One song

This picture was captured from a clip I watched on Facebook a few weeks ago. It was such a profound experience watching this woman work magic with that guitar, and it inspired a story out of me. My very first Flash piece …

ONE SONG

One song

Nceda, Theresa … just one song.”

She hid behind her hands and shook her head slowly from side to side, like a shy virgin on her wedding night. Through her fingers, she peeped into the camera lens. “Kuphela enye?” Just one?

Ewe,” the man affirmed in his terrible Xhosa. The rest of the crew behind him nodded in unison.

Securing the guitar beneath her right armpit, Theresa began to play.

The cameraman rose from his crouch, camera forgotten on the tripod; his astonishment mirrored that of the entire crew. Theresa had seen it before.

The first time she saw such awe, she was only fifteen and her folks had taken her to play at the local inn. She was only seven when she started playing with the old guitar Dada kept hanging in his room – a gift from a former Portuguese boss. ‘Odeku’ hung by the strap on the wall, its stringed nose angled downwards. And Theresa stood on tiptoes and tugged at the strings.

She was gifted, Dada said, and so they took her to play many times at the Ingonyama’s palace and that one time at the inn. Richie was in the crowd that day. A few visits and many promises later, she was with a group of girls en route Jo’Burg where Richie said they would ‘blow’.

Blow, she did – the drugs, liquor, split lips and broken arms blew her mind, body and soul. And a ‘forever’ later, she returned with one suitcase and a viral infection to an empty home.

And so she turned back to ‘Odeku’.

“It isn’t just her obvious talent,” the CNN African Story anchor was saying into the camera, “it’s the ease – near boredom in fact – with which she makes such beautiful music.”


A Flash, by the way, is a really short story, usually anywhere between 20 and 500 words. ‘One song’ was also featured on ShortSharpShot … see it here

If you loved it or not, say something about it below. And depending on your feedback, I just might do this again. 

Thank you 🙂

Chisom

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What If

pensive African woman

I was 18 when we broke up; 18 years, 11 months and 29 days old to be precise. He attacked my weight again, I remember it like it was yesterday. The first time he did it, I can’t remember what we were talking about but arthritis came up and he said I should watch my weight or something like that. Basically, “you are getting fat”. That was the beginning of the end because come on, he knew how sensitive I was on the matter.

Well this time, I decided, would be the last. If all his love did was make me feel wretched, then it was pointless loving him. So I called it off. I knew he would come back, and come back he did. Suddenly, my weight was not an issue anymore.

Anyway this story is not about him. This story is about another ‘him’; the kind of ‘him’ that marks himself.  You know…right up there. He is like that scar you alone know of, the one you often find yourself fondly rubbing your hands over. The kind of scar that makes you smile. This story is about him.

I was 18 when I met him; 18 years, 11 months old to be precise. Funny how ‘met’ as a word is now very subjective, what with social media and its array of networks. I remember it like it was yesterday. I commented on something, he replied, I replied his reply, he replied mine…and we got talking. You know how you meet a guy and unconsciously compare him with your father, and oh the joy it brings when he checks every box. If you have your dad as a benchmark – Daddy’s girl club – you’d know exactly how I felt. Because this dude checked every box and moved on to circles.

We did not date, it was not practical considering the distance. But oh my, the chemistry, it sizzled hot and fierce on both sides. I had hit jackpot and boy, did I have plans! I would graduate at 22 and go on to Lagos Law School so we can officially be together. Then NYSC, settle in Lagos and live happily ever after with four kids; three boys and a girl in a big house with…well, we could work out the other details later.

Then I turned 20. They say when you get older you have more answers. If that is true, something must be wrong with my growth. My birthday that year came with a lot of ‘what ifs’ – “what if I only get into Law School in Abuja?”, “what if I am drafted for NYSC in Sokoto?”, “what if his genes are allergic to mine?”, and “wait oh…what if he does not feel the same way?” And in all of these ‘what ifs’, there were no answers.

I have always wanted to be mature, to really live in the 21st century as a 21st century woman. Gender Equality! If you like him, tell him, et cetera. Anyway, I told him how I felt. And in response, he officially asked me out. Not the answer I was expecting but an answer nonetheless. It felt nice at first. I finally could call him “baby”…aloud – oh yes, I used to say it in my head – and I could end the calls with” I love you”. But distance, the witch that she is, refused to let it be.

