CHI CREATIONS

CHI CREATIONS

AFRAKAN STORIES

The Free Spirits Ramble in Oxleas Woods!

Greetings

This is the first Ramble of the Free Spirits in Oxleas woods, Sunday 21st July 2013 the meeting time 3pm at the Café.

 

 

I arrive to discover there is a country fair, loud music and lots of large interesting vehicle all over the grass. As we said we want to  hear the peace of nature on our adventure I thought it wise to meet people under the tree next to the gate keepers house before busy-ness. The woods is big enough to steer clear of the noise.

 

Once every one is here, after a few texts and telephone calls to confirm who is attending we are all present and correct. There are four familys (13 people) here for the walk. It is a glorious day. The sun is bright in the sky, its heat warms us through. We gather in the secret garden to introduce ourselves to one another and to discuss, what we need to put in our bag as we develop our walking technique.

 

I find when people are introduced they chill better with one another. We sit in a circle &  everyone in turn states their name, where they live and what they like, within the 30 second time limit. There are a couple of children who like so much in life they take a little longer. It is such a joy to hear from everyone.

 

Now we move on to look into my rucksack and see what we need for a two-hour ramble.

 

Lets start with the bag itself. It only need be a half rucksack with wide shoulder straps and a waist strap. The wide shoulder straps are to ensure the weight is evenly balanced throughout the back. Adjust the straps so the bottom of the rucksack is just on the waist. If the rucksack has heavy items inside then it is important to use the waist straps to bring the weight closer to the body and redistribute some of the weight into the legs.

 

 

What do we put inside the rucksack?

·         What the body needs in order of importance. We need air, which fortunately we don’t need to carry in our rucksack. Most mortal people, like me, can do less than a minute without air before we start turning a funny colour.

·         It is important to stay hydrated. Water is a food source. At least half a litre per person in the group. The experts say we can do 3 days without water before our body is ready to collapse and give up.

·         Other foods to keep the body going so it is an enjoyable fun walk are healthy snacks like Oranges, Apples, pears and fresh fruit generally, dried fruits (dates, figs, raisins), nuts (cashew, almonds, brazil, walnuts etc) and seeds (sunflower, pumpkin). Avoid sugar, unnatural sweetners, processed snacks (crisps, chocolate, fizzy drinks etc), as they have a drastic effect on the mood of the children and adults.

 

·         The weather is unpredictable, so even on a sunny day, be prepared for adverse weather conditions yet expect the best. Pack a waterproof top and waterproof trousers. They are thin, light and roll up small. A spare pair of socks, a t-shirt and a tracksuit top or sweatshirt. A cloth, head wrap and or hat for really hot weather.

 

·         In the healing section I would suggest, Shea butter mixed with lemon grass and lavender essential oils to rub on the body to stop you from getting bitten, lavender to sooth any bites, tea tree and lavender essential oils to clean any cuts or grazes mixed with a little water on cotton wool, cotton wool, rescue remedy for those shocks to the system, a sudden fall etc.

 

·         Keep everything in a plastic bag in the rucksack to keep all items dry under all circumstances.

 

Everyone is exited about the walk. It is important to gauge the group. We establish the group pace that suits.  I ensure the front walkers is not leaving the back walkers behind. The walk is not just about striding along as fast as one can. These walks are about giving community a chance to share quality time with one another and to appreci-love the being together in mother-nature’s beauty spots.

 

We play hide and seek with the children in the long grass. We find sticks to help us rummage through the woods. The sticks are handy for moving nettles out the away. On the edge of the meadow we observe callaloo, we spot the plantain leaf, it heals stings. We climb trees, we smell tuer filling our nostrils with its aroma. We learn the extracted oil balances oestrogen. The group ask for a story. I try to steer them off the subject but that is not possible, so I make it a community story. It turns out to be exactly the best way to end the walk. We have all gathered natural souvenirs from the forest floor (leaves herbs, sticks, bark etc). Using these items we create through improvisation the first magical mystical free spirit ramble community tale.

 

 

The Magic of life

Once upon a time, time, time, 6 fed up children named Ama Kumani, Iko, Nova, Taylor, kayin and Jonhoi, all choose to run away to the woods, because their parents are so sad and always angry. In the forest they are full of fun and laughter, playing hide and seek in the long grass, until the youngest child Ama Kumani begins to cry. She misses her mum. Then all the children begin to cry. A yellow giant buttercup hears their sorrow and rises from the earth to sprinkle seed over the children. This makes them happy. Taylor suggests they share this happiness with their parents. In their excitement to return home they trip over a hazel wood stick that knocks them out and when they wake up they are in an unfamiliar place. Nova has a serious scratch on her knee and it needs healing. Iko can hear a tiny voice calling her. It leads her to a little pink plant, “I can heal your sister with my oil. Squeeze me on the wound”. With a drip, drip, drip the wound disappears.

 

Kayin says he is going to climb the tree so he can see where they are. His brother Jonhoi notices a majestic tree like no other. It has feathers growing out of the branches instead of leaves it reaches to the sky. Everyone looks up in wonderment. Jonhoi points to a long bushy tail swirling up the tree. This bushy tail turns into a tail ladder. Kayin steps onto the ladder. Jonhoi says “Mum says I got to take of you”’ so he follows. One after the other the children all step onto this strange bushy tail ladder. Taylor is behind Ama Kumani and is worried she might fall. He has the idea to pick the feathers from the tree and place them onto her back as protection. Then he calls up and tells the others to do the same. At the top of the tree they can see everything, they can see their village, the river that runs through the village and their homes. They are excited to see their parents again. Iko counts 1, 2, 3, at which they all jump off. Miracles of wonder they fly all the way home. Sadly none of their parents are there.

 

The village storyteller explains the wicked witch of misery came and took their parents away. She then puts a spell on the cows so they would keep populating and eventually take over the village. When everyone in the village is completely miserable she would come get the rest of us. The only way to stop the cows is to feed them tuer but we don’t have any here. A voice in the pocket of Nova calls out. I am here. Nova takes out the plant, she doesn’t remember picking this. The storyteller makes a potion with grass and tuer, gives a little to each child in the village and they feed the cows. In an instant the cows stop giving birth.

