Alu Nwanyi Na Mma

Her name was Alumma. She was the first daughter of Agamekwe. She led a hard life. Her mother died when she was 15. She had three brothers, the youngest was just 7 when their mother died. It fell to her to cook and look after them. Agamekwe had four wives. Each wife took care of her hut and her children.

It was a heavy burden for a young girl. She was petite, just 5 foot 2, and slim of hip. She coped the best she could. She went to the farm, she went to the market, she came back and cooked for her brothers. When her older brother turned 22 he got married but the expectation that his wife would cook for them were never fulfilled.

Alumma got married at 25, a late age for a woman to marry in those days. Her slim hips made it difficult for her to birth a child. Her only baby died at birth but not before tearing her up so bad that for the rest of her life she leaked piss through her vagina. She never got pregnant again and her hut always smelled of stale piss.

Her husband beat her regularly after that. Her younger brother – her champion even when the teachers beat her in school came to her rescue. One day as dawn broke over the horizon, he arrived their house and trashed her husband so thoroughly she feared he would kill him. Then he took her back to their fathers house and promised to take care of her for the rest of her life.

She grew old there, subsisting on a small free hold they gave her to farm and the kindness of her siblings.  Hers was the only mud and thatch hut in the homestead. It was a single room ten feet by ten feet. Her doorway was so small you had to bend over double to pass through it. Her only window was just big enough to put your head through.

Her bed took up half the room, a clay pot for water and her cooking utensils filled the other half. She cooked in a lean-to by the side of her hut and slept with her chickens clucking under her bed. She was the poorest member of the family but she never ate without calling all the small children in the compound and giving them a morsel of her food.

When she was still strong enough to go to the market she sold roasted peanuts. Every few days she would gather sand in a large clay bowl and set it over a roaring fire. When the sand was hot she would add the shelled peanuts and stir them over the fire till they were done. Children would gather round her while she stirred and she would give each one a few hot peanuts.

She was a devout Christian and never went to the hospital or took medication, no matter how sick she was. She had the faith of a Daniel or an Ester. She would pray, drink her holy water, and anoint herself with her holy oil. If she got really sick she would go and spend a few days at her ‘mission’  where her church members would join her in prayer till she was better.

She died sick, poor and broken by a life of poverty and hardship just a few days after her brother – the one that rescued her.


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