I couldn’t kiss him or hold his hands; we couldn’t touch each other or “touch” each other. No dates whatsoever – forget all that Skype. There were no eye to eye declarations of love or playful tickling that ends in bed with panting and sweating and no clothes on. Yes, we connected intellectually. Yes, relationships go beyond physical needs but…I don’t know, it just was not enough for me, for us. And so we broke up.

Looking back now, I think we just missed being friends that we did not work to actually be a couple. We became just friends again and yes it was awkward – going back from “hi baby” and “I love you” to “hey buddy” and “guy, pack well”. But we got over it. We were die-hard friends!

I told you the first one came back, right? Not my ‘jackpot’ now, I mean the first ‘him’ with the weight issue. Yes, he came back and became a good boy, always on his best behavior. He was safe and secure – no sizzles, no hot and fierce whirlwind of emotions. It was not the same as with my ‘jackpot’ but it was something good. I was not lonely, needy or desperate. So I settled.

Sometimes, I imagine what my life would have been with my ‘jackpot’. “What if I had waited and kept my mouth shut?”, “what if I had met him at another time, under different circumstances?”, “what if we had held on to each other just a little longer?” Even at 32, I still ‘what if’; like I said earlier, something is wrong with the way I grow.

Now I look across the table at my ‘best behavior’, and I look at the little one we conceived on one of those rainy nights when holiness flees and everything is possible. And I smile. Yes, I lost my ‘jackpot’ and I settled with my ‘best behavior’ but this right here…this little man in the high chair, gurgling cute nothings and trailing cereal all over his cherubic face, this is my pot of gold.

By Ezinma Ukairo.

Ezinma enjoys good music, food, books and movies. She is currently in her third year at the university where she is studying law so that she can promote the beauty of womanhood, and end child marriage and world hunger. Ezinma is afraid of ever having to just ‘settle’ in a relationship, but she keeps a closed mind to all the ‘unwanted stuff’ and continues to believe in love.

‘My Sketchbook’ finder: Revealed

IMG_20141130_191156 Hope sketch2

Show yourself!

My name is Ifeanyi Ifemeje, an Igbo boy from across the Niger, Imo state. I am the eldest in a family of six and spent the better part of my growing years in Benin.

Arts? When? How? Why?

I don’t really remember the when, but my mum says I started drawing in Primary Four. I was melancholic as a child so I stayed busy in my head by myself, and on the outside, I found solace in pencils and paper. I found that I liked it. Later I would do drawing assignments for my classmates – Fine Arts, Agric, Health, Sciences, anything that had drawings I did. I enjoyed it, and it came very easy to me, I didn’t have to stress or anything. So I just kept doing –

(butts in) Did you know then how good you were or you just enjoyed drawing?

I just enjoyed it. And I kept pushing myself. For example, I liked cartoons so after watching on TV I would try to recreate the characters on paper. If I got the same smiling face as when I watched it on screen, then I knew I had gotten it right. I also paid attention to details, I didn’t have to struggle with that either. So I just kept getting better. Immediately after secondary school, I discovered an artist named Owolabi Pius and I spent three months in his studio learning pastel. Ironically, when I was done with that, I still couldn’t place a finger on what I had learnt from the whole err…

Internship?

(snickers) Yes, internship. But in 2007, a politician was campaigning in my village. My aunt suggested that I do a portrait of him and send it to him. It sounded like a good idea so I rallied my savings and bought pastel paper, pastel colors, a board and started working. I spent about 2-3 weeks on it, painting almost non-stop. When I finished, my savings was exhausted so I had to borrow money to buy a frame. After framing, I took it to him. He liked it immediately, and after talking with me, asked his P.A. to give me five hundred thousand.

 shocked baby_NAIRA

(laughs) Yes, Naira. We – my brother and I – met the P.A. who gave us an envelope. We ran home, locked the doors and windows, shut all the curtains and opened the envelope to see that it was just two hundred and fifty thousand in it. We were not so happy, but hey, two-fifty was a lot of money still. So I took it and shared it out among my people then.

Big boy!

(laughs) Yels! Anyway that made me think that I was sitting on a pot of gold. I mean, I like doing this, and people are willing to pay THIS much for it, so why not?! I dove into it with all I had. At about that time, I gained admission into the university to study Biotechnology. Through my time in school, I was still drawing and painting part-time.

DSCN0002 DSCN0012

Are you doing this full-time now? Anything on the side?