 

The children learn their parents are in mars on the moon. With the help of the village It takes them 3 years of searching, learning and rock building to discover how to transport themselves to their parents in mars on the moon. After all the dangers, adverse challenges and pleasant surprises they finally arrive in mars on the moon. They are so happy to see their parents again. The parents are so amazed that this moment is finally here they could not speak for 10 minutes. The children tell their parents they are sorry for leaving but explaine that it is hard for them to live under such miserable circumstances. They give the parents the magic potions, flowers and healing ointments to help them find happiness, health and prosperity. The parents agree to do much better and suddenly a wand made from the holly tree appears and telepathically informs all the parents and children, of the infinite happiness spell being place upon them, however they must promise to share and create stories with one another at least once a month. If they do this the magic of life will always be with them.

 

They have a big celebration. And they all live happily every after.

 

 

That is what we in the trade call “A great Day”.

Be part of the something that stimulates and pleases all your senses. I invite you to attend the free spirit Ramble group, every month and discover the woodland areas in and around London. Full joy the beautiful free spirits you meet on these journeys and give yourself a chance to walk in nature for your well being and health.

 

Next Ramble: August 18th Sunday 2013, meeting 3pm at Scratch woods Open Spaces

Catch the 292 from Edgware station, Click the link - http://goo.gl/maps/UsoUI

It is all in the planning so please plan your journey well in advance - keep your stress levels low!

THE FREE SPIRIT CRUSADERS AND A VISIONARY’S VISION (or a Midsummer’s tale) by Ngoma Bishop

Sesa Wo Suban 2013 at 5am in the morning with those who held the energy throughout the night!

 

 

It was midsummer and the longest day of the year therefore I was not a bit surprised that it was raining steadily and very chilly. Nonetheless I had promised my good friend Griot Chinyere Nwaubani, that despite my dodgy hip and aching back, I would attend the second annual ‘African Storytelling Festival’ and read some poetry and stuff thus helping spread a little all-night vibes round a camp fire deep in the woods. 

 

So it was that on the afternoon of Saturday the 22d of June I headed for deepest SE London and a place called Oxleas Wood, which I confess I’d never heard of.  It was the Summer Solstice and though I had heard of the Summer and Winter Solstices and knew when they were, I had to do a little Google research to understand their true significances.

 

When I arrived on site a small team of helpers had obviously been very busy for some time, as most of the tents were already erected and a number of lanterns adorned some of the closest trees.  The other performance artists and storytellers soon began to arrive and in next to no time at all, the spirits of the ancestors had been invoked by the positivity of drum backed voices raised in wondrous song, poetry, chanting, praises and unadulterated love.  With the atmosphere vibrating to the  most positive of vibrations, it was no wonder that gradually the rain became less wet, the cold and chilly night air became less cold and chilly and somehow the blackness less dark. By the time that we had snaked our way through the midnight forest enthralled by an ancient West African story courtesy of Griot Chinyere herself, I was only occasionally aware of the effects of advanced rheumatic arthritis on my hip and knee joints. I began to realize that there was a lot more to be said for natural therapies than most of us acknowledge. You will know that I was in the moment, in the space and in the zone when I tell you that I partook of the most delicious evening and morning meals, without once wishing that there was some meat on my plate. I did not have to resort to my back-up plan of disappearing into the woods for a small comfort break - otherwise known as a couple of sandwiches which I had prepared earlier. True there could have been more people there and more funds could have been raised towards The Story Trailblazer Project but I am sure that next year will see a huge increased in the number of participants.

 

In summary the project involves the purchase of a very large four wheel drive box truck and converting it into an environmentally friendly mobile home capable of traveling from England, through thirteen countries, to a village in Ghana. The trailblazers will along the way gather a host of stories, old and new, as the first part of an incredible journey and story culminating in the establishment of an eco-friendly storytelling retreat where generations of children will be enabled to pass on these and other stories of mother earth and her children – and this is only part of a story ever unfolding.

 

Check out the link below for a deeper insight into this vision and details of how you can contribute and or get involved. Next years festival is 20th – 23rd July 2014, I am going to be there! - http://www.shanti-chi.com/#!__story-trail-blazer/video-vizion

The Story Trail Blazer and the Fre Spirit Crusaders

 

The Free Spirit Crusaders

Once upon a time, yesterday in London, here on a winters day, lives a nomadic storyteller who comes from a long line of storytellers. Ironically this nomad has been static for a very long time. Her name is Griot Chinyere. She once travelled in a mobile home between communities nurturing Afrakan culture through the stories she shared, being a free spirit. Now she has been static for so long, her bones creek out of sync and the dust clouds her memory. Her ancestors are unhappy. Last night in her dreams they visited. “The time is here to unifest the vision we gave you as a child. Try to remember. You must build a sacred geometrical structure for the children lest they forget who they are. And you will call it a storytelling retreat. But first you must seek an ancient story to guide your destiny. On your search you will encounter magic, wisdom and the healing ancient traditions of Afraka”.

 

This morning Griot Chinyere wakes up to squawking crows, shivering. Fore she knows where she must construct the sacred building. You see, many moons ago, a young spirit guide named, Kweku led her to the Kepko community in Ghana and their Chief. Under the bobao tree at the heart of the community, they poured libation and harnessed the positive energies of the universe. Griot Chinyere then presented the idea of an eco friendly storytelling retreat, running on natural renewable energy. There were many conversations, on the necessity, to preserve Afrakan heritage through storytelling and to conserve Mother Earth using renewable energy. A small circular ritual was enacted. All forces who needed addressing were addressed. The Chief received the message from a divine force, to donate 4 acres of land and install Griot Chinyere as their Queen Mother. It is agreed the storytelling retreat will be the keeper of ancient traditions in both the oral and written forms.

