Kilonshele everyone. I know I have not posted in nearly a week and I am very sorry. It was a combination of things namely not being able to access the internet using my dongle. I was very busy so I was not able to go to the cyber café, in addition I was suffering from a bout of exhaustion which meant I had to rest over the weekend, no travel no writing, nothing. I hope you can all forgive me. It’s a real shame because so many interesting things happened between Tuesday and Friday, I will combine it all into this one post.
As I finished my last full post, I felt uneasy because I didn’t feel the same level of excitement the night before Salah/Eid Kabir as I did as a child. One of the core reasons for this was because my siblings were not with me, it was just me in the same house without all the energy and company of my best friends. I have missed them a lot on this trip but I did not realize how much until the night before Salah. I realized that I was trying to re-create some of the happiest memories of my childhood- this is impossible. The reasons those times were so memorable were because it happened as it was supposed to, it was not planned. It wasn’t until the morning of Salah that I realized how much my siblings were instrumental in creating my happy childhood; I missed them that morning more than any other time.
I was ready by 7:30 am, I put on my aso odun (festival outfit) which my dad had ordered from his tailor, I spent the next 15 minutes looking for a hat that would fit my enormous head, after trying 4 or 5 I finally found one that fitted me. My father, stepmom and Mr Manager left for salah prayers around 8:30am. On the way to the praying ground, the memories came flooding back when I saw families wearing their finest matching aso odun, people buying their sacrificial rams at the last minute, even the policemen were in a jolly mood. We drove into University of Ibadan mosque as we had done all those years ago and it seemed that nothing had changed. People and cars were making their way to the mosque to meet the 9am prayer time. We found a parking spot and my dad and I made our way to the prayer site which was outside the main mosque building. I followed behind my dad as I had always done a child, but the only difference this time was that I was taller than him and he was not holding my hand. The praying ground was packed to the brim, we found a couple spots just in time and we sat down. The Imam led the prayers, it was a beautiful sight as thousands of my fellow Muslims and I performed the required two rakat prayers. Upon completion of the prayers, the Imam delivered a sermon which I couldn’t hear properly because of the open space and the loudspeakers were not great. While attempting to listen to the sermon, I heard some call out Kabir, I instinctively turned to the direction where my name was being called and noticed that 4 or 5 other people did the same thing. The sense of belonging I felt at that moment is indescribable, here Kabir is a common name, it like John or Charles in the UK.
The sight I had waited almost 25 years to see was moments away, the slaughter of the ram by the chief Imam. Everybody was staring in the same direction, there was a sudden commotion and all in unison hundreds of worshippers cried out Alhau Akbar. I looked and saw the Imam holding a bloodied knife in the air, this to signal that the first sacrificial ram had been slaughtered so everybody can go home to slaughter their own rams. I had always wanted to see this but before we left for the UK, but I was always too short to witness the spectacle- mission accomplished. Everything seemed to have remained the same, the hawkers, beggars, and traders were still around, the only significant change was that 20 years ago, only the privileged few had cameras, – today a lot of people were taking pictures on their smart phones.
We arrived home around 10am and the preparations for the day began, I changed into my `work clothes` and prepared for the slaughter of my father’s ram. Mr Manager and a couple of my father’s employee prepped the ram for slaughter by tying three legs together as it lay on its side on the concrete floor; I assisted by covering the animal’s eyes with its ears. Under the watchful eyes of my father who was watching from the balcony, Mr. Manager put a sharp knife to animals throats and cut……I watched in silence as death came swiftly. After my minimal contribution, I was a spectator for the rest of the day’s events. I watched as the employees put the carcass on the fire to burn off the hair, it was then chopped into pieces and given to the women to cook. The whole process took about 4 hours and by 3pm , I was eating fried rice and three piece of fresh meat. It was nice spending Eid Kabir with my dad in my own house in Akobo- but truthfully it was not like I remembered it.
Oba arrived to pick me up around 4pm and we made our to my mum’s house in agara which was more livelier than my dad’s house in Akobo. They had slaughtered two rams for the occasion and the party was in full swing. As customary, during Eid celebration, food was packed and delivered to my mum’s neighbors. Muyiwa and Oba had invited their friends round which made it a more festive atmosphere, I got some food joined them, I enjoyed their company but at a certain point I felt I didn’t really fit in- it made me miss my friends back in London a little bit. My childhood friend Titi came round and I spent most of the evening with her. I escorted Aunty Sheri to another Eid party her friend was hosting in another part of town which was fun. We returned home around 10pm and continued the party till around midnight.
As I went to sleep that night, I suddenly realized something which had eluded me for nearly 33 years: the reason they call Eid Kabir “Odun ile ya” in Yoruba. Ile ya means going\ coming home in Yoruba but I did not understand the significance of that title till I drifted off to sleep. Over the past couple of days, when people where talking about their preparations for Salah, most of them talked about going to their home towns or villages to celebrate the festival. Others , when making their travel plans would consider the best times to travel because of heavy traffic due to people going home of eid. Ile ya is called that because people literally go home.
Although the day did not turn out as I had remembered, it was a wonderful day and I am grateful I was able to spend Eid Kabir at “home”.
(sorry cant post any pics yet, dicey network connection!!!!!!!!)