Welcome to MissKorang. I’m thrilled you’re here—because I have so much I want to share with you. I’m here to make a life out of what I love, and what I love is blogging. My writings are anything from fiction to real experiences to opinion.
If you catch me musing about my childhood more often than not, please indulge me; it is my Achilles’ heel.
I am passionate about what i write so i will try to take you “there”. I truly believe that my passion is relayed back to my readers through the innovative and exciting content that I post. Explore my site, and all that I have to offer; perhaps MissKorang will ignite your own passions too.
Forgiveness, that word is thrown about a lot; “I forgive”, “I don’t forgive”, “forgiven but not forgotten”, I’ve heard it all too many a time, either being said to me or to someone else. Heck, I’ve thrown that word about numerous times myself. At the point where my very life and soul depended on it, I realized forgiveness is not something you say. It is something you do. A doing word. A verb not a noun, never a noun.
I forgive. I thought those words were supposed to be some sort of magic spell, the moment they were uttered, then pooof, the magic happens, kumbaya, everybody is happy, all transgressions totally and completely forgotten. Nope, it does not work that way.
Forgiveness. I had to call a thing a thing; acknowledgement. There was no going around the facts, I had to go through it, realize and recognize exactly what I was letting go of before I could actually forgive. What am I forgiving?
I forgive you for teaching me shame.
I forgive you for dimming my light.
I forgive you for trying to change my God-given nature to suit your expectations.
I forgive you for projecting your fear on me.
I forgive you for silencing my enquiring mind.
I forgive you for judgement instead of direction.
I forgive you for mocking my persona.
I forgive you for knocking out cold my self-esteem, self-respect and self-acceptance.
I forgive you for venting your frustrations on me.
I forgive you for not knowing, for not understanding.
I forgive you because you’re human, perfect in your imperfection.
I forgive you because I need to release this poison.
I forgive you because I need to forgive myself.
I forgive you because I need forgiveness myself.
Most importantly, I forgive you for not envisioning people would later pay good money to get lips like mine (this is where you laugh).
Isn’t it perfect when the offender admits to the offended that they were wrong, apologize, the two shake hands and walk off together? Beautiful right? So, imagine this scenario where I gather the nerves for a confrontation:
“Thank you for my tuition fees and monthly allowance but we need to talk. I think my behavior owes to you constantly attacking my personality. I have no self-respect because of you. Can you apologize now so I can forgive you and go be great?”
I will spare you the consequences of such audacity; the outcome of such impetus is forever trapped in my colorful yet twisted imagination, never to be released. That scenario didn’t happen. It couldn’t have happened, I didn’t have the mental and emotional strength for that confrontation. It would not have served my recovery in any capacity.
I chose the higher, less traveled road; forgive, do not ask for an apology you are never going to get. This was for me, not for them. I was doing this for me so I could become a better version of myself, because I deserved it, because I was worth it. I was doing it to find inner peace, to stop inhibiting my own happiness at my own expense; I was doing it because the poison I was drinking in hopes someone else would die was killing me.
I gave myself permission to hurt, to cry. I gave my heart permission to break. I revoked self-pity’s license. I denied myself permission to feel numb. And when I was done crying, I said to myself, “This is it. You shall mourn the lost little girl no more. She is not here, she did not die. She is a grown woman now.”
Progress did not happen overnight. It took time and patience. It took a few slips here and there. Gradually the layers came off; self-doubt, self-pity, anger and blame; they all fell off. Self-acceptance woke from her decades old slumber and sat down, she brushed the dust off her purse and handed me a pair of lenses; I could see clearly now, those I was so clearly convinced were out to hurt me had demons of their own. It was not me, it was them. It was not them it was life. Forgive. Empathize.
How about I tell myself different:
I am kind.
I am empathetic.
I am respectful.
I am loyal.
I am dependable.
I am intelligent.
I am smart.
I am a gem. Rare. Beautiful. Mesmerizing.
I can say the darnedest, most hilarious things and keep a straight face. Yes, that’s a rare skill!
I am extremely talented.
I am me. Only one of me. Unique. Before me there has not been another me and after me, there will not be another me. I am one of a kind.