Not full-time yet. Presently, I am ajuwaya (NYSC member); I teach Biology and Animal Husbandry in a secondary school. I also work as an Assistant Graphics Designer for Whits&Stratts here in Lagos.

Plans for the future?

A colleague and I have just started our own firm, Lava DigiArts which true to its name, focuses on digital arts. The idea was unique and it won first place in Shell’s entrepreneurship grant scheme; so right now, we have office space and a grant with which we have started work, using digital means to create art that will appeal in quality and cost to the high and middle class. While working on this, of course, I will keep at my pencils and paint.

Now, let’s talk about ‘My Sketchbook’.

Yeeeaaahhh…(laughs)

My Sketchbook

What was your first thought upon reading the post?

Well, reading up to a point, I thought it was personal. A lot of people experience such things, just that the writer in this case chose to tell her story with the unique idea of a sketchpad. Apart from the angle of romantic love, there are other ways in which people give a lot of love and get nothing in return. Mothers are a very good example. An example that quickly comes to mind is the mother of St. Thomas Aquinas, who despite his rebelliousness kept praying and soliciting on behalf of her son. And at the most unlikely time, against all odds, this prodigal son turned a new leaf and rose to become one of the greatest saints of the Roman Catholic Church. Love is not the easiest of ideals but there are people who keep giving it even when they only get woes in return. I really don’t know what inspires such people but while it is really sad to look at, I also think it’s beautiful.

So when I read ‘My Sketchbook’, I truly empathized with the person who wrote it – I don’t know her, by the way. But beyond empathy, I connected with her on a deeper level of art – I know how it feels to give someone your sketchpad and he just does rubbish with it. I felt her pain. Christ is the prime example of love and after his sacrifice he was ultimately glorified by God. So I thought, “if I were in the shoes of Christ, what I would do is to reward her sacrifice – give her another sketchpad, another heart”.

Then again I thought, “but I can. I can give her a new sketchpad, with a beautiful sketch on it, make it bigger and better.”

When she lost her sketchpad, she sowed a seed of love that had died under rejection and ill treatment. But a seed dies so that a flower can grow. I wanted to make that happen for her. And that was it.

A word to our WAW readers, their votes persuaded you to SHOW YOURSELF by the way.

Yes oh, here I am! (laughs)

About ‘Words Are Work’, I honestly do not follow faithfully. Only time to time, I get links from my friends on whatsapp and I check it out. I am pretty busy a lot of the time, but yeah, I enjoy it each time I visit there. It’s a very cool blog.

Yeah…WAW is cool. Okay, any last words?

Hmmm…for Hope or Hope’s character – I don’t know if it was a real life experience or fictional poetry, but I’ll say, continue to give love. Continue to love, even when it’s unrequited, continue to sacrifice –

(cuts in) Really? In this ‘dog-eat-dog’ world?

(laughs) Oh yes, and I know it’s a tough stance. But I’m a Christian and I believe life works best that way. And if I believe and live by that, I believe there is one other person, two, three other people who believe it too. And slowly but surely, we’ll make the world a better place.

DSCN0044

…then we had a large lunch and made my tummy a better place 🙂

I am @ojukwu_martin on twitter

My Sketchbook…lost but found!

Yes…really.

In May’s edition of ‘The Lectern’, WAW featured a piece titled ‘My Sketchbook’ (read the whole piece here). In it, Hope told a heroine’s tale of pain suffered at the hands of love. The heroine gave her sketchbook to her lover; but every time she retrieved it from him, he had riddled it with horrid markings.

He returned repentant every time, and in spite of the pain she had suffered, the brave heroine gave this lover another chance with her sketchbook. And each time, he treated it even worse “…until there was one page left.”

And even as we watched in astounded rage, this heroine yet again forgave the prodigal lover and gave the last page to him. This time, he …

“…tore it into tiny bits and pieces…

…and the wind carried it away”

leaving the lady hurt and heartbroken. With no beautiful sketches and no sketchbook, our brave heroine finally broke down and cried.

Some of you thought it was beautiful, some thought it was sad, the rest of us were just angry – “how could she have been so trusting?!” And we kept a thunderbolt doing press-ups in the backyard waiting for the day the yeye lover-boy go try surface.

But this one WAW reader did more. He found the sketchbook!

You hear me, Hope?…he found ‘your’ sketchbook. And for icing, he drew your face on the very first page.

