Oga-Madam call it Nostalgia

I saw smoke came from the ground. I feeled my heart jumps in my chest, as my hands move slow, from left to right. We marches in fastly, our legs hit the ground in the same time, our movements perfectly synchronises. In the centre of the stage, I throwed my head up, and pulls my shoulder back. The drummers stops, and I bends my knee, and slide round the stage, resonated with the others. I feels my shoulders slides in a circles, and I put my head back, and closes my eyes. The drums becomes me; the song controlled me; I dances until I cannot move again.

She say it called nostalgia, when I think of the time when I has 17 years old. How baba use to pamper me, how my friend were so good to me, how mama use to so kind to me, how my house was so peace. That days where I was able to walk in the backyard and sat inside the clay sand, under the mango tree, and practiced my dance. I talk to mama about my dreams; about all of the achievements I wanting to have; about my schooling; about my talent. She likes the Ogun river, to wash her cloth there, to sat there and tell me the stories, of its origin. She never thinks how far it is from baba’s house, or how long time she spend walking there every day. Like the river draws her, and she cannot stay far from it for long. Mama died when I has 17 years.

Today, I still think of that days where I could stayed in the shade, away from Oga-madam and her wahala. Far away from her nonsense talked, from her useless vanity. Far away from she, who understand little about life. Oga-madam know only two thing; clothes and party. She cannots make her bed, fetch her own water, cook her own food! How baba take marry her after mama die, I don’t know.

All she does every time, is talk her fancy English and eat the food I cook. “Fancy” Brazilian hair, “fancy” lace iro and buba, “fancy” designers watch on her hand, “fancy” shoe, “fancy” bag. Everything “fancy”. When I tries to teach the baby Yoruba, Oga-Madam starts again. “That’s not relevant,” she say, “I don’t want my child to learn anything irrelevant to his generation.” She sit in the big, brown hand chair and tell me how I has make a mistake. She tell me how I must go and learns everything again in Oyinbo, how I knows nothing in this world. She tell me that I wastes my life in school, and that Tobi will never sees the same end. She say she feel bad for me, but it is I who feel very bads, for Oga-Madam, and worst for my half-brother.

I sat in Baba’s backyard in Abeokuta, under my mango trees, with my friend Tunde. I always goes to him when Oga-Madam starts her nonsense. He sit beside me, and hold my hand and sings our state anthem to me. He sing like my mother, “ise ya, ise ya.” I remember the first times I dance to my mother. In the river, she sings the anthem, and drums on her bucket, and I dances. I moves in the warm crass nears the river, and dances with my face up, looking at the bright sun. I stop cry when I think of this; this peace. Tunde tell me that I am educate in Yoruba does not mean I am not educate at all.

Oga-Madam tell me that my schooling is “irrelevant.” She say she went to school in London, that she is Lawyer, that she is “important” more than I. Yet she need me, to translate everything for her; to cook her food and lays her bed; to takes care of Tobi, to makes sure she not offend anyone; to go to market for her; to do her “laywer” work in Yoruba. So now, Tunde ask me, “who is trulys irrelevant?”

Not I. She take me everywhere she go, because I is not irrelevant. She take me to the Drums Festival, to the Ojude Oba festival because I not irrelevant. My father demand a huge bride price from Tunde because I not irrelevant. And when I hears the drum and dances on the stages, when I speaks to people in Yoruba, when I moves my back so much that it feel like it is burns; when I cooks for my husband; when I wear my gele and greet the Oba at the Ojude Oba festival; when I is the Yoruba girl that mama taught me to be; I knows that I am not irrelevant.

-Similoluwa Aluko

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