Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Stolen Childhood

I imagined the aran*; hung over the open closet across the room wrapped around my ill and shriving body. The image conjured surged a powerful urge to get the velvet fabric at all cost. I contemplated over the two options available; it was either I gather enough strength to walk the painstaking steps to the closet or scream loudly, which would send Asiata running into my room to get it for me.

I decided on the latter but my voice was weak. It sounded as if the echo did not leave my room. Or it could be that Asiata heard me but was bent on her revenge because I freed her caged butterflies? She kept them in order to send messages home to her people in Ilorin. “Backwards bush girl” was what I called her before i opened the mesh-like cage and released her diurnal insects. Doesn’t she know moths are for sending messages not butterflies?

The former option it had to be. I pushed away the Ankara wrapper the aran* is to replace, for it did not do much to keep me warm, besides, it reeked of Robb. I made the five seconds walk to the closet in thirty five seconds. I pulled at the fabric but the corner of the velvet snagged on the tiny nicks on the closet door and its end was caught in between the cracks. I tugged at the cloth until my legs gave in due to fatigue and i sunk to the floor. Everything went dark.

I woke up to the sound of wood cracking in fire and the aran* wrapped around my body. But to my dismay, the surrounding was alien. In the middle of the room was a real camp fire and behind it was another girl sleeping on a straw mat at the extreme. There are two entrances into the room, one had a door and the other had a curtain. A depicted calendar with the image of Jesus was hung on the door and on the floor by the right, sat a small amu* covered with a metal tray with different color plastic cups arranged on it.

A tall light skinned man entered through the curtain entrance, he took water from the amu* with one of the plastic cups. He hiked up his glowing white sutana*; a result from its several rinses in robin blue powder water, revealing a black trouser underneath. I would have labeled him an albino but he is freckles and blemish free. He came up to me and placed his hands on my forehead. I shrunk away from his touch for I did not know who he was. He handed me the cup of water which I took but did not drink and he said in Ijebu* dialect that we will start in thirty minutes.

A plump lady came in after he left. She was also dressed in a sutana* and with her was a small bowl, a wad of paper and a folded white cloth. Without speaking, she took me to the river to bathe. In the paper was a ball of black soap, which she generously applied to my hair with a twine sponge. I was given the white cloth to wrap around my wet naked body. I shrived to no one in particular as we walked back, the night was dark and cold and I was scared. We entered a building; a place I assume is some sort of sanctuary. Stick inscent were burning at the four corners of the room and there were benches arranged for an audience. She left me there and came back with two other women and two men, the light skinned man included.

Surrounded by the five church members, I was asked to kneel down in the middle. At this point, i found my voice and asked them why I was there and where my parents were. All my questions fell on deaf ears. They sang praises to God and the prayer session began. The light skinned man who was the leader explained to the rest what their mission was. He stated that i have been ill for the past month and my family had brought me here to be cured. He also claimed they are to command my spirit friends to leave me alone to enjoy life. For an eight year old girl, it was terrifying to hear of ghosts and spirits in the middle of the night. I crouched where I was and screamed.

At the tintinnabulation of the church bell, whips made from the remnant of a sugar cane plant landed on my back. The five of them shouted gibberish as the cane descended on me. I cried and danced to the canes like my life depended on it. Before I passed out I heard one of the females say in ijebu* “her case is a strong one; she might not make it through the night if we don’t beat the little devils out of her”

I almost did not make it through the night. Times without number, buckets of water was poured on me while the canning continued. I was asked to repeatedly send these spirit friends I neither could see nor hear away. I was to denounce my imaginary spirit land and claim earth as my abode. Broken in spirit and weak in stamina, I made up my own images and bade them goodbye for I wanted to live. The canes stopped as dawn broke over the valley. The advent of an adult began with this day. For there is no night so long that will not end with a dawn. And no day dawns like another.


** Aran – A velvet fabric used as a duvet

** Amu – A dome shaped water vessel. It cools the water in it.

** Ijebu – The literary dialect taken from the Yoruba language.

** Sutana – A white garment worn by the church organization. (e.g., Celestials and Cherub and Seraphim)

56 comments:

pamelastitch said...

Oh my gosh!! I am so sorry. But why did they think you were possessed.

You see, that is the reason that some churches frighten me... :)

Afrobabe said...

