exciting. This year is not going to be an exception and as usual I have to pack the best clothes, shoes and bags. I love the attention I receive in the village and nobody is permitted to look better than me on Christmas day especially the daughter of my father’s step sister. Ijeoma.
We live in Port-Harcourt. The gate is always locked; we are not to step out of our house unsupervised. Enough to keep us busy and far away from the rest of the world, we have more than enough gadgets to ourselves. When there is power outage, Musa, the gateman, makes sure to put on the generator immediately. Constant light is our norm.
Junior and I are always together. Together we do everything and together everything happens to us. As the only children of our parents, mummy says she prefers to see us together all the time. So we stay in the same room, attend the same school and join the same groups in school and church.

December 21st.
Today is the last day before we travel to the village. We are playing football outside in the front yard when Aunty Peace, our help, calls, “Junior! Amara! Come inside and pack your things. We have to be done packing before your father gets back home.”
I run into the house immediately while Junior takes the ball away so he can wash it up and bring it into the house clean. Mummy always warns us against bringing dirty balls into the house.
“Here are your boxes and the clothes on top of the bed are the ones your mother said you will take to the village. Fold and arrange them neatly into your boxes. I will be back to confirm that they are neatly arranged and if there is anyone you do not want to take along or you do not like. You will go and talk to your mother about it but that will be after you have showed me first.” Aunty Peace says. “Be quick about it. If you start talking and get distracted, I will hear you from my room and you know what I can.”
“Where is my mummy?” I ask.
“She is sleeping in her room. Don’t go and disturb her, she needs to rest.”
She leaves us alone and we start looking at the clothes mummy brought out for us. I do not like what I am seeing.
“I cannot wear any of these,” I lift up the red gown right in front of me. “Can you remember the last time I wore this gown to school?”
Junior shakes his head.
“I forgot you are very dumb. Have you forgotten that day Queen and Benjamin laughed at me because they said this gown made me look like their maid?”
“Oh, I remember. That was the day I warned them to never laugh at you again. They became scared of my huge muscles,” he pauses. Tightens his fist upwards and touches his muscles. “I don’t see anything wrong with the gown. It’s actually beautiful.”
I throw the gown at Junior, “Feel free to wear it since you like it. I cannot wear any of these in the village so those local children will laugh at me and say upon our exposure, we do not know fashion.”
Junior makes a hissing sound and looks inside his box.
“Calm Down, I do not have a problem with any of mine.”
“I do not expect you to have a problem; you can wear anything you like because you are not a girl.”
“So what do you want to do now?”
“What else? I am going to tell mummy immediately.”
“You want to disturb her? Remember Aunt Peace said we shouldn’t go to mummy’s room now.”
“Excuse me, Last time I checked she’s the maid,” I feel the urge to pee so I stand up to go to the toilet.
“Let me go to the toilet. I will go and meet mummy as soon as I come out from the toi—“
Tripping over, I hit my stomach on Junior’s bed frame.
Junior apologizes as he offers to help me get up. But I can’t but insist that he did it intentionally.
“No, I swear. I didn’t do it intentionally. I am sorry.”
But I get up and keep walking to the toilet. “Leave me alone,” I say, “You are lucky I didn’t hit my head.”
I go to the toilet and ease myself. By the time I am done, turning to flush the toilet I notice a faint drop of blood on the toilet seat. I look at my panties. There is blood too.