Graduation, first degree. He said, “You have done well. This is a far cry from all your shenanigans. Congratulations.”
National service. A wonderful job.
One day she said, “Your arms are getting so fat you may not be able to swing them when walking.”
I said, “Oh yeah right. I saw a knife on the table, would you mind slicing off some of the fat for me?”
She said, “You should slice it off yourself.”
I said, “You are bothered about my arms. I like them the way they are.”
She said, “I didn’t say you don’t like your arms.”
I asked, “so what was your point?”
“What was your point. Why do you always have to pick on my body?”, I pressed.
Silence to date.
I finally silenced the body shaming. My voice showed up when it needed to.
I finally swore off one-sided, worthless relationships.
I am nobody’s convenience. I am planned date nights. I am a movie booked in advance. I am thoughtful gestures and long walks. I am phone calls and text messages. I am home cooked dinners and family time. I am cuddles and quality time. I am kisses on the forehead and French kisses. I am beautiful babies and a loving home. I am a queen.
Another graduation, second degree. My husband said, “I am a lucky man. Congratulations”
Self-acceptance finally stood up. She slipped on a regal purple dress and tied her hair in a bun. She slipped on sky-high boots and painted her lips jungle red. She twirled in front of my mirror and struck a confident pose, “I’ve got my mojo back. Keep listening to your inner voice, it does us both good.”
The still, soft, small voice said, “how about you quit dreaming of writing and actually write?”
I fired on my computer and wrote, They told me I was ugly, so I went looking for my beautiful.
The road to self-acceptance, self-esteem, self-respect and self-value has been a long, long, winding, treacherous one. The missed turns have been many, the speeding tickets, numerous and frustrating. The bumps have been painful and humiliating; cuts and bruises, rampant. Bones broke, skull fractured, joints dislocated. A busted lip, a broken nose, broken teeth; pain. Silent pain. Scars, a constant reminder of my many injuries, they will never go away and honestly I don’t mind. Collapsed lungs, a fatal lack of oxygen, self-acceptance and all her companions went into a deep, deep, dark , dangerous coma; persistent vegetative state.
Emotional disconnect. Maybe it was my coping mechanism, maybe it was a manifestation of weakness. I was a child. Someone needed to supply the oxygen. I got carbon mono-oxide instead.
They said, “your cheeks are too big, it has taken over your face. Your cheeks are like a loaf of bread in a basin of water.”
They said, “your lips could break a scale, like many kilos of beef.”
They said, “your sunken eyes are fighting with your cheeks for space, very soon you can’t see.”
They said, ” God must have given you someone else’s leftover ears, they are too small.”
They said, “Your hair is too kinky, like the droppings of a goat.”
They said, “you are fat, your legs are small, you look more like a boy than a girl. Why didn’t God just make you a boy? Pray you might just be lucky, someone might marry you, if you pray hard enough.”
When I dared get angry and frown, they said, “stop it this minute, you’ll scare the domestic animals away.”
When i laughed, they asked, “who are you showing you ugly teeth to?”
They said, “your finger and toe nails are beautiful, at least God gave you that.”
They were the voice(s) of authority in my little life. I believed their every word. It shaped my very existence, my belief about myself and my behavior. I was left feeling not so good about myself and yet i masked it with bravado, fits of anger and sometimes nonchalance. My only escape was to stick my nose in a good book.
“I want to be a journalist in future”, I declared once.
“Who are you going to show your ugly face to on television? Better stick to your plan of becoming a doctor. Sick people have no time to scrutinize you looks, their respect for you will cover all of your ugly.” I never again mentioned journalism.
Teenage years were the worst. I had such a need for approval, I went where I thought I’d find it. I joined a group of Christian students, we prayed and prayed and forgot to learn; I couldn’t care less, i had no desire to be a doctor, i hated Chemistry, hated Physics, HATED Mathematics but i loved Biology. I borrowed literature books from English students and read them cover to cover, I even completed their assignments for free. I self sabotaged, went from an A, B student to E, F. The voice(s) of authority were pissed. I was nonchalant; self-sabotaging.
Relationship after useless relationship came and went. I needed approval, anywhere i could get it. An arrest, a police cell, a court room, an acquittal and discharge, self-acceptance remained in a vegetative state.