Almost first...darn, Pammy beat me to it..

fantasy queen said...

is this for real as in really real?...so sorry u had to go thru that. but then u are a survivor yeah?, dont think i would have lived thru...

afro, i was second but had to re read b4 commenting...so u stole my spot. aburo like u.

Afrobabe said...

Christ, that is some deep stuff...

I know of people who went through that cos they were labeled ogbanje...but never heard it told so touchingly..

Afrobabe said...

kai...fantasy queen nearly stole my spot...lol...Na God catch u...

30+ said...

Say what?! Although if you are a yoruba (right?) with religious parents, it is not a strange occurence.

fantasy queen said...

okay, i depriive another from been 4th..is this fact or fiction? i've been reading and rereading and spinning it all ways...

fantasy queen said...

c o, c me thinking i was 4th...afro, arent u supposed to be doin sometime, like sleeping, this one u're stealin spots like this.

CATWALQ a.k.a LAGBA-JESS said...

It will do me some good if you can tell me that this was a work of fiction...

Queen of My Castle said...

This is very interesing, though I have never heard of spirits being beaten out of a child. If this is in true real, I'm sorry.

Your writing is very engaging to say the least.

Waffarian said...

Love it! So beautiful, your writing....

But I am wondering, like others.....Is this fact or fiction?

Aijay said...

Wow Allied this is deep!!!
But babe do we have to roll on the floor before u tell us whether this is fact or fiction?
Pls tell us now.
Gr8 writing as always.
Take care!

For the love of me said...

since allied has refused to answer, I will on her behalf, it is fiction. Not that it is far from the truth, my friend has been flogged with brooms before in one of such churches, she eventually escaped via the window. we were 16 and young and she simply wanted to know what goes on in there.

Chizom said...

Saw ur comment on my blog and I didnt get a chance to follow up, but this is a beautiful, wondrous delight of literature. I love the story.Its emotional and gripping, like all wonderful literary pieces are. How often do u update? Lovely!!! dont forget the sultana, She's been updated!

Rinsola said...

Fact or fiction, i laffed at Asiata, sending butterflies to Ilorin, and also I could imagine the way the lady said "they needed to beat the little devils out". Naija with our wonders sha. Nice post. Thanks for checking on me, did u get my mail? Talk to u later.

Allied said...

@ Pamelastitch – I had no clue why those people think I was possessed. We just have to be careful about the doctrine of some churches.

@ Afrobabe – You and Fantasy queen are fighting all over blogville for second and fourth. What happened to first? As Nigerians, we pretend to get over stuff or try to get over it. I am sure it was touchy for your friends, but they couldn’t voice it out. I now laugh about it. But I grew up that day. I learnt the meaning of survival and had nightmares for years EVERYDAY!!

@ Fantasy queen – Yes, it is real but with some minor embellishment. (1) My parents did not take me there. They were here in the states. Also, my aunt only allowed it because I was really ill and she was afraid because people kept telling her I had “spiritual illness” so one of her friends decided to take me to some bogus church in Ijebu and they church concluded I was an Abiku/Ogbanje.

@ 30+ - I am Yoruba but it was still a very very strange occurrence. None of my other family members went through it.

@ Catwalg – I wish. I love your blog by the way. I always do “under g” there.

@ Queen of my castle – I am surprised you have never heard of flogging in spiritual churches. That is all they seem to do with children.

@ Waffarian – It is Fact. Of course, it has some “mede mede” to make the story sweet. I hope Ogbunike is up?

@ Aijay – Thanks, It really happened to me. The funny thing was that the when the beating was over and I went home in the evening, my fever was gone. I guess they did manage to illness out of me. I am sure that is why they think what they did was worth it.

@ For the Love of me – Lol at your friend. She escaped through a window? I wish I thought of that, but it was in the middle of the night and I was only 8 years old then. You also know that there are “gbomo gbomo” (kidnappers) in the hills of the forest. Who knows what rich man is in need of a child’s head?

@ Chizom – I love Sultana. Off to read!! See u there!

@ Rinsola – Asiata was a funny girl. The story is fact. What we do in the name of religion. Thank God I know God personally. Would you imagine if I thought that was all church is about?

Believer said...

Beautifully written.

Allied said...