Hope sketch2

He also asked that I add this:

“Christ gave and gave everything to us, yet we crucified him. Even at the point of death he still gave – he prayed for us. You gave your sketchpad in love and forgiveness, like Christ, but it was misused and lost. Good news: you will get it back bigger and better, as long as God lives. Because He is the epitome of love and mercy”

Did he say “you will?”…because it looks like she got it back already, bigger and BETTER.

WAW!!!

I know what you’re thinking. What’s his name, abi? My dear, im no gree oh. The dude swore me to secrecy on his identity. So I’ll just leave now…before I start leaking truths and tears all over this e-floor. Do not pass by without saying one word or two (or singing a whole frigging chorus) in appreciation of this beautiful gesture.

Question: “Shall we let this correct guy remain anonymous???”

I mean, yes, he swore me to secrecy but swear sef dey fear im mama. If a good number of you, say 30, 40 or 50 came out here to say SHOW YOURSELF, I wouldn’t have a choice but to yell his name. You folks are king after all, and I can’t be sued for royal loyalty…right? 😉

#Nuffsaid.

Chisom

The Lectern: My Sketchbook

The mellow is upon us yet again in this month’s edition of ‘The Lectern’. The ‘crazy architect’ we will be reading today is Hope; if you asked her, she would say that she only writes from a moist mind. After reading this, I was astounded by the moistness in mine.

As an aside, can we get some dudes with the ‘hammer-n-mortar’ write-ups please? Some fire-brand religious mojo, profanities, and hardcore life lessons abeg…any more mushiness here, and these writers will have me dripping eye-sweat all over :/ #Nuffsaid

Aaaaaaaaand so, for the month of May, of sketches, sketchbooks and…well, moisture (what?!), WAW brings you…Hope!

The Lectern01

…that we might be read


MY SKETCHBOOK

sketchbook

I gave it to you…my sketchbook. My most prized possession.

You said you’d sketch and draw for me

Flowers, trees and parks,

beautiful pictures of sunsets and sunrises, buildings too.

So I gave it to you, kept nothing back.

 
 

The first sketch was nothing but scribbles

Ugly ugly scribbles…like the markings of a demoniac.

And so I took it from you. I took my sketchbook back

Even though I didn’t want to.

 

Then you came back.

You were sorry, and you wanted to make it right

I forgave. Just like God taught me

I forgave. And I gave it to you again, my sketchbook.

 

But when I got it back, I saw worse markings

Very bad ones.

Each stroke tore at me like the claws of a fiery dragon

And sunk beneath my skin

Like a vampire’s fangs.

 

My heart broke again.

I took it from you. Again.

But you wouldn’t stop coming. You came back, each time

Looking more contrite. And I believed you, each time

So I gave. Again and again.

But I believed. Just like God taught me

I believed. And I gave it to you. Again and again.

 

Until

There was only one page left.

 

You came again. For pardon

For one last chance

I had only one page left. I could not risk that.

Then you promised. Like God taught you

You promised. To make it up to me.

For all the ripped pages, the discarded ones. For my broken heart

To make everything alright.

 

And I gave.

I was hungry, searching for something beautiful. Vulnerable…what can I say?

But I gave. My very last page.

Because I believed.

 

You were a leopard. On the backdrop of your pale sincerity

Your spots shone…dark and unrepentant.

You did not just scribble this time. You neglected

My sketchbook.

My heart.

 

I found it drenched in the rain, scorched by the sun.

The little boys in the street played with it

Drunks fought over it…prostitutes spat on it.

Then you came along. And with your very hands

You tore it up into tiny bits and pieces…

…and the wind carried it away.

 

Then you came back

One more clean sheet, you wanted…even if only a scrap.

But I had none to give. I gave all I had to you.

So you left…sad.

And I cried.

Again. I cried.

Because I was hurt and heartbroken.

Because I had no beautiful sketches

Because I had no sketchbook.

I cried.

 

By Hope Eboh

Hope Eboh_The Lectern

 

Don’t forget to share with your friends and enemies, also take a minute to tell us in the Comments what you’re thinking about this one. If you have written something which you would like our readers to enjoy from ‘The Lectern’, or you just wan show yourself, attach and send it in a mail titled ‘The Lectern’ to ojukwumartin@gmail.com. If you are unsure about a subject matter, still reach out and we can work up something appropriate for you. It does not have to be right, left, right or wrong…just your opinion.

Chisom