Sunday, October 30, 2011


I grew up with this proverb, “Iko rita meta, idamu alejo,” i.e. A crossroad is the predicament of a visitor/stranger. And each time I heard it, I had this image of a stranger arriving in the metropolis that was Ibadan of my childhood from my grandmother’s small village in Ekiti, and he would be in the traditional four piece suit of Fila, Agbada, Buba and Sokoto all of which were made of Aso Oke and he would have a horse tail in his hand. He would be standing at an intersection with three, four or more roads meeting and he would be reeling around and around and around in confusion while waving the horse tail, perhaps to ward off the ever present flies, or, to maybe clear the fog that he thinks its in his mind for he knew he was in a quandary.

Why this image? I grew up in a household ruled by my maternal grandmother who missed her small village very much and so most of her discourses were about this nostalgia. And her relatives did come down often to visit bringing with them lots of yams, some vegetables, chickens and a goat once in a while along with lots of stories about the happenings in the village and these, my grandmother would savor with relish. The relatives in turn would be overwhelmed with the city teeming with zillions of people and so many roads and vehicles, and my grandmother in turn would reassure them.

There were other references to crossroads as well, I remember walking to my elementary school with my twin brother early in the mornings, and on arriving at certain crossroads in our neighborhood we would find pieces of broken clay pots, and in some of the larger pieces would be a peculiar combination of stuff—palm oil, a coin, dead rat, chicken skull, some large feather belonging to some bigger bird like a hawk, and once we saw the head of a dog, at another time, the eye of a big animal, and usually some precious beads like corals and other weird and bizarre combinations of things. Each time we see this, I would freak out as I felt my head expand and contract, and as we had been warned several times by my superstitious grandmother and other housemaids, we would give the offering, for that was what they were a wide berth as we hurried along on our way.