At first thought, it comes to mind that Junior has burst and damaged either my liver or kidney. The only other possible explanation is menstrual period but it can’t be because Miss Rhonda said one day, I will sleep and when I wake up and look at my bed, there will be blood stains all over my bed. I didn’t just wake up from sleep so it is definitely not my period. Indeed Junior has successfully damaged my internal organ and if I am to die, I am determined to make sure that I am not leaving this world alone.
“Junior!” I am so loud I can interrupt the sleep of the dead.
“Why are you shouting my name when I am just here?” I heard Junior’s reply faintly from the toilet.
“Come inside here now.”
Junior comes inside the toilet. His hands are covering his eyes.
“Don’t close your eyes; I want to show you something.”
“I am not supposed to see you naked remember?”
“Shut up, I am not naked. Look!” I hold out my stained underwear. “I am bleeding internally because of you. You pushed me down and I have damaged my kidney.”
Junior’s eyes widen.
“I-i-i-is that blood?”
“No silly, it is oil. I am dying.”
I put my finger inside my vagina and Junior shifts back, closing his eyes with his hand.
“Stop that, I’m a guy.”
“See. There’s more blood,” I say, almost crying. “The scary part is I can’t feel any pain.”
“Wait here, I am going to tell Aunty Peace, I think one of daddy’s patients died like this the other day and I heard them call it internal bleeding.” Junior says.
He leaves the toilet and goes to call for help from Aunty Peace. Almost immediately he is back with her. She seems surprised to see me.
“Junior, What kind of stupid joke is this? I thought you said she was bleeding internally. Amarachukwu, Is it true you are dying?”
“Aunty, it is true. Junior is not lying,” I say. “I fell down when I was coming to the toilet, I hit my stomach on the edge of the bed frame and now one of my organs has burst. See my panties.”
Mummy enters the room as Aunt Peace takes the panties from me and she too seems very surprised. She tries to know why Junior was shouting. Aunty Peace tells her the little we have told her and she asks Junior to leave the toilet. As he walks away he keeps apologizing.
Mummy and Aunty Peace look at each other and start laughing. Confusion replaces my fear.
“We have to prepare another room for you. You have to have our own privacy now. I have been telling that you’re growing and I’m sure that it sounded like I was joking right?” Mummy rolls out some toilet papers and cleans the blood. “If it was in the time of your great grandmothers, your father and I will shoot gun for you tonight and suitors will start frequenting this house and before you know it, you are married.”
“Mummy,” I shout. I am angry, “I am just 10 years.”
“I am sorry but it’s the truth. You call 10 just? My grandmother married when she was 12 so what are you talking about?” she places her hand on my chest and moves it around. “Why are you not wearing the bra I bought for you? Your nipples are very visible. Can’t you see that your breasts are now forming?”
“All of them are very tight and I don’t feel free when I wear them.”
“Young woman, you are not a child anymore and just so you know, your period has started.”
I insist it cannot be my period.
Mummy asks, “Why can’t it be?”
While I keep on explaining reasons why my period hasn’t started, Mummy puts on the water heater and tells me to take off my clothes and enters the bath tub for a bath. Mummy tells Aunty Peace to go to her room and bring something; she shows up later with a sanitary pad. She shows me how to put a pad carefully on my panties and then she goes back to her room to continue her sleep.
“Did they find out what was wrong?” Junior asks as soon as I come out. He is nervous.
“I’m fine.”
Later that evening, Aunty Peace, Junior and I go to the mall to buy things we will be using in the village. This is her last duty with us before she goes back to her family to spend the holiday with them.

