HA’KAMARA - Episode 1

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Nigeria's leading fictional story blog - chief priest, snake, tribe, gods, palm wine tapper, forest, blood, village, warriors.

She was born on the wrong day – the day of the gods and for that was branded an evil child. A cruel fate awaited such children, they were cast into evil forests, and her fate was no different. The day of the gods was a day set apart by her people, the Bodgi tribe, for the celebration of snake gods. Women were forbidden to eat the food of the gods or drink the wine of the gods on such days. Their only participation was to rub white clay on their bodies and dance around the village covered only with banana leaves around their waists. To make sure that all the women took part in the ‘dance of life’ with no exception, pregnant women in Bodgi were given potent portions to keep them from giving birth on the day of the gods. For centuries the portions worked and not one birth was recorded on the day of the gods. The dance of life meant so much to women. It was called the dance of life because they believed their gods prolonged their lives by dancing half nude for them on their day. On this day as the women danced around the village chanting praise to their gods Usana yelled in pain and dropped to the ground, she was having labour and her baby was on its way out. It had not been seen or heard that a woman gave birth to a child on the day of the gods after taking the potent portion which was meant to keep her from bringing forth her child on that  sacred day.

In fear of the taboo unfolding before their eyes, the women fled from Usana to go fetch the men. Only two very elderly women stood beside Usana to help her deliver her evil baby. Before the women could return with the men, Usana had given birth to a baby girl and quickly named it Ha’kamara; meaning in their tongue, “The gods are wrong”. She knew that by the time the women returned with their men, her baby would be taken from her and given to servants of the chief priest to go cast it into the evil forest leaving its fate in the hands of the gods.

When the women returned with the men and the chief priest, Ha’kamara was taken from Usana while it was still covered in blood and given to a band of servants of the chief priest to go deposit in the evil forest. Usana was hurled down to their ancestral shrine were old female shrine servants bathed her with the blood of animals for seven days to exorcise the evil spirit which had made her give birth on the day of the gods. In the evil forest as the baby lay on the ground crying for the care of its mother, a black snake slithered towards it, hissing ominously. When the snake reached the baby it coiled around the baby and then raised its head as if to protect the baby for itself. By the next day, after the festivities of the day of the gods were over, a palm wine tapper meandered through the dense forest to check several of his palm wine calabash hung atop raffia trees in the forest. On his way he stumbled on the black snake coiled around the baby. The baby was still alive and hadn’t been eaten by the snake. The sight was too shocking for the palm wine tapper to bear; he let out a cry and fled the forest.

Back in the village his cry stirred men, women and children. When the palm wine tapper narrated what he had seen in the forest, the elders and the chief priest ventured out into the forest to see if the tale of the palm wine tapper was true. They reasoned that if indeed the spirits and the beasts in the forest had not made a meal of the baby given to them in line with their custom, then the child must be a sign from the gods. When the elders and the chief priest arrived at the spot where the palm wine taper had seen the black snake and the baby, all they saw was blood on the ground. It was not fresh blood though. The blood must have been the one on the baby when it came out of its mother's womb. They tried to track which direction the snake might have carried the baby off to, but there were no traces. As the men scored the vicinity where the snake was found, they found footprints on the ground. They followed the footprint to the border of an enemy village and stopped. The previous day when Usana had given birth on the day of the gods, they all agreed that the baby was evil and so cast it into the evil forest to die. The baby having survived the forest and the evil which abounded in it, they believed that the baby was a gift sent to them by the gods. “The child shall save us from our enemies and make us great!” echoed the chief priest.  The day the palm wine tapper had seen the snake around the baby and fled the forest, a hunter from a neighbouring town had found the baby with the black snake around it; he fought off the snake and left with it. The hunter was certain that the baby must have been branded evil by the Bodgi tribe and thrown into the forest to die. However when the hunter heard that the Bodgi tribe were looking for the baby he feared that it might be for the wrong reasons and so by night he sold it off to a childless old lady, who carried it off to Bada, a far land where it was rumoured that men in white skin who came from the sea had settled on.

The dusty town of Bada welcomed only the privileged. Villages and communities feared Bada and did their best to stay far from it as much as possible. It was a land where their strong men and women were tamed like animals before they were carried off to white man’s land as slaves. Bada was formerly a thick forest which the white man transformed into a town where he could keep his slaves and some raw materials like rubber, cocoa and palm oil before hurling them down to the sea where their ship waited on the shore. In Bada, by morning the children would go learn the white man’s language which their gospel preachers taught, and by late evening they played on the red, dusty streets of Bada. Huts were orderly arranged in the town to avoid fire incidents which in a few cases had ravaged white man’s human and non-human goods. The huts were occupied mostly by those who served the white man, and by some slave raiders. The slave raiders had come from every part of the villages near the sea. Giant stores adorned all the corners of Bada and slaves who were not considered good enough to be exported to Europe and the West Indies worked their fingers sore in this town. It was in the town of Bada that Sunu the childless old lady brought the baby, Ha’kamara, to train up. Sunu was able to enter the town because her younger brother, Samba, a feared slave raider lived in there.

Back in Bodgi, when Usana saw that the position of the elders and the chief priest had changed toward her baby whom they cast into the evil forest, she went to see a medicine man with a small basket of eggs. “When I brought forth my baby girl, I knew she was different from my other children; there was flame in her eyes. I want her to know her name, tribe and the land she came from when she grows up. Her name is Ha’kamara. The gods were wrong to have allowed her be thrown into the evil forest”, she said to the medicine man. “Have you considered the fact that your baby could be dead by now?” asked the medicine man. “I know it is alive. I feel it strongly in my heart. Ha’kamara lives”. “If you are so confident that she is alive, then let us get this done; give me the basket of eggs”. When the medicine man was done with invoking spirits of their land and calling the name of Ha’kamara over the basket of eggs, he took seven eggs from the basket and gave them to Usana saying, “Take these, and drop one at the entrance of the seven roads leading into our land. No matter how far your child goes from our land she shall return and she shall return mightily”.

In the meantime the elders and the chief priest continued their search for Usana’s baby which they cast into the evil forest. They had hope that the baby was alive, and so began to seek oracles to locate its whereabouts. One of their oracles sent them to Zarafi a neighbouring enemy village, to the house of Unuk, a famous wine taper. By night three young warriors entered Zarafi and took Unuk from his house and brought him to the elders of Bodgi tribe.


Written by:
Uzoma Ujor

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Moofyme.com: An African Literary Blog: HA’KAMARA - Episode 1
HA’KAMARA - Episode 1
Nigeria's leading fictional story blog - chief priest, snake, tribe, gods, palm wine tapper, forest, blood, village, warriors.
Moofyme.com: An African Literary Blog
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