Front Page | Current Issue | Past Issues | Submissions | Competitions | SLQ Blog | Links | About SLQ | Contact Us

Welcome to SENTINEL LITERARY QUARTERLY

Vol.3. No. 3. April - June 2010

 


CONTRIBUTORS

FICTION

SECTIONS

Barrie Darke
Bruce J. Berger
Chad Norman
Christian Ward
Chuma Nwokolo Jr
Claire Askew
Colin Gallant
Davide Trame
Gary Beck
Ivor W. Hartmann
Katie Metcalfe
M C Hardwick
Michael Conley
Minna Salami
Pete Court
Roger Elkin
Warren Paul Glover
George Freek
 

Champion Poems #1

Selected Poems from the

Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition July 2009, featuring poems by twenty fine minds of our time, including

Miles Cain, Mandy Pannett, Charles Evans, L.S Mensah, Thomas Gayton, June Drake,

Noel Williams and Ellaraine Lockie.

45 Pages.

Ł3.95 (UK), Ł4.95 (Overseas)

Price includes P&P

 

What we Lost

 

By

 

Minna Salami

 

Funkwa’s malnourished skin was soft like the rind of a ripe mango. It was a matter of survival; one of us had to die for the other to live. With a weak shudder her body gave in to my choke and I felt her last breath against my neck. I was chained to her dead body. 


Afterwards I felt eased. We were still shackled together but I had more breathing space. Funkwa’s tortured soul had tormented us both like a spirit stuck between the earth and the sky.

 

When the white men arrived they spent a few merry evenings with baba and mama, the king and queen of our village, drinking sap of palm leaves and dancing to drums. On the fourth day, baba asked me to join the white men on their mission. They needed young people to help develop trading places that would benefit our people. They had accumulated vast amounts of gold from neighbouring villages, which we could use for the task. When I questioned how we could use stolen gold without consulting the ancestors, baba said not to worry. He and mama would perform the ritual after our departure, the ancestors would understand. I told him I would be concerned about leaving him and mama, but again he said I shouldn’t worry, they were too old to join us. I requested for my husband Kori to join me, which baba allowed. ‘Follow the white men,’ he said, ‘ and learn from them.’

At Badagry, by the coast, I learnt that the gold was not for our towns. There were three large vessels anchored to the shore. There were hundreds, perhaps thousands, of us. Some faces were unfamiliar. They were from the neighbouring villages. The white men debated mixing us up, but decided eventually to board us on to the ships, village by village. My villagers and I boarded The Brookes. We understood she was heading to a place called America.

 

We were at least five hundred people in a room the size of the prayer hut back home. As the days passed, I learnt to breathe through my lips only. The heat was scalding and the stench of human cadaver, urine and faeces was unbearable. I was dehumanized. I prayed silently for the white men to at least open the hatch and let in some fresh air. Eventually they did, and we scrambled out like bees from a hive. Many of us were manacled to dead bodies. Well on the deck I spotted my husband from afar. His round cheeks had turned into hollow sacks of skin into which his eyes floated, like pieces of wood in a river. He was trying to say something with his eyes. Before I could decipher his message, the man he was attached to jumped into the amaranth sea. A woman whose brother had been chained to Kori screamed. 
 
A mixture of water and chlorine was poured over us to disinfect us. The officers warned not to drink it. I gulped down as much as I could. Afterwards, those dragging dead slaves along were unchained. The dead bodies were thrown into the sea whilst the rest of us were instructed to stand in lines. We were probably about four hundred now. Our men were scurried back into the berth, whips lashing heavily at those who protested. We women were inspected from head to toe like offerings to the gods.

 

I knew he would pick me. Daughter to the God of iron, Osun, and Yemaya, Goddess of the oceans, I had taken the least damage so far.  Storms were predicted and The Brookes had to pause on her route to America. Our captain in command, Mr Nicholas Owen, wanted company in the meantime. 

 

I was first served something they called potatoes. I liked them, but not as much as yams. I eagerly drank the glass of water they handed me. When Mr Owen mounted my body, I remained silent. Even as he spat on me and called me a savage I did not utter a sound.

 

Perhaps it was this indifference that enticed him to keep me. The journey would be longer than expected, and he wanted undemanding company. I certainly met this standard, but at times he would raise his voice, wanting me to react. However, he was after physical rather than intellectual stimulation so he fed me to keep me fleshy. His was the biggest cabinet in the ship. It had enough room for a bed, a couch and a dressing table. Often I would sit by the dressing table inhaling the scent of perfume and coffee, observing myself in his mirror. This is what he sees, I would think.

