If I were to attribute my love and appreciation for African literature to any one author,it would be,without a doubt,one Chinua Achebe!(And I’m not alone!) As Things Fall Apart was to my parents’ generation, A Man Of The People and Anthills Of The Savannah are to me: Eye-opening, epiphany-generating,thought-provoking.
This elegiac ode, from Anthills Of The Savannah, is an appropriate share,because many of us utter these lamentations,in one way or another,to the sun. So as you go about this afternoon,in Nairobi’s unpredictable heat,it might do you good to read through these here words,and hopefully you’ll rush to get a copy of this legend’s work! Enjoy!
“Great Carrier of Sacrifice to the Almighty: Single Eye of God! Why have you brought this on us? What hideous abomination forbidden and forbidden and forbidden again seven times have we committed or else condoned, what error that no reparation can hope to erase?
Look, our forlorn prayers, our offerings of conciliation lie scattered about your floor where you cast them disdainfully away; and every dawn you pile up your long basket of day with the tools and emblems of death.
Wide-eyed, insomniac, you go out at cock-crow spitting malediction at a beaten, recumbent world. Your crimson torches fire the furnaces of heaven and the roaring holocaust of your vengeance fills the skies.
Undying Eye of God! You will not relent, we know it, from compassion for us. Relent then for your own sake; for that bulging eye of madness that may be blinded by soaring motes of an incinerated world. Single Eye of God, will you put yourself out merely that men may stumble in your darkness. Remember: Single Eye, one-wall-neighbour-to-Blindness, remember!
What has man become to you, Eye of God, that you should hurt yourself on his account? Has he grown to such god-like stature in your sight? Homeward-bound from your great hunt, the carcass of an elephant on your great head, do you now dally on the way to pick up a grasshopper between your toes?
Great Messenger of the Creator! Take care that the ashes of the world rising daily from this pyre may not prove enough when they descend again to silt up the canals of birth in the season of renewal.
The birds that sang the morning in had melted away even before the last butterfly fell roasted to the ground. And when songbirds disappeared, morning herself went into the seclusion of a widow’s penance in soot and ashes, her ornaments and fineries taken from her–velvets of soft elusive light and necklaces of pure sound lying coil upon coil down to her resplendent breasts: corals and blue chalcedonies, jaspers and agates veined like rainbows. So the songbirds left no void, no empty hour when they fled because the hour itself had died before them. Morning no longer existed.
The trees had become hydra-headed bronze statues so ancient that only blunt residual features remained on their faces, like anthills surviving to tell the new grass of the savannah about last year’s brush fires.
Household animals were all dead. First the pigs fried in their own fat; and then the sheep and goats and cattle choked by their swollen tongues. Stray dogs in the market-place in a running battle with vultures devoured the corpse of the madman they found at last coiled up one morning in the stall over which he had assumed unbroken tenancy and from where he had sallied forth every morning to mount the highest rung of the log steps at the centre of the square and taunt the absent villagers. Where is everybody? You have not forgotten your own market day? Come! Bring your long baskets of yams and your round baskets of cocoyams. Where are the fish women and the palm-oil women, where the high head-loads of pottery? Come, today may be your lucky day, the day you may find a blind man to trade against. You have nothing to sell? Who said so? Come! I will buy your mother’s cunt.
The dogs growled as they tore him apart and snapped at the vultures who struck back fearlessly with their beaks. After that last noisy meal the vultures pushed in their wicked, bashed-in heads and departed for another country.
In the end even the clouds were subdued though they had held out longest. Their bedraggled bands rushed their last pathetic resources from place to place in a brave but confused effort to halt the monumental formations of the Sun’s incendiary hosts. For this affront the Sun wreaked a terrible vengeance on them cremating their remains to their last plumes and scattering the ashes to the four winds. Except that the winds had themselves fled long ago. So the clouds’ desecrated motes hung suspended in a mist across the whole face of the sky, and gave the Sun’s light glancing off their back the merciless tint of bronze. Their dishonoured shades sometimes would stir in futile insurrection at the spirit-hour of noon starting a sudden furious whirling of ash and dust, only to be quickly subdued again.
In last desperate acts the Earth would now ignite herself and send up a shield of billowing black smoke over her head. It was pitiful and misguided for the heat of the brush fires merely added to the fire of the Sun. And soon, anyhow, there was no fodder left to burn.
No one could say why the Great Carrier of Sacrifice to the Almighty was doing this to the world, except that it had happened before, long, long ago in legend. The earth broke the hoes of the grave-diggers and bent the iron tip of their spears. Then the people knew the time had come to desert their land, abandoning their unburied dead and even the dying, and compounding thereby whatever abominations had first unleashed the catastrophe. They travelled by starlight and lay under the shade of their mats by day until the sands became too hot to lie upon. Even legend is reticent about their plight recounting only that every night when the journey began again many failed to rise from under their mats and that those who did stagger up cast furtive glances at the silent shelters and set their stony faces to the south. And by way of comment the voice of legend adds that a man who deserts his town and shrine-house, who turns his face resolutely away from a mat shelter in the wilderness where his mother lies and cannot rise again or his wife or child, must carry death in his eyes. Such was the man and such his remnant fellows who one night set upon the sleeping inhabitants of the tiny village of Ose and wiped them out and drank the brown water in their wells and took their land and renamed it Abazon.
And now the times had come round again out of story-land. Perhaps not as bad as the first times, yet. But they could easily end worse. Why? Because today no one can rise and march south by starlight abandoning crippled kindred in the wild savannah and arrive stealthily at a tiny village and fall upon its inhabitants and slay them and take their land and say: I did it because death stared through my eye.
So they send instead a deputation of elders to the government who hold the yam today, and hold the knife, to seek help of them.”