December 22nd.
Early the next morning, we leave for the village and we got there by 3pm.Coming down from the car, I feel numb on both feet. The harmattan breeze is always intense in the village carrying along dust so I quickly cover my nose and I move to one side of the car and watch as things are moved from the car into the house. Our house in the village is by far bigger than our rented apartment in Port-Harcourt. What I may never understand is why Daddy can’t also get us a big house like this in Port-Harcourt. I will be a lot happier if we don’t have to spend only some weeks here.
We are later having dinner when De Elizabeth, Daddy’s stepsister comes into the compound with Ijeoma, Prince and Goodness, her children. De Elizabeth doesn’t look like Daddy in anyway in fact she is his exact opposite. Daddy is short and fat but she is almost six feet tall and very slender. I understand that they are poor so I am not surprised that their collarbones have no flesh to hide them. She is the only relative Daddy allows in the house with us so they stay in the boy’s quarters of our house whenever they are around. As soon as they are done changing their wear they came into the house to join us.
“My children, how are you?” She asks.
“Fine.” Junior answers. I stare at her. I really do not like her.
She turns to mummy and says “Umu ejima anyi na eto-eto. Our twins are growing.”
I mutter under my breath,” No, we won’t grow. We will wait for you.” Mummy smiles and hugs her children. She goes to the kitchen to get food for them to eat immediately. So typical of her.
They sit on the floor in the sitting room and eat their food. As they eat their food they laugh and play with their sachet of water, testing the sachet’s elasticity and make fingers of the four points. I watch them from the dining area as they eat with so much impunity. Everything about these people disgusts me. Goodness beckons on us to give him our chicken bone if we don’t want to chew it. I’d rather throw it away than give them. We kept the fowl that died for them so they will have more than enough bones to chew for some days. They keep on laughing and I wonder what reason people like them have to laugh? They remain the losers especially Ijeoma. There always seems to be a competition between the both of us and I am obviously winning. I stay in the main house; she squats in our boy’s quarters. Every Christmas I show up fatter but the opposite is her fate. I always give her the clothes I am tired of wearing and she has no other option than to collect them. I know she is going to wear one of my old clothes on Christmas day. What surprises me is that she makes them look different when she wears them; she always wore my old clothes with something extra. I once complained to mummy about it and she said Ijeoma wore them with “Gratitude.” I don’t believe that. It makes no sense. Yet it baffles me that she has one thing that I don’t have. It gives me sleepless nights that it is something I didn’t give her. I don’t know how to give her. I have an unsettled need inside of me. I don’t just have the need to feel better than her; I have to be better than her. Always.
Mummy leaves the kitchen and joins us at the table. She is eating from a bowl of fruits.
“Why didn’t any of you say hi to your cousin?” Mummy says.
“I had food in my mouth and you said that we shouldn’t talk while eating.” I reply.
“You had food in your mouth? Is that your excuse? All the while they were standing here; you didn’t find time to swallow what was in your mouth. I have told you that you need to learn to be humble. I don’t like the way you treat people. You don’t have everything in the world. You are not better than them.”
“Every time, they like competing with us but they forget that they are the ones in the village and we are in the Port-Harcourt. We are the better ones.”
“Amarachukwu, shut up before I shut it up. Don’t ever talk like that close to me if not you won’t recognize yourself. I don’t believe that they are the ones initiating any competition for who is better. I know my children very well and it is something the both of you are capable of doing especially you. Your father has made two of you feel like you are better than everybody. Listen, no one is like you but you are not better or worse than anybody.”
“Mummy, I’m not like Amara oh. I don’t have any issue with playing with them.” Junior says.
“Junior Keep quiet,” I turn to mummy. “Mummy you’re saying that because you don’t get to play with them and you are not forced to relate with them. Ijeoma is really something and I won’t lie. I don’t like her. I don’t think I can ever like her.”
“Amara, Let me tell you something. You like acting strong all the time but this is not how it is done. Strong women don’t compete with each other. They build each other up.”
“I have heard you.” I say. I am done eating. I place my palms on the table and stand up to leave.
“Take your plates to the kitchen. Then go upstairs and bath. I’ll join you soon.” Mummy says.

