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Blue skies. Jet skies. Coconuts and fishermen floating down the Volta. Barbecues. Boat rides and buffets. A day of perfect memories at  the Aqua Safari Resort , Ada.
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Gbemisola street in Ikeja is  very much like any residential street in Lagos. Left and right, houses stand loosely together, interrupted here and there by wooden shops selling a multitude of wares. Then you arrive.
Kalakuta Museum.

Home to the legendary Fela Anikulapo for 31 years,  now a museum, kalakuta shares with the public carefully curated snippets of Fela’s personal life, music and politics.

Today, I am a guest in Fela’s home.I  was excited.  I didn’t know quite what to expect.

Like many of my generation, Fela’s voice, lyrics and roguishness was the draw.

I followed his antics, feverishly read the sensational stories in the newspapers; arrests and re-arrests, rebellion and political activism.

I wandered inside. Cool open spaces. Shadowy walls lit beautifully, covered with pictures of a life lived with such exuberance and much intensity.

Fela’s stairs, bedroom, flamboyant shirts, glamorous shoes, outlandish fur coat,  life on stage and the beautiful people who made his life complete.

The sunlight poured down the high ceiling. I was transfixed. Family portraits carefully lined the walls. I followed the narratives up the elegant spiral stairs.

Like many of my university friends in the 80s, I gyrated to Fela’s pulsing music and shouted out his provocative lyrics. I was fascinated by his lifestyle and intrigued by his outlandish exterior.


Pelumi who showed me around was far too young to even visualise my memories but we both agreed on one thing:
” Fela get message pass today’s musicians”

Importantly, these messages continue to thump off these walls on Wednesdays when Seun Kuti rehearses with his band in Kalakuta.
That almost brought tears welling up. The spirit of Kalakuta is alive and well.

Perhaps it was the light flooding down from the ceiling.

Perhaps it was the life beaming back from the walls, kalakuta didn’t feel dead and dusty.

For a few hours, I was transported completely. Each piece, each picture, each newsprint felt lovingly curated, placed exactly in its place so I could find it today.

In many ways, wether you knew Fela or not, this house must be on your bucket list of places to visit in Lagos.

It tells a story of not just one man and his life but a story of life and living it.

Under the hexagon headstone rests the remains of the great Fela Anikulapo Kuti. A poignant resting place underneath the balcony where he would have looked outside onto Gbemisola street everyday.

 

It`s 7.am.
The strains of music are close enough for me to make out the shrill voice of the soprano and the strident choir cutting through the greyness of dawn. Its Sunday morning . Read the rest of this entry »

Elegantly symmetrical lines of black and white pigment, perfectly formed spirals and the striking pink background of the walls and pillars . I was not prepared for all this beauty. The walls cast an ambiance; soft, alluring and feminine. Read the rest of this entry »

 

 Today`s scenario was an exciting one.  A road trip from Lagos  to Accra.

With an early start, a distance of 600km by road in a comfortable bus should take 9 hours I thought

However, as I set up to depart for the bus park, my friend reminded me of the folly of my plan. Who  travels by road on a most uncertain route  when you can  fly to Accra from Lagos and be there in an hour ? But my reasoning  was far from crazy.

As the largest and second-largest economies in West Africa respectively,  Nigeria and Ghana have strong economic ties with bustling ports which see imports from all over the world. Thousands of Nigerians and Ghanaians travel to and from Seme border into Benin Republic and onward to Togo and Ghana every day along this route. I was determined to see all this action myself.

Sitting in the lounge of the Cross Country  bus park in Yaba, I had to admit  it was all going well. Apart from the early shuffle out of bed,  so far it had  been a pleasant experience. My senses  were fully awake as I took in my surroundings.

The waiting area was  clean and ventilated. A small cafeteria  served a range of travel food while a television  beamed soundlessly in the background. It was a busy morning.  As travellers lugged their bulging bags into the waiting area, many seemed relieved to have made it this far. They arranged themselves in most of the chairs dotted around the room.