@ Believer - Thanks Sis

Allied said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bukenzo said...

Brilliant, dats all i can say. Its rather unfortunate that people do all sorts in the name of spirituality. God dey.

KimPossible said...

Girl...I totally feel your post. You read my blogs on the "church" right. I am sorry you had to go through that. But you know what, it made me a stronger person. Church can really mess you up. But, thank goodness Jesus is at the center and He is the one who keeps us.

KEEP IN TOUCH

KimPossible

Afrobabe said...

lol...if we cant get first position we will fight for the once available jare..

See fantasy queen lieing that she read first...na lie, she was tryin to secure my spot...lol..

Beat u to it girl..

on a serious note I am really glad you came out of that without permanent scars oh.

fantasy queen said...

one of my sis has got this tiny tribal mark on her face, mom and dad were away and she was so sick as a babe, granma put it there cos they said twas spiritual. i'm hopin shes forgiven granny for that esp since she realised she'd be at risk if she performs plastic surgery.
the important thing is that we live through those experiences and they quickly remain in the place where they belong..the past.while we move forward to the future as survivors.

afro, which one na, b4 me again?

Allied said...

@ Fantasy queen - Are u sure i am not your sis? That also happened to me too. When i was baby, My Mom brought me to Naija and traveled some where locally; i was teething and became ill. Before she came back, i had tiny tribal marks on my chin and my hands. My paternal grandma did it so momsi could not vent as much as she wanted. Funny enough i am not scared by it cause i was not aware when it happened. But my mom still referees to it to this day. Still pissed at dead grandma

Allied said...

@ Bukenzo – Tell me about it.

@ Kim Possible – You said it “Jesus is at the center and He is the one who keeps us”

@ Afrobabe – I am glad as well. Look, Fantasy Queen is after u again... (Hehe... I am an instigator)

Writefreak said...

Girl! When last did i hear these yoruba words? The story reminded me of a time my sister had to go live with an aunt who's a member of a white garment church. She was said to have been possessed..of what i don't know..well it wasn't this bad! I was really upset about it and i am now.:)

yayi said...

I just pray you didnt go through that. Heck No! I wanna believe it is fiction but nontheless it was beautifully written. for a moment i thought you were referring to a hospital until u mentioned the canes.A very refreshing read. keep it up. when are u gonna gist us about the escapade with For The Love Of Me?

Mythots said...

Wow,

that is so shocking!
thought those things ended in the '60's...
If they are that "tight", why didnt they bring the lil devils out themselves and chase it away?
why beat a little child?

BTW, thanks for stopping by mine...and i do have the complete story now!

Allied said...

@ Writefreak - lol, i can’t believe i remembered those words as well. Re the story, almost all white garment churches think a child's illness is some form of Abiku

@ Yayi - I wish i can give you other news, but it really did happen. Why did you think i was talking about a hospital? Who lights camp fire in a hospital? I take that back, anything can happen in Nigeria.

@ Mythots - i will be looking forward to Mr. Z's story. Me i like gbeborun

acainto said...

It always causes so much hurt when people try to practice Christianity without understanding or wisdom...I went through years recovering from the abusiveness of sadly misguided spiritual leaders...I pray you find the grace to heal from all that stuff in the past...All the best!

OmoIbadan said...

20 something original comments!!!!!!!!!Aunty, i want to be like U when i grow up:D

curvyice said...

hey there i came , i saw and i ........fill in the blank spaces(abi na jamb?)...lol nice one but so sorry u actually had to be subjected to such baseless atrocity. have a splendid weekend.

Jaycee said...

wowwwwwwww....

Mennn, allied u've come a long way. I can imagine how painful it was when whip lashes came slashing across your back.

I thank God for the woman you've become today, for He rescued you from your past.

Luv, me!

(this post made me shiver BTW, lol...geez!!!) Enjoyed TERC today!

The Life of a Stranger called me said...

Im sorry but I had to laugh at certain points in this story. First of all I thought it was one of those "allied-fied" stories... I too was desperately ill when I was younger, and from this post Im grateful, no one took me to places where whilst wet I was whipped.

Am sure it was a painful experience and Im glad you shared it.

fantasy queen said...

wats with the granmas and their over sabis'?

lovely weekend babes!

Allied said...

