The Strange Behaviour of Bronze by
Chuma Nwokolo, Jr.
plays a lone hand of
left. Behind him, a tumult is mimed in AGIDIíS courtyard.
The box is covered with a green throw. GOGO sits on her
plinth,. TANDU V.O. It is six days since he died and I come
back here often. To the last place where we sat and played
I miss Agidi. He was not just the greatest man in Ikenga, he
was my father too, and I had only been back six days before
he died. (pause) I had only been back six days.(Rising
hubbub from crowd behind TANDU. He turns to look at them.)
They miss him more. (Takes up
Is this what Ikenga has come to? Thereís a crisis and not
even one man
heart of a rhino can step forward!
stoop, and quaver) Since when
need rhinos to fight her battles? Do we have a chief or not?
Did we bury our chieftaincy with him?
know where youíre going, witch, I am chief in Agidiís place,
but I have
Just how can drinking fermented wine solve this Chia crisis?
Soramo, letís not be silly here, that Chai bull will break
moment. We are not looking for a sacrifice; we are looking
man with a
chance of throwing Zomiri.
And it is not just my back at stake here. You know the
for Ikenga. Are there no young wrestlers left in Ikenga?
ALAM . (sullenly,
as other turn away) We are still in mourning.
Agidiís mourning ends tonight, Alam. You can wrestle
toga) Here, take the wrestlerís toga.
(declines toga) Agidi was my hero, I plan to mourn him one
toga) I broke my leg. The whole town knows I broke my
Tata! It has been months since you stopped limping!
becomes worse when it rains. (Walks away with a
pronounced limp) It is not yet strong enough to wrestle
Zomiri. Did you see the height of him? Did you see his
Fine! Give me the toga!
Have you come here to mock the men of Ikenga?
is no use, rhino indeed! This is a town of cockroaches!
Agidi will be turning in his grave. (throws up hands)
God send us one hero!
TANDU, to universal laughter.
were looking for a volunteer to take on Zomiri. To save a
child of Ikenga from slavery. Would that be you?
I have not wrestled since my teenage years. I play
Leave the kid alone! If anyone has a right to mourn his
father one full
from rear to stand before TANDU, sneers) This may be the
biggest coward in all Ikenga, but he holds the secret of
This is no time for riddles, Ntua.
is no riddle. Ask him what tong he wears around his neck.
dramatically draws cloth cover off the box.
see you still take liberties with other peopleís property.
Only when they should be public property.
KADIBIA) Ask him what is hidden in Agidiís box.
What mockery is this? What else can be in a dead manís box
out clay seal on box cover.) No man, dead or alive,
closer) Alaís seal! (hush from crowd) Thatís a
clothes. Very strange.
Thereís nothing in the box. My father told me so.
Thatís a very big nothing before my eyes. What did you know
of your father? You have only been back twelve days. Have
you looked into the box for yourself?
Well, there you are!
Agidi said the seal was to keep gossips busy-
father lied! As he always does!
this Ikengaís form of mourning? To insult a hero who cannot
defend himself? Who is barely in his grave...
Donít go on and on. Ajilo cannot insult Agidi. Flies will
lionís posterior. Thatís just the way life is.
(raging) Oho! But you can insult Ajilo, is that not so?
Well, flies also
corpses, donít forget. I have attended a lionís funeral,
Look, whether Agidi lied or not, there is nothing we can do
dead. Whether he has gold or dust in that box, by our
all belongs to Tandu.
NTUA. It is
not that simple sir. Agidi spent his life protecting Ikenga.
you seek a rhino to replace the lion.
say the obvious. Life is short.
me that tong and I will throw Zomiri tomorrow. I will
Ikengaís honour duels. I will fight all her wars.
(hotly) Club-footed ape! Thatís not what we agreed! And what
Agidiís charms will make a hero out of a pygmy like you?
Youíre not that much taller than I!
ALAM. If we
are looking for a tall, experienced fighter...
thought you were in mourning.
better way to mourn Agidi than to wear his amulets? Give me
There is a crowd of hustling youths around TANDU, who holds
the tong aloft.
Will you take on Zomiri?
Perhaps it is best that... (TATA wrests tong from TANDU)
... hey, I thought you had a broken leg!
without limp) With Agidiís charms, I donít even need a
He struggles through the rest until he gets to the box.
There is a silent struggle to break the seal. Tandu has been
thrown to the ground by the riot for the key and he loses
interest in box. He carries the
to the bench, and cradles it on his laps, facing audience.