 

Today Griot Chinyere cycles through the cold and icy roads, to meditate in the Flower garden Park, she is conscious a dedicated team is required to help set a story trail blaze overland from England to Ghana; a trail that others with good intent will follow. A smile crosses her face as she considers the team name. “The free spirit crusaders”. A laugh jumps out of her mouth. It has a nice ring to it. Griot Chinyere sits meditating, hidden from view, engulfed by the snow laden hanging branches of an antiquated pine tree. The vision becomes clear. The free spirit crusaders are travelling through Afraka in a 4-wheel drive box trucks, about 7.5 ton. It has been converted into a fully furnished mobile home. Their conversion includes solar panels, windmill energy, a wood-burning stove, a bed, a dinning table, kitchen sink, herb rack, a shower etc etc all the creature comforts

 

The excitement, the verve and the energy this expedition inspires, motivates all manner of celebrity to endorse the Story Trail Blazer. And millions from the universal community support the project. There is much media attention everyone is trying to get in on it, with radio interviews, newspaper headlines and television coverage. The team set aside approximately 18 weeks to voyage 6,867 miles through 13 countries. This significant quest gives them unique exposure to communities and people of historical and social value. In the heat of the night under the rays of the full moon, the sound of the crackling fire bounces on the airways. The fire flies are the starlight of the surrounding forest. Griot Chinyere looks into the faces of this newly formed team and wonder if they wonder as she does how they will ever explain the spiritual evolution she has experienced. her day to day life is transforming from ordinary to extra ordinary. The learning that comes from acclimatising to a new way of being. Will the stories gathered, the video clips, the photographs the drawings be enough to show the emotional, mental and physical challenges on this odyssey? Will these tales become time honoured legends as they, seek the wisdom of the indigenous?

 

Something in the air changes and simultaneously they all avert their attention away from the fire. The eyes rest on the figure of an elder. It is hard to tell the gender. When Griot Chinyere receives the gaze of the elder she is compelled as the others are, to stand up and follow this figure into the darkness of the forest. They stop at a clearing framed by twelve trees. And in the night on this full moon there comes a chorus of animal spirit chants. The eyes of the elder light up. As clear as the stars in a night filled sky, Griot Chinyere realises this is the elder who will pass on the gift of the ancient story. Vibrations run up her spine and through her head. This is a rites of passage, a mystical, definitive moment.

 

Griot Chinyere meditation moves forward; she is stepping out of the truck. The Kepko community call and response causes an eruption of energy to ricochet throughout the land. They celebrate the safe return of their Queen mother. The free spirit crusaders are welcomed with open arms. The long awaited festivities begin. A colourful ceremony of singing voices, dancing bodies, clapping hands and drumming hearts generates continuous pulsations. The master crafters are called to begin the work. The ancient story lays the foundation. Red clay from spirit mountain forms the structure, bamboo from ancestral swamp decorates the walls, wood from old furniture, panels the floors and a thatched roof adorns on top. The energy flow divinely shines through the large open windows. At the centre of the 6-roomed retreat is the inner temple of sacred story divination.

 

This divinely creative space attracts an international circle of Griots and storytellers. Beautiful spirits sojourner here during the Solstice, for the Sesa Wo Suban Storytelling Festival. These eager ones go on a magical journey of the imagination as they enjoy annual renditions of ancient & contemporary stories. Many ones, fall in love with Ghana. A chosen few are gifted land in exchange for producing community projects promoting Afrakan culture and the potency of Mother earth! Some repatriate, attracted by; the excellent lifestyle opportunities, the ability to further develop the stable infrastructure, and a chance to contribute to the growing economy. Others return time and again to their favourite holiday destination.

 

The ancestors smile as the prophecy is fulfilled. The Kepko community live happily for eons.  Their centre of magic, wisdom and healing traditions, spurs the children to pass on Afrakan stories to their children, their children’s children and all the children throughout the generations. At the end of the meditation Griot Chinyere gives thanks to the ancestors for the vision and with a humble bow to the tree, an inwardly smile to herself she exits the snow laden garden to raise energy and resources. Isé

SESA WO SUBAN - voice of the community

 

 

Sesa Wo Suban

by Chukwuxavier - 9 years old

 

The festival really boosted my confidents and tested my patience. I made a documentary that took a year, created a guided meditation that took 3 months and wrote, edited and rehearsed a creation story that was 5 -7 months so overall we spent 1year 9 months preparing for this festival however it is worth it. The festival was nerve racking and exciting at the same time. People really enjoy our young spirit.

Some people did not want to come but were made to by someone. After ½ a day they really enjoyed it. I think it was because there were children and games plus your own divine self-reflection. We also went for walks in forests and through cornfields where we saw horses galloping. We picked corn and ate it. It was pretty juicy and sweet.

This festival is unique because no.1 it’s run and attended by divine beings. 2 brings up the next generation in divine style. 3 it’s camping. How many festivals have all those bits. I have to say that there was one particular workshop that I really enjoyed which was the cosmetic making that was really getting to nature. We had to listen about how to make soap how to pick a sting nettle with bare hands and not be stung. Then we went in to the forest and picked nettles and picked other plants such as elderflower and yarrow. Then aunty Michelle, the one who ran the workshop, showed us how you use these plants for soap making teas and oils.

We had a open fire where my mum and her friends told stories every evening and where we would cook on an open fire, warm up at the fire and we even had a workshop there which was about astronomy and how sound has shape and colour. How shape and sound were connected to elements.

Everyone that did not come to the festival really missed out.

Get ready for next year!

 

 

Afrikan Story Telling Festival comes to London 

by ©Dimela Yekwai - Sunday, 1st June, 2012 

 

Afrikan Story Telling Festival came to London, Edgware to be precise in a forest with all the charm of nature and the vibrancy of sacred fire crackling as dry wood surrendered its accumulated energy releasing heat not only to remind us of home but the eternal purpose for which we had entered this sacred space from all walks of life and areas of England.  

 

We had come to pay homage to our sacred mother, Afrika and her children who were dispersed so brutality through the middle passage birthing had also come seeking and giving healing and acceptance as we recognised each other in the circular journey of sacred love.  

 

We had answered the call of our sister and visionary, Chinyere, whose name means God’s own blessings and had come in our red, green and gold stating boldly we have survived the holocaust and we are here because we have a story to add to this sacred shrine in this ancient woods just outside of modern 21st century England. With the wisdom of Sankofa standing boldly erect stating we are here to take the best of the past into the present thereby impregnating it with sacred divine potential so tomorrow will be all it can be for the children, our future, as the chanting wind boldly stated, â€˜only God is greater’. 

 

The sacred drums reverberated their primal rhythm in the heart of this forest and the storytellers and audience warmed up for the offering of this three day Afrikan odyssey our spirits had become one with the purpose of journeying to our ultimate possibilities using stories as a conduit.  

 

In that resolve we feasted on word sounds, music, laughter and dance as our spirit interacted with each other in the summoning of our Ancestors to bless our gathering and so we were as we cooked using the energy of primal fire and as we ate we did not deviate from the spiritual focus of our gathering and so the children were given this sacred space around the fire to hear as well as tell their stories.   

