Friday, 2 April 2010

Seeing the world through new eyes

I flew into New York for the first time on a crisp, clear blue early Spring day in 1981. The flight path went directly across Manhattan and I’ll never forget how my excitement at seeing the stunning skyline of skyscrapers was tinged with disappointment in that ‘it looks just like it does on the television’.

That is one thought that I can almost guarantee will never cross the mind of a visitor to Nigeria, Nollywood aficionados excepted of course.

Seeing something for the first time, whether it’s dramatic alpine scenery, the hustle and bustle of a busy street, or a village in rural Nigeria, has always been a delight for me. I think that some of the motivation to come and volunteer was to be able to see things for the first time. Things that I wouldn’t have seen before on the television or in movies.

I’ve been in Nigeria for almost 17 months now and, as an excursion to nearby, but very rural Zakwa today proved, there are still always new sights to see, and new experiences to savour. It’s not my first time to Zakwa, but it was for Teleri who accompanied me to the dedication in the local ECWA church of Fantsuam’s Field Officer Grace’s four children.

The day involved a lot of walking but thankfully a lot less waiting than your usual Nigerian ‘event’.

Here are some pictures of a typical weekend day in rural Nigeria.

After a 20 minute dusty walk up from the main road through the harmattan haze we arrived in the wide, rambling village of Zakwa, and met up with Field Officer Sarah – I knew where her house was (at least I thought I did) and she knew where the church was.

... meeting up with friends and neighbours along the way – busy with weekend chores or on their way into church.

After the minister regained his composure having realised there were two white women in his congregation, the dedication for Grace’s family began about half way through the 2.5 hour service.

After the speeches, the drums start to roll and the choir starts to sing as the congregation file up the aisle to drop their Naira in the bucket and congratulate the family. Richie, son of another Field Officer snaps the occasion with his phone.

After church we followed the crowd, many carrying their chairs from the church, across the fields to Grace’s house where a party was taking off complete with canopies and PA system. Teleri and I were invited into the house for some tasty jollof rice and beans porridge washed down with a mineral before being ushered outside to join the rest of Grace’s Fantsuam colleagues under the marquee whilst the kids jostled for a spot with a good view of proceedings.

And then the programme began with the cultural dancers....

.. and the professional ones, i.e. the ones dancing for money. Notice the fistful of notes about to disburse over my shoulder.. Before Grace and her family step up for the official family group photo.

We left before ‘Item 7’ on the programme (well, we’d already had ours earlier) and accompanied Sarah to pay a return visit to her mother-in-law who’d sheltered me and ten small children from a rainstorm almost one year previously.

Passing through compounds and greeting her friends, we had some fine views of this pretty village half of which surprisingly (since it's about 20 minutes drive away) comes under the Kagoro chiefdom.

Awww cute little piglets... and not so cute little girl with sharpened hoe.. Children in Zakwa employ impressive tools in the forage for sweet potatoes. In Kpak Kagoro they just use sticks.

Soon we arrived at Sarah's mother in law's house: she and her family greeted us warmly, grateful for the pictures that I had sent with Sarah following our last visit. However this proud kaka insisted that I retake her picture, this time with both of her slippers on.

As soon as the camera comes out, the kids line up to be snapped behind a large basin of filling, the by-product resulting when extracting the locus bean from its pods..
But it's getting late and it's a long walk back to the main road so Teleri and I say our goodbyes and start off back down the dusty track.

1 comment:

Sabine said...

Dear Cicely,
I must admit, I was shocked seeing how thick harmattan is still sitting on top of the country. I spoke to Rebecca the other day and she told me that it had already rained and I assumed it must be much clearer by now ...
Well, I really hope your camery comes back to life somehow and you keep us updated with stories and photos from Nigeria. Sai anyuma. Sabine & Markus