brown concrete cathedral


by Nicksha T. Mwanandimayi

According to the Oxford dictionary, ambivalence is the state of having mixed feelings or contradictory ideas about something or someone whereas equivocation is the use of ambiguous language to conceal the truth or to avoid committing oneself. I think it’s fair to say that if you have read a couple of John Grisham novels,  watched CNN or Fox News since Donald Trump became the American president, you would be aware of phrases such as “Separation of State and Power,” “The First Amendment,” or “ Bill Of Rights.”

On the other hand, if you have lived on the African continent like I have for all my life, unless you studied law you would probably have no clue regarding the extension of power between the Church and State. What about Bill of Rights? In Africa, depending in which state you are in, the law and religion exist parallel with each other.

The state’s treatment of the church the world over is ambivalent. Routinely sidelined but recognised in the middle of a crisis especially when all hope seems lost, the church is like the bastard child in medieval England. Historically, the bastard was commonly referred to as a whoreson under normal circumstances. However, when the conditions required it, a post factum legitimisation of the whoreson would be convenient. The state’s treatment of the modern church isn’t much different from the way England’s history views William the Conqueror. With deaths and infection rates skyrocketing I read the following from the Vatican News, “Prayer is our greatest weapon against the virus.” Well, you had me fooled; I was convinced that someone said, “Science was our greatest weapon.”  People better start making up their minds. A month later after prayer had seemingly tarried against the virus, despite it being our “greatest weapon,” in the British Journal of General Practice, Charlotte Sidebotham had this conflicting attestation, “In the COVID-19 battlefield, language is our greatest weapon.” First prayer, now language? What is our greatest weapon against the virus then?

In a world void of absolutes, it’s easy to get lost and be blown aside by every wind of doctrine. On 8 April 2020, despite the Namibian Constitution unequivocally declaring the nation as a Secular nation, President Hage Geingob called for a day of prayer for the protection and welfare of Namibia against Covid-19. Having put the country under lockdown prior to a declaration of a state of emergency President Geingob requested, “churches who wish to participate, to ring their bells at 12h00 Noon on this day. All Namibians who wish to participate must unite in faith, humble themselves and lift their voices to pray for the protection and welfare of our country.”

Namibia wasn’t alone as Southern Africa’s biggest economy also followed suit with President Cyril Ramaphosa also announcing a national day of prayer on Sunday, May 31, in which all religious leaders and members of faith-based organisations were invited to pray for the country which had been hardest hit in Africa by the Covid-19 pandemic at the time. It is imperative to note that just like the former; South Africa is also a self-proclaimed secular state according to its constitution. It just so happened that South Africa was bracing for the worst and the bastard child whom the constitution unequivocally refuses to legitimise and give a voice was the first to receive a post factum legitimisation in times of crisis.

Namibia wasn’t alone as Southern Africa’s biggest economy also followed suit with President Cyril Ramaphosa also announcing a national day of prayer on Sunday, May 31, in which all religious leaders and members of faith-based organisations were invited to pray for the country which had been hardest hit in Africa by the Covid-19 pandemic at the time. It is imperative to note that just like the former; South Africa is also a self-proclaimed secular state according to its constitution. It just so happened that South Africa was bracing for the worst and the bastard child whom the constitution unequivocally refuses to legitimise and give a voice was the first to receive a post factum legitimisation in times of crisis.

What about the world’s greatest superpower with its infamous “Separation of State and Power?” On 13 March I found out there was such a thing as a House Chaplain when I watched a C-Span broadcast of Rev. Patrick Conroy leading the House in prayer primarily in response to the corona virus. Post factum legitimisation of the bastard child again? It seems as if the state had a love-hate relationship with the church. Not that the church hasn’t had its fair share of global dominance in years past. I always choose to live by the notion that you never judge a doctrine based on its abuse.

Everyone says children are sweet and cute, yet you would be considered a sadist if you were to judge a child based on their weak moments. The slimy vomit, unashamed excrement and yes, they intentionally wet their pants but for the better part they are the source of inexplicable joy. In our children we see a hope for a better tomorrow, and we are willing to fight tooth and nail for that whimper snapper. We endure sleepless nights through tantrums but giving up on a child isn’t an option. 

Unlike any child, the church is less than two millennia old and has made its fair share of mistakes. An orphaned child who had to watch the brutal and gruesome murders of her family, the church through faith, zeal and tenacity defied these odds to become a powerful domineering force to reckon with. However, the church erred along the way. In the modern world, if a church were an individual, they would be an inspiration to many, a yard stick of endurance. I dare say if the church was a child in the United States then they would be classified as the typical success story of the American Dream. Enduring beatings, hardships and historically verified persecution; the church also erred in its conduct. In society very rarely do we judge individuals based on their weaknesses but their strengths. We remember Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin and all great men for their great accomplishments even though statistically speaking they failed more times than they succeeded. However, their successes outweigh the sum of their failures. At the onset of the COVID19 Virus, the church was a haven and believers and nonbelievers alike found common ground through prayer. Some prayed out of fear, some out of faith, some did not have a clue, however people were united through faith against a common enemy.


Remember how in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, in the United States when an old school evangelist, Billy Graham was called upon just three days after the attack to bring hope to a nation and a world gripped by fear? Addressing millions of Americans and hundreds of millions the world over at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. Graham an embodiment of the values of the church and its teaching, quoted the Bible, Psalm 46:1  ‘God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.” Hope restored a form of closure to believers and non-believers alike, the church was a unifying force on this fateful day.

