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With Hope, Weeping Africa – Winner of Naitalk Essay Contest 2022 – Okpala Michael

  • November 22, 2023
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With Hope, Weeping Africa – Winner of Naitalk Essay Contest 2022 – Okpala Michael

I grew up with the gong-gong of the monumental talking drums that spoke to our forefathers. When the sun peeked from the clouds, upon the horizons, upon the quiet waters, upon the grass that sparkled with the twinkle of the morning dew, I opened my eyes. At once, everything in my system began to resonate.

I inhale.

The smell of the rotting decay of nature fills my lungs – decay that sprung forth new life in abundance, decay that smelt so sweet. I can smell the rush of living waters from afar, here in this land where swans sang songs and jackals jeered jokes. Here in this land, there is never silence because the silence was newfound life; in its depth was the best of music.

The beat keeps resonating.

We knew only of clay and thatches – stunt houses, shaped like masquerades, running in and out was a delight when we played at dusk. This morning, I woke to another experience. I didn’t need assurance of what was to come; whatever this land had for me, it was beautiful.

Peeking outside the hut, you see colours and life blending into one another in perfect purity. There was green in the grass, brown in the soil, blue in the waters, white in the sky, red in the rising sun; this creativity knew no bounds…

I take the first step outside and inhale again, drawing more of that air inwards, the oxygen She herself breathes out. Life buzzes in me, and it’s like I can feel every cell in my body and every stimulus beyond like I’ve been crazed with the pami the elders settled to drink beneath the moon. I can feel the gentle breeze against my bare chest, the scratch of the soil beneath my bare feet, the moisture of the atmosphere on my bare skin, the light penetrating my eyes, like I’m levitating…

The sound continues…

The men are still beating the drums; the beats are more frantic now as the others peek from the huts and begin to run into the opening. They’re gathering – it’s time to celebrate!

The celebration is just as beautiful, but I prefer to continue hearing what She has to say. I run off into the wild, instinct pushing me – an inner force that makes me flexible, like the panther. I belong here!

It’s like everything is talking to me, and when I stop, it’s because the forces acting all around me made me to. I’m not breathless in any way as my eyes settle on a beautiful sight. Beneath, among the twists, turns, and twitches of thorns, a lily stands, blazing white, bright delight. 

I stoop low in sheer admiration; my ears beckon to the whistle of the forest. She had something to say. As I got the message, my lips opened in a little circle.

“Hope…” I whispered.

As She led me, I picked the lily from within the thorns and sped back the way I came to the settlement of my beloved family, the people of the land. I wasn’t too close when I smelt it, my instinct picking on everything again. 

Something was burning.

The gongs? Where were the gongs? I could hear them no more as I slid to the clearing we called home – the clearing She gave us.

But all I met were its ashes. Black. Dust. Haze. Steel. Flames. 

This destruction knew no end. The playing children? The drumming men? The dancing women? They were gone! I couldn’t see them, but I could hear them – endless screams and yells; I must be in hell. The only movement was big machines making holes in Her – she who gave us life and white skins I couldn’t recognize.

Strange men. Strange actions.

Tears blurred my view as I watched the last of us disappear into the ashes and the era of the big machines took over. 

I was about to crumble to my knees when I heard her again, soft whispers in tears of hurt. 

I turned back to the forest from which I came, my lips breaking again, my cold hands squeezing at the petals of the dying flower.

“Hope…”

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1 Comment

  • I vividly remembered the winning piece … Just a year old… How he urged me dearest friend… Let us a write this essay…. bravissima boss

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