Our Fates: by Nadia Ahidjo-Iya

“I will take this one”

“And put the blue sticker for Tonton Fall on the vinyl, together with those old albums, he is the music lover in the family”

Blue, yellow, pink, white stickers all over our living room. On our furniture that holds so many memories. Blue for Tonton Fall, and the Sunday mornings we watched you jiggle your belly to Fela Kuti and make us laugh. Yellow for Tonton Modou, and the chair on which Nafi slipped and sprained her ankle last summer. Pink for Tonton Seck, and the cupboard Maman brought with her when she came back from Kedougou, before she left us again. Is this what you leave us to, Baye? A riot of colours, almost like the sky outside after the rains.

“Cawk, Cawk” hawks screech above, as they search for chicks that are easy prey. I feel sorry for them; they will go hungry today. The chickens and their offspring are all in wire boxes, ready to depart with Tonton Seck once this is over. “Shooo birds of pestilence, go away, we have important business to conduct here today”. I wonder if their business is more important than that of the hawks, aren’t both preying and feeding off the vulnerable? Is this what you leave us to, Baye? Fodder for others to pounce on?

“And what will we do with the girls?” I hear them say faintly, these brothers of yours, as they wipe the oil from the tchep on the tablecloth.

“The older one is fair of face, and her dowry is hefty, I will give her to my son.” I watch my pasty cousin Alioune shift around uncomfortably in the corner of the room. As our gazes collide, we both remember how he sneaks into our compound at night to kiss the gardener’s son. I hear them often under my window: “Will you take me with you when you go to university, Alioune?” “We will never be separated Pape my love, do not doubt this”. I look out of the window and see Pape staring into the distance, trying to understand…

Is this what you leave us to, Baye? Broken hearts and uneasy betrothals?

I read a story once about the supershero Lady Coumba, I wonder if she will fly in soon and take us to her magic compound, where men no longer decide our fates. Is her boubou as colourful and noisy as those of my uncles’ wives, I wonder, as they sit around showing off their latest bracelets and pearls. Is this what you leave us to, Baye? Hoping for a stranger to save us?


Nadia Ahidjo-Iya (@Asmaaouu) is a feminist, currently living in Senegal.

Related country: Senegal

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