In times of crisis when all hope is lost, the law seems prima facie and with death staring in our face in the brink of extinction, humanity seems to always call upon the church.

brown concrete cathedral

On March 14, 2020, President Donald Trump in his speech cited 1 Peter 5:7: “Casting all your care upon him, for he careth for you.”  He further went on to say.’ “Let us pray that all those affected by the virus will feel the presence of our Lord’s protection and love during this time.  With God’s help, we will overcome this threat.” This calling on the church is bipartisan in the United States of America and in countries with a faith-based majority. The ambiguity though is in the detail. If the church is deemed to be the key cog when in crisis, why is its position in politics and in society ambivalent? If the church is essential amidst tragedy, why is it deemed a non-essential when it is time to rebuild? Often relegated to the back burner and ridiculed, paraded and deemed a necessity when the enemy strikes.

As we head towards the re-opening of the economies the world over, the very church which was called upon to fast is seeing hordes of individuals celebrating the reopening of restaurants and pubs whilst it’s deemed nonessential? If our scientific innovation mixed with the “weapon of prayer” were essential to the little progress we have made, why do restaurants and pubs supersede churches in the hierarchy of essential services?  One could even say to deny the church as an essential service is a disregard of human rights. Interestingly enough, people can be entrusted with going to the gym, attending pubs but are denied to gather in places of worship under conditions that are more favourable. 

History teaches us that for better or for worse, every time the church experienced persecution revival broke loose. The church is far more intricate than what people think. Whilst science offers tangible solutions and seeks corporeal answers, to most people in society the church is the source and nourishment of the incorporeal. The church isn’t as archaic as most progressives and liberals seem to think. The church didn’t catch up to science but science to some extent caught up to the church. The church knew, as evidenced in its earliest texts that our existence had a beginning and that space, time and matter are interwoven after all “In the beginning God created.” With a “scientific solution” to the current COVID Pandemic insight, the bastard is relegated to the pastures with the sheep whilst the legitimate sons ponder the future of the kingdom. As the prophet seeks to anoint the incumbent king, the bastard watches from a distance awaiting his time because as history continues to teach us, his time will yet come again. The bastard may yet be called upon to play another ballad for the incumbent king with his harp. The legitimate heirs will continue their equivocations. Regardless of the law’s ambivalence on the importance and role of the church, whenever a crisis arises the church owes it to itself to be a source of hope and throughout history when calamity strikes and the shepherd boy is called upon to play his harp and lyre, seldom does he remain silent.

Source: From the Isolation Issue (September 2020)


NICKSHA T. MWANANDIMAYI was Born in Harare, Zimbabwe in 1985, a recipient of the Junior Budding Writers Association Award, he was featured in local magazines and was editor of The Johnian Echo. He published “Epitaph: Memoirs of a Cymbal,” which was ranked 16th in the Poetry genre on Amazon on 6 January 2020.

QUARENCIA by Aisha Mohammed

QUARENCIA by Aisha Mohammed

hallway with window


by Aisha Mohammed

Sometimes, I remind myself that I am only 18, that I have an old woman’s mind. That the spirit living inside my body is too impatient as it waits for my age and spirit to align. I know I am old. I accepted it a long time ago and this coronavirus pandemic has aged me even more.

My brother and I spent the first weeks in oblivion, unaware of what was to come. Zaria is a place frozen in time. I guess this is how local governments in Nigeria are supposed to be. Growing up, my life was woven around state capitals — Lokoja, Benin and Abuja. It explains why my hometown feels out of sync whenever I am in it.

COVID-19 was still a western problem. Esther and I would laugh about it with the rest of the members of the study group we joined at the beginning of the semester. We would mock the people of the west, their panic buying of tissues and their hysteric rants on twitter. We reduced their pain and the deaths the virus caused to mere hysteria. We did not care, we referenced the Ebola outbreak, the west didn’t care about it then. That’s what we were made to believe. It was easy to believe this. How could the descendants of colonizers care about Africa? It didn’t make sense to begin caring for somewhere you perceived a waste land, only good for raw materials.

Three weeks pre-COVID-19, I volunteered for the first-ever university SDGs summit in Nigeria. It had been a success. I was happy I got to be a part of it. Just after I came back from the mid-semester break, my lover called after deserting me a few days before valentine’s day- the worst day of 2020 I had ordered a cake and wanted to pay for it, only to find out my bank account had been wiped clean of all of the money in it, including the poetry prize I won. I would spend the rest of the year wondering and questioning bank records and my memory on how I could have spent 20,000 Naira in a day. Then, there was the two-week strike, a needed break from the overwhelming schedule of the third-year law schedule. My old spirit was as free as the wind. I attended Open Mics in Samaru, ate ice cream and walked barefoot to my hostel from the gates of Kongo campus on some days. I watched the third season of “Stranger Things” with my brother and befriended solitude. It was a strange friendship because I never thought I would experience such faux happiness. My small room on the second floor of hostel 3 became my haven, although solitude held me prisoner I never wanted to leave. I could move in and out of the room whenever I wanted. My spirit was able to fill up my emptiness with new experiences.

hallway with window

The coronavirus arrived in Lagos on the second day of the USDGS, a day after Murkthar said,

“Coronavirus coronavirus that’s in Lagos already, it’s on a danfo bus to Zaria sef” and we all laughed, we didn’t talk about the magnitude of damage it would bring in, perhaps some of us thought about it, but we assumed it would be another Ebola. It would remain in Lagos and become a Lagos problem. But the virus didn’t stop in Lagos, it became our problem, the federal government shut down schools and places of worship and I had to pack my purple suitcase to prison. I was supposed to spend the weekend in Kaduna with my lover. My father called, and I had to travel on Friday, no farewell ceremony to Kaduna or the lover.