 

Refreshed the griols of ancient wisdom recommenced the journey of this ancient traverse as we returned to Afrika singing the praise songs of phenomenal women and men such as Nzinga, Yaa Asantewa, Nanny of the Maroons and Kwudjo, her brother among others.  

 

There were stories of economics as the role of Queen mothers among the mighty Ashanti regulated the price of commodities in the markets, of mathematics Imotep, one of the mathematical genius of ancient afrika was visited as medicine, philosophy religion all sung their songs of praises to their birth mother, AfrikaWe explored stories of mighty warriors, of master builders.  

Symbolism and the importance of animals were explored for example the Aesop stories from Aethiopia and the use of animals to teach sacred values especially aimed at children and young people.  Kweku Anansi, the spiderman  of Ghana who travelled with his children through the middle passage birthing into the Americas and have subsequently inspired spiderman, a popular film genre across the western world. 

 

Story telling was always considered the elixir of life and this knowing was reawakened among the Afrikan Diaspora in a wood in North London as we revisited old values reconnecting with our ultimate mother nature and all that entails as we gathered medicinal herbs, berries and other suckle tiesIt was three days of joy and wonder of being with self in nature as we listened to her praise song of love and beauty.  Blessings be as we are reminded of friends we have gained! 

Give thanks to the sacred cycle because all is well in the world. 

 

Chinyere when is the next one?  

 

 

Sesa Wo Suban Afrakan Storytelling Festival

by Eli Anderson

Greetings.

One week ago, Africans from the diaspora changed European history. I was there. We camped, we debated with love, we listened to Elders and those who have knowledge of the Universe both on a temporal and spiritual level. And the children who participated, visibly grew in power and knowledge. My own sons, drummed sounds into the feet of the most beautiful Africa women on the planet. We woke to ancient sounds, and spoke truth without fear. All the children from all different ages, played, debated, talked and sat with adults in a village. It was a privilege to be a member of this village. The storytellers spoke and knowledge was exchanged around a camp-fire, from child to child, child to adult and Elder to the village. So much happened, it was difficult to say. 

My sons commented upon the vegetarian food. They said it was nice, tasty and you felt you could eat nuff. 

I never heard anyone complain, raise their voice, except to laugh, acknowledge the gifts of understanding or call for a child. I am still affected by the power of that event, and have already seen myself at the next event. 

Two memories.
The first.
After a storytelling workshop. two children walking home hand in hand, against the blue/white and pink sky with no fear, no stress, no worries. 

The second. 
When the drummers sent the energy of the village into the sky, during the rain, to bring the sun back. Powerful, powerful, powerful, divine.

OL, Eli.

 

 

 

 

SESA WO SUBAN AFRAKAN STORYTELLING FESTIVAL

A few friends has been talking about Sesa Wo Suban festival and I’d somehow managed to find myself on an email distribution list that outlined the weekends array of activities.  I had been camping several years ago and to be frank did not have a great experience. It was wet and rainy and goodness knows why I aspired to do all it again when I spent most of them time being damp!  I think it was the re-connection with nature that I was thirsting and the opportunity to slow everything down that led me to explore and eventually confirm my place at the festival.  I knew it would be a challenge but when I heard that there would be story-telling, workshops, drumming meditation and yoga I just knew that I had to go.  Even though I don’t have children of my own I wanted some child like energy and the storytelling festival was the perfect package. The workshops were as wide ranging as making cosmetics, to returning back to Ghana and tye-dye.  I had been looking for some Moringa powder and knew that the stalls were likely to be able to help.  Lastly I wanted some Vegan menu inspiration and knew the two Vegan/Raw stalls would give me that also. All in all it was an event I planned to go, no matter who else was coming with me.

 

So did I get what was on the tin?  That and more.  As soon as I arrived the challenge began.  8 Hours putting up tents was one challenge that I was not prepared for.  It’s not that I don’t like hard work (silence at the back!) it’s just that I have a philosophy – you can’t be good at everything!  And so whilst I push myself on lots of things I was quite happy to accept that tent pitching was not one of them.  The subsequent downpour of rain finally re-affirmed my commitment to not master this tent building thing and quite frankly I was ok with that. I think it was the realisation that I might not have anywhere to sleep that night that persuaded me to change my attitude. As time progressed and we eventually finished putting up the communal tents I collapsed into my new abode and received my first twinge of satisfaction from persevering through and sleeping in my own tent (ok it was borrowed but for that weekend it was my palace) that I erected with my own hands. It the closest I’ve come to a Robinson Crusoe moment and I was very proud.  From then on the festival gripped me.  The natural sunlight stirred me the next morning at about 5:30am and I was given a slightly louder call by the tapping of an African drum that later developed into a full on orchestra of instruments and singing.  I joined them, under the morning sun with my own instrument (handed to me from a child who had been playing with it earlier) and we toured the site waking the others to attend the first African Village meeting.   

 

Through the rest of day I helped get the site or village into order, organising tasks, helping new- comers to settle and playing with the children. The weekend continued with various communal chores and with options to join in activities like yoga, collecting wood for the fire and attending workshops. Evenings were filled with campfires and again the option to spend time with others or to wonder off on your own for some reflection.  I did both.

 

The festival is firmly in the calendar and I cannot wait until next year.  Particularly for

those concerned about the weather (as I usually am) my advice is don’t let it stop you

from enjoying an experience that a week afterwards I’m still revelling in. Along with your

tent and sleeping bag, make sure you have your Wellies’ a couple of pairs of socks and if

you are lucky some sun tan lotion and you will be absolutely fine!

 

It’s hard to specifically define what was so magical about the weekend and my guess is

that it wasn’t just one thing that made it so special.  It was just the charm of the wide,

open green space that allows you to just switch off.  It was the freedom of the forest that

allowed me to run with the children barefooted without fear.  It was the reminiscence of

an African village with its togetherness and security that was more welcoming than my

own village and even to places I’ve visited in Africa (Just goes to show it isn’t just about

geography).  It was the stripping of status, qualification and general adornment of who

we might be in the city/concrete world to be replaced with warm accepting non-

judgemental human connections.  We danced with the forest and it danced back with us.