More trouble, more missteps, another bigot for a boyfriend here, a lost boy for a boyfriend there. Useless loyalty, fruitless friendships; I wallowed in my silent pain.
A few friend were true, i loved them but they would never know my misery, heck i didn’t know i was miserable, i was addicted to the struggle, to me it was life as usual; normalcy.
He visited me in school one day, a voice that had been visibly absent, more absent than present, he gave me an impassioned speech. I listened attentively on the outward, I looked on with contempt on the inside. Then he said, “what re you trying to do to me? why?” The voice that said those words sounded different in tone and pitch. It sounded almost concerned, sad, defeated, at a loss. Something in me gave. I let my heart break. When i went back to my college dorm, I asked myself, “why do you make the choices you make?” I didn’t know. I had no answer. I cried myself to sleep.
I woke up and cried some more. Then i had an epiphany; I swear it was God speaking to me, ” for two decades and some, you have listened to the voices of others telling you how ugly you are, how useless, how stupid, how you’re a black sheep, how you will suffer, how you will not amount to much and you have believed. How about you replace their voices with your own? Tell yourself something different. Change your own narrative by yourself.”
I wanted to know how.
He said, “start by forgiving. It will free you to believe the new narrative.”
My self esteem stirred, for the first time in two decades and some.
The hardest thing I’ve ever done has been to forgive people who are oblivious to the degree of wounds they have inflicted on me and the scars they’ve left on my soul. I’ve had to forgive people who have no inkling how they pushed me to stumble and fall face down, when they should have held my hand and shown me the way.
I am not blaming anyone. I am staying cognizant to the facts of my life.
Mother’s Day; specially set aside for those incredible humans who nurture and love us through thick and thin, against all odds. Epitomes of sacrifice, friendship, mentorship, security and affection. Some conceived us; nine months of sleeplessness, restlessness, hormonal onslaught, loss of appetite, extreme body changes; I know someone whose nose changed shape during her first pregnancy, her child is about ten now, her nose has not snapped back to original state! Then they push a huge watermelon through a very small onion ring! As if that is not unbelievably enough, they go right from screaming to smiling and laughing at the sight of the little human responsible for all their woes. Mothers; they love us through blood, sweat and tears. If that isn’t incredible, I don’t know what is.
There are those who didn’t birth us but love us nonetheless. They give us their hearts, their time and their wisdom. They wipe our poopy bottoms and nurse our wounds, they wipe our tears and kiss our fears away. When we bump against a stonewall because we didn’t listen to them, they are on hand to catch us anyway. Our mothers, what will we do without them?
My mother, what will I do without her?
She taught me respect, honesty, integrity, perseverance; to hope and pray. I saw her work herself to the bone, I saw her fall again and again and rise, each time more determined than the last. She made sure all her five children got an education, oh, she made sure! She would have murdered any one of us and sent the corpse to school if it came to it. She dreamed dreams for us before we understood our own dreams. My mother!
She kept quiet, she pursed her lips; she shook her head, she didn’t speak up, she let issues fester and boil. She wasn’t one for a sit down and a talk. When she reacted, it was explosive and extreme.
But when do you discuss (one of) your mother’s shortcomings? On Mother’s Day when everybody’s Mama is suddenly an angel? Or on the rest of the days when it’s a man’s world and nobody is paying attention? Well I choose to do so today, a day after Mother’s Day when everyone is still recovering from the many reminders of wonder of the gift of a mother. Please do not crucify me.
Back in the early nineties, somewhere between 1990 or 1991, our family lived in Konongo where my father worked as a metallurgist, I was about seven or eight. We lived at the senior staff section of the mining community, the houses in that section were nicer and bigger and the children were better dressed, but that is a story for another day. Our immediate neighbors were another ‘senior staff’ family, my two elder brothers were friends with the boys in that house and I was friends with the girl. Anytime my brothers went over to play, I followed. Our eldest, my dearly beloved sister, my Mama’s deputy stayed home. She knew something I didn’t.
