For some time now, I have been thinking about festivals and what I have come to understand by the term, African Insurance.
The first time I heard about African Insurance, it was from a neighbour, when she was describing what happened when robbers attacked another neighbour’s family and shot at some of them. Of course the bullets bounced of the kids and wife, because they all had African Insurance.
Thinking of it, I then realized that at some point in my life, I also had an African Insurance, to ensure that I wouldn’t be harmed by a cutlass.
For those who know the Isoko people, they will understand why we are called Isoko Tolopia (The Isokos picks cutlass).
I really don’t know why the term is used for us, except that the Isoko’s use cutlass for a lot of things, including war. It is the reason why people will joke about an Isoko man chasing men sneaking around to see his daughter, with the cutlass he has under his bed. My papa no get oh!
A friend of my brother accompanied us to the village in 2003 to bury my grandfather, when he encountered a woman chasing her son with a cutlass, because according to her, she carried him for nine months, and before he kills her, she will kill him. So my brother’s friend said he now understands why the Isokos are related to the cutlass.
But I digress.
When I was six years old, I got an African Insurance during the period of the village’s yearly (or was it once in two years?) festival.
The festival consisted of three warring side, which represented the three quarters of the village, which again represented the three brothers, Urabe, Ukoli, and Egbo, sons of the king of Olomu, whom many years ago, left their land with their village god on their head, running away from God knows what and for the safety of their god, to protect it from whatever war was going on back in the days.
After journeying away from their Urhobo land of Olomu for many days, they decided to rest, so they dropped their god (owa olomu, which means Olomu’s load). After resting, they decided to continue but Owa Olomu refused to be carried, and they decided it liked it where it was among the Isoko people, and they settled there, married and bred and my sweet village- Olomuoro, out of Olomu, but renamed Olomoro by the white men, again- came into existence.
There after, before Olomoro’s festival, some sort of permission is taken from the king of Olomu and elders from Olomu attend our festivals. While the festival really wasn’t about the three quarters warring, they tried to relive the greatness of Olomoro, a warring town that bred a warrior like Owowo, my great grand father, and others. And also to pay some respect to whomever, and display what they are known for. Cutlass. (for the record, this isn’t entirely precise, but I know I am on the track, with a lot missing. I will save it for my book)
Anyway, I digress again.
Before the festival proper, the whole village prepares, farming ceases for a while, and priests prepare the warriors.
One fateful August, a break in my primary school, we traveled home and it was a festival period.
I woke one morning and saw one of my cousins with leaves in her mouth. She had gone to do a sort of medicine, so that if she pierces one cheek with a needle, it would come out on the other side.
I was intrigued. I think I was seven not six. I asked lots of questions and realized there were different types of medicines to do. Without telling anyone, I was off for an African insurance.
A new blade was used to mark thirteen marks each above my breast, and a needle was used to draw three lines on my chest. The medicines were robbed in and I was ready for the festival as long as I didn’t go near water the rest of the day (those med marks don go back to where them come from).
Another of my cousin did a different insurance and later was tied to a tree, just like some other guys, and shot at with a gun. Of course he wasn’t hurt.
My insurance, insured me from cutlass. The festival then, is full of cutlasses. At the village square where the parade holds, all the warriors fighting the fake war are busy throwing cutlasses left right and centre into the air. If you dare to look up, you will be so confused because all the cutlasses looked as though they were fighting in the air. What’s more, every cutlass thrown into the air is always caught by who ever threw it. They never fell to the ground, and there never were calamities, but just in case, the African Insurance protects one from harm. And the warriors are dancing as they throw, moving around, but still, a cutlass will locate its owner.
It used to be fun. I attended just one of such festivals, before they stopped holding them. And their reason for stopping, I know not, except I hear that once you are a Christian, you cannot attend such festivals anymore.
I miss the festivals really, because it is tradition and passing our history down to the next generation. It is our identity and our roots, and I wanted my own children to experience it, without the insurance of course, from a distance. And that brings me to wonder just how in the name of God, does all these medicines/African Insurance work.
I do wonder.
Nice weekend ya all.