The sun responded to our drum calls, the flames of the fire were sparked by our singing

and the rain thanked us in our closing ceremony as we celebrated our gathering and said

good bye to the experience – until the next time.

 

 

Peace and Love

 

Vanessa

The Birth Of a Storyteller!

 

 

LONDON
It was a long time ago, well it seems like a life time ago when I first heard of a place named Nigeria. Was it in the arms of my mother? Was it a whisper from my ancestors? Was it at one of the Igbo gathering where someone was either getting married, or engaged, or christening a baby? or was it at a monthly meeting? My first memory of the word Nigeria I cant recall. What I do remember is I did enjoy those times my mother and I spent together getting ready for some such gathering. My mum didn’t like people to think she was a single parent. Part of that cover up job was to make sure her daughter looked crisp. My dresses were often tailor made using very expensive materials. I loved getting measured up for a new dress I felt like the princess at the ball. All the accessories, the handbag, the tights, the shoes, the ear rings, the necklace all my jewellery was 24 carat Afrakan gold. Sometimes I would have a little tiara to compliment. My mother went one step further she would wear matching make up and matching underwear. Not that anyone got to see her underwear but it mattered to her. My mum was the kind of mum that ironed her underwear. She refused to put it on with creases. Everything matched! For formal occasions my mum wore the most beautiful traditional attire. For a birthday party it was western thing nonetheless done with style.
 
The air filled with excitementas we prepared jallof rice, or mymy or chin chin or akara or some other dish to contribute. Traditional dishes took a long time to prepare and tasted delicious then melted in the mouth and disappeared down the throat in a matter of seconds. The food always had pepper to flavour. Amongst us children we would compete, who could eat the hottest food. The tears would well up in our eyes but we would swear on the Nigerian flag we were coping very well and in actual fact it didn’t have enough pepper in it. When nobody was looking I would throw a gallon of water down my throat. It never actually helped, everything seemed to intensify in heat. Even the cold English air could not cool it down. 
 
RESPECT
We refered to everyone as aunty and uncle. Any adult had authority to put us straight. I loved to listen, watch the mouths moving and the bodies expressing. What did I understand of the matters being discussed. What fascinated me was the whole expression. I do remember my mum would laugh a lot at these Igbo gathering occasions. My mum was relaxed like she was at home. She loved taking photographs with her Igbo sisters. All her troubles seem so far away. They would speak of home,  specifically Igbo land, Umuhia. They would speak of the Biafran war; the lives lost, the pain endured and the visions smashed. They would speak about family breakdowns, deaths, births and marriages and interpret history our way. 
 
What we the children got from that. Well! We would meet up at the bottom of the stairs and retell the events of the whole evening. We created this unique language which was niether English or Igbo. We all understood the rules and expressed our selves freely and understood each other perfectly. I didn’t appreciate those times then as I do now. I didn’t get the relevance to my being then as I do now.
 
Umuhia, what am I missing? Why my mum always spoke of those times with such fondness. I didn’t speak my mother tongue but I inner- stand the stories. Those regular meetings with our community gave me a sense of village. Of course I didn’t understand that then. In London the Igbo community were close knit and kept a keen eye on each other. England was not my home, it was a place I was staying until I got home. Afraka was my home. My home was where my mums home was, I got a very strong sense of that.
 
THE NEWS
I remember one summer it might have been the summer of 1976, no it couldn’t have been, I went back for the first time in 1974. It was one of those rare occasions when it was very hot in England. That summer’s day my mum compared the English heat to Afrakan heat. Well I was very hurt that anything in England could be compared to the land of paradise. The land of my mother. I felt my mum was being disloyal. I asked my mum if she was sure she wanted to make that statement. She had no idea what was going through my young mind. 
 
My mum was not a big drinker, she would have the equivalent to half pint of Guiness and then, hey! She would fling back her head and feel free to cackle, free to get up and dance, free of disciplining her child, others took that on, free of paying bills in that moment, free of delivering babies for other mothers, she was surrounded by her people and she was free to express herself and she was happy.
 
When I heard we were going to home these images came to mind. I was excited. I was finally going to meet real auntys and real uncles that were my mum’s sisters and brothers. I would meet my grand mother and grand father. My grand father was the chief in our village and my Grand mother was the spiritual leader. I had status. I was important in my community. I would see the place where my mother was born. I would pick oranges off the orange tree that mum had told me so much about. Well every time she bought oranges from a London market she would complain “"they a’re expensive and back home I would pick them from the tree and the juice would be dripping".” 
 
THE QUESTIONS
I was going on a plane for the first time. I would feel the Nigerian sun on my skin. I asked so many questions. I cant remember all the questions I asked, I cant even remember what questions I asked exactly. Probably  â€œdo they sell cornflakes?” That was important because that was my daily breakfast. “Did they have traffic lights?” Didn’t get the irony of my question at the time. Now I know we, Afrakans, invented traffic lights and the colour of traffic lights, are the colours of Afraka. I am almost sure I would be concerned with running water from a tap in the house as I was not about to travel through the jungle to gather water and fight off wild animals. Would there be electricity? I would need to keep the light on at night to keep the untame intruders at bay. No, no all relevant questions to a 10 year old who had seen those stories about Afraka every Saturday morning, through the eyes of Tarzan. A 10 year old, who understood not her inner contradictions.
 
JOURNEY TO THE VILLAGE
Tired, hot, fed up of being in a car for what seems hours. When we got into this car it was just me and my mum. Then a few minutes later someone else got into the car. “Mum why are they getting in our car?” I was most indignant. Mum explained that taxi’s in Afraka were public transport and we all shared. "What a waste to have a taxi to yourself". The words made sense but still a car is a bit small to be sharing with a stranger in this heat. And in the time of our journey we had people coming and going. “Are we there yet” a constant, through out the journey. 
 
After 17 hours of travelling along dusty, untarmaced road, the car turned off a main road onto a dirt track. Another bumpy, unkept, full of holes dangerous road. At least now only mum and I and off course the drive were in the car. 
 
After 3 minutes or so of bouncing around in the car as it progressed toward our final destination a big smiley face knocked with enthusiasum  on the car window. Said a few excited words to my mum. That was the beginning of the Igbo whisper. That person ran up the road, foot was faster than car. That is how bad the road was, and passed the message onto another. Crowds of people began to gather along the path. Many people appeared and many hands were placed on the car, on the window, through the open window, I began to feel like royalty. Singing and shouting dancing and chanting. I could tell from Mum's face, she was not expecting this. I began to feel suffocated. “Mum what is going on?” It’s been 17 years since she was in the village and this is a big occasion. The villagers had heard she was coming but refused to believe it until they caught sight of her. The movement of the car became slower and slower as more and more people gathered around the car to see if what they heard was true. 
 