One evening we returned from our playtime with our friends to meet a locked door. Mama unlocked it, and let the boys in, first the eldest boy and then the younger one. When it got to my turn, she held both my hands in her hand and took off her flip flops. She was one strong woman, there was no freeing from her grip, she slapped me with her flip flops until the lines under her footwear made imprints on my cheeks and blood oozed from my nostrils, only then did she let go and put her flip flops back on. No words were spoken, I never got an explanation for the beat down, I just knew I’d done something bad. It took my big sister, when she saw me a day or two later on my way to the neighbors’ to tell me, “Mama will beat you again if you go there.” Is that why I got beaten? Oh. My. God!
Family portrait time. The photographer stood ready. Daddy sat on the couch, legs spread wide. Mama and the rest of my siblings squeezed in beside him. Mama shot Daddy a dirty look, supposed to make him close his legs and make room for the rest of us, I think. He just sat unfazed, legs still wide open, either he didn’t understand her look or couldn’t be bothered. There was no room on the couch for me, I stood. Mama pursed her lips. The camera clicked away. About a decade later, Mama and I went through the old family album and when we got to that picture, she expressed the message her eyes and pursed lips couldn’t express years before, “see how he alone opened his legs and took all the space when the rest of us had to squeeze in uncomfortably.” “Well Mama, why didn’t you say something?” is what I wanted to say but I’d learned from her, I kept my thoughts to myself, looked at her, judged her in my mind and kept flipping through the album.
Dear Mama, I love you. I appreciate you. You are an even more amazing grandmother, but I have to unlearn some of the things you taught me, starting from biting my tongue when I don’t have to. So, I speak up when I feel I need to. Oh, I speak up a lot these days. I am not one to be bullied and take it sitting down, I will let a person know! When anybody brings it, it will take it, turn it over and dissect it word after word after word until I get it all off my chest. I keep sane that way
Why? Because I will not let it fester and boil over so I explode. Nip it in the bud is my new motto and it comes with inner peace.
I am unlearning letting my boys think they have more freedoms than their sister. In my household what is good for the goose is good for the gander.
So, shall we sit and have a conversation Mama, would you like to talk?
The news spread fast and far; the crocodiles were not immortal after all. They didn’t age and turn to droplets of water as was thought, they were kill-able; some new comers across the river had killed one of them and lived to see several more days. The birds carried the news to squirrels on the trees, the squirrels told the antelopes, the antelopes told the buffalo who told the jackal, who told Pem. She however was too preoccupied with hyena politics to bother about crocodile-killing beasts, she chuckled at the ridiculous news and went on with her life.
Cjon picked her dead babies, one after the other, and with each one, made a trip to Ghawa and tossed into the water. Better rot in the bowels of mighty Ghawa than be eaten by vultures, flies and other opportunistic scavengers. Back in her den, she could not rest, the sight of Pem’s paws imprinted in her beloved Zinzim’s blood made her own blood boil. She called Cabuk and all her loyal followers and together they headed to Kasana, a desolate mountainous area in the East of Utanko. There they made their home. Cjon and her bandits threw every hunting rule to the wind and killed the young, the old, the strong, the frail, the pregnant and even babies. One day, Cabuk looked at Cjon and said, “let’s make babies, you were and still will be a great mother”. She replied, “not now dear Cabuk, not now; I am already pregnant with revenge”.
News of Cjon and her band of bandits reached Pem. She heard reports of how they had violated hunting laws and were causing the grass eating animals to disrespect her authority. Pem was distressed, she wanted everybody’s respect, especially the buffaloes; they were the cream of the herbivore society. As it stood, Cjon and her outlaws were making it impossible for Pem to compare her leadership to Babone’s, and this troubled Pem endlessly. One bright morning, she and her sons conferred and decided to extend an olive branch to Cjon. They sent a meeting request through the vultures, the response was positive, Cjon wanted to meet. This made Pem both hopeful and nervous.
The day of the meeting came and Pem, her sons and the strongest among her followers prepared to meet their archenemy. Before they set off, Sidfe decided it was too dangerous for Pem to go, she vehemently protested, but finally gave in and stayed behind. Edan, Sidfe and their followers set off to meet Cjon and her gang of outlaws.
