Growing up, I got into a lot of arguments trying to protect my tribe. I once took on a full classroom (full of hormonal boys whose voices were the definition of bass) and made everyone get punished because of the noise the argument caused. Our proprietress stood up for me and I wasn’t punished even though my tiny voice was the loudest. She’s dead now but it’s one of the things I’ll never forget about her. She liked me; so her judgment may have been biased or based on pity for the minority, but whatever her reasons, she had my back that day and I’ll forever remember.
I’m Ngwa. I don’t have the full gist but the main grudges people hold against my people is that, we’re short, cannibals, notorious criminals and that every one of us dabbles in juju.
Most Ngwas have let this stereotypes define them and so there’s always a pause when you ask them where they’re from. I’ve been there. As a child, I didn’t want to be associated with people who ate human meat and who are no taller than “two feet”; Nwa ndede akpuda na – ata anu mmadu.
I was bullied in my own land and the sad thing about being subordinated in your father’s Obi, is that you cannot say, “I’ve had enough. I’m going home.” You’re home. My friends and classmates who threw jibes at my tribe were outsiders from other states and tribes, LIVING IN MY OWN LAND. I mean, you’ve got to marvel at the audacity. How do you disrespect your own landlord?
I went through a period when I was happy if someone said “Ngwa? Really? You don’t look like them.” Then one day, I realised “them” was me. I was “them” and it’s a fact I cannot change. I also accepted the fact that my people might have been cannibals. I mean, what tribe didn’t go through that stage? There might have been a time when we were shorter than others but with intermarriage and all, out heights have increased. Even if it has not, na short we short. Plus, every tribe has criminals and some medicine men.
I’ve had fun meeting my fellow Ngwa people and accepting every beautiful aspect of my culture. The language. The waist dance. The land. It has accepted me too. I have much more fun looking at people’s face distort in horror when they realise they’ve said something bad about my tribe without knowing I was Ngwa. They go, “I’m so sorry. I didn’t know you are Ngwa. Not all Ngwas eat human meat sha. I don’t mean you specifically.” And I go, “We all eat human meat. I have been eyeing your head since.” That response always gets hilarious reactions.
(About that argument I had with my classmates whilst growing up, I might have said some stupid things to some people like Chinecherem Achebe. It wasn’t one of my finer moments… If you see this, do forgive, please.)
So this is just a glimpse of my roots. Your turn now, where are you from?