Seeing Ogiame off to the stars (2)
Ironically, I have since distanced myself from the Awankere Festival. What turned me off was not the much maligned (and widely misunderstood) erotic display—but rather, the sexual perversion.
The purpose of a fertility rite, is to remind us that the production and rearing of offspring is our primary reason for existence: And that this requires, above all else, sexual intercourse between males and females.
The obvious inference, is that homosexuality has no reproductive value: And thus should not be depicted, symbolically, in a fertility rite. Indeed, same-sex copulation undermines the primal ethic of Awankere.
“Fertility” refers to the “capacity to produce offspring”. Fertility “rites” underscore the importance of this. During the Kanamara Festival, for example, Japanese pray for babies at a huge phallic shrine and lick penis-shaped ice cream!
Hence, in extending “Congratulations” to the new Olu, I must also appeal for his embrace of Awankere.
Okere Elders ought to prohibit lesbian and gay male display (if they haven’t done so already, in my long absence): But otherwise, resist pressure to “clean up” Awankere. They should expunge homosexuality, not sexuality.
“Awankere” means, “We’re getting mighty small [population-wise]”. The Festival’s remedy is to let the male organ “ride,” as the Sisters sing! Their message is exceedingly apt, for all Black people—who face a worldwide threat of extinction.
Over the public address system, Egart Omoneukanrin, the Master of Ceremony, is conjuring up forgotten memories and evoking long quiescent imagery.
I am reminded anew of the Palace years, during which I received three unsolicited promotions and several salary increases. I take pride in being the only non-Itsekiri, ever to bear the title, “Palace Secretary”—much to the chagrin of some Chiefs!
I lived two Palace lives: One governed by strict protocol, requiring that I touched the floor with my forehead daily, on first seeing Ogiame; and the other characterized by the intimacy and warmth of his family.
When we travelled, Olori Duroorike would fix sandwiches, which fed my ego even more than my stomach. Nere, the oldest daughter, used to teach me children’s games and I’d often take her younger sister, Neye (“Little Miss Madame”) from Ogiame’s arms, after she had fallen asleep.
It was all coming back at the ceremony, as I watched seven men–the ekeren agban–bow with brass swords. I could see young Tsola and Toju, peeping at a bearded man having his meal. “I saw you eating rice,” one declares, as I exit the dining room.
“It’s not true,” I demur. “I never touch the stuff!” The “Rice Man” joke would endure, as a tagline on the Christmas cards I left at the Palace gate.
Yes…It was all coming back…The Olu’s summons, through Chief Roland Oritsejafor…Olori’s wise counsel…The hectic Rita Lori Era…(The intrepid and irrepressible Igba!)…Pastor Richmond Leigh…Prince Yemi Emiko…
In the row behind me, Emiko is telling a companion, I write about Astronomy…about stars and planets…in The Guardian…
As he speaks, my thoughts wander. I contemplate a giant molecular cloud, seeded with life-producing carbon and other organic chemicals, forged in violent stellar processes.
Collapsing gravitationally, the cloud begins to swirl. Its core heats up and the Sun ignites, while fringe material condenses into planets.
From the solar nebula, to Ode Itsekiri, is a journey of five billion years. But the Sun will burn that long again. It will then swell into a red giant and vaporize Earth: Returning its carbon to interstellar space, for new stars to use.
Ogiame Atuwatse II has embarked on that second five-billion-year journey, back to the stars.