“My castle is impenetrable but I do not lock the front door. I leave my table and put down my pen and look out my window. And I can feel you coming to me. I wish to breathe silent words into your ears that convey something of my understanding that life is short and precious and I intend to benefit all of society, and that I require a match, a princess, a fellow troublemaker with whom to make love and mischief.” Waylon Lewis, Things I Would Like To Do With You
The first Prince song I ever heard was “I Wanna Be Your Lover”. It was 1980. I lived in rural south east Nigeria. I was captivated. I voraciously read the album sleeve. The picture of the bare chested young man on the album sleeve looked vaguely like the only picture I had of my older brother.
I developed an obsession for this artiste that looked like my brother (and me I guess) and this single. Those carefree days when one had time to listen to a song over and over and over and over again. Till you knew every word, every crescendo, very note, every chord, every accent, every lead in.
It’s lyrics were just the right amount of risqué for prudish me. Compared to his later lyrics “I Wanna Be Your Lover” seems innocent and romantic now. Just like the album cover. Then one day I read in Ebony Magazine that Prince was a diminutive 5’2″. I don’t know why I felt betrayed and heart broken but I did. I took down his poster from my bedroom wall. Thereafter I always looked at him with side eye.
(I must seriously explore my issues with diminutive men. I am not similarly dismissive of diminutive women.)
What I didn’t ignore, what I paid keen attention to were his fashion choices. I loved his glamorous subversive 80’s style. I remember thinking “If I were a male rock star I would totally rock high heels, makeup, purple, crop tops and frilly shirts like Prince” because men’s fashion (especially white male inspired fashion) is generally really really boring.
Rock stars, royalty and African men seem to be the only ones that can break male fashion rules with impunity. And few aristocratic men do anymore except at ceremonial occasions. Prince evoked the extravagance of men’s fashion in Louis XIV’s France and Tudor England. Men’s fashion has become decidedly plebeian and conservative in the last few centuries.
Was that the influence of the American Revolution or the Communist Revolution? Or both? I’m sure some intellectual somewhere has expounded a treatise on it. Fashion has always been a status symbol. Only royalty ‘dressed up’ everyday. Only royalty was permitted flamboyant sartorial displays. Only royalty could afford it.
For the rest of mankind it just wasn’t practical because, you know, they have to do real work. So they created these acceptable uniforms for ordinary men and women that both announced social and gender status and kept the people trapped within them. It was and is a display of power just like any masquerade contest in Africa attempts to do. Its all theatre. Village Square Theatre.
I always felt sorry for men because of the social restrictions on their fashion choices. At least women, royal and plebeian, were still allowed to adorn and display themselves. I hated shopping for my sons, there never seemed much variation in the offerings for young boys. I spent hours obsessing about dressing them with some individuality.
What happened to men’s fashion that all you can boast of is the quality of the fabric and cut? Anyway I looked at it, it was still a a rather uniform suit, whether it had three buttons or one, a peaked or notched lapel, made in Aba or by Ermenegildo Zegna. The suit and tie seemed so status quo, so reactionary.
Music is visceral. Art is visceral. And good music and good art challenges and questions the status quo. We feel before we think. And Prince, his music, his art and his fashion made us feel. Both comfortable and uncomfortable emotions and that was his true genius. Then it made us think. And his visionary style empowered many to break out of anachronistic fashion rules. Today we have cool fashion lines for boy’s and Jaden Smith. Prince was part of THAT revolution.
That he was a black man is no surprise (because Elvis was just too theatrical if you know what I mean.)
I’ve been looking for one mention of the tragedy #Nyanya on 14/4/2014
The National Mirror is the only Nigerian or foreign paper that carried a headline remembering the incident that happened exactly two years ago today. And just a couple of tweets.
On the other hand #BringBackOurGirls has received extensive coverage and extensive support.
In the aftermath of the Nyanya bombing hundreds of Nigerians donated time, money, food items and other forms of assistance to the injured.
I remember meeting a young Illorin lady in her 20’s with a baby on her at National Hospital. She was trying to get the body of her husband released so she could take him home for burial. He was a driver. I still wonder how she is coping with her two children.
i met so many hurt and traumatised Nigerians, male and female in the hospital beds. The mother of the only baby involved in the blast had shattered two legs. She called me about a year ago. She is healed and can walk now.
I keep in touch with some of them. I hired one of the survivors as my driver when her recovered.
Let us not forget those who lost their lives, those who lost their livelihoods and those that lost their quality of life on April 14, 2014.
