by Edith Magak
Aketch Nyar Sewe died a virgin. Mayoooo! That was very bad, badder than the matter that she had died. We were just crying a little that she had died, because to die after all, was the way of the world. But when we scooped soil from the ground and showered it over our heads to properly start crying, many of our sadness that made big big tears of too much salt to fall from our eyes was because she had gone without tasting a man.
Wolololo! It was the baddest thing to come upon us people of Nyopedi Village. The people of Kano and Rabuor were going to be laughing at us again. And when they went to the market, they would gossip it with the people of Kisumo and Kajulu, tek manade, we were going to be people that made others to be laughing. Because we people of Nyopedi, trouble was always liking us all the time. Wolololo, this was not good at all.
This was badder than when Ma Oketch placed a curse on the whole Nyopedi village so that we could not sit down until her bicycle was found. It was badder than when Jabelo Okoth, during the baraza had accused chief Atiku of secretly tasting his wife. It was chira, it was kwero, it was catastrophic.
The headman blowed his horn twice to call us for a meeting and even before his spit could dry on the ground, everybody in Nyopedi had gathered under the Byeyo tree.
Nobody was refusing to come like other times when he had to be begging, “Please please, I beg you Nyopedi people to come to the meeting.” Now here under the Byeyo tree, everybody was talking and fearing about this trouble.
“Enhe, paruru,” Jakonia, shouted with his porcupine voice and everybody closed their mouth to look at him. “Remember just the other time of the sand harvest what happened when Nyajeri died?”
“No no no,” The people shook their head strongly. They did not like to remember that thing, and now Jakonia was telling them to remember. Myself too, I was not happy with Jakonia.
But now we were all remembering. Even when we were shaking our heads that we did not want to remember. We had buried Nyajeri as a virgin. Her father said that he had already put two big thorns on her feet to stop her from escaping the spirit world. Mayooo, but that was a lie. Every night Nyajeri was coming to ripe girls in their sleep and beating them seriously. She would ask,
“Why did you let me die without tasting a man?” and beat them again and again and when they were almost dying, she would say, “Tomorrow I will come back and kill you so that you also die a virgin like me.” And now she would come again in the sleep of the girl’s mothers and chase them all night with a stick saying, “Eeeih, I will close the stomachs of your daughter.”
All our girls in Nyopedi and their mothers had now been fearing badly. The headman sent the warriors in the bush to find Nyajeri’s body even though it had passed three sunsets after we thrown her. Enhe, they found it. It was smelling owada, and kudni was coming out of her nose, ears and mouth. They poured soap water with salt on her and when she dried, Min mare weared for her clothes and the warriors put her on a mat and brought her to the Byeyo tree. Now the abila brewer was called. He brought four gourds of strong beer which we gave to madman Kowari. After he finished drinking and was now drunker and madder, he deflowered Nyajeri. We threw her again into the bush and her ghost never returned.
Now Aketch Nyar Sewe, another virgin had died. We had to do the ritual again but wolololo, who was going to save us? Had we not buried madman Kowari two moons ago when he fell in a water well?
The people had now finished remembering and were talking again. “Close your mouth everybody!” the headman shouted after some time. But the people didn’t close their mouth. “Hei, hei, keep quiet!” Now everybody kept quiet. The men went on their side to squat and the women went to their side and sat on the soil.
“I have spoken with the Diviner,” when he said that everybody was fearing. “The ritual is we must deflower Aketch Nyar Sewe before we bury her. Or she will bring us big trouble.” Plenty of talking now started.
“Hei, people of Nyopedi close your mouth! Pok atieko wachni.”
Everybody was silent again.
“We will choose one man to deflower her. If you are chosen, no refusing. Or we chase you away from this village. The diviner will throw cowrie shells in the air. If three falls next to your feet. You are the one. Nobody is to be moving at all now. If I see you, I will choose you.”
My heart was beating like a drum. I could also hear many drums beating in the hearts of other men who were squatting next to me. And now I was feeling hot and sweating everywhere. But I could not move because the headman maybe will see me and choose me. Wolololo, my heart was cutting everywhere. This was bad trouble.
I looked at other men. Their eyes were down but mouths were opening very fast and praying. “Obon’go nyakalaga our big-eared god who hears our prayers, be saving me from this cowrie shells.” I prayed too, “Obongo nyakalaga our big-eyed god who sees everything, be saving me from this your ritual jowa.”
The diviner came forward with his cowrie shells readying to throw them in the air. It was time to choose the man who would deflower Aketch Nyar Sewe.
Edith Knight Magak is a writing fellow at African Liberty and a creative writer whose works have appeared in Brittle Paper, Park End Books, Critical Read, Urban Ivy, Voice&Verse Poetry Magazine, Jellyfish Review among others. She lives in Nairobi.
Arati-Reddy Devlin is a UK-trained graphic designer, fine art printmaker, and art and design teacher. Her work has appeared in Aesthetica Magazine, Contemporary Art Curator Magazine, Prometheus Dreaming, and others. Her work has been exhibited and sold to private collections around the world.