The “New Bride” is a young girl’s lament for losing a sister to an undeserving suitor. It is not an epistolary, but it will make you think of a letter written by someone who knows the pain of losing a loved one to the violent and impersonal force of custom. Oluseun Onigbinde is both precise and poetic in this elegy to the tragic loss of childhood. 

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Amina, I don’t know where you are but the images of yesterday keeps flooding my vision. Though we have gone separate ways. We now live in two different houses. I call it a house because Gana can’t give you a home and home has ceased to be home without you.  Home is being with me – my sister from another mother. Home is where we played  along the muddy path to Katsina river. Home is where we giggled at sunset while watching black goats lock horns.

We hoped to be together forever. We will marry the same brothers. We will breathe under the same roof. Your  clothes shall be mine and mine shall be yours.We will sit together at our market stalls picking gossip about Daura women.  We only hope for the right suitors to pass by, those that erect homes, not thatched gida. We mean those not with the biggest farms or cattle steads but with a bounty of love.

Hope was all we had but hope was too blunt to prune the wiles of Musa. Till we found out we were never truly ours. We were borrowed from the ethereal space to fulfill the desire of our father. I remember us sitting under the mango tree last night, the one between our huts, on which pigeons scatter their feathers at dawn and owls scream at night.  We talked about your friend Taruwa who was getting married next week. We said we were still young and wanted to be like Kola, the youth-corper  with the starched white shirt and khaki trousers. We never knew we conversed to the winds as we waved goodnight.

This morning, I searched all through the huts. I ran to the stream to find you. On the muddy path, I traced your feet among the jumbled rest. I did not know he laughed at me. Musa stood by the doorpost, giggled over a bottle of brandy. The one who sired our past but also kept the future in a lock. They sold you like a slave to a petty thief.  Not like the brown skinned bull we had in the backyard that would have graced a fanfare. There was no marriage ritual. No exchange of calabash or funtua  dance of the maidens.

How could father be so cruel?

Mama later told me how it went while I dressed to school. How your mother, Sanya fought hard not to give you to Gana. How she told Musa to be patient for the blooming dots on your chest to be fully blown. Musa did not wait. His yam and tomato yield was poor last harvest. She said he was ashamed of his harvest among his talakawa union. So when he wanted to buy a new land, he looked to your innocent eyes and found the price. But he could have sold two cows and a he-goat. He could have sold anything but you. He could have even sold both of us to the same person. You were not stone broken with jagged axe, you were that luxurious gem dug from the deep in thick sweat.

They never knew I was part of the bargain. Our bodies they could separate, our spirits are knitted together. I cried, and cried thinking you will whisper your soft voice from afar.  But you appeared nowhere. You had been blindfolded into Gana’s house miles afar away. As I walked alone to school. The paths looked lengthy than usual. Everyone wondered where you were. Ali, the Zauzau prince who bought donkwa for us at noon break asked of you.  Our pot bellied teacher, Mallam Shettima asked of you thrice. He jokingly asked if your suitors with big barns had come. I had nothing to say. Malaima, our Head boy and his two wives also asked for you during the short break. Only Shehu Ali, our Koran teacher never asked of you. He knew. I saw it in his face as he wielded the long stick.

I still think I should have been the one. You said I was prettier, but he decided to keep me till another. Probably till another poor harvest, raid of Zauzau warriors or at the behest of Emir of Keteku. Only Allah knows, I am now a guesswork of my father.

How do you fare with Gana? What does he say to you? Does he caress your feet with sweet smelling nembe oil? Has he put black tattoo on your fingers? Has he kissed you yet? Can you bear the stench from his gutted teeth?  Do you lock your legs at moonlight sipping hot gahawa? I need to know how his palms feel in the cold? Does it soothe or prick your skin? Does he sit you on his legs hitting you with his hard penis? Do you lay his bed or carry his bath water?  Has he made love to you? How painful does it feel?

We are just twelve years, but we grew with Gana’s tale. He was a lazy bone that won’t work. He was more of a cursed one that eats his harvest and seed together. While others hurried to farm at dawn, Gana sits on the low stool filing his cutlass. Last five years as we were told, he was arrested on the village exit with a truckload of yams. He stole them from the Bwari farms. He was beaten and banished from the village. His house became a haven of rats with thick gloom hovering over it. Mama told us he had committed najasa in the forest. He took a trunk and hung himself. We never knew it was a lie. The same Gana is now your husband. Only Allah knows where he got his money from. He must have stolen it, the lazy man; for who will borrow him money?

Now I need you here and I miss you badly. I miss how we locked our legs under the moonlight sharing our tall dreams. I miss the dimple on your cheeks that pops laughter. I miss how we ran to the stream at sunrise to fetch bowls of cloudy water. I miss the quick march on the way to school. I miss you on the playground. I mean I miss you everywhere our feet touched.

I am here alone under our mango tree. I am still dressed in my school uniform though its evening. My bag is still fastened at my back. I see Musa walk into the yard with bounty of smile.  I am keenly watching the cutlass by the other side.

I am still wondering which day you would visit us. Maybe you will be happy in your new sequined dress, accepting life as we know it. Will you rebel against everyone running towards me? Then I can hand over to you a cutlass daring anyone to come close. Till then I will tell every soul that spanned this surface of what Musa did to severe the rope of kinship between us and probably someone, someday would find me justice.

 

The image in the post is by Omar Victor Diop, a Dakar-based Senegalese conceptual artist. See more of his work {HERE}.

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Oluseun-Onigbinde-BUDGITOluseun Onigbinde is the co-founder of BudgIT and also a public data analyst. He presently live in Lagos.

 

 

 

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

One Response to ““Has Gana Kissed You Yet?” — The New Bride by Oluseun Onigbinde” Subscribe

  1. mariam sule 2015/03/06 at 06:20 #

    Awwwww. #Childnotbride

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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