Prison (Abuja) is a soulless place. Its tall skyscraper towered over the hills, and the rocks bordering its edges, serving as walls around the sprinklings of shrubs and greenery spread unevenly between and around the clusters of buildings and hills. I did not like what this place did to me and so I hated coming back to it, but it was home. This place ripped a hole in my chest with its smooth roads and pristine buildings. This time though, I came back slightly excited, resting from my busy schedule seemed nice at the time, the good sleep and proper food I had access to, was something my weary body needed. But two weeks in prison, I no longer had the choice of leaving my house to eat ice cream or visit any of my friends. I was forced to learn to distance myself from people. To be alone occasionally. February whispered to my spirit that my mind wasn’t okay. I began to relapse. Up until then, I never thought I had an anxiety disorder. A school counsellor once told me that I might have one, but I never gave it much thought. I would spend the days after in the pool of frequent panic attacks and finally, I would agree with the counsellor.

I eventually found a way to sate my spirit. I got a new counsellor; I got her contact from a friend on the team of She Writes Woman. A movement created to give safe spaces. I told this one everything- the pregnancy scare that almost became an abortion and my abuse at 13. I started praying properly again. Luckily, I started this during Ramadan, and I could no longer procrastinate and push Fajr prayer to 12 o’clock. My spirit stopped craving freedom; it came to terms with sitting in the semidetached flat on Chingola Street for long periods. It wasn’t easy sating my spirit, it didn’t like mingling and preferred solitude and being in the same house with 5 other people 3 younger than I am didn’t give me this. I had to always be there. I was responsible for everyone’s wellbeing; food, emotional support and my father’s daily fresh ginger tea. Controlling my spirit made my mind more stable I worked diligently to sew up its loose ends. One night amid the rising COVID-19 cases and insomnia. I realized what had broken my mind in the first place. After five years, my mind was no longer a puzzle of unnaturally scattered pieces.

Source: From the Isolation Issue (September 2020)


AISHA KABIRU MOHAMMED is a law student who spends most of her time writing and volunteering. She is the 2019 winner of the Andrew Nok Poetry Prize. She enjoys literature and watering her plant, Godiya.




Fallen Scabs and Dried Sores

by Ohaka Thelma

 The prevalent bustling in Òkè-ìlá was driven by fear and the constant need to survive.

Mama Ayo walked briskly in an attempt to get home before six pm. Her bag of food items was light enough to be clutched to her side with both arms. She was aware that they could be stolen, which would mean water throughout the next week for her family.

She greeted her neighbour and proceeded to enter her home, she could hear her children noisily playing a game called Ten-ten.

“Ayobami!” She called for her first child.

“Yes, mummy?” The 15-year-old ran to her.

“Put these things in the kitchen and boil water. Where are your brothers?”

“They are inside playing. Mummy, is it Eba again? Let us eat rice na.” Ayobami pleaded with her eyes.

“Rice? Don’t you know we need money for other things, ehn? Abi, you don’t want to resume school again?” Granting their desires was essential, but their education was the most important.

“No, I want to go to school. I’ll go and boil the water.” She sighed and left, wondering when her education would stop hindering her wants.

Sirens wailed at a distance, informing everyone what time it was.

8 pm.

Mama Ayo shook her children from their slumber.

“Wake up, wake up. Ayobami stands up and wash your brothers’ faces.”

Ayobami wiped her face filled with confusion. “Mummy, what is happening?”

“It’s time for the weekly inspection, let’s go.” She ushered them outside the house. Neighbours were already outside, their faces clouded with fear.

A loud screeching sound was heard accompanied by a man’s voice on a megaphone.

“Good evening everyone, please remain at the front of your houses. If any family member is not found there, consequences will follow.” Everyone knew the drill. Since the outbreak of smallpox in the past year, the army deployed soldiers for routine checks nationwide to weed out the infected persons and move them to an isolation camp.

When the search ended, Mama Ayo was happy. For every inspection her family survives, her fighting chance increases.

“Ah, Mama Ayo. Did you hear what happened in the Oladele family?” Mama Sade, her neighbor, asked her before she returned inside.

“What happened? Did they take anybody?” This was everyone’s fear in the village; if one person was found, more people could get infected.

“They took one of the children oh, the mother has been crying since she begged them to take her too. It was very sad.”

“It is well. I just pray they find a cure soon. “See ehn, if they take me to the isolation place, I will never take any cure they give me. Who knows if it will kill you faster sef.” She wasn’t surprised at Mama Sade’s beliefs, she heard most people talk like this in the market.

“But what if it can cure you and your children?”

“And what if it kills us faster? Abeg oh! My cousin in another state told me they are doing something called vario-something, do you know what it is? Mama Sade always had the happening news.

“No, what is it?”

She moved closer and reduced her voice. “They will cut you open and infect you with smallpox on purpose! Can you imagine? Olorun maje!” Her shoulders shook in disbelief.

“Ehen? But why? Will the person not be infected too?”

“My dear, that’s what I asked too, they said it will make you immune to the virus. They think we don’t have sense, they want to make us die faster.”

“Ah, it is well o. May we never experience it.” They chorused ‘Amen’ and returned to their homes.

Mama Ayo was infected with smallpox.

At first, she thought it was malaria as the symptoms were alike; she sent Ayobami to buy some herbal tonic, but when she began to notice red spots on her tongue, it was clear what it was.

Knowing that her children could get infected, she decided to report herself to the isolation camp.

What about her children? She thought long and hard about who to keep them with, someone who would take care of them on her behalf. She concluded that Mama Sade was the closest possible candidate.

She asked Mama Sade for a favour that would allow her children to live on the little savings she had. She entrusted Ayobami some amount of money for emergencies of any kind. Mama Sade felt sorry for her, but didn’t judge or try to influence her decision. Mama Ayo then sat her children down and informed them of her condition and that she was going to get treated, they all cried and eventually agreed. Still, the youngest of the Ayo’s insisted on following her with tearful eyes.

