Red Ochre

Igeda, Benue State, Nigeria.

Beads swayed with her paw-paw shaped hips as she walked down the forest path. Newly painted spirals of Ochre paint made Akum’s coal skin glisten red.  Striding quickly, she rounded the bend to the stream. Green leaves littered the path with colours only Ohe, the creator, could paint. She slowed down where the trees grew closer and the earth became cooler and her mind wandered to the last moonlight dance. Aboh had asked her to be his wife. Being the third and newest wife to the greatest warrior in the village was a thing of pride. She had not thought twice about accepting.

The melody from the night of the dance played in her head and she hummed it. They had finalized their plans as a bat fluttered drunkenly past them in the abating moonlight. Aboh would emerge from the bushes near the Obi river with his friends and “capture” her; just like the warrior he was. Just as tradition demanded. He would take her home and she would his in the eyes of the elders. Her coy smile had agreed with all he said.

“Keep this our secret till its done”, he had whispered. His breath tickled her ears.

A sudden rustle in the thicket broke her reverie. She smiled a knowing smile and walked with slow deliberateness. Figures emerged. First Aboh, then his friend Eje, lastly, a man with skin white like the inside of a yam. Her eyes bulged at the weirdly dressed, balding apparition. A trickle of urine escaped her secret parts.

“I told you she was sturdy, Aboh said to the yam man as he gestured towards her. Take her to the crossing. She will leave for the slave ship at Akwa Akpa in a week”.

Eje seized her.



8 thoughts on “Red Ochre” by Onu-Okpara Chiamaka (@Onu-OkparaChiamaka)

  1. Omg she was sold into slavery by the same man who claimed to have loved her..

    1. Unfortunately, yes. The things people go through because of love!!

  2. Entirely mean, Ihunanya! People got paid big bucks then to capture and sell people. You should hear what happened with the Arochukwu (a tribe in Igbo land) slave traders to understand how big a business this was. (I mean no offense to anyone from here).

  3. I loved the imagery of this story. The ending didn’t seem forced which I think showed the quality of the storytelling. I questioned the part where he asked her to keep it a secret. If it was a tradition, why tell her to keep it a secret? And if it is a ‘capture’ why tell her? I enjoyed this story. Kudos.

    1. Thank you Damilola. I do appreciate.

      Well, the tradition states that who ever was interested in a dame could stage a “capture” and she would be his bride. Almost like taking a price during a war. People had to be at the scene too.

      Let’s say he wanted her to assume his friends would be there to confirm his “ownership” of her. Does that answer your question of why she might have gone with keeping it secret?

    1. Thank you Uzywhyte.

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