All in all, everything seemed perfectly normal except for one tiny detail.  I did not know when we would depart. Like everybody else around me, we all  just waited for the  bus to “be ready”.

Finally, just before 10.am, we were off. The bus lurched forward ponderously out of the car park.  Voices were  raised in prayers all around me and I joined a chorus of many “amens” several times in unison.

A smallish man in a shiny brown conductor suit, seemed to be in charge. He prayed  vigorously and  rendered passages from the bible  with such ease that he gave off a air of deep seriousness.  I wondered if  he was  a  passenger who decided to lead a bus full of strangers  in prayer.  Or  a paid  staff of  Cross Country performing a service for their customers?  Whichever way, we were all in it together and he certainly captured the imagination of  this congregation.

As if  to answer my questions, more gospel songs filled the air.  Men, women and children sang joyously in their loudest voices.

Then the epiphany. I understood completely.

We were Nigerians. It didn’t matter that we started this day as complete strangers. It didn’t matter that no one could predict for certain when we  were going to arrive in Accra or how long we would wait at the various border checkpoints along the way. Ambiance was everything- eagerly expected, passionately sustained and completely welcomed by all.  This faith, this philosophy, this attitude was what  we  needed to get through the next 24 hours. And it all began with the prayers.

What mattered most on that bus, on that  journey, was establishing and preserving a rapport of expectancy, of  blind optimism and faith that all would indeed be well. The pastor, the singing, the banter, the prayers, the  comedy skits, were  essential ingredients to ensure that  our sanity was preserved and our faith restored.

That God is present everywhere and that all prayer, all heartfelt songs of gratitude and thanksgiving wherever shared, must be shared by all, is a faith lived by many Nigerians. And this faith was needed now more than ever.

There was enough drama going on that bus that nobody would have too much time left to wonder about their personal concerns: what to do if you desperately needed the toilet or why the roads  intermittently disappeared into the bushes and came out on the other side of somewhere…

Even though we all  shared these anxieties, we  responded resolutely with a brave face full of  laughter, loud noise and new found camaraderie.

Across 4 countries with some terrain best described as as unnavigable, we eventualy pulled into accra just past midnight.  It had been a fantastic journey. I had learnt a lot. I made some new friends who I would probably never see again  But that didn’t matter. Together we had made this trip. That memory  I will keep forever.

Despite all the delays, the apprehension, the doubts which crept up intermittently, we made it.  We all shared a deep thankfulness  for this fact.

Nestled in the southwestern part of Nigeria is the ancient town of Ile-Ife.  Often described as “the cradle “,Yoruba civilization began here as  far back  as 500 B.C.


There is a deeply spiritual element to this town.  According to Yoruba mythology, ile -Ife was founded by Oduduwa. Odùduwà was the first Ooni (ruler) and king of Ife. Today, his royal highness Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi Ojaja II, the current  Ooni of Ife is first among all Yoruba kings in status, hierarchy and respect.

Festivals

Ile-Ife continues to  maintain a cultural relevance as the bastion of Yoruba cultural heritage and tradition. Every day of the year, there is a festival to  celebrate one of  the over 300  deities worshipped by traditional priests and devotees in the town.

Often the festivals extend over more than one day and they involve both priestly activities in the palace and theatrical dramatisations in the rest of the kingdom.

Olojo Festival

One of the most iconic of these festivals is “Olojo”. Historically the King only appeared in public during the annual Olojo festival and it is a spectacular affair! Visitors and tourists troop into the town from all over Nigeria and the Yoruba diaspora: Brazil, U.S.A and Cuba.  The climax of the  Olojo festival takes place at Enuwa Square outside the grand palace of the Ooni of Ife.

The clock Tower in Enuwa Square outside the Ooni`s palace where the celebrations take place.
Why Is Olojo Celebrated?

Olojo is celebrated in remembrance of Ogun- the Yoruba mythological god of iron and the first son of Oduduwa. Ogun is a fiery god worshiped and revered by many indigenes of Ife including farmers, blacksmiths hunters, and smelters who  all traditionally make their living using iron implements.

