Trouble in holy places and spaces
TROUBLE can be found in every place and in every space. But once in Africa he began to yearn after the dreams that slavery, emancipation and colonialism permitted him and his people to dream. And they dreamed that their holy places were in Africa, the place and space from which they were forcibly yanked and wrenched by primitive capitalism to serve as unpaid labour for the future western empires of industrial revolutions. All the time he and his people sang the song:
We are the same race,
From the same place,
We made the same trip,
On the same ship.
And here Trouble was, back in Africa and in search of the holy places and spaces of his African peoples, his Nigerian peoples. You are looking for holy places and spaces? In Nigeria? Are you a pagan? We have destroyed the shrines which your ancestors called holy places and spaces. Why were they destroyed? They were destroyed because they were places and spaces set up to serve the devil. Really? Why did you not destroy the holy places of the Chinese? And the holy places and spaces of the Japanese? Why did you not call them pagans and destroy their family shrines? No, Trouble, those are not the questions that you should be asking. What questions should I be asking? You should be asking why and how the Chinese prevented themselves from being branded pagans. How the Japanese prevented themselves from being called pagans and retained their family worshipping places and spaces?
In the diaspora, back in the West Indies, in South America and in North America Trouble was told that at the beginning of the twentieth century, some Yoruba Muslims suggested that a Kaabah should be set up in Ijebu-Ode so that the economic investment of going to the Kaabah in Saudi Arabia would be maybe once in a life time. Other times go to Ijebu-Ode! The idea was shot down. But beyond the economics of pilgrimages, Trouble wanted to know where rest of mind and calm of heart would exist when your holy places and spaces are located in other regions and climes? How can you relate to your holy places and spaces when you must apply and be given visas, apply and be allowed foreign currency to get to your foreign holy places and spaces?
What places and spaces are holy and divine? What rivers and lakes and waters are healing and divine? What hills and mountains and landscapes are awe-inspiring and must see and revere? Places and spaces of origins are holy and divine and hallowed and forever respected? Do these places and spaces exist in our land? Where are the founding spaces of our many nation-states, these multiple royalties and empires that the myriad titles milling around the country to which they testify? Where are the origins of the flowery chieftaincy titles that our elders and politicians and public figurines ferry around the country? As someone who grew up in the diaspora Trouble looked forward or so longingly for the holy places and spaces of Ogun, Yemaja, Sango, Oya, among the Yoruba. The holy places of the Igbos and their Gods and Goddesses, where are they for us to visit and bow down and pray and be filled with inner wealth and health? Why must we out-source our holy places and spaces when ours are obviously neglected? Where was Ifa Divination first performed? Who was the first mythical client of the origin of Yoruba ancient sciences? Where could we re-create and re-enact the first pristine casting of the opele? E gba mi! SOS to our hearts misled to other's beginnings, to the neglect of our own?
It was in this circumstance that Omowale Trouble met a prince from one of the empires of Nigeria. And prince spoke with vehemence about the holy places and spaces of the Africans, not just the Nigerians. Don't mind the imperialists (from a prince of an empire?) and their propaganda about forcing us to go to their holy places and spaces instead of cleaning up our own and creating tourism around them. Christian imperialists? Yes! Muslim imperialists as well? Emphatically yes! Just follow me. Trouble followed the prince to his home town where he immediately went with him to the shrine of the town. They parked their car on the side of the road and began to walk into the forest. Deeper they went, walking under canopies of trees thirty and fifty metres tall, over a second layer of trees ten and fifteen meters tall and on the ground tangles and weeds and creeping plants dense and obscuring the sight. It was cool to walk here and from the cries of the birds and the slithering of the creepy creatures, it was peaceful, the peace of the beginning of time.
For the first time since Trouble had been in Nigeria, he felt at peace and he felt at home. Here is the home of Trouble, he told himself! And breathed deeply. But just in time! Look out, shouted the prince. What's going on? Don't argue with them! Who are they? Why are they pushing me? Leave him alone! Do you know who I am? I am the prince and I demand to know what's happening. Where is the Oga on top? Some fiercely armed Go & Kill squad (used to be called Kill & Go) bared the entrance to the shrine. In fact they had torn down the entrance to the shrine. The Commanding Officer made his way through a double row of his men and approached the prince. Prince I greet you, King-Tomorrow I prostrate myself before you. The prince bid the officer rise for those who bedeck us must not tarry trawling in the dust for us. You royal father, his imperial majesty says we are to tear down the shrine, that it is a sign of paganism and he is no longer a pagan. Here Alaba drew Trouble aside and told him: Frankly, you miss the point! What is the point, Trouble wanted to know. The point is: How can a Nigeria said to be hopeless hold out hope for people from different parts of the world? Do you know how many people come from South Africa, from Zimbabwe, from Scotland and from France, looking towards our Holy Men in hope? That is the point.