Only after promising her safe return was she allowed to leave her children.

She arrived at the isolation camp the same day she set out. It looked like a military base as it was heavily fenced with barbed wires. It was a terrifying sight. A bright light appeared on her face blinding her momentarily. She hid her face in her arms to protect her from the brightness.

“Who goes there?” A loud voice questioned and made her jump with anxiety. She saw a man kitted in soldier’s attire.

“Good evening, sir. My name is Mama Ayo, and I came to report myself here, I think I have smallpox.” She watched as the man’s expression changed from fear to shock. He probably did not expect anyone to come willingly, but mama Ayo didn’t live for her, she needed to stay alive for her children.

The soldier ushered her into the gates and left her with some other soldiers. She was taken to an area with dozens of makeshift corners scattered around. It seemed as though each corner was supposed to be a personal space of some kind. Her information was collected; she was given a bag of living items constituting materials for sleeping and bathing, the basic types.

A health worker clad in a surgical gown assigned her a corner with a bed. The beds were far from each other and the entire room was structured in a maze-like way, so that you couldn’t see anything from the entrance. As the health worker left her, she also noticed that she couldn’t see other people’s beds — bricks were used to block the sides; it was probably to prevent them from interacting with others.

She began unpacking her things and wondered what her children ate for dinner and how they were coping without her. A figure appeared before her. It was a young woman dressed in clothes that resembled the ones she was given. She was probably a patient too.

“Good evening.” She smiled.

“Good evening,” Mama Ayo replied.

“My name is Olamide. I saw when you came in, we were curious about you since it is not yet time for the night inspection. Were you caught or what?”

“No, I came myself. I have symptoms of smallpox.”

The woman, ‘Olamide,’ looked at her in disbelief. “You came by yourself? Why? You could have hidden or bribed them.”

Mama Ayo laughed. “Hide where? Bribe them with what? I do not have the means for any of those. Besides, I came here to be cured.”

“Cured? You’re funny o! Who told you there is a cure? You don’t even know anything. We are being left here so that when the disease kills us, it will be easy to throw us away. You just came here like a sacrificial lamb; I wish you knew the truth before coming. I would rather die in my own house than being abandoned here.” “Well, I believe what I believe.”

“Hmm, okay. You didn’t tell me your name.”

“You can call me Mama Ayo.”

Mama Ayo had spent a week but was not getting better. The rashes on her skin had spread over the parts of her body and become bumps. The others looked worse than she did. As they waited for death, they sang hymns.

Everywhere seemed solemn as each day went by but she kept her faith strong. Suddenly, there was a loud bang, followed by loud footsteps. Mama Ayo couldn’t see anything or anyone from her bed, so she assumed it was one of the younger ones playing around. She hummed a song from her childhood and used the bedside table as a drum.

“Mama Ayo! Mama Ayo!” Olamide rushed to the front of her corner. “It has finally happened!” She placed her hands on top of her head.

“What has finally happened?” “The cure o! They said they have found the cure to smallpox, and they will give everybody here. Can you imagine? Just like that, not even to ask us-“

“Calm down.” Mama Ayo stopped her venting. “Who told you they found it? How do you know it is true?” She didn’t want to base her hopes on a rumour.

“One of the patients has a sister that is a doctor here, she told her a cure was coming soon, and she should not tell anybody yet, but one of the children heard it and told us. This one is true, ehn, it is not a rumour. I swear.” She placed her index finger on her tongue and put it in the air. She swore it was true.

“Okay, if it is true, I am so happy.” She smiled at the thought of seeing her Ayos again. Ironic that Ayo also means joy. “But you’re not looking too happy with the news.”

“Ah! I’m not happy at all. What if something happens to us? They want to use us like we are experiments. I’m sure it’s the white men that brought this cure, they want to eliminate us and it is not fair.” She was slowly becoming hysterical and Mama Ayo noticed that her condition was actually worsening like hers.

“Olamide dear, calm down. This cure may be an advantage for all of us, and we are going to die anytime soon, why don’t we just try and have faith that we will be cured? “She attempted to reassure her as she was fond of her.

“Faith? Mama Ayo, you need to face the reality that we will probably all die with this disease.” She turned left and right to check if anyone was within earshot “Some of us have planned something to escape this place, we’re gathering people. If you want to leave, just follow us.”

“There are soldiers around, so how will you escape?” Mama Ayo knew it was a suicide attempt, the only way is if they were handed the keys which was unlikely.?

“One of the men knows the soldiers, he will help us escape. I’m so happy; I can’t wait to go home.” She looked blissfully ignorant, and it was sad.

Mama Ayo knew the night for the planned escape. Before that night, the isolation center was quiet. Conversations occurred in hush tones. She feigned ignorance, feeling sorry for them. The day after their escape was the day the cure was to be administered, or vaccine as one of the nurses called it.

The next day was warm. Mama Ayo packed her things because she believed she would be leaving after being given the cure. She hoped and wondered if the fugitives made it in one piece, the previous night. Hours later, a health worker selected Mama Ayo and a few others to be escorted to the clinic by soldiers, some people looked frightened like they were off to a slaughterhouse, but she was happy.  

Before they arrived at the clinic, one of the women screamed, everyone turned to her wondering the reason for her sudden fright, she pointed in a direction, and they were met with a horrible sight. Bodies were piled on several wheelbarrows pushed by some soldiers, and she instantly knew it was them. All of them were dead, none was spared, and as unfair as it seemed, this was how most of them would’ve preferred to die, especially Olamide.  Mama Ayo thought of how truly their ignorance led to their early demise, despite the fact she was ecstatic for the cure, her heart tugged at the waste of lives, she felt somewhat guilty for not being persistently convincing to them. Maybe if she actively prevented them from attempting the escape, she may have succeeded, they would’ve resented her but at least they would be alive.