Da Vicky was home. In the Igbo culture it doesn’t matter where you have travelled in the world as a daughter of Igbo land you must come home to pay respects, and listen to the ancestors. When an Igbo passes from this world they must come home to be buried. When they come home to be buried their spirit is free to travel anywhere, but they must come home.  
 
Our drive toward the family compound became slower and slower as more and more people came out to see what was going on. Hands through the window, hands on the car body, hands waving in the air singing praises to a higher force. Their daughter had returned. The car was moving slower than a stroll in the park on a scorching summers day. We had finally got there. We turned into the compound of my grand parents. All I could hear “"Hee! Da Vicky is home”!" Some people were so over whelmed they threw themselves to the ground. The car door was opened and the community energy carried her from the car. I was sat inside deciding that I was not going to come out. There were too many people, too many eyes staring. I just wanted to hide. I looked in the car for a hiding place. Where can a 10 year old hide in a car? 
 
HOME 
I called to my mum. Why was she leaving me? Well that call only brought a greater amount of attention to me. I too was lifted out of the car by the energy of the village. So many women arms, hands and breasts. Some warm and soft, some hard and welcoming, some held me so tight I thought I should save my breath for later in case I needed it. 
 
Have you ever gone to a parallel universe where you experience every emotion simultaneously and yet you observe what is happening to you subjectively. All the sounds rolled into one. Life became a slow motion movie. Language was a sound that expressed the spirit of this story. There just seems to be more and more people to hug or shake hands with or learn from or be with. Every emotion, every sense, every neuron, every nerve, every atom was agitated to the fullest compacity. I was charged, full battery, I was afraid of over load. Happiness ruled my fear.
 
Then a path was created by people moving to one side. There standing at the threshold of the doorway was what I worked out to be my grandparents. My mum hugged them both. Tears poured down my grand mothers face. Actually my grand father shed some tears on this occasion. It was a momentous occasion. Their eldest child, who had left Umuhia 17 years ago. From England she had been the responsible eldest child. She worked hard sent money home for her six brothers and sisters, and their husbands and wives if they had them, also looking after the two children she had left unwilling behind. Everyone waited outside and I took that breath I had been saving. What a relief!
 
In the Igbo village, story telling is part of the everyday ritual of life. It is how we receive our guidance, our inner-standing, our philosophy, our morals, our wisdom, our direction, our therapy, our music, our laughter, our breath. It is our raison d’etre. For every occasion there is a story. Stories are shared with anybody of any age. The stage is set, my mother is home, old stories would be remembered and new stories created. An historical event is occurring and the future needed to have this knowledge. 
 
STORYTELLING HERITAGE
This was still primarily an agricultural community. The evening meal is still the most involved and the most substantial meal of the day providing sustenance for the daily farming of the land. We plant, we tend, we grow and we harvest the food. Yam, plantain, rice, cassava, spinach, okora, cho cho, cucumber, broccoli, green vegetables, mangos, oranges, pineapple, bananas, pears, and, while gathered around what sometimes is a multitude of cooking fires mothers, aunties etc entertain  with various stories. There is an Igbo saying “"A good storyteller comes from a good fire”!" In this atmosphere of family improvisation, young children are encouraged to tell their own stories. And often after bellies are full and dishes are clean, the children sit and practice their storytelling technique. I learnt from listening to the Women, the men and the children the strong sense of culture comes from the food we eat and the stories we hear and tell. When would it be my turn?
 
The Igbo tradition of storytelling is part of my heritage. All these stories being shared with me can never be stagnant for each story traces the lifeline of the teller. Stories arrive in the air, on the wind, from our lips, they are whispers of the sea, they are the creaks in our bones, they are in the first words of a baby and the laughter of a mother. 
 
As a child of the Diaspora this journey made it very clear on what I have missed from being Educated in Britain, where the education system does not honour who I am and where I come from. My mother bringing me home to Igbo land as a child of ten years, gave me the opportunity to experience the storytelling around the cooking fire. 
 
They did not ask for money or material goods, they wanted to know my spirit so they asked me to tell the story of my journey to Okwuta village. I was from an ancestral line of healer storytellers on both my mothers and my fathers lineage. Everyone knew it was my last night and the whole village came out to see me. I found myself standing in the centre of a very large yet cosy circle. I knew all the faces now and I felt their warmth. I inner stood their expression. 
 
I had spent 6 weeks being very physical in my expression and this was no different. The words were English but the language was that of an Afrakan girl finding her way home. They all heard my voice. They all saw my expression, they all tasted my desire and they all participated in my story. Some sang, some chanted and all listened. My story was our story, it was a story that belonged to the community. That first journey home provoked a deeper knowledge of my personal history, making my story clear. It gave me an inner strength to surround my esteem.
 
When I returned to England everything sounded different. Language did not have the same meaning. The stories told here I interpreted them differently. I could hear the lies and taste the truth.   

Honouring a Chief!

Prosper taking notes, myself pouring libation and Ras Kweku our guardian

 

As part of sharing my mission with the community of Battor in the Volta Region, I am introduced to the chief. It is a process that is good to learn and respect. It is always good to pay homage to our dear chiefs because they  hold our ancient culture and tradition. Yes some of our beloved chiefs have lost their way but I feel strongly we can not sit here in the west and judge. We must support them and the ancient way through repatriation and standing by their side.
 
Before I can see the chief I must first seek permission through the Liguist called  Okyame in Twi and locally called Tsiami in Ewe.Tsiami conveys my messege to the chief and then an appointment is booked for me. This can happen in either a month, a day or minutes after my message reaches the chief. I am blessed with Ras Kweku who organises all those matters for me before I arrive in the Volta region. 
 
Before I go to the chief, Ras Kweku has also organised a bottle of local schnapps, as the present day custom demands to be delivered. I know some of us have issue with the using of certain spirits on such occasions. Mine is not to judge and condemn, mine is to have a reasoning around why? Think of it like this when you go to visit someone for dinner, party or some other such special occasion you normally walk with something to share. This custom of bringing something happens in most places but what the item is for sharing will change with every tribe / community. The chief and his sub chiefs and elders meet at the palace or whatever the most prominent and appropriate place is for the said gathering.
 