The box stands open, empty but for a white-clad, AGIDI
sitting quietly on his heels, with a band of white chalk
around his eyes. The men look carefully inside the box, and
turn away in disgust.
(clears throat, gives toga to TATA.) The gods be with you.
(terrified) Itís empty! You can see that for yourself! I
only agreed to wrestle
his arms to audience in a Ďtold you soí gesture. TATA goes
around, trying, unsuccessfully to pass on the toga in mime;
the limp is back with a vengeance.
TANDU has a
handful of tokens in his hand, which he is about to play,
(with burr in voice, Drum roll)
You are invincible, until the day you die!
freezes, his tokens clatter to the ground. Nobody else hears
or responds. (He turns with difficulty. AGIDI has not
moved.) No one else can see me. No one else can hear me. I
made you a pledge; hereís your satisfaction,
are invincible, until the day you die!
undergoes transformation. He draws bronze sword and enacts a
Crowd stops and watches. He takes the toga from TATA and
walks off left. Dropped jaws watch him go. Then they leave
in bafflement. Only the box and GOGO remain. The percussive
music to which TANDU danced remains, slowing now, GOGO.
lived through the clouding of the skies, She lived through
the flooding of the plains, But her life ran out before the
harvest of the cropÖ
emerges, astonished, from box) At last you can see me!
Welcome to the land of the ancestors.
you... always haunted your bronze?
you, I have unfinished business in Ikenga.
Quite a lot you must have seen,
heard. I have seen you dance with two more brides... why did
they leave the Lion of Ikenga, I wonder...
Perhaps they couldnít fill the vacuum that you left,
perhaps you did not dance with them enough, the way you
danced with me. Letís dance Agi, (Dances)
one has called me that for years and years,
your joints stiffened from hiding inside boxes? Come dance
the wife of
They dance, more war dance than romance: a sparring
never thought Iíd say this, Gogo, but death becomes you,
youíve never danced as well, no other bride has danced as
other words Iím a saint, how nice, how charitable, Agi, but
remember, I can be a monster too...(she trips him up
violently and stands angrily over him as the music ends
ground) You have clearly overheard many things Iíve said
that meant nothing,
(circles him) How about the one deal that meant something,
the deal you made to bring our children home...
(circles her around plinth) What deal? Whatís gone is gone,
No sense recounting what is past. (tries to change subject)
How does this place work?
(coldly) I cannot rest in peace like other mothers, while my
Whatís gone is...
Anene! Do those names ring a bell? Our twins are
Tandu, remember? We had three sons! But we are dead, Gogo.
Weíve got to accept that.
what was that business with Tandu?
(stubbornly) A promise made I had to keep.
Unlike the promise you made to Ukoni?
(shocked. stops) You? You know about that?
(tearfully) I brokered the deal, Agi. It was this motherís
misery that found a loophole in the laws of the universe. It
was not eight words he said to you. You forgot the most
important five: Ďgo
bring my children homeí.
(covers ears, stumbles away) No!
(Follows him, drum roll)
are invincible until the day you die;
go bring my children home!
your powers to make the homestead whole again.
did my best! I fought wars! I filled Ikenga with children...
our own! I didnít think Ďchildrení would need definition to
would you have had me do? I warred everywhere in search of
them! (Suddenly stops being defensive) Donít dump your guilt
sons! What is this nonsense about going to the stream?
(gasps) How... how did you know...
always hated Tandu, didnít you, the unwanted baggage from
your slavemaster; the irony! A child that loves you so! Only
seven years, and yet you fed him bitter, unripe,
(Weeps) Please, donít start...
your business partner reneged, didnít he? He brought an army
and took, not just the child you dressed in black for him,
he took them all, all our sons.
and they raided Ikenga, whose men were gone to hunt and
farm, and they grabbed women and children...
...how did you know?
(quietens) I sacked Apia, ten years ago. I caught their
chief slaver, a
was dying of a mortal wound and he confessed to the deal
with you. It was his parting taunt,
his final victory over me!
paid you one bronze bar for your son, Tandu, a child of your
You were to
mark him out in black clothing. He was to slip in when you
went to stream and steal the child you dressed in black, and
him alone. But he took them all,
And went on
and sacked Ikenga. And you came back from the stream. Our
three sons, plus forty more children and eight women, all
lost because of you.
bell tolls, dead voice intones in time) So I took your
sword down from the wall, and I took my knife as well. I
went barefoot, alone, while Ikengaís men fell down and wept.
