My first romantic crush was my primary school teacher. In the 60’s! Kai, I loved her, I loved her, I loved her. I happily fetched firewood for her, did whatever she asked me to do. Happily. I lived for every afternoon when she would let me carry her iPad and accompany her to her house. Chei! I remember when she gave me a glass of Tree Top orange juice. How many of you remember that? It was as much as I remember, an orange drink concentrate. My mother could make an entire swimming pool of orange drink from one bottle of Tree Top, yes. One day, after school, my love, er, my teacher made me a glass of Tree Top that actually tasted like orange juice. After that day, I did not want to go home to my mother. Blood is not thicker than water.
My other loves were not quite as real as my primary school teacher; they existed in the many books I read. I loved books but I read them closely for romance. I remember James Ngugi (that was what we called him then until he woke up one day and started calling himself a very long name). I remember his great novel, Weep Not Child. I was taken by the female protagonist Mwihaki and I rooted for Njoroge, her love interest. I fell in love with Mwihaki and as a young boy, I would walk mope around the place whispering the name, Mwihaki. The relationship did not end well in the book, but most good love affairs are like that, there is always drama.
After Mwihaki dumped me, I fell hard in love with Margaret in Chukwuemeka Ike’s The Potter’s Wheel. Margaret and Obu were young; about 12-years old each by my calculation, but you could not separate those two love birds. I cheered when Obu received a love offering of freshly fried ukwa and he reciprocated with six plump roasted termites. Termites? Yes, termites! Here is where my week’s sermon begins. I think the worst thing that has happened to the African is the loss of language and the requirement to stuff all our words, feelings and meanings into alien vehicles. Things get lost in translation.
The French call snails escargot. Escargot sounds really romantic until you see it on your plate. Oyinbo call fish eggs caviar; if we were the ones eating such nonsense they would call us savages who eat fish eggs. In my village we do not eat termites, we eat irikhun. It is not my fault that the white man calls it the nearest approximation (in his mind) to the real thing – termites. And so if I was to critique Ike, I would ask: Why do you call these delicacies termites? Is that what they are called in your language? Why are we like this? Call it by its real name and let the reader do the research. It is called Google.
The other day, I came across one of the most brilliant stories of the 21st century, actually it is an app called the bride price, a tongue-in-cheek satire of a great Nigerian wedding tradition. Many people saw it for what it is, rollicking fun that is a brilliant commentary on our increasingly materialistic society. It went viral on social media but there were a few people who were offended by it. A number of them I respect, but the vast majority were just clueless dolts uncritically equating this satire with human trafficking, bride slaves and related absurdities.
I don’t know about you but we don’t sell women and children where I am from. In fact, the term “bride price” does not exist. You would have to ask the first stupid oyinbo person who came up with the idea of calling it a “bride price.” So, I ask our writers, it is not enough to write uncritically, you must examine the politics of words, the implications of narratives and ensure that you are not unwittingly stamping pejoratives on the forehead of Africa. Africa has suffered enough. Give her a break. And oh, by the way, nor be my turn form five go wear knicker; I have two daughters, if you are a destitute feminist fool with two heads oya come near my house and say you don’t do bride price, you go hear am! I have two sons, if you are a destitute feminist fool with two heads oya come near my house and say you don’t do dowry, you go hear am! Nonsense! And yes, I took the bride price test; I am worth 1.5 million US dollars. I am not surprised. Why, I am a genius! I am worth every penny? Oya who wan marry? Money na hand, back na ground!