Apr/May 2006 Nonfiction

A Dance For Her Tiger: Memories of Idu Iyi* rite

by Nnorom Azuonye

The village square bustles with life and excitement. It is just before dawn, and crows of cocks fill the air. A young man's cheeks swell in a labor of melody around the spout of his flute. Unmarried maidens and young men dance and tease in a ring of rhythm around the beautiful Elesola. She is the bright flower Ugente recently plucked from Ahaba only the week before, the temptress he has planted in his yard at Ohaukabi to please him every day and beget his flowerets.

Ah, the tease of the medium rise of her young breasts heaving beneath the light hug of a George wrapper! Lusting grows after the wicked beckons of her bare shoulders--dowried shoulders decorated with soup of white kaolin. The aroma of her womanhood intermingles with the smell of a waking morning, wet leaves and sleepy tulips are roused by the dancing procession towards Okolosi spring, a procession led by Elesola, earthen pot under her arm.

Fascination fills my nine­year­old scrotum with blood. I am one of a curious mischievous score or so minors who tag along, whispering to one another in excitement, indexing from a distance, rounded, breathing bottoms of all the girls allowed to flirt today--girls we thought were good until they opened their mouths to sing:

Obi okazi biri mma n'aka
ikerike ji ka ikpi uto.

Obi okazi biri mma n'aka
ikerike ji ka ikpi uto.

Elesola alaala di
ewu nche ya o!

O kpolie ukwu ya elu
Ugente e jiri amu ghoro ya.

Elesola kpolie ukwu ya elu
Ugente e jiri amu ghoro ya.

Elesola swings, and is encouraged to swing harder her hips to the rhythm of the song in the style of sexual congress while energized youths search for that sign in the leaves along the path to the spring still wet with dew.

The prophesy of the sign is welcomed with jubilation. The girl who finds it screams with joy emerging from the bushes, between her thumb and index finger she sports a praying mantis, it is fighting needlessly for freedom for nobody would dare harm him.

Elesola smiles so wide, and warmly that her face lights up the day.

Her marriage shall be fruitful.

Her first shall be a male child.

She dances, shaking her buttocks with wild grace. Energized by the sign, she swings her hips. She swings her hips. She swings and swings and swings them, as tears of joy wash her face. All the boys hard beneath their shorts just want to die, they love Ugente, they also hate him--but affectionately so, he is the eater of this dream. Lucky cock, that man. Then in the heat of the excitement, the attendant maidens break into a chant:

Call your husband a name.
Call your husband a name.
What will you call your husband?
Eh? What will you call your husband?
Dry meat that fills the mouth?
Servant that drinks from skulls of kings?
Bull that keeps eating though shot at?
Fire that banishes the Harmattan cold?
Call your husband a name.
Call your husband a name.

"Splendor of the tiger," she says, her face at first a mask of apprehension before it turns to sunshine at the burst of applause and various voices rise in the final taunt of the rite:

--Elesola wife to our brother Ugente why do you squat so by the lip of the Spring scooping water into your pot without urgency in your arms?

--Did we not catch a praying mantis for you?

--Is your son not even now at the tip of the knife your husband must use to clear your bush?

--Do you not die to run to the bed of Splendor of the Tiger?

--Or has he no splendor?

--Even now does he not await your moist garden with such a hardness that even he cannot bear?

--If bush agrees, it is cleared. That's how it is.

--We caught the praying mantis, go home to your tiger.

--After all, what is a man looking for in the stream covered with hairy meat if not something that resembles him?

--Carry your water pot Elesola.

--Go home. Elesola, go home. Go to Splendor of the Tiger.



*Idu Iyi--translates into "leading to the stream," a marriage and fertility rite of the Umunnekwu people, Isuikwuato.


**Okazi cutter cuts his finger,
yam crumbs sweeter than sex.

Elesola has been taken a wife,
pity on her hymen o!

If she throws her waist up,
he catches it with his penis.

If Elesola throws her waist up,
Ugente catches it with his penis.


Previous Piece Next Piece