No, I was not alone, the shame of what I did, that, went
with me. It was not bravery. It was my terms of suicide. I
did not just go to bring them back. I went to
I could no longer be a mother with the memory of what Iíd
done. (Bell stops)
found them near the Nigerís flood.
so condemning, some admiration) You cut them down,
demon arose from the floodwaters. They said that half your
face was gone, three arrows bristled from your breasts, they
saw your left hand twitching in the mud, clenching your
knife, but your right hand held my sword, was raised in
fury, slashing left and right...
called you demon, (Beat) but Ikenga called you
pride) I counted seven slavers dying from your sword
counted forty children freed... (Beat) but none of
her) A Teraka chief bought Tandu. They journeyed north
from Ikenga. Nkoma and Anene went to the cult of Carcasus,
remember them? The irony! That the same slab should sell
mother and sons! They journeyed upriver. There was nothing
you could have done. (Shakes
head) We brought your pieces home, with donkeys carrying
the very earth that drank your blood, we brought you back to
Ikenga our heroine. (She bows head in shame) We
mourned you one full month. No woman, no man, was ever
mourned like Ikenga mourned Gogo. We built your bronze. (Long
pause) I loved that bronze. (Bitterly) Until the
day I captured Ganazu, and heard his truth.
never told anyone...
...and kill Ikengaís spirit? No, I never did. Not even the
child you sold for one bronze bar. I found it in your pot,
you know, I gave it into the pool from which your bronze was
bitterly) I... Iím sorry... I never had the chance to
ask your... forgiveness... I ask it now... (Looks up,
Why did you love bronze so? One bronze bar?
(coldly) It wasnít bronze I loved; it was Tandu I hated. I
was raped in bondage and he was evidence. (hesitates, facade
cracks) I...I really tried to love, but... (coldly) I
loathed him from my womb. He was too much my slaverís spawn
to be my son.
from your womb.
as my son!
(coldly) I saw my slavemaster, every single day I looked in
Tanduís eyes. He was Ossyís splitting image...
was not! You have jaundiced eyes! He was an innocent, a
child! How could you!
jaundiced eyes! How can you have Tandu for heir! He is what
he is, it is written in his blood. You will not make a goose
a fowl by brooding her egg with chicks. I wanted my slave
history dead, but Tandu made it my future! (beat) Then
Ganazu came to buy textiles, and put the devilís idea in my
mind. (Follows him on knees) Donít torment any longer, Agi,
say the word, make my hell more bearable...
up. Whatís done is done. I forgive you.
(rears up furiously, still weeping) Then knowing what you
knew, what madness kept you in that business, Agidi? You
were a greater slaver than Ganazu! Youíve made more widows
than the cult of Carcasus! ĎHit that drum! Hit that drum!í
The arrogance! Your power drove you mad! (He tries to hold
her, she whips away, sobbing) What lesson did you learn from
me? You that sold our sonsí freedom for fame...
(flares) Whose fame,
bronze was famous right across the world,
not have a son from Ossy, but you did not mind a bronze from
GOGO. Did I
want it? (sobs) Did I not pay for it with my life? All my
death, have I not paid? I that haunted Ikenga to be worthy
of that bronze! Have I not paid?
so have I!
(quietly) You knew our twins were in Ca... in Carcasus?
(trembles) And you did not rescue them.
I... (falters, turns away) It is not the way you think,
(sobs) My damnation is sealed. My twins! In the same
cauldron I was born! And you want my forgiveness, Agi? You
warred everywhere, except the very place they were. Because
you knew your powers were to end the day they returned. Was
that so bad a deal, to give your life for the children of
(conciliatory) Thatís not how it was,
I did my
best... your errors were undoable.
(weeps) That was the deal, Agi. I, Gogo, made the deal. I
Gogo, wrestled Creator-God to change the laws of his
universe, so that our childrenís voices didnít join those
crying from the bottom of the seas.
(covers ears, stumbles away) No!
(follows, weeps) That was the deal! Bring the children home.
You had a year to do that after which you died, but you
found twelve victims didnít you? To extend your heroic life,
till Tandu beat you at your game.
Tandu! All hope is not lost, Tandu is free - and invincible
(coldly) What can you expect from the slaverís son?
stands shock still. Mouth drops. GOGO stands defiantly.
Udala mu cha
udala mu cha
nwunye nna mo,
gota udala nafia
lacha lacha lacha
lachapu nwa enwe nne
lachapu nwa enwe nna
uwa bu olili
onye nosia onaba
uwa bu olili
onye nosia onaba