@ Acainto - I am healed. Infact, whenever i narrate this story, i laugh myself silly

@ Omoibadan - Aunty ke? me i am still a sisi oh

@ Curvyice - Celebrity! Thanks for finding your way here

@ Jaycee - Thanks, it was quite an experience for me. I also enjoyed TERC today, how will we do it when you leave for Naija?

@ TLOKSCM - It okay you laughed. I hope it was at the right moment? Lol. "Allied-fied"? What a word? Can i steal it from you?

@ Fantasy Queen - Tell me about it.

Kafo said...

is this for real
mercy

i'm speechless

bumight said...

wow! I finally got round to reading ur blog, I first thought it was fiction till I read the comments
dang! deep stuff... and I like the way you tell it.

s.chic said...

Na wa o, i've always kept my story for being given a funny look, but something similar happened to me while i was much more younger too. White garment church as well, only mine, i'm not even sure if i was ill, but i doubt it sha, but i remember being tied to a tree with those sutana belts and got the beaten of my life.

I truly can't explain what it was for and why, but i've always wondered about it. Unfortunately, the only person to explain the story is also no more.

Thank God for Personal Salvation.

Isi said...

na wa o! this story fear me!
um..no updates yet?

Allied said...

@ Kafo - Yes it is. how are u?

@ Bumlight - Thanks for finding your way here

@ S.Chid - Are you for real? Your sounds more scary than mine. They tied you to a tree? Lord have mercy

@ Isi - Lol, i will update soon, Just a little busy at work

30+ said...

Oh no! So it really did happen to you. Sorry babes.
When I said it is not strange I mean we (ok I) have heard it many times it is no longer strange.

But you know why they did it though it is cos you are so FINE and they prolly thought you were ogbanje - the curse of fineness with "our people"(oya smile and forgive them).

Jinta said...

I like the dispassionate way you write about it. Heard of it, cannot imagine the experience. Someone should have told the idiots that spirits don’t beat out, all they were doing was damaging your body.

laspapi said...

it happened to you. I wondered as I read. I know a girl they used the hooves of a live goat to stomp so they could get out the 'spirits'.
Your deja vu (coffee ring) post interested me too. You seem to be a bit like Helen Oyeyemi and her Icarus Girl story that bestrides both realms.

darkelcee said...

I am so sorry.

but really that is scary ! i am not sure i would have been able to cope

Pele dear i feel you

KimPossible said...

Hey, just dropping by to say hey. Where you at? LOL! I need you to hear from you in cyber blog.

Happy Friday!

KimPossible

OLAMILD said...

My sis, na when u go update?

Ozymandias said...

I was just gonna ask if this were true, then I read your comments. This is really very callous...and I can't even begin to understand it...well, I guess the root of these is in illiteracy and under development, cos what other reason can you adduce for such inhumane treatment..its really sad..

yayi said...

update!!!!

fantasy queen said...

hiya babes...i'm pretty sure twas u harrassin my girl afro to update...charity begins at home girlllll UPDATEEEE!

Believer said...

What time is it? Time To UPDATE. LOL!!How u doing?

2ndCorin5:17 said...

I'm almost scared to add my comment...
For some strange reason, I found this funny... is there sth wrong with me?

Wow... did dis really happen? Someone needs to start arresting these so called "church" people ahn ahn... they shud be arrested n sent to a REAL church place or sth where smn can teach them about God's love.....

And i thot 'injection' was the worst thing dt cud ever happen to a sick kid....

Allied said...

@ 30+ - Talk about all the mammy waters walking around Port Harcourt? (lol). I see where you are going with this.

@ Jinta _ Detachment is the only way to sanity

@Laspapi – What a compliment. Thanks for stopping by

@Darkelyee – Thanks

@ Ozymandias – I totally agree with you

@ 2nd corth 5:17 – There is nothing wrong with you. It is okay to laugh. I also do the same when I remember the incident.

princesa said...

I doff my hat for this post o!
Babes sorry you had to go through that as a kid.
Na wa for superstitious peeps o!If to say them flog you die, them for talk say na abiku kill you.

Sherri said...

omg!
i can't believe that actually happened! (the ignoramuses)

thank God for ur healing..

btw, i love ur writing style

rethots said...

....have read this post severally but, i just have never been able to put it together.