King Kunti watched closely as a bask of crocodiles drowned two adult buffaloes drinking on the banks of the river and tore them into pieces in minutes. He admired their coordination in killing and eating, how they helped each other tear into tantalizing flesh by holding opposite sides of the prey and rolling over. He observed them swallowing chunks of meat in their feeding frenzy, bathing in red water, enriched by the red fluid of the life they just took. He whispered to Kusanda his wife, “these beasts are the only reason we cannot risk crossing the river to the island, they are ferocious. If we try, they will kill us all”. “I agree. We might as well stay here and hunt them, their flesh tastes good”, she replied. King Kunti licked his paws and eyed his wife, something about the crocodiles made him uneasy and his wife’s indifference about his unease annoyed him. “I don’t think we should hunt them, the one we killed and fed on was a stroke of luck. Those beats make me uneasy, I will not be hunting any of them anytime soon!”, King Kunti angrily retorted. “Is King Kunti, the proud lion, leader of a pride afraid of lizards with teeth? Who knew you were such a coward?” Kusanda mocked her husband, and with that response, strolled away from him towards the banks of the river. Shortly, her sons Kumarti, Kusha, Kubo and her daughter Kaitu joined her. Together they stood at the banks of the river and patiently waited.
Mswavi, a young adult male crocodile caught a whiff of carcass in the air and decided to investigate. He swam out of the water and strolled majestically, headed in the direction of the scent. Kusanda and her children watched in amazement as Mswavi went, they couldn’t believe their luck; the prey they awaited had left his sanctuary and had made their mission quite easy, or so they thought. When they got over the pleasant surprise, mother and children followed the crocodile. They attacked; it was coordinated, one they had used in several hunts and perfected over time, but they had never hunted an adult crocodile and thus were not prepared for the fight that ensued.
Mswavi lashed his fattened, powerful tail out, it landed squarely on Kumarti’s jaw, sending him tumbling several feet away. With powerful jaws wide open, he turned towards Kusanda, intimidating teeth bared and meant to injure, but Kusanda skillfully swerved and climbed on his back, making vain attempts of biting into his back. Another thrash of the tail sent Kusha hurling into the air and shook Kusanda off his back. Kaitu stood at a safe distance and watched, she was too unskilled to make any moves, she just waited patiently, hoping for the meal to be ready.
On and on the struggle continued, with crocodile giving lions the tail flogging of their life, and yet with each humiliating blow, the lions recovered and kept attacking. Alas the jaws of Mswavi caught Kumarti’s hind leg and severed it. Watching from a distance, King Kunti decided the embarrassment to his family was enough and joined the attack. It wasn’t long before he bit into the back of Mswavi’s head and forcefully turned him over, revealing his delicate undersides. Kusanda bit into his throat, snuffing the life out of the crocodile. Kaitu and the rest of the pride joined in, they tore into the soft skin of Mswavi’s belly and ate his organs as well as the fattened tail.
Themba watched the killing and desecration of Mswavi from the safety of the water, she blinked, tears watered her eye and she mused, “Our liver is supposed to be poison, why are these small waisted beasts making food of our poison?”.
Kumarti could not join the feast, try as he did. His severed leg bled profusely and no amount of prodding from his mother or encouragement from his siblings could get him to limp over to the carcass of the crocodile that took his leg. He laid quietly under a tree and closed his eyes. In the wee hours of the night, Kumarti convulsed painfully and died.
The morning dawned bright and beautiful. The sun rose early and smiled, warmly and affectionately, bathing Utanko in rich, golden and glorious rays. The birds chirped happily and spread their wings in the sky, warming themselves in the golden rays of the sun. Butterflies perched atop blooming sunflowers and warmed their wings. The snakes came out too, stretched along pathways, fangs ready and alert, they too soaked the blessings of the sun. It was undeniably beautiful a day, but in the shadows cast by the sun, evil lurked.
