a post showing Moyo OKediji art piece

Captive No More (III)

Captive No More (III)


Music is the language of tragedy,

and dance, the vocabulary of trauma.

Silence, the death of feelings,

marks the beginning of madness.

After my great grandmother in vain

yelled the name of her son, Akin,

several times, and got no response,

she stepped outside and scanned

where he was playing,

and yelled his name again,

when she did not see him there

her stomach sank

because down in the pit of her womb

she knew he was gone.

That was when she began to sing,

with trip-trap repetition of his name,

changing the tempo,

raising the tenor,

altering the cadence

and heightening the color.

She began to dance and to clap,

moving her body clockwise

and twisting her head anticlockwise,

in circular steps:

Turu turu pa turu

Rutu rutu pa kuru

Tipa tope tibi tire tia rupa

Ru panpa…..


It was a one-word song,

with the name of her son

repeated a hundred million times,

that brought the neighborhood

running to her courtyard,

where they found her

dancing in a drunk circle

her hair torn asunder.

“Maybe he went

down to the next street.”

“He must have wandered

to another compound.”

“I bet he joined his

friends to go hunting.”

“Have you asked dem women

who went to the stream,

because don’t neighborhood kids

sometimes join them to bathe?”

Great grandmamma sang

her back pressed to the adobe wall:

Turu turu pa turu

Rutu rutu pa kuru

Tipa tope tibi tire tia rupa

Ru panpa…..


They took her inside

into the deep darkness of her room

and asked to sit down,

while they organized

a search party to find her son

they fed her with hope.

The language of the enslaver

is bent to lend a hand

to squeeze more tightly

the tourniquet around the throat

of the captive and the caged.

The English language must be broken

To ease the pain a bit

Because it does not have the teeth

to describe the havoc

that slaving merchants wrecked

on the lives of black folks

they held in collared incarceration

along the coastline

of what they callously call

the Slave Coast of gold

along West African coastal surfs:

“Turu turu pa turu

Rutu rutu pa kuru

Tipa tope tibi tire tia rupa

Ru panpa…..”

She has lost her mind

people shook their heads

in addition to losing her son,

she must also sing her song?

To be continued

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