Ras Kweku and Prosper, who are connected to me, lead me with some other people who are connected to the palace, to the appropriate place for the meeting. The chief and his elders give the most warm traditional welcome which includes a call and response which I do not know but want to learn before my next visit. Once the welcome from them to me is complete I am guided to rise up from my seat and follow Ras Kweku and Prosper in greeting each prominent person in the circle from left to right, listening to their name and exchanging my name with a warm shaking of the hand. Prosper is from this village and works with Ras Kweku and myself to deliver the vision of Repatriation. I am sad to hear so many European names amongst them. Of course these were all reasonings I would encourage once they had got to know my heart better.
 

The Elders giving a warm call and response welcome

 

I return to my seat. A few verbal exchanges are made. Tsiami turns to me and explains, they are asking - "What is your mission?" I respond, with thought and consideration, "To develop a creative space where Afrakans from the diaspora and Afrakans from the continent can come together in divine unity through creativity to build a stronger empowered Afrakan nation". That is a mouthful, however it came from the heart. And I am thinking one village at a time. I will need to find many others who feel this is also their mission. It is not a one woman show! Community work requires a community.
 
They also ask "What shape would it take?" Ras Kweku and I have a moment together discussing the best response to that to question taking into account who we are and what our vision is. Ras Kweku very graciously reminded me that it must be something I am passionate about. He went on to say "I recognise that you are passionate about evolving and guarding the ancient oral traditions of Afraka. In that moment we sat and looked at each other and a vision materialised. We had talked about it earlier and it came to us both simultaneously.
 
We presented them with the idea of a storytelling festival, and they loved the idea. Everyone in this circle shared the same basic principles. So now we had to chose the form, shape and pattern the festival would  take. We also had to be clear on how this partnership between Afrakans of the same principle but different perspectives will work? The chief and his elders inform me of the situation in the village and some of their concerns. Their major concerns being sanitation, electricity and litter. Matters of concern get repeated until something is done about it. These concerns can be included in the creative reasoning of the storytelling festival. We need to have further reasoning to insure that whatever agreement we come to, is beneficial to all involved.
 
Once we have heard each other, the drink presented by Ras kweku on my behalf is now used to pour libation for our protection and guidance from the Ancestors so what ever work we carry out will bring balance and harmony to all divine beings. Everybody in the circle contributes to the pouring of libation and it starts at a point and works left to right. 

The elders contemplating the mission

 

After the pouring of libation one of the elders draws a line in the sand. He asks me in English if I know what it means. I say I don't. He explains,.." this line represents the ants journey. Your mission is the same as the ant". He notes the curiosity on my face.  He goes on to say "No matter how small the food is that the ant finds, it is brought back to a central place to then be divided amongst all the family. What often happens in the world today is the people get their little piece of food and run off to eat for themselves and have no concern for their sister or brother". All the time he spoke he drew pictures in the sand to illustrate his words. "What you plan to do is what the ants do and I like it.".How beautifully put! More people arrive as we sit around under the mango tree which is the most appropriate and prominent place to be for such a prominent reasoning.
 
The chief, the elders and the community are committed to the vision. Before we leave the Volta Region a committee of 7 people are signed up with designated responsibilties to ensure things evolve at the Battor end with regard to the storytelling festival. The name for the festival comes later!
 

The Chief and I looking forward!

 
I feel blessed and I give thanks to the Divine unity of divine beings who are the descendents of the Divine.
 
 

 

OH MY, A QUEEN MOTHER!

 

 

I opened my eyes with such a smile on my face, I had slept and I had slept well. I took a long breath in and sighed gently. My mind replayed the video of the morning’s events. Oh my divine unity! Did someone say I was going to be a Queen Mother?

 

Should there not be notice for this kind of honour. Nobody told me before I got here. I am not prepared. What will I wear. Why didn’t anyone tell me? I am scared. I don’t like to let anyone down, least of all myself. I will need to make a speech. What will I say? PANIC PANIC PANIC!

 

I ask myself why I had not panicked previously. I was tired and had no energy for such luxuries. It has taken this long for the penny to drop. I speak very directly with myself. “Okay calm down, take some deep breaths a minimum of 8, think positive and trust in what I know”.

 

I take some deep breaths, I do yoga stretches and I call the divine unity within me to fill me with well-being and confidence. So simple and it works. Always keep it simple I tell myself.

 

Ras Kweku calls me to make haste with getting ready to meet the Battor community.  On the way there I ask questions. Question upon question. All met with the response of “Everything is going to be alright”. I arrive at the village square and the women begin to sing my welcome. The welcome ceremony for Chinyere Nwaubani where I will be given the title as Queen Mother. The prominent members of the community make speeches of welcome and blessings. I must greeting the prominent members of the community in certain manner and form. I will talk about this in a later blog. At this moment in time I follow the lead of those who know better and do better. The whole village is here to witness to ceremony.

 

They placed beads around my neck and wrist. The beads represent adornment, belonging, Royalty, responsibility and gorgeousness. The women pour powder on my neck and around my wrist, which signifies my return to my motherland. Originally they would have poured ashes from burnt herbs and incense prepared in a certain fashion to evoke particular powers of healing and remembering. Ash from Hwinteaa, Hemp, Eshe and other ancient plants, bark and herbs. Since the introduction of Western culture we have grown complacent and lazy using powder to symbolise ash.

 

As I am guided to sit down on a particular seat the head woman holds either side of me and lowers me down to the seat, but does not allow me to completely sit down. This action is repeated 3 times. A queen is installed 3 times to show steadfastness, truthfulness and the need to up hold the heritage leading an exemplary life. It is time for me to make an acceptance of responsibility speech referring to my intention and I give thanks for being given this honour. I open myself to spirit. I can not plan what comes out of my mouth I can only open my mouth and allow whatever sounds wish to express themselves to do so.