The three cubs tingled with excitement when they saw Pem enter their den, they thought it was going to be a day of endless play and fun. A second look at Pem’s slow menacing walk, bared teeth and risen back hair caused them to instinctively back away and ran to the farthest corner of the den. The most brazen among the three, Yenyi, shielded his two sibblings, Laruzi and Zinzim, and prepared for the inevitable. Pem lunged at them; Yenyi was the first to go, his baby teeth and under-developed claws were no match for the jaws of many moons and many hunts; he didn’t even have time to howl for his mother, his death was swift and brutal, one bite to his throat and he was lifeless, his blood spilled into Pem’s mouth, his tongue came out. Pem flung his lifeless body across the den, spat his blood out and made for Laruzi and Zinzim.
Everybody knew Laruzi was a coward. She was afraid of her own shadow, she was afraid of the mice, she even feared the pieces of carcass their mother brought into the den. Today however was not one of her cowardly days, she did not intend to go down without fight; she let out the loudest howl, calling for Cjon to come home and save her and her brother. Then she and Zinzim made a run for it, with Pem at their heels, it was a frenzied chase in the den. Zinzim got cornered and strangled, unlike Yenyi his death was slow and painful. Pem stepped on his throat, and while he suffocated, she disemboweled him. With his heart still beating, Pem soaked her paws in his blood and marked the den with his blood, making paw shaped blood impressions all over the floor. This gave Larunzi the chance to make a beeline for the exit, but there, she ran into Sidfe and Edan who bit into her little back and left her for dead.
Cjon heard her babies’ call and ran to her den as fast as her legs could carry her. Cabuk followed closely. They didn’t get there early enough, Larunzi had only enough breathe in her to mutter, “Pem”, before closing her eyes forever.
Ey and Rosah perched atop a tree and watched the strange activity on the ground. Rosah chirped excitedly about ‘the big well’ and wondered how humans managed to stop Ghawa long enough to dig such a huge hole. Unlike Rosah, Ey was silent and sad, she knew what this was. “This isn’t a well Rosah, it is a dam”, Ey said, “it will only spell doom and damnation for those of us downstream; humans seem to love these dams, but they are not good for us animals”, she continued. “Don’t be so dramatic Ey, it is only a big hole, once these humans are done with their hole, they will leave and life will continue as usual”, Rosah responded. “Give it time young bird, you are about to learn a very difficult lesson about these two legged, furless, featherless enemies of nature. Babone was the exception, all humans are evil”, Ey responded. With that, the two birds headed home to Utanko.
Ghawa the mighty river slowly began to succumb partly to the forces of the harmattan and the dam upstream. The impregnable Ghawa, the Goddess that flowed eternally began to dry up. Thirsty animals from both sides of the river flocked to her to quench their thirst. The crocodiles took advantage and preyed on animals big and small, this was fattening season. Themba, the greatest and oldest amongst the crocodiles, took it upon herself to train the young ones on how to hunt; it made sense, after all this was their season of plentiful. The young ones were more than happy to oblige her, after all it was Themba, fearless, experienced, wise and old as a fossil. Among her eager students was the beautiful Mummin, Themba’s great-great-great granddaughter and Themba’s favorite.
One day Mummin saw a strange animal drinking from the river and decided to attack, she wanted to impress Themba and cement her position as the most intelligent student. She failed woefully, she was too naïve and weak for her chosen target, King Kunti himself; thus the predator became prey and targeted prey became the predator. King Kunti killed Mummin with the help of Kumarti his first son and Kusanda his wife, they dragged Mummin out of the water onto a nearby hill and tore into her flesh.
The notorious Kuntis had arrived and made their presence known by killing the non-killable.
Themba watched the killing of Mummin unfold from a safe distance, she was wise enough not to intervene, she didn’t live this long because of rash decisions; she knew a lost cause when she saw one. She however knew Mummin could fight back even in death and so she prayed, “Ghawa, giver of life, let these fiery haired, small waisted idiots, eat Mummin’s bile”.
Themba shed tears, but nobody knew for sure whether it was real tears or just the lubricating of a crocodile’s eye.
Whispers of a humongous well being dug upstream began to circulate among the birds of the air. Rosah, a canary, notorious for exaggerating the most ordinary news into extraordinary bulletins was the first to bring the news to Utanko. She gathered her flying friends and said to them, “humans are digging a big well upstream, in the middle of Ghawa, close to the village of Barbag, the town of the fisher folk. They are using strange animals on four legs that move the earth with their movement and make loud, strange humming sounds. The well is so big that by the time they finish, Ghawa will stop flowing to our part; they are building a rock wall to stop Ghawa from flowing to Utanko, we are all going to die of thirst and hunger in the coming year!”.