I would like to thank Olufunke Baruwa, Zakari Momodu, Emeka Odita, George Blankson Theodora Eromobor Charles Chizor Onuba Uche Anyanwu Maya Edukere Opuama Pamela Baride Ayi Osori Obi Asika and a host of others that reached out to help us.
We started a Facebook group and registered with the local government so that we could help out more. Then as more Nigerians and institutions became involved and more attention was directed at the growing IDP problem we moved on with our lives.
Its kinda sad to see that no one remembered them today.
Zakari, Theodora – who has those phone numbers? Let’s call these people up and ask them how they’re doing.
Yohanna who I hired as a driver recently lost his job when my contract ended and needs a new one real fast. He has a young wife and a baby.
P.S – Its good to know that the perpetrators are being prosecuted but its kinda frustrating to see that two years later they are still submitting evidence. This should have been a priority case if for no other reason to assure ALL Nigerians that bad behaviour WILL have consequences.
What can we do my legal luminaries?
Five years ago today I got that call.
Not for one minute did I ever think that you would die and leave me. It was always you and me – against the world. We didn’t always agree but we were certain in the knowledge that we had each others back. No matter what. I sailed through life assured in the knowledge that you would scatter Heaven and Earth for me.
My grief at losing you was compounded by the utter loneliness I felt. I sat on the rock of my All-Oneness and wept bitter tears when the Dogs came baying for me. The Guard of my Fortress had abandoned me, the gates were Unmanned and they were overjoyed.
I wept at all the dreams we had yet to fulfil. For we planned to conquer the Universe no less. When I was a child I griped at the heavy burden you placed on me, who wanted only to dance in the Meadow of Joy and dine in the Hall of Love but you knew that I could carry it. You did not waiver.
“I raised her to be a revolutionary.” you told the Sceptics and the Living Dead.
My Beloved Papa. My Warrior. My Champion. My Eternal Love.
Mother Of Mothers you called me. Light Of Your Soul. The Solace of Your Odyssey. Mother of the Multitude. You called me Your Rebellion when The Enemies of Joy called me your rebel. You Empowered me when the Enemy sought to clip my wings.
Alas i weep no more. You are with the Ancestors now. The Beloved Brethren of the Forest Shrines have welcomed you and you have surrendered to them. And I can call your name when I offer libations to the Dearly Departed in the manner that you yourself taught me.
I will soar with your name on my lips and Our Song in my Heart.
Ginikanwa – what is greater than a child? Nneka – Mother is Supreme.
Nwa Agwubuo Duru Abali. Oke Madu. Nwoke E ji Eje Mba. The Keeper of the Family Legends and Myths. The Fierce One. The Story Teller. The Great Charmer. The One That Never Forgot. The Proud One. The Invincible One. The Fearless One. The Child of Destiny.
The Man of the People. I called your beloved people to give you a befitting send off. See Father, the Salt of the Earth were there to send you forth on that Journey. The People You Lived and Died For. As you would have wanted.
“For this purpose were you born. For this purpose I returned. For the People”
Your people miss you Father. And I miss you more. For there is no one in the Universe that knew you better than I. And you Created me in your image and likeness. No One knew Me better than YOU.
Rest in Peace Papa. Till Soon and the Sands of Time run out for me also.
“Farewell to you and the youth I have spent with you.
It was but yesterday we met in a dream.
You have sung to me in my aloneness,
and I of your longings have built a tower in the sky.
But now our sleep has fled and our dream is over,
and it is no longer dawn.
The noontide is upon us and our half-waking has turned to fuller day,
and we must part.
If in the twilight of memory we should meet once more,
we shall speak again together and
you shall sing to me a deeper song.
And if our hands should meet in another dream
we shall build another tower in the sky.” – Khalil Gibran
There is a hotel in the Village on the way to the stream; at least it calls itself a hotel. It’s a small concrete bungalow with a tin roof and a concrete courtyard. An dented oil drum sits at the corner of the building to catch rain water. Dingy curtains cover the open windows and doors. Outside a big signboard says ‘Sunrise Hotel’ above badly painted pictures of green beer bottles and a goat head. At night red and blue light bulbs glow surreally in the surrounding darkness like Christmas lights.
Chidimma passes the hotel on her way to the stream every day. It looks modern and inviting in a village of mud huts and colonial buildings. She wants to go in and maybe stay in one of their rooms. The hotel rooms she sees in Drum magazine have nice beds with head boards, closets and bedside lamps, not like the iron bed she sleeps on in a stuffy room with clothes hanging on pegs in the wall lit only by a dim kerosene lamp.
She asks her half-sister Eunice if they can stay there.
(You can read the rest here. And please drop a comment. Help me win The Wink Challenge. 😉 )