One Year On. And AiShaWrites On.

We give thanks. (I)

We found dew
to show
for the morning.

Thursday, 27th February, 2014.

 *               *               *

Yes, it’s been a year since this blog went up, with the first post, about how it became that AishaWrites.

I appreciate everyone who has been part of Nu kɜ Hulu (Water and Sun).

Whether by my worrying you without end with my dreams and talks about my writing; my wanting to start a blog; why I settled on the blog name; which of many many pictures to use for a masthead and more such.

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Whether by visiting and thoughtfully leaving or carefully not leaving behind a tell-tale – like a comment, a follow, a smile or a frown, and even a wink-and-a-half.

Whether by stopping me in the middle of some corridor somewhere to talk, or by sending a cute message elsewhere about what you thought about one post or the other; which other(s) reminded you of something personal; how sad or happy or…or…well, nothing…you felt about some other post or a part…

Whether by sharing, spreading Nu kɜ Hulu (Water and Sun) and or by simply enjoying, savouring it all alone. Whether by visiting for the first time and or skimming through previous post(s).

And whether any one or more or even none of these apply to you, come visiting again. Please do. Whatever be the case. And more so. As often as you can, and even if it is to say just ‘Hi’.

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Again, Aisha appreciates. All.

 *               *               *

Today, I share a piece of a special kind. Like many things in life that have a beginning – even if not markedly so – so it is about how It became that AishaWrites. This It is as much about beginnings as It is about another of its kind. About coming-of-age.

I first posted this piece, a memoir, as a Facebook Note before it was officially published at Phillis Wheatley Chapter (PWC), as the maiden edition of its annual Chicken Soup publication, in December 2013. (There is the December 2014 edition too, which consists of two short poems and another memoir.)

PWC CS advert blue poster
Credit: Phillis Wheatley Chapter 

Phillis Wheatley Chapter (PWC) is a publication that collects African American, British, Canadian, Caribbean and West African poetry. Other forms are published alongside, to celebrate the culture and history of the black people –  in the spirit of Phillis, a young lady who was born in The Gambia in AD1753. As a honorary magazine, PWC does not accept voluntary submissions. Publication is by invitation only.  

PWC has a number of contributors, Ayebia Clarke Publishing as a partner and Darko Antwi as publisher and interviewer. A CIP record of this magazine is available at The British Library. ISSN 2046 – 3537.

Find more about PWC here.

 *               *               *

We give thanks. (II)

For that and more,
and for life of all
good gifts, we are grateful.

Thursday, 27th February, 2014.

 *               *               *

A Memoir: Of Coal Pots and Self- Confidence.

Shepherds set fireShepherds (Yes, they are girls!) light fire for warmth: 2014 Nativity Play which I adapted, directed and co-produced for Alpha Beta Education Centres

I should be four or five years old at the time. And I cannot remember exactly which of the two or two or three classes it was, but it all happened in one of any of my kindergarten classes.

Miss Vida was what we used to call her. And Vida was her first name, not her surname. It was usual, if not the norm, to call teachers by their appropriate titles plus their first names.

Miss Vida had given us an exercise that must have been about something on Environmental Studies. At our age and grade, it should be obvious that the said exercise would heavily entail drawing. It could have as well been about colouring, identification, matching or association.

Then, and even now, I’ve always been called slow- but not dull- at home. And that is not to say I, in any way, am a slow learner. On the contrary, and in all modesty, I am a gifted student. It was only when I grew up that I realized that the root cause of this ‘slowness’ of mine had everything to do with my kind of temperament. I am more of a melancholic than any one of the other four or five temperaments.

So perfectionism and the eyes for details, it turned out, were my faults, and hence, the reasons for my ‘slowness’.

Halo-ed.

It therefore took me longer time to complete my exercise, but I finished much earlier than was typical of me. Even better, I was not exactly amongst the last pupils to submit their exercises for grading.

And as Miss Vida would usually have it, she sat behind her perpetually almost-fully occupied table. On top of Miss Vida’s table stood tidy rows of mighty skyscrapers of different heights and kinds of books, and tidier trays of supplies of used stationery – pencil butts, chipped erasers, quarter crayons of different colours, pencil sharpeners with blunt blades and the like.

We pupils queued in wait for our turns to have our exercises graded, one after the other, right beside Miss Vida’s seat, behind the screen of the towering skyscrapers.