With another glance at the dead, she entered the clinic, thinking of her three joys.

Source: From the Isolation Issue (September 2020)


OHAKA THELMA is a fiction writer that has been writing since 2018. She has an educational background in Banking and finance from a reputable university in Nigeria. Her works are extremely diverse in genre and could be found in sites such as Medium and Wattpad.

WHERE ARE WE by Doose Ahua

WHERE ARE WE by Doose Ahua

woman in green and white stripe shirt covering her face with white mask

Where Are We?

by Doose Ahua

I take a break from scrolling through my Facebook feed. Every post has a #COVID-19 #quarantine #isolation or #socialdistancing tag. I go to the water fountain and refill my water bottle. I have come to love the sound of the water flowing into my water bottle. It’s a refreshing reminder that I still have things to be thankful for. My appetite has decreased these past few days, but I drink a lot of water to prevent the headaches. It helps. I go to the window and part the curtains just a little bit. I don’t like how the rays of light pierce through from outside, reminding me that I have to stay inside. I take a gulp from my water bottle, remembering that last day when everything took a different turn. 

The silence was intense, disturbing. The sky seemed darker. People had been running helter-skelter, groping for things they were almost losing. Someone knocked the big bowl over and water rushed down the narrow path, taking tiny pairs of shoes and other items littered about with it.  A toddler sitting by the mango tree called out “Mama! Mama! Mama”. His voice was shrill, but the panic in his eyes even louder. It broke my heart, even now.

His little sister stood, wide-eyed, hands akimbo, wondering what was causing the chaos and panic. A man rushed out of one building with a pile of books. He looked like he had a white-collar job. He opened the backseat of the SUV parked by the tree, threw the books inside and slammed the door shut. He hesitated, unsure of going into the car. He threw a glance in the direction of the building he had come from before he jumped in and drove off. The three ladies, coming from a distance, were apparently oblivious to the chaos on this end. Suddenly, they stopped, took off their heels and raced in the direction the SUV had gone. A wig fell off. She slowed down, turned back to pick it up and continued running without bothering to put it back on her head.

I sighed when the boy’s mother came and picked him up. I remember, her head wrap had fallen off her head and her wrapper hung loosely about her. She used the edge of her head wrap to wipe his tears and clean the wetness that was trickling down his nose. Then the wrapper fell off leaving her in a black satin slip. She flung him on her back, picked the wrapper and strapped him securely to her back. Once done, she lifted the basket that was still filled with the goods she had apparently intended to sell that day. She balanced it on her head, grabbed the little girl by the arm and hurried away. The little girl slipped and fell on the muddy path. Mother yanked her by the arm and kept going, half walking, half running. The patch on her yellow dress from the red sand and water looked like a patch of blood. 

The sound of sirens was deafening. The vans came into view eventually, three of them. They sped past going in the opposite direction the SUV and the three ladies had gone. I still hear the sirens every now and then. I am not sure if it is coming from my head or from outside. I glance at my watch; it is almost noon and it is dead silent outside. I let the curtain fall, walk away from the window back to the spot on the couch that has become a warm dent just over the past three weeks. I pick up my phone. I sigh, wondering when I’ll see people outside my window again.

Source: From the Isolation Issue (September 2020)


DOOSE AHUA is a Nigerian. She considers home wherever there’s a bed to sleep, food to eat and scraps she can make things out of. She is a compelling storyteller. She believes stories are an ensemble of the bits and pieces of our brokenness and in writing we find connections, we create bonds, build relationships and heal not just ourselves but the people who relate to our pieces, our world. She understands stories as a weapon of enlightenment, liberation. She also relies on creative writing as a very helpful outlet for dealing with personal issues. Literature is one of the many aspects of art she is passionate about. She currently works as an Art teacher at Dakar Academy – a missionary school in Senegal where she guides students in developing and nurturing their creative abilities and using the same expressively. Her friends describe her as quiet, thoughtful, creative, always smiling, strong and kind. She aspires to share stories that people can read, relate to and heal where there is hurt. 

FINDING REDEMPTION by Chideraa Ike-Akaenyi

FINDING REDEMPTION by Chideraa Ike-Akaenyi

sensual black woman looking at camera

Finding Redemption

by Chideraa Ike-Akaenyi

It is August. You feel the damp and the cold of the rains sliding into your body and wedging itself between your bones. The days go in long stretches and nights in short bursts, like little firecrackers, glorious but dying quickly. It suits you, this weather, you mumble each morning as you leave your apartment. You say it with quiet certainty even when you stand before teenagers, teaching them of an eternal father you did not believe was yours and his son who was a blur. You mumble the words over and over again as you walk the muddy streets that spray you with streams of red and brown. You hiss it when you mingle with this never-ending crowd of people moving, noses in the air, brisk steps, eyes distant like people under hypnosis.

The walls of your room are moulting. You observe it this morning as you drag your skirt over your hips. These walls, they had been a sullen witness and companion. They had stood there, solid and unbending to the batter of arms, legs and objects thrown, hauled and landed into smithereens or the screams and moans it had failed to stifle. It sucked these sounds; of anger, pleasure and grief, transporting them to every room in this building.

It used to be blue, the cyan hue it wore told you. It is shedding now, it’s skin bloating and falling off, like flakes of dry, dead skin. You share a history with these walls, you feel like they do. And before you clutch your bag and head to school, you smile at your ever-present, ever-supportive confidante.