But very few believed her, Ahq, the young melodious red factor canary rolled her eyes and resumed singing. Soli the young raven cheekily asked, “how much pepper did you eat today Rosah, your head must be spinning, given the way you are concocting stories”. Most of the birds present at the little gathering agreed this was a rather long tale; farfetched and ridiculous. To them Ghawa was too mighty a river whose flow even humans could not block. Ghawa was impregnable. Ey, the mother Raven was however slow to dismiss Rosah, the story rang a bell and when she noticed the fear and concern etched in Rosah’s brows, she reasoned there had to be some sort of truth behind her story.
Ey arranged for Soli, the beautiful, youthful and kind hearted raven to babysit her chicks. She and Rosah flew north towards the village of Barbag, she wanted to ascertain the truth for herself. It was a beautiful harmattan morning, the sun shone bright and yellow from its abode; flying over the forest, Ey couldn’t help but notice the beauty and splendor of Utanko, the place she had called home for so many years. The leaves on the trees were browning in response to the harmattan season, and occasionally, the trees would dance in unison to the winds. Vapor arose from the forest and formed a fog around the surrounding mountains, making visibility poor, the air humid and the flight dangerous. The two birds were however not deterred, each for their own reasons. Rosah wanted to prove a point but Ey had another reason, she wanted to see if this was the making of another man-made catastrophe, where humans tinker with nature for their selfish gain and leave animals to pay the price. Over mountains and forests and along the banks of mighty Ghawa they flew. Rosah chirped and chatted excitedly but Ey was quiet; she couldn’t shake the feeling of trepidation; she silently prayed in her heart, ‘God of the air please let not this thing Rosah speaks of be the making of a dam’.
With Babone gone, the hyenas ruled Utanko. They tried to keep everybody in check and ensured Utanko worked just as it had when Babone was there. Among the rulers however, there was neither unity nor peace. Three eldest hyenas each fancied themselves worthy of being the overall ruler, the ultimate, the king, to be worshipped and served, to be given the best part of a catch and to do nothing but rule. Pem, a matriarch with many children and grandchildren considered herself the best option by virtue of being a direct offspring of one of the original females brought to the island by Babone, royal blood flowed through her veins – a queen by birth. Cabuk , a patriarch, virile and proud thought himself suitable, after all he was male, testosterone flowed in his veins, he was father of many young hyenas, he was the rightful king. Cjon was a much younger, strong female. The hyena community loved her; she was a fearless, no nonsense personality, she had the young hyenas behind her. Cjon felt the leadership of Utanko should be hers, she had the energy and love for the job.
And thus the hyenas struggled for power among themselves. One fine evening, Pem and Cabuk got into an argument over a piece of buffalo carcass, before long, it escalated into a full blown physical fight and Cabuk took the beating of his life. He slid into his den to lick his bite wounds and nurse his sore balls – his precious balls had taken a deadly blow from Pem’s fore legs. The biggest wound though was the blow to his ego, Pem had embarrassed him to no end. As he nursed his wounds and balls, he cursed under his breath, “how dare that bitch! I will teach her an unforgettable lesson. I will declare my support for Cjon and together we will push her out”. He laughed ‘heeeeheeeheeehee’ not because he found the situation amusing, it was a warning to the younger hyenas in the den to leave him alone. And alone he was, hatching his plan and waiting for the crack of dawn to make his move.
Elsewhere, Pem called her sons Sidfe, Moa and Edan to a secret meeting and together hatched a deadly plan intended to drive Cjon from the cackle and ultimately kill her. Mother and sons unanimously agreed it was good plan, one that will benefit the peace of the entire Utanko, and so they spent the entire night going over the fine details of their plot.
On the far east side of Ghawa lay Udemma, a massive grassland, home to varied animals including the notorious pride of lions named The Kuntis led by King Kunti. Udemma had been hard hit by the harmattan and wildfires, causing many animals to die of thirst and others to migrate elsewhere. It was time for The Kuntis to migrate too, food had become scarce. King Kunti sat on his hind legs, raised his head, closed his eyes and sniffed the air for a good one minute. When he opened his eyes, he said, “I caught a whiff of male buffaloes, we go West”.