December 24th.
Daddy goes for a meeting at the town hall. Our movements are restricted to the back of the house where De Elizabeth stays with her children. The boys decide that we must play football instead of pretend cooking. Ijeoma is sitting quietly on a stool very close to the main entrance of the boy’s quarters.
As she sits still tying into a big bundle freshly scraped midribs of palm fronts, she seems bigger and taller than me though we are of the same age. But then something is different about her. Her skin is shining as though she immersed herself in oil. . Her breasts are forming too. Just like mine, they look like two little sprouting buds. She normally would play the ball with us showing off her dribbling skills and making sure she wins us at the end of the game but she sits on the stool for a long time and smiles at her brother whenever he shouts “I.J., did you see that? We are wining.”
“I am tired. I don’t want to play again. I am going inside.” I say.
Junior tries to find out if I’m hurt or feeling sick but I insist I simply do not want to play again. He knows better than to continue interrogating me. I am going into the house to do something else. As I am leaving De Elizabeth comes back and asks Ijeoma to go inside with her immediately and she obeys. As I get to the sitting room, the thought of Ijeoma being useful to her mum while I am not bothers me so I go to the kitchen to join mummy.
“Amara, what are you doing here?” Mummy asks, “I thought you said you don’t like the smell of village kitchen.”
“Mummy, I really want to start helping you in the kitchen after all I’m a big girl now.”
“Mm-hmmm, I’m done cooking already,” Mummy says, turning the cooking spoon inside the pot, after a while, she continues. “Amara what you can do for me right now is to go to the back and tell Elizabeth and her children that food is now ready. They can come and eat.”
“Okay Mummy”
I step out of the kitchen and I am surprised to meet Junior sitting all by himself at the backyard.
“The game ended because Ijeoma was crying from inside their house. Prince and Goodness said they didn’t want to play again so they left the ball and ran inside.”
“I am sure she did something wrong and her mummy was beating her?”
“I don’t know oh.” Junior says and returns to what he was doing.
I run quickly to be able to catch up on Ijeoma crying. I get a little bit close to their door and I hear her crying though it seems as though something in her mouth is preventing her from being louder. I decide to look through the window first before entering inside. I see Ijeoma topless and her mother continually using the head of the broom she assembled earlier to hit her breast. Prince and Goodness stand by the side begging their mother to stop; but she doesn’t. I know parents do different painful things to their children for misbehaving, mummy twists my ear and lifts me up sometimes uses knife to slap my arm, but this is different. I try to imagine what she could have done to deserve this kind of punishment? If Junior isn’t allowed to see me naked at this age why are Ijeoma’s brothers allowed to look at their half-naked sister? I keep on watching as De Elizabeth stops to apply something like Shea butter on the breast and continues hitting them. There is a twitching in my own breast and I feel a sharp pain in my breast as though mine is also being hit. Goodness and Prince keep crying and she sends them out. I leave their window to avoid being caught. I have to do something to help Ijeoma. Daddy will be the best person to report to but he is not around. I return back to mummy, narrating all that I just saw De Elizabeth doing to Ijeoma and beg her to come out and help Ijeoma.
But mummy keeps quiet. She remains unmoved and continues eating.
“Mummy. Please. Do something”
“There’s nothing I can do,” She says. “You amaze me. One minute you hate Ijeoma and the next minute you are concerned about what her mother is doing to her. She didn’t do anything wrong and her mother is not punishing her. She’s only protecting her.”
“You call that protection? How?”
“Ijeoma’s breasts are growing and it has a way of attracting young men especially the useless ones in the village. She was telling me earlier that some men attempted to rape her before vigilante boys caught them. Her mum doesn’t want it to happen again so the best thing she can do for her is to make sure that it doesn’t drag attention.”
Tears gather in my eyes and then I forget completely that it is Ijeoma I am pleading for.
“But mummy you made me wear a bra saying it will keep attention away from my breast. Why can she just buy a bra for her daughter?”
“Don’t take for granted your luxuries. Some people can’t afford one. The fact that you can have them doesn’t mean that others have them too. ”
“Then give her some of the new ones you bought for me.”
“I can’t rub it on their faces any further that they are poor. Elizabeth knows the best way to raise her daughter so let her do what’s best for her while I do what’s best for you. Now that you know how important a bra is, clean your eyes go upstairs and wear a bra. It’s obvious you are not wearing one.”
I run upstairs with my hand over my chest as though to protect them and wear one of my bras before coming down for lunch. I select and squeeze the most colorful of my new bras inside my pocket and come downstairs. I am going to give it to Ijeoma after lunch.
De Elizabeth goes to see someone immediately so only Ijeoma and her brothers are joining us for lunch.
“The three of you can join us at the dining table. There is enough space for all of us.” I say pulling out chairs for everyone.
“Really?” Goodness asks.
I nod. I assign a seat to everyone and ask Ijeoma to sit next to me. She seems too tired to object. I believe Mummy knows I am angry at her for not helping Ijeoma so she stays away from the table. I am thinking of how guilty I feel for not being able to help when mummy returns with two plates, one containing more white rice and the other fried chicken. I can tell Ijeoma is still in pain, from time to time she places her left hand on her chest while using her right hand to eat. Prince and Goodness don’t seem sad. They are too occupied with Junior talking about which is greater between Arsenal and Chelsea.
Mummy comes in to take our plate inside as soon as she sees that we are done.
“Thank you Ma.” Ijeoma says, smiling for the first time since we started eating. I am convinced it is the right time to start a conversation with her.
“Ijeoma, how are you?” I ask slanting my hands close to hers.
She looks at me and smiles. Her eyes are red and swollen. The tiny little buds I saw sprouting through her shirt earlier are gone. She looks to me as though she wants to collapse.
“I saw you through the window.” She says.
“Do you want more food? Mummy baked cake, want some?”
She shakes her head.
“Does it really hurt?” I say unconsciously placing my hands on my chest.
“A little. But don’t worry. I’ll be fine.”
“Do you hate your mummy?” I ask. The tears I have been holding back for so long finally finds their way out. I put the bra inside her pocket she brings it out a bit and smiles.
“No. I can’t hate her. She was scared to death when she was told I was almost raped. She struggles to take care of my brothers and me alone so I can’t hate her. The pain will soon go away. Don’t cry for me. Don’t worry, I’ll be fine.”