You enter the school with light steps, slipping through people on the assembly ground to stand in front of the queue where teachers as young as you belong. The principal is on the podium, marshalling out instructions. His shirts and trousers are as always, starches so well they look like cardboard boxes. You are not listening to him, your ears are focused on the murmurs behind you, from your fellow teachers.

You don’t like them, and you will never. They smile and are nice, but you know the warmth is not in their eyes or their souls. You want the basicness of their lives; they want the enigma that is yours. You say little, they murmur, you do not smile and you work harder at your job than everyone else. “Ladies should always smile”, they joke, poking your belly in jest and giving little lectures. Lectures on how to be or not to be, prayers on your head during staff meetings for a husband and a subtle snobbery in their words and gestures when they complain of their husbands and children. Still, they say, they wish they had your freedom.

The principal is singing a martial song. The students march into their classes, hands flailing, legs thrown out in determination till they are out of the assembly hall. You greet everyone in a voice turned low enough to be respectful. Demure good mornings to the women in beaded lace tops, with bellies swaddled in rows and rows of George wrappers. Good morning Sirs, with your eyes fixed on their necks, to the men in isiagu outfits and then, to the ones like yourself, who have not “fixed themselves somewhere”, Kee ka I mee?  A cautious how are you? eyes focused on the floor because you don’t want to ignite hope. You don’t want anyone to share in the cavern that is your life.


It is Cultural Day and the festivities will begin at two in the afternoon. You don’t stay for long. After teaching the students, you excuse yourself and head to the church. You are not going to pray, you never do. You kneel in the small chapel with the aroma of incense that seeps into the curtains and chairs and never leaves. You clamp your eyes shut and clasp your hands and mumble threats. Prayers are too easy, so you don’t say them. They absolve you of this weight and fill this hole in your chest and something creates another hole and you pray, and it all goes in that familiar cycle. No! God only loves people like you to give you crosses to bear. So, you go to church to remind this God that sinners need punishment. You go through the scripted performance on Sundays to save you sometimes, from imploding, scattering into little bits to be flung far away from each other by fate.

As you step out of the dim chapel into the piercing sunlight of the afternoon, you feel your phone buzzing. It’s Mama.

‘Ugoo, aru adikwa?’

‘Yes, I am well’

‘Have you thought about it?’


‘Nne, biko, forgive us whatever we’ve done to you. Things like this happen and God…

You switch off the phone, your teeth grinding against each other, your eyes burning. You wanted to escape this apology, that is why you came to this town famous for its anonymity. You walk home watching the children at street corners screaming, squealing and playing Oga or running half-clothed; chasing their rubber, dust-coated bicycle tires.

Later that night, you rise from your bed and rummage in your cupboard for your trophies. They are in a box, your souvenirs. You sit on the floor and look at each. You lay out the white sneakers and smile. There are rust-coloured stains on it, splatters on the laces, where his blood touched as he sat, bleeding out.


Okwudili, that one loved his sneakers more than life. You run your hands over the shoes, inhaling its musty smell and reminiscing. You had met him at your cousin’s wedding. He had walked up to you, stomach first, with a self-satisfied grin and a bawl for a voice. You took him in, seeing the familiar haughty tilt to his chin, just like your father’s. You said yes, you would go out with him. Mama held her breath and dreamt of trains of women in matching lace tops and expensive abada at your wedding. Papa nodded without conviction and told you to be safe.

Then, the shoe and sneaker madness started. You noticed that he bought new pairs each week: sneakers, boots, shoes. Each one shinier, and costing more than the other. And he gave you a monologue when you asked, of the latest addition. He meant well, with his asking after your well-being and buying you gifts you didn’t need. Still, you felt stifled. A rock had lodged itself in your head and you began to plot and scheme at work while attending to customers. On those nights when you’d visit, as his body moved above yours, you stifled the screams rising in your throat.

You waited three months and finally struck. You knocked him out with one of your platform heels, heavy enough to stun but not kill, you had been practicing. You tied him to a chair and stuffed his mouth. You slit his wrist and then his throat with the kitchen knife you’d sharpened and carried in your bag. And as you watched him convulse, you study your incisions. They were perfect! you think. Maybe, you should have studied surgery instead. You watched him bleed out, eating his half-finished plate of rice. When his eyes rolled back, you slipped out of his house as deftly as you had slipped in, taking his sneakers with you.

The singlet belonged to him; the childhood crush you met after almost a decade of silence. ‘He’ll treat you well’, Mama had said, her voice heavy with hope, prodding.

‘You need to forget Okwudili. May God punish whoever did this to him’, she muttered when she saw you crying. Of course, the tears were not for him, but for the laughter that eluded you. You wanted joy, you wanted ecstasy and all you got was a numbing disgust. So, you went out with Chukwudi, to events and bookstores, always smiling, dressing appropriately for each occasion with smiles and bows and kindness wafting from you, to settle in the hearts of his father, mother and sisters.

O nwelu ezigbo obi, she has a good heart’, his mother said on those hot afternoons that you send everyone out of the kitchen and take charge. You smile when you hear this. Mothers always determine the lucky girl who gets their trophy son in the end. You are grateful.

Ada mmadu,’ his father hails when he sees you, displaying teeth as white as piano keys. Because you can bow low enough when greeting and don’t raise your voice. Because you defer to Chukwudi in conversations and always hint; that you would consider a job that gave you more time with the children after the marriage.

Children. You feel your womb clench in disgust at this thought, but you smile. Maybe, in this kind house with warm people, you will find peace.

Still, happiness ran through yours hands like water and on the eighth of June, you slipped two, not one tablet of his diabetes medication into his palm. It should have been your ‘day’. You had dressed up and gone to church, said your vows and waited till that moment after communion when he slumped and began to convulse. And as they said, you were made a widow while still in your wedding dress.

