Saturday, 9 August 2008


He went with Afeni to her close friend’s house, a converted flat still with traces of its former occupants, like church pamphlets and tiny yellow toys. Afeni introduced him to the people in the sitting room, she referred to as comrades. Someone amongst the crowd had refuted claiming they were Cradlelites and should be referred to that and nothing else.
“Cradlelites or not, we are still comrades” Afeni replied, her vivacious face now
flushed with a rosy sternness.Tade thought it was quite a funny name for adults to callthemselves and Afeni sensed this. She turned to him, her face showing no traces of mirth.Tade had started to get used to Afeni’s mood changes. But, as she faced him, sternly andexplained the idea behind the name, he was slightly taken a back. She told him that thecradle represents one’s beginnings and that was what this place or Krey-city-as somedubbed it-meant to them. The Cradle signified their entry into freedom, self truth andexpression, which she then summed up as the New World. After her speech, which sheonly let Tade hear, he became very sober.

“You know, I don’t like to put down this society’s culture, but I feel we’ve heldon tight to old customs that are so repressive” Afeni said petulantly to her friends, butwith tiny sparks of hope still twinkling in her eyes.
“Afeni, you always put it right, it’s a society that is so blind with its expectations of itsyoung people, that it subjugates them to its hypocritical and overly moralistic ideals” oneof Afeni’s friend with a bald head and square framed glasses stated.
“Yup! Preach that talk, Omo” someone said from behind with a husky voice, passing
something to Afeni’s bald friend.
“I think we all suffer Nwoye’s plight and like him who wasn’t captivated by ‘the mad
logic of the trinity…but the poetry of the new religion…that seemed to answer a vague,and persistent question that haunted his young soul’ are we. And this just explainswhy a lot of us are attracted or turn to Western cultures. They give answers to thosequestions that disturb young people and don’t rebuke them for asking in the first place” aguy with a checkered beret said ardently, also quoting Chinua Achebe. There was a waveof applause that came rippling from the back of the room, after the guy spoke. He smiledand took the beret off his head, in gratitude for the ovation.

Afeni’s bald friend had passed a joint to Tade and introduced himself as Madu.Tade shook his head nervously and introduced himself. He first inhaled, the smell ofweed that rose from the burning end. He gulped a lump of saliva, and thought about whathe had put himself into. Afeni smiled at him, not in coercing manner but in an anxiousone. Not withstanding, Tade misinterpreted her smile for coercion and took a puff of thejoint. He felt the dry smoke flow roughly down his throat and into his lungs and as hetried to exhale out, he felt his eyes water as he coughed terribly. Afeni and some peoplearound laughed, not in an offensive manner, but in one that welcomed a new member.

The stick was passed around the room and after a while he found himself craving for it.At first, he felt paranoid, as those problems and secrets he had, came flashing in hismind. But when Afeni tapped him on his shoulders, and he saw that her eyes were now arosy-red color, he felt calm and at peace. He gazed at her, at her dark brown skin that feltbuttery under the pelt of sweat on it. As he watched Afeni, he saw her from two planes ofview. He did not have that usual feeling that his mind was that bodiless constituent ofhimself that needed his physical body as its medium of expression. He felt that his mindnow had eyes and lips of their own and they saw and spoke clearly. His mind saw her,beautiful with that smile of hers-even the tiny gap at her right molars enchanted him. Butthe physical plane of view, his face, which she actually saw, was emblazoned with a verywidened smile, with his teeth hanging out. Sadly, he was too consumed with seeingthrough his mind’s eyes, to notice this.

Someone had walked out amidst the people in the sitting room and pranced into
the centre. He could not tell from the curved lips, pointed cheekbones and beanie whichcovered the head, if it was a guy or woman. The person swayed on the dance floor,its’ hips tossing from side to side. And if he was to judge by this, and by the smoothcurviness of its’ legs under the tight jeans, he would have concluded that it was a woman,but when it spoke he saw that it was a man. He was shocked and slightly appalled. Butwhen some of the girls, including Afeni and some guys joined him in dancing, he feltguilty for feeling the way he had felt. That night he realized that The Cradle was not justa New world but a different and free one.

Like a handful of other young people who left home, leaving messages for theirsoon-to-be paranoid parents, who would try every means to find their children, Tade hadleft home and begun living in the Cradle. In the few months at The Cradle, he took to paintingand writing essays for The Cradle journal. Even if he loved his experiences at The Cradle,he still questioned himself on why he was there and tried to make sense of it all. He had to eatand live and Tade was not willing to depend on his parents anymore. He took jobs around town,which would have repulsed his parents and some friends, if they found out. Tade began to live a
Bohemian life in The Cradle, forming friendships and getting closer to Afeni. He formed a circleof friends around Afeni, Madu and Rasheed the androgynous ‘it’ he had seen on his first night. In all, Tade was doing those things he had dreamed of and was living in a place that created and
fulfilled more dreams.

Things started to change when protest groups , against this small and created communityin Port Harcourt, began to sprout around the country. Religious and ‘Moral- conservation’ groups accused The Cradle of promoting and housing vices like cultism,drug use, immorality and most especially waywardness. Newspapers and TV
announcements were made on this community that housed hoodlums and deliquescent
young people. People who had never heard or bothered about this community suddenly
became outraged and then there was a national outcry for the demolishing of this
community. The government yielded to the cries of these groups and its people and ordered a two-week evacuation period for The Cradle occupants.



I'm going to have to read this closely again to really understand it. I am distracted by talking to my mom while trying to read. She is telling me about the cults/gangs that turned my maternal village, Abonema, into a ghost town recently.

Anyway, hope all is well with you?

Allied said...

i am seriously loving these series.. will wait till the end to comment

Buttercup said...

wow...i really thought Cradle was a fictitious place..or is it? i guess i have to read the last part..

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