‘Beyond the all-too-familiar message of violence against women, Amadi's epigram-clad poem is like the very best straight out of a Holy Book.’
This is one sad, but energising, poem I discovered today (by George Chijioke Amadi). Political poems tend to be a bit hackneyed, I've come to conclude, but this is one of the few that make you want to say: ‘Please give me more!’
It's the story of a woman called Ijeoma, which in Igbo means ‘the journey is sweet and good.’ In this life, however, her journey is anything but sweet and good, until the very end of a horrid patriarchal encounter.
Her hunter-husband is lost in ‘Evil Forest’ for a time and taken for dead. She gets a tearing black eye from slaps for it. The elders call her to a council, where she sorrowfully but smartly explains her innocence. But the elders call her a liar and murderer, more beatings follow with thorny sticks and she's left out for the hovering vultures' supper. Then, the godly moment comes (the gods must be long-departed women!): Nnodi, her husband appears, ‘hardly expected’, from the dreaded ‘Evil Forest’. Her shamed foes disperse, fazed and dazed; and ‘a good wife's neck, in time, saved.’
Ijeoma survives because she doesn't give up. She holds her own, in dignity, against the onslaught. ‘Her every emotion, in shambles’, ‘hardly shows’ to even a ‘prying eye.’ ‘A hope, by courage planted, thrives’ in her.
Ijeoma is ‘childless’ but a ‘mom’, a philanthropic identity that is at the very core of the African saying, ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’ She feeds all (‘often a party gives’). What better way to capture the maternal resilience that is Africa!
Beyond the all-too-familiar message of violence against women, Amadi's epigram-clad poem is like the very best straight out of a Holy Book, and it made me think: ‘Hmm.. who said our Griots don't have the divine word?’
And, oh, how sweet the turn of words and lines; the striking mix of rhythmic energy even at the end of each dramatic line: pounds, rushes, shambles, shows, dreads, plies, cries, thrives, rustles, sorrow-drenched, executed, bowled, bleed, subdued, rallied, bloodied, dreaded, saved, etc...
In the end, questions remain: Will the battering elders change? What else would it take to make that happen? They better do, right? Or else, as the delightful feminist joke goes: ‘God is coming, and boy is she pissed!?’
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