He had to go; you murmur to yourself. Chukwudi with the lean body and lips always frozen in that curve that could pass for a smile. Chukwudi who read a lot and filled your ears with long talks on American news, history and politics that made you wish you wore hearing aids. Aids that you could turn low to dull and silence his voice. He meant well, showing you books and taking you to book launches. You did not care though. The only books you read were not ‘literature’ to him; tales of murder, fear and monsters. Books on darkness and the comfort it brought. So, you let him rant sometimes when you did not read his books.

And when you were in bed with him, there was an unsettling urgency to his motions, like he was taking and giving nothing of himself. You dreaded those nights when he would invite you over. You went anyway, he was too good to be true and you should be grateful. You still could not help staring at that tilt to his chin, just like your father’s, haughty and defying, and staring at it on that hazy morning, you did not think twice as you handed him the tablets, two instead of one, a replacement for another.

After the burial, you burnt his clothes, taking only the singlet. You had bought it for him. He had worn it only once, complaining afterwards that vests were more comfortable and appropriate. And every week, on Sundays, after the incense-filled haze that is the mass at the church, you spray a little of his favourite cologne and cry into it. Sundays smell like Chukwudi.

You are hugging it to yourself and crying when you remember and find the cigarettes; a gold case and inbuilt lighter. You had gotten them off a stranger at a bar, four months after Chukwudi’s death. He had been nice, in his sharp jeans and t-shirt, speaking carefully, enunciating every word. You watch him in the dimness of the bar, the slow music weaving through the air as stick after stick disappeared between his fingers, each reduced to glowing ash. You loved his voice, the deep yet smooth sound of it. You watched your bottle of Star Radler sweat away as you listened to his voice and not what he said.

When he excused himself to use the restroom, you grabbed the case and slipped out of the bar. You were seeing a therapist then, a woman with a large afro and pinched features. You tell her everything, but not that you slit your boyfriend’s throat and overdosed your groom on your wedding day. You instead speak to her of the hollowness in your soul and how every man you are attracted to, has a haughty chin, like the one who birthed you. You tell her that you hope someday, you will find happiness in the bodies of these men. She consoles you, the fool! You act out your expected role; griever to the end. And so that night in the bar, you remember your next session and fold in this part of you, stifling the hunger to snuff out anything that hints at joy.

sensual black woman looking at camera


You are still sprawled on the floor sleeping when Mama calls the next morning. You drop the call and place these trophies of yours back in your cupboard.

They had put you on house arrest when you started acting out, going for parties after work, getting drunk and sleeping with nameless men that you met in clubs and house parties.

‘Is something wrong with your head? Don’t you have shame?’ Mama had asked on the morning you greeted her by vomiting on her dressing gown. A murk of brown and yellow, a sharp contrast to the deep red of her woollen coat. Papa had ignored you and threatened that your genes were from your wayward mother.

‘This is not the way to grieve’, Chukwudi’s father moaned.

Grieve? You knew these people were daft but, blind too? Why couldn’t they see that you were celebrating a freedom you had never had before, from rules and expectations.

They asked a priest to see you. You smiled during your long sessions with him and nodded when he wanted you to. You began to say the rosary and attend mass daily. When he saw that the Lord was doing good in your life, he praised God. You forged a bond with him, a version of you that you created, polished and hung out for him to see. And you said proudly to his hearing, ‘Our Mother Mary saved me’.

Deep into the night, every fortnight, without fail, you sit on the toilet in your bathroom and slice your upper arm, just where the sleeves of your dresses wouldn’t reveal them. You revelled in the pleasure that comes from pain, smiling in satisfaction. Sometimes it was your back, while standing naked before the mirror, little slices here and there that bled and filled you with so much joy and love. And the therapist? You did the same with her. You created a cast of what she wanted to see and made yourself fit into it like a glove. And all this while, the hollow in your chest widened.

On a boring, humid afternoon like every other, when you could not bear it any longer, when there was no air good enough for you to breathe, you left. You gave up your job at the bank, fled to this town and reinvented yourself. You know still, in the whirlpool that is your head, that this storm brewing will spill over and corrode everything and everyone next to you.


You are home today. You are not running, not fleeing, not panicking, just home. You have listened to Mama and you are outside their house, waiting as the gatekeeper unlatches the gate and lets you in.

The house is quiet as you walk in. The loud whirring of your suitcase tires and clump-clump of your sandals are the only sounds. Your head is wrapped in a light fog and so you don’t notice, that the masquerade trees that you were scared of as a child have not been trimmed in years, that the ixoras you used to suck have no flowers. They are now well-trimmed, flat-topped beds of green leaves.

Mama is grateful. She hugs you and cries. She kneels with her arms in the air, waving them and thanking her God. This nauseates you. You bite back the words you want to throw at her, walk past her into the house and into the room that used to be yours. It is almost as you left it, there are several empty hangers and missing dresses in your wardrobe. You settle in and begin to assume this you, this Ugochi that lived before the demons came for her; before nights of urgent fumbling under her blanket and harsh whispers in the eerie stillness of night turned her into this.

Papa returns later in the evening and gives you a lecture. You sit still as he talks, eyes focused on the upward tilt of his chin that had defied aging. You hear apologies and buts.

‘I apologise for X but you shouldn’t have done Y’

And he yammers about honour, dignity, respect and a thanksgiving procession in church. You nod in agreement; what else were you supposed to do? You play this script well and queue up on Sunday, clutching the poor turkey’s wings so hard you can almost hear a bone snap. You dance to the altar with them; Papa, Mama, Aunties, Uncles and friends of the family. You scream thanks to Jesus and Mother Mary like every prodigal daughter should. You serve the guests that flood your home later and allow yourself to be introduced to everyone. In all this noise and happiness, you feel it yawning, demeaning and taunting you, the hollow.