Traditional Rites

The exact date and timing of the festival is one that is considered carefully and very much depends on the movement of the sun from west to east in the 9th month of the lunar year.The decision as to which weekend in October will be the weekend of celebration is the sole responsibility of the Olojo chief priest.

As part of the activities leading up to the grand celebrations, his royal highness, the Ooni of Ife hibernates for seven days in complete seclusion, not communicating with anyone except the ‘spirits’. During the festival and only for a few hours, the Oòni appears, wearing a special beaded crown called “ Ade Are” .


The King leads the crowds to Ogun`s Shrine-  Okemogun to pay homage and make traditional sacrifices  and prayers for the town and it`s indigenes.

 

 

On the final day of the festival, the palace of the Ooni is agog with activity. Groups of traditional craftsmen and women, Ife high chiefs, their court, children and the grand children of the numerous royal families all come out amid colourful outfits, music and dance. It is a proud day for all indigenes of the town.

 Olojo festival is full of colour, pomp and ceremony and one of the most thrilling sights are the  Lokolokos thrill the crowd and quite honestly bring an added element of drama and a cultural authenticity to the event.

Olojo festival is quite simply a fantastic cultural experience. It not only celebrates the history and beliefs of the people of Ife, it also validates  the traditions and ethnic identity of an entire race-the Yoruba people of southwestern Nigeria.

It is a proud day Ile-Ife indigenes. They come out in strong numbers to pay homage to the Ooni in his palace.

 

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Everyday will bring you closer to telling  your story. It will inspire another.

 

Inspire and share Osupa 2017

Wake. Tend. Feed. Work. Leisure. Be thankful.

Inspire and share Osupa 2017

 

Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.

Khalil Gibran

God knows there are different kinds of pain.

In a universal sense, most of us would define pain as the dictionary does, to  include physical suffering, mental and emotional torment. In truth, many of us live with or have experienced one or all of these descriptions of pain in our lifetime.

th32R07SQK pain

However, I have often wondered  about a different type of pain, one which is both  heavy and empty at the same time. Really hard to explain but easy to identify if you have ever experienced it. Unlike physical or emotional distress, to everyone else watching, you are perfectly fine.  Infact,  you function very well -your exterior façade is impeccable . Nonetheless, you know.  This pain hurts  almost  as much as if you had a boil on your finger. However, this lingers…

Seems curious really. That you could be in pain everyday, walk with it, function with it, love with it in your heart. You accept its presence but not once do you imagine just how different your life might be if you were free of its grasp.  I have no answers . I am simply sharing these thoughts and this piece  about Kabir is one way for me to explore this subject in prose. I suppose you could say that  perhaps I begin my journey to take off the layers which sit and wait in my own subconscious. I really don’t know what Kabir`s carthasis will bring forth but as he sheds, I will write. Here goes…

As the world woke to another ordinary day, the sun warmed the lives of  many who carried on  in ordinary ways. Kabir wondered why his heart felt like stone.  He imagined holding his heart in his hands and like a doctor, curiously looking at it to work out where the bruises lay. He could feel its coldness in his hands. He glided his fingers over the hues of hardness and the peculiar streaks and spots which circled  the centre of his heart. It was the other kind of pain.

what-is-pain-scale

The one that nobody could see, no tell-tale trail of red where the gash screamed in copious relief. No darkened  scabs  easily soothed and softened  by  careful rubs  fortified with  creams. No. This heaviness lay siege and reached out for him every time he thought he could step away from himself and try something new. But It waited in his veins for his mind to be clear again, a stealthy shadow lurking on the fringes of his dreams, hovering and darkly malevolent. He readied himself. The  fear crept in, consumed his senses and just like that it took over. He felt  nothing of the golden day which stretched ahead. He heard only the echo of tiredness in his steps.

IMG_6305

As he did everyday, he smiled at the passers-by who waved at him as he walked the same road. He waved at the drivers in the cars who called his name as they manoeuvred the start of their day. Only he could feel the waves of un-variegated greyness seeping in. His heart laid bare, frozen entirely by something beyond himself; he became that child again, seeking only the softness of safe hands.

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