 

During the coming weeks, as we made our way towards the North American coast, Mr Owen and I followed a set routine. In the mornings he would force himself on me. Sometimes my body would respond. Breakfast was served at the same time every day. I knew it was the same time because it felt like that in my gut. Mr Owen knew the time for breakfast by looking at a gold bracelet he wore around his left wrist. I spoke to Mr Owen only once throughout our entire journey. This was to ask how he could tell the time by looking at this bracelet. I wanted to know if it had magical powers. He told me about something, which he called technology, and which he said we Africans were too stupid to construct. I corrected him, and told him that money came before technology, and that we didn’t believe in a lifestyle that depended on money. I told him that time was one of the senses, not a science, and that money could not buy senses. This was the only time Mr Owen and I exchanged thoughts, and I felt grateful to have learnt another way of measuring time. In the afternoons he often left me in the room to my own thoughts. Time would pass quickly, and by evening time when he returned from the decks, I was normally asleep as he took me again.

 

In his absence I thought about the others, I wondered who might have survived. However, most of my thoughts were concentrated on life back in the village. I thought of my marriage ceremony. It was the first time I had met Kori. The elders had selected us for each other. As daughter of iron, I was destined to become a warrior. In our beliefs, a female warrior is a rarity and can only marry a disciple. Kori was the son of Shango, God of fire and thunder. Together we would advise and protect our kingdom. On the day of our ritual ceremony, there was thunder and lightning. The gods had heard our prayers. I wore colourful beads, wrapped intricately around my hips and shoulders. I noticed the appreciation in my husband’s eyes. I too was pleased. Kori was well built and dressed with thick gold chains and coral. We stood in the centre of a ring, which had been formed using precious stones and ashes from the previous night’s sacrifices. Out of the corner of my eyes I saw my sister Funkwa, crying out of joy.

 

Life with Kori was everything I hoped for. As in most African villages at the time, men and women lived separately. I lived with my three grandmothers, my five mothers, and twelve sisters. Mother Aina was my birth mother, but I was closest to mother Asha. It was she who told me about the hut next to Alamo, the tree of ancestors, to which I dragged my new husband on the seventh day of our companionship. Our tradition was to allow seven days to pass before union, so that the bond could first be on character. I understood that night why the elders had chosen Kori for me. We giggled so much the leaves got angry. We returned home at sunrise, before the big animals came out from hiding.

 

It is now thirty-six days since Kori died. I’ve been counting the dusks and the dawns. At times I wake up laughing. This is when I am with Kori, in the world of ancestors. Mostly, however, I wake up shivering. This is when I am with him, Mr. Owen. This is when I can feel his putrid breath overtaking the room as he snores.

 

At dusk on the thirty-seventh day of Kori’s death, Mr. Owen tells me to leave. ‘Get out,’ he shouts. ‘We have reached our destination.’ His men rip his robe off me. They chain my wrists and ankles, and they drag me on to the decks.

 

Barely half of my family is alive. Those who are alive are emaciated, suffering from dysentery. I touch the knot developing in my throat. Baba will not rest in peace.

 

Upon seeing me, there is a brief expression of respect in their eyes. With me around they feel safe, they still have some godly protection. I make a promise that as long as I’m alive, we will never forget where we came from, or our learnings from the land which God borrowed us. We will embrace the new lands and its ancestors, and we will continue to learn, acquire and contribute to wisdom. 

 

 

CURRENT COMPETITIONS

Click on a link below to choose a Sentinel Literary Quarterly competition to enter

 

Short Story Competition (July 2010)

 

Poetry Competition (July 2010)

 

Sentinel Literature Festival Poetry Competition 2010

 

Top of page | Fiction Index

 

April-June Index
COMPETITIONS
DRAMA
FICTION
POETRY

Minna Salami is a writer of Nigerian and Finnish heritage. She grew up in Nigeria, leaving in her teen years for Sweden where she completed studies in Political Science. Thereafter she has lived in Spain, New York, Nigeria and London.
Her work has been published in magazines like African Writer, Daydream, Pala Pala and upcoming anthology called Hyperkinetic.  
Amongst other projects, she is currently working as a writer for a national TV station in Nigeria. One of her pieces will be performed this summer at The Africa Weekender in Camber Sands, UK. 

April-June Index / COMPETITIONS / DRAMA / FICTION / POETRY

 

Sentinel Literary Quarterly is Published by Sentinel Poetry Movement | Editor: Nnorom Azuonye

©2010 The authors and artists as credited. All rights reserved. Reprint permissions.

A magazine designed and built by First Class Websites for Sentinel Poetry Movement