The notorious Kuntis headed westward, towards Ghawa, destined for Utanko.
Once upon a time, long, long ago, when animals and humans understood each other’s language, somewhere far, far away lay the beautiful Island of Utanko. The Island was surrounded by the mighty Ghawa river which flowed thousands and thousands of miles through ancient lands, serving varied and important purposes to all. To the inhabitants of these lands, Ghawa was a mother, some even said she was a goddess. Ghawa was adored and beloved by everyone she touched, she was a lot of things to a lot of lives. To the people of Barbag, she was the giver of fish; all kinds of fish. To the inhabitants of Ekoba she was irrigation and the giver of bumper harvests. To the warmongers of Sban, Ghawa was easy transportation and a safe hideout.
As the Ghawa flowed, she formed binding allegiances with other rivers, big and small. As she journeyed on, Ghawa became bigger, mightier and exceedingly powerful. Along her journey, she came across a beautiful, vast plateau and as she flowed around it, she nourished this plateau, now an island with her moisture and nutrients, she gave it a little bit of her spirit; to welcome, to love, to nurture and grow everyone who came by. She also left a few crocodiles at the base of the island to guard the land.
One day a gallant soldier from the warmongering tribe of Sban was found guilty of an attempted mutiny and banished from the tribe, his name was Babone. The lone soldier travelled many days and nights on a raft until he came upon the plateau left fertile by Ghawa, there he decided to settle. For many moons he planted trees on the land, Ghawa nourished the land even more; the trees grew big and tall and together formed a formidable forest. Next, Babone set traps on the banks of the river and caught animals of all kinds who came there to quench their thirst. He caught antelopes, deer, squirrels, buffaloes, hyenas and many more. But try as he did he could never catch a lion or a tiger, so he made do with the hyenas as the top predators. In the absence of a lion, the hyenas reigned supreme. The animals grew and multiplied. Soon the forest teemed with animals of all kinds. Birds of the air needed no invitation, they flew in by themselves. Babone called the island Utanko, one word with varied meanings in the Sban language. Utanko, exceptional. Utanko, unique. Utanko, success. Utanko, hospitable. Utanko, unbeatable.
Utanko, the island of a lone soldier and many animals flourished for many, many years. Ghawa was proud, she gave the island her best. Rain fell in due season, causing Ghawa to swell and sweep bare lands, but she never overflowed her banks where Utanko her beloved Island was. In due season, the sun smiled from its abode, high up in the skies.
Nature balanced out perfectly. Life was ordered, the ants and termites swept the forest floors, squirrels ate nuts and left their seeds on the ground to germinate, grow and bear more fruits. Even subconscious agriculture flourished. And the hyenas, they ruled; fresh meat was in ever constant supply. When they made a catch, nature became red in tooth and claw. As they ate in groups, they laughed amongst themselves; high pitched rapid series of monosyllabic “hee-heee-heee” sounds. Who wouldn’t laugh when there is abundance of fresh meat and tasty blood?
The lone soldier, Babone, became old and frail. When time came for him to join his ancestors, he bid the Island farewell; all the animals on the Island were sad to see him go, to them, he was the grandfather of their beautiful home. Babone got on a boat; he hoped to float on Ghawa and gaze at nature’s wonder and splendor and die peacefully. His wish was never to come true. Just as he begun rowing away from the river banks, the crocodiles ganged up and overturned his boat, then they drowned him and tore him into pieces. It was a feeding frenzy! Everyone wanted in on the action; who knew soldier flesh was so palatable? As they swallowed chunks of Babone’s flesh, tears fell from their eyes. The crocodiles wept.
Somewhere near the banks of Ghawa, a mother raven and her chicks perched atop a chestnut oak and watched the crocodiles. The mother raven cawed, she croaked, she screeched and she cried. She knew she had just witnessed an abomination. She was sad and felt trapped; trapped because her chicks were not old enough to fly away with her. She thought to herself, “alas Ghawa has cursed Utanko”.