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Songs for Ikenga

African Folktale

It was a month like no other. It seemed like Ifufe came visiting everyday; the one who is never invited and gatecrashes when he wants to. But Ifufe, otherwise known as Hurricane, wasn't the cause of the month that no one wants repeated. But before I tell you more of that period, let me introduce my self: I am Osa the squirrel.

There were two reasons for that month. One was Ajikwu. He's the one with six horns and four eyes. As you can imagine, those of the female gender, don't want to partner him during the time to dance, or invite him back to meet the folks! So it is with many of the monster race, even though they yearn for human women. But what he lacked in looks, he balanced up with strength. He'd pick up an iroko tree and batter his opponent with it. Who was this opponent? None other than Ikenga; the warrior of wide renown, who excelled at wrestling. He was also an uprooter of trees: clubbing Ajikwu with a raffia palm. I was scared to sleep at night and fearful of going out in the day. Normally, I have to look out for jackal, or for puff adder, but now I'm on high alert for falling trees, the feet of Ajikwu and the bombs he makes. As soon as he started throwing them, every single living thing went for cover; whether insect, amphibian or big cat. Can you blame them? I mean, who wants to be splattered with a bomb, whose content is a mixture of Ajikwu feaces and urine! You better run for cover!

And so it went for the month, day and night. They tore the place up! Ogre was always stomping, slugging throughout the stampede, while Ikenga, with the skills of the acrobat and the use of somersault, dodged each and every missile, whether of tree, rock or the product from the monster backside. You should have seen Ikenga: it was sweet to watch him. Agile and quick, so Ajikwu couldn't touch him. He remained cool and focused, while Ajikwu got more and more frustrated. And when he howled at night, he woke the whole forest - and the little ones suffered from nightmares; so did a few of the adults, if the truth be told. During the day, the echo from the howl, bouncing off a tree or rock formation, could knock you off your feet, or at least stun you.

I became a disciple of vigilance. Extra careful, when I went in search of nuts and roots, yam and sweet potato. One time I suffered a temporary blindness. The man and the monster had been in combat in a drier arena. The dust that they created, became a storm, reducing the area to low visibility, causing accidents and death. A buffalo stepped on a lizard and an antelope bashed into a tree.

Then, after another brilliant somersault, Ikenga found himself standing in a tree, above the stomping one. As the nemesis came under the tree, our hero jumps on him, grabbing two of the six horns: sometimes its good to have multiple choice! Ajikwu tried to shake him off, going full speed through the forest, banging his body against tress or whatever would help to throw Ikenga off. Barging against this and against that, but once gain, the nimble and deft movements of the rider, proved successful. Then taking the neck in his arms, he twisted it and broke it; so the days of mayhem and devastation were over. I jumped and leapt around, amongst the other forest celebrants. It became our home again, not a battleground for the outsider.

And later on, as I sat near the fire, the storyteller told a new story: laughing at Ajikwu and singing songs for Ikenga.

@Natty Mark Samuels, 2021 African School

Author: Natty Mark SamuelsLicense: All rights reserved

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