Mama bought a new utensil. A curious-looking thing, wooden handle and metal spikes. You watch and learn as she uses it on whole slabs of meat, reducing them to soft cottony pieces that will float in stews and speckle the jollof rice she makes for Papa. Sometimes, you wonder, what it would look like on real flesh.

Papa speaks carefully to you these days, asking you to stay and talk to his friends when they visit. His friends who talk loudly and laugh without mirth. His friends always dressed in kaftans, babariga and gaudy jewelry. You refuse sometimes and wrap yourself securely in this shroud you’ve weaved on the loom of silence. Another One? No! You had come home to redeem yourself, to confess your sins and set your soul free. No other man but Papa dearest could do that for you.

The sons of his friends visit and grin and smile too much, speaking of businesses and money and investments and being ready to ‘settle down’. You smile back and tell them you are eight years older than you really are. Thirty-eight. It always worked. The smiles waned and the charm dulled. The fools couldn’t stand the thought of dating or even marrying an older lady. So, your days weaved into each other in introductions, silences and hours spent comforting yourself in books. Till the day he snapped.



You attended the 6 am mass instead of the 10 am one that you often attended with them. He had reminded you of a big thanksgiving party that you had to be present at afterwards the day before. You saw the fire in his glare when you returned, and he ordered you to dress up. You said no. Mama was herself as always, pleading with you to obey and him to keep his voice down.

Bikokenenu, let today not start on a bad note for us”; she cries, wringing her hands, the gold bangles on them jangling.

Her face is greasy from the foundation she’d applied without powder; you fear the sun will melt it off her face. You ignore them and enter your room. You can hear him fuming, ‘What did you give birth to and call it a child? I am trying to save her from wasting and she doesn’t want to help herself!’

The shroud that you have wound around yourself snags on his words and begins to unravel. It begins to slide carefully off you like skin over well-boiled cocoyams.

You spend Sunday in your room, opening your door only to receive your food in enamel plates from Mum, after she has banged and screamed enough. The days that follow blend carefully into each other and slowly your head does too. You gain clarity and start to dream.

The dreams start with whispers, then murmurs and finally voices; of people like you with no space here, speaking of the bodies they had scarred and burnt, the lives they had shortened and how they felt sated after it all. You dream of sirens calling you to embrace this new normal. This being with passions unhinged.

On other days, you dream in sepia. You watch through the rust-coloured haze as a man with a tilt to his chin goes in at nights to read his daughter bedtime stories. She is six or ten in some and is as big as fourteen years old in others. He holds her to himself and rocks her to sleep. You dream of the fondling under the nightdress as years whirled by and the white mess left on your nightgown on most mornings. You watch the girl begin to refuse her akamu. She vomits it after eating and when nobody is looking, washes it down the kitchen drain.

You see the mother, pristine and lovely, the scapula-wearing, God-loving, CWO-President mother. She sees the signs and buys her daughter pyjamas. She clutches her rosary tighter, ordering her daughter not to go around the house in skimpy outfits. “He is not your birth father”, she explains.

You watch the little girl grow and wait for God to protect his own and begin to look for stories and freedom in the bodies of men. You watch as she picks carefully, men of whom everyone approved, who did not smile much but talked and had that lift to the chin, just like her father. And slowly, your head unravels. You now know the demons building in your head and chest were here in your room with you. They were jumping off the walls and bouncing on the bed, screeching like banshees and deafening you. The voices assure you of the closure you could have and show you the way, to that drawer in the kitchen where it lay.


It is Wednesday. Mum has given you money to buy tomatoes for the spicy stew she said your father loved. You get the awalawa ones, because you don’t want what he loves. Nothing that pleased him would ever please you. You go through the motions; welcoming him, serving him lunch as you promise a spicy stew in the evening. He grunts in acknowledgement. He trudges into his room and you switch on the fan. You are still staring at him as he begins to snore.

Crimson, that is the colour of skin when the layer that holds its hue is peeled away. At first, a pale pink, sometimes white, always glaring.

Squashed, that is the state these tomatoes take. The half-rotten ones you bought at the market and smashed them all against the whiteness that is the kitchen wall. You hate its perfect whiteness, without bumps or smears. You feel the adrenaline surging through you as the smelly insides run down, fouling the air, filling you with triumph. And afterwards, when your head is clearer than it has been in years, you search in a frenzy, flinging drawers till you find it.

Everybody knows and understands these things, but nobody explains the texture and hue of skin stabbed, violently and persistently; till it has the mushiness of minced meat and you stare as life’s essence, soaks the sheets, runs down to pool on the floor, away from your dainty slippers.

Nobody again, of course, they never do, these fools, tells you of the ecstasy; that comes with raising this tenderizer in the air, over and over again. Nobody spoke of the beauty in helplessness, the thrilling pleasure that the fear in his eyes inspires. It comes in waves, scintillating, from the scalp of your head to the toes of your feet, leaving you almost breathless.

You like it, this power, this fear, this hate brewed inside you. You like the startled horror on his face and in his body as he watches you plunge it over and over into him. He sees, feels and knows this pain. This will always resonate with you. You do not stop. No, you can’t. Not until he has pulp for his face and his body is a quivering mass of mangled flesh and blood. Not until the whistling in your head silences and you hear his gurgle and grunts. Only then, do you find peace. Only then, do you stop and let loose the laughter bubbling in your throat.



Source: From the Isolation Issue (September 2020)


CHIDERAA IKE-AKAENYI is twenty years old. She is in her third year of studying English Language and Literature in Nigeria. She is fascinated by the complexities of human nature and spends her time reading literary fiction, watching thrillers or writing about people and issues she feels deeply about. 

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