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Author • Bianca Ihua


tradition smoke image

As I sat on the bench close to my sister, I could hear Ngozi scream. Her voice almost pierced the sky. My mother was also crying with her. It was as if she was the one who was being cut and not her innocent three-month-old baby. Nneka, too, was scared. She clung to me tight while I covered her ears with both hands. I didn't mind my ears getting bled from the woes of that day; I guess my sister needed hers more than I did.

Throughout that day, my mother sat close to the baby, crying. She was looking at our baby sister and raining all kinds of insult on my father's extended family.

"This is our tradition, Nnenna. You know that very well," my father said, in a way trying to pacify my mother.

"This is wickedness! No girl should go through this! No girl!" My mother sounded defiant.

"Ogini? What about boys? Don't they get circumcised, too?" he fired back.

That woke up Ngozi who resumed her sobbing. My mother picked her up, placed her on her chest and began to dance to a silent rhythm.

"Ozugo!" was what my father said that made our baby come to a decrescendo. Maybe Ngozi understood Igbo, or she needed to give our parents space to discuss.

"Look at our poor baby. And I begged you, Okafor. I told you it wasn't necessary, but you allowed those wicked people cut my baby. Our baby!" my mother teared up. She began to sob heavily, cleaning her snot with the edge of her wrapper.

"Nnenna, why are you doing like this nau? You, of all people, know it is what tradition demands. There was nothing I could have done. It is what our forefathers have been doing. We can't change it." He paused, then continued, "Our elders say that 'what the old men can see while seating, the young ones cannot see it even if they climb a tree.' To you, it might look like a terrible thing; but to us, it is the right thing. The best thing we can do to help protect our girls. We don't want them to be promiscuous. Look at Ezinne, Chidi's daughter. She is prostituting herself upandan because she was never circumcised. Tell me, will a circumcised girl do like that?" He expected my mother to answer, but she hissed in disgust. My father didn't mind her, but carried on with his sermon.

"Look at Adaobi," he pointed at me. "Isn't she a good girl? Very decent girl. Pure virgin!" he said 'girl' like 'gal' and 'virgin' like 'varjeen.' "Since she got circumcised, she has kept herself, not allowing any man to touch her. She's saving herself for marriage. You should be grateful that our daughter, at sixteen, is still keeping her legs closed. So many girls, that are not even up to her age, have already been disvarjeend! I know my daughter will make me proud," he said complacently, grinning from ear to ear.

Only if my father knew how Okeke, my older cousin, always sneaked into our compound most nights to put his thing into mine, savouring me with so much pleasure. Painful pleasure. Okeke said it would help me to become a big girl, and that I would enjoy sex better when I got married.


Readersketch | Ed. Kawthar A. Omisore

© Bianca Ihua. All Rights Reserved.


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