The season is festive again, and as with every year, it is her time. She sits under the Baobab tree like a piece of sculpture deserving of its place in an art museum. Every item on her body, every shade, every strand of hair is a masterpiece; it is no wonder the people of this small town come from distances to throw silver coins at her feet. They come in numbers, mothers with babies in their arms, fathers with toddlers on their shoulders, and elders with bucket loads of coins in their knapsacks.
She sits stationary under the Baobab, her eyes going back and forth watching every familiar and unfamiliar face. Sometimes when the thought of her looking at me occurs, I wonder if she sees through my soul, and then I conclude and convince myself that she can, since, after all, she’s some goddess sent from afar to bring good fortune unto the people of this town.
Sometimes when I look into her eyes, those light brown eyes hiding under white paint, I see a girl younger than me, younger than the years that have passed. I see a young girl under the Baobab, performing a duty greater than her, a young girl unable to run in the sun when the young run, unable to play in the sand, to sing the songs they sing, to dress up, and to be a child. I see a young girl under the Baobab, a goddess of good fortune, and I wonder about the duties the gods bestow upon some of us and am thankful yet envious of not being one of the chosen.
They say she knew her purpose when she was this little girl, that she would dream dreams not dreamt by children her age. They say she would talk of seeing the elders, the ones long gone and that she often talked of performing the tasks they had bestowed her to foresee. When she was young, they say, she would disappear into the fields for days and would return gracefully dressed in all kinds of peculiar regalia representing the spirit of an elder long passed. They say she would dance every year on this day before the night passed.
“Something strange has happened,” one man would say. “I seem to have stumbled upon good fortune.”
“So have I,” the next would say, smiling from ear to ear, until more and more people would come forth to claim their cases of good fortune.
It became peculiar, if not obvious that this sudden change in luck had not come by luck itself. It became clear that the heavens were looking down on the people and that a god had been sent to give those deserving their fortune. This was the birth of a tradition, the birth of a legend, the birth of the most peculiar holiday on earth. And on the 25th day of this last month she visits our little town, festivities are thrown in celebration of her. And every night on the 25th day of the final month, when the rest of the world celebrates the birth of baby Jesus, before the clock races to the final hour, she dances under the Baobab, emitting good fortune upon this town.
She sits under the tree, and we arrive to place our coins at her feet, others to kiss them. Her hair is braided into a gigantic ball of architecture and her face is painted in white heavier than snow. Her ankles and arms sound like wind chimes when she moves, sweet melodies released by the copper around them. She wears a skirt weaved from healthy grass, and she is naked atop and beads of all colours of the rainbow dangle around her breasts. I throw my coins at her feet and catch a glimpse of her eyes, before swiftly moving away.
I attend a feast with my family; we have all kinds of food, all kinds of meat, all kinds of vegetables, and songs in praise of her. The festivities go on until the sun is buried in the dark, the stars release their lights, and the atmosphere is absorbed in utter brightness. She dances under the Baobab, dances a dance so zealous that when she moves it feels like the wind in summer, gentle and soft. When she waves her arms and twists her wrists and fingers, the moon and the stars move in unison as if on command. The lights become brighter, or is it her?
In that moment, I feel her release the powers bestowed upon her, the crowd cheers, the children dance around her, we dance to the beat of the drums, the spirit in her receives us. Then, I suddenly know that from tomorrow onwards I will walk side by side with good fortune. The goddess has spoken, and she will speak again next year. Have a happy one, and long live the legend of Atta Wa.