December 25th.
Its Christmas Day, There is no more urge to showcase the cloths I brought home. The day is still dripping with fresh memories of the previous day. We get to church and Daddy loves it when we all sit in the front pew. The attention it brings usually makes me excited but throughout the service I imagine every girl being protected like Ijeoma. After service, I give her my old clothes I brought for her and some of the cloths I am still wearing.
“Amara, Thank you so much,” She brings out the cloths one by one. “I don’t know if I’ll be allowed to wear them.”
“Why? We’ve been given you our old cloths all these years.”
“My mother told me that she has been looking for who will help her and train me in school. A family has requested that I follow them to Lagos as their house help and in turn they train me in school and then Eze Amaifeke wants me to get married to him. He has also promised to take me to school. I think she prefers me marrying Eze that way she doesn’t have to be bothered about me being defiled by anybody except my husband. They may be taking me away this evening.”
“Do you really want to go?”
“I don’t know.”
I hear mummy’s call from the kitchen. There are visitors to greet and places she wants us to visit.

We are standing at Oguta Lake watching the boats and imagining what it’s like on the other side when Mummy receives a call.
“She is not here with us.” She says and turns to me. “What happened?” Mummy walks away from us so we can’t hear her. By the time she is done, she walks briskly towards us.
“Amara, Did Ijeoma tell you she was going anywhere?”
“No ooh. Is she not at home?”
She explains that De Eliza called to ask if we went out with Ijeoma or saw her as we were leaving the house. Some people are there to take her somewhere important but she is nowhere to be found.

Articles

VIEWPOINT: A GIRL, THE SUBJECT OR THE OBJECT?

Before I begin, I want you to study these two sentences:

1.)Mike asked Ebube out.

2.)Ebube asked Mike out.

Do you see anything wrong with any of them? Do you feel one is not proper? NOT SUPPOSED TO BE? If yes, this post is for you.

Last week, I was having a conversation with a friend of a friend and he said, “You are a feminist so you think you can ask a guy out right?”

“I can’t.” I replied.

“I thought you feminist are all about being bold and liberated. That think it’s okay to just behave anyhow. Does it mean you don’t really believe in it?”

I remained quiet. Not because I didn’t have anything to say but because if I went on to explain he might simply not understand that I can in fact I have but at the end it was like I did something wrong.

A couple of years ago, I never saw anything wrong in a girl telling a guy “I like you.” I felt it was cool to simply be expressive when it comes to owning up to how you feel about a guy and vice versa. Just say it and leave it there.

So I asked a guy out and it was going well till he started behaving in a certain manner. I could tell there was a lack of commitment on his part but I ignored because I felt no relationship is perfect and everyone has a flaw then one day we had an issue and he made a statement I can never forget.

“…I mean,I never asked you out in the first place so I’m not really obligated to you….” he said smiling wryly.

To digress a bit, I’m sure he’s part of the guys that are shouting “Fine boys like us, na dem dey rush us” everywhere.

So well, I was in shock because I knew there was a problem but I never thought I was the cause of it. When it finally hit me was when I noticed he was already dating someone else in fact to give you a clear picture of the situation: While I was dating him, he was dating her.

To cut the long story short, because a lot of things went on way after that, I decided that I was never going to ask a guy out. Now a premise has been set. let us go back to the questions I asked you to study.

In Secondary School, we are taught that a “subject” is the doer of an action(active) and an “object” is being acted upon(passive). In the case of Sentence 1, everybody will hail Mike because they feel he has behaved like a man but accept it or not, The Mike in Sentence 2 will be mocked and ridiculed by most people especially in his absence because …(fill in the gap)

I’m sure a lot of girls will be like why should Ebube ask Mike out in the first place? Mike’s mother, if she finds out, will tell him to stay away from that loosed, wild Ebube. She will even say she can’t keep her legs together and she likes men ET cetera, ET cetera.

Why does our society believe women are objects to be acted upon? To be liked or hated rather than to like or hate? To be accepted or rejected rather than to accept or reject? Who made this the ideal? Who made this the culture? Who made men believe they have to be the initiator of a relationship for it to work out? Who taught young boys and girls the things they could do and the things they couldn’t do?

Reality is nobody was taught Gender Role 101, we just saw and we just followed. We saw men and women that believed in patriarchy. The men and women that mastered gender roles. The people that have refused to let go of this demeaning ideology. These were the kind of people that taught us how we should be. The models we had to emulate.

To change the cycle we have to change the way women are perceived socially. Boys need to accept that women also have the right to approach anyone they like without being ridiculed. They should begin to see women as initiators. We need to begin to say to young girls you are not just a choice someone has to make, you, too, are to make choices.

What other social changes do we have to make? Do you think we should remain objects? State your reasons below.