 

What came out of my mouth is: I arrived in Ghana today after a very long l flight form England via Cassablanca, I feel blessed and honoured to be here amongst the community. I feel your love. I give thanks for the honour of being queen mother and I will fill my responsibility to the best of my ability. (It got translated and I received a round of applause)

 

There was story of a young man who lived in a small afraka village who found a book explaining how we can make electricity. I am inspired by a little boy who found knowledge in a book worked out how to develop the idea of the electricity from the book. I will bring appropriate information to help the women to create an independent electrical supply. If the women are uplifted so they will inspire and empower the future of their children and the future of the community. I feel the women in this community can take charge of doing something like this. (More translation, more bigger applause)

 

This little Afrakan boy is now a leading scientist in the world. Let us be inspired by this little African boy. (Translation and Biggest Applause)

 

I stop speaking while people talk among themselves about what has been said and how it affects them. Assembly man brings the whole speech making session to an end. Now the villagers are greeting me as Queen Mother. It is actually a very humbling experience when people pay homage to me. I can feel the weight of the responsibility on my shoulders. I am okay with it though. It is also very exciting to be put in a position where I can make a difference to some peoples lives. 

 

Assembly man took a record of the people who were present in terms of prominent guests. The elder women then help me to stand up. Then my phone rings and it is my daughter. O2 are not being very nice. I speak to the security guard who more or less tells me that he will not let my daughter into the venue because he was not happy that we made a complaint about the violent way my daughter was treated. After that call which had no conclusion other than me telling my daughter to walk away as she was by herself and we must not fight battles alone. A bit of a surreal situation in the middle of a real one.  Or that the other way around?

 

Overwhelmed is understatement. As I sit at the table eating food prepared for us fresh  by Prospers Mother I keep looking over at Ras Kweku. He returns my look with a satisfied smile. I just ask myself with a warmth “What have I allowed him to get me into?”

 

 

Community Building in Ghana

A VISION

My name is Chinyere Nwaubani, I am a mother of two beautiful blessings, a Storyteller, a Griot, an adventurer and a student of Black Roots Science.

I went to Ghana with a vision, an aim and an objective. I returned with so much more. The thing that struck me the most about my time in Ghana was how ready our people are for change. In two short weeks Ras Kweku and I are able to mobilise a village into taking the first steps toward re-empowering themselves. It is a beautiful sight and a testimony to the strength and divine unity of our people. One of the things I was able to do was set up a women’s group who took on the responsibility of community building and thinking of imaginative solutions to issues and concerns in their community.

MY ARRIVAL

After a long journey with a 5 hour stop off in Casablanca, I am met at the airport in Accra by Ras Kweku Donkoh and his work companion Prosper. All I am looking forward to is a chance to lie down and catch up with some sleep. I request that I be taken straight to the Volta region, which is about 2 hours away. I look forward to a little nap in the car on the way. As I arrive at the car Ras K introduces me to his brother, who politely keeps the conversation short as he can tell my head is ready to be horizontal. I am also required to make exchanges on the telephone with one or two people, before we finally set off. My eyes close and off to black consciousness I go.

 

We arrive in Battor Volta Region 2 minutes after I open my eyes, The memories of being here 3 years previous are clear in my head. It feels nice. The Volta Region for me has a certain vibration no other place in Ghana has for me. Though the physical home of my family is Igbo land, my spiritual home is definitely here. Felt it the first time I saw this place on the map 9 years ago.

 

It is more than 12 hours since I have been in the horizontal position. I am shown the house I will be staying in. Off course I must greet the house owner and exchange energies. He needs to see me and feel my presence. This is not where he lives it is a house on the back of his water business. I have been smiling the whole time, because more than anything I am happy to be here in Afraka.

 

I put my suitcase down, take my stance to leap onto my bed, when Ras K says the elders of the village are gathered and want to meet me. Okay I can do this with a good heart and a bright smile. We meet under the mango tree. I am introduced formally. They ask my reasons for the visit and my intentions. We pour libation and they welcome me into the community. As the meeting progresses, more and more people arrive to see who this stranger is, in their midst.  They pull a stool a watch. After an hour they can sense I am flagging.

 

Before they let me go, they decide that when I return later for further introductions they will make me a Queen mother. I know for sure it is because they want my ego to take control which would then lead me to throwing money at the situation. Well don’t get me wrong I do have an ego but I don’t have money to feed that ego so I have to think of imaginative ways to solve a problem. My initial reaction is to decline the Queen Mothership, but something told me that would be a very bad move. Instead I ask “What are the responsibilities of a Queen Mother?

 

As I sit under the shade of the mango tree surrounded by tradition, history and culture in the faces of the people, young & old alike, the crowds grow steady with more and more people arriving, I wait for the answer.  The Assembly man tells me, The Assembly man is the man who connects the village with local government, that I have to focus on the issues of the women . As new people arrive to the circle they are updated and I am required to introduce myself generally and personally, including the babies, which I might add is an absolute pleasure. I think I am getting my second wind. Just means tired ness leaves me for a while. Everytime I introduced myself and outline my intentions I recieve a welcome again with more warmth.

 

The assembly man, finally explains that my position is honourary and I would be here to deal with the issues of the women. He goes on to explain, since the building of the damm the women have lost their lively hood. They can not longer collect oysters from the river and sell them at market. This affects their income greatly. The damm stops the Oysters travelling. “The Women are suffering”.  I accept the honour and my mind begins ticking. Sanitation and electric supply are also issues on the agenda. This is where a voice in my head says “Throwing money at the situation will cnot ause an issue to cease. We must have the right frame of mind for progress to take place successfully. “ I thank them all for their curtesy and warmth, reasure them that I am looking forward to getting to know them and iinform the curious eyes in the crowd, I feel blessed to be here. Prosper translates my words so all can innersatnd. They clap with smiles and glee.

 

At this point I am given leave, Ras K who has been by my side making sure I dont insult anyone through ignorance of the customs turns and smiles. He gives me confidence to talk as though I have been doing this kind of thing all my life. He reassures me that the elders, chiefs and villagers are happy. He takes me to my room. I shower, oil myself well well, to deter mosquitos and any other little parasite from biting and or sucking my blood. This time, before I enter my room, I turn to Ras K and give him a look. He knows what this look means. “Yes you can go and sleep” he responds with a smile. Just before I fall into my sleep he gently reminds me that I will be attending a ceremony at 4pm to welcome me as Queen Mother. With those words I fall into a beautiful, deep and traffic free sleep. The birds sing, the cock crows and the sun shines as I visit my black consciousness once again, only this time I am horizontal.

 

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