From time to time, ‘Y-e-e-e-s,’ – or was it ‘N-e-e-e-x-t,’- called Miss Vida, with her eye glasses pulled down too low on the bridge of her bold bevelled nose. Her slightly bulging eyeballs rolled above her nose and the upper rims of her eye glasses. Her delicious intelligent eyes poured from above the eye glasses and pored on the remainder of the shrinking, snaking queue tailing one breadth end of her table.

Without Doubt!.jpg

A fine tuft of grey hair perched half-way at the front of Miss Vida’s hairline. On some days, Miss Vida let the lock of hair down, to frame her high cheek bones and round face. On such days, the balls of her chubby cheeks gleamed than usual. The beauty spot on her temple and the last of what would have been a rugged patch of a man’s goatee, which touched Miss Vida’s double-chin, stood out even bolder on her round sweet face.

All these, together with the stern, yet warm look in Miss Vida’s eyes, and her intimidatingly tidy table, made seeing Miss Vida unnecessarily foreboding. For pupils of my kind. Especially.

And like the perfectionist that she also might have been, Miss Vida critically examined each pupil’s exercise, all the while, pausing several times to question and admonish or guide and correct each pupil about every conceivable aspect of the exercise: from dancing handwriting, through un-dotted i-s and g-s and y-s without curled tails, to omitted punctuation marks, disproportionate lower and upper case letters and the like.

The real task in Miss Vida’s exercises therefore, lay in the drill that came with the shared grading process. And this did not help matters with how foreboding it was to submit an exercise to Miss Vida for grading. Still, for pupils of my sort. Especially.

seff esteem
Credit: Colour Box

So having completed my exercise, I joined the queue.

Little by teeny little, the queue crawled at a pace dictated by the quality of each pupil’s exercise -per Miss Vida’s own criteria- and by how long Miss Vida took with her interrogation or correction –or what not- with the given pupil. The queue shrank as quickly as more pupils left it from Miss Vida’s table’s end, and as more others joined it from the tail end.

The pupils, who were still sitting, therefore, might have either been to Miss Vida already or were yet to complete their exercise, and then, join the queue.

But much much before it got to my turn, I went back to the last place in the queue.

Several times did I offer my mates the right to get ahead of me, to jump the queue. And I am sure those of my mates who should had been behind me in the queue might have thought me too kind or some other things not as positive.
11133715_824251257629707_8544641783088182080_nPhoto credit: Dr. Lizzy Attree, Director of the Caine Prize for African Writing; one of three workshop participants at a local school visit, a part of the 2015 Caine Prize Writing Workshop at Elmina, Ghana.

Finally, I was the very last person to have to submit her work to Miss Vida, and to submit to her not-exactly pet-talks. I was to be both shamed and elated – though inwardly – when it finally got to my turn. For this particular exercise, I did not keep as long as any of my mates had been at Miss Vida’s table.

With her red pen, all Miss Vida did was to dig a check sign with a rather long tail, which ran through almost the whole page on which I had done my exercise. She also scribbled one or two of those congratulatory remarks that teachers often write under the check sign.

Like most of my classmates, quite apart from the hurried nature with which these words were written, we could not – at that age and stage – read those remarks. However, we all well knew, just by their looks, what each one of those remarks meant.

And yes, those scribbles meant a lot to us pupils.

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A few words- scribbles, I mean- to reinforce the remarks under the check sign, a deliberate tender pat on the shoulder – mine – and her broadest smile, and then Miss Vida closed my book, neatly placed it on top of one of the skyscrapers on her table, and asked me to take my seat.

And to think I did not get to sit that soon after all, after the drill of a shared grading; not after Miss Vida had stood in front of the class with me, and she had given what should be a recommendation speech: recommendation of me to my classmates.

 

PWC CS praise yellow poster
Credit : Phillis Wheatly Chapter

I merely went through the motions: Miss Vida’s passionate speech and the applause and cat-calls from my classmates at the end of the speech.

All these. And more. For a simple exercise on something about coal-pots. Something I was about the only pupil who had it right. Per Miss Vida’s criteria.

 *               *               *

We give thanks. (III)

Let us find fruit
to show
for the evening, for dusk, even.

We pray.

Thursday, 27th February, 2014.

 *               *               *

Now, in the newness of the season and of every goodwill, in the spirit of Nu kɜ Hulu (Water and Sun) and of goodness itself, in gratitude for times past, and in prayer for the days, the year to come, Aisha wishes you the best of…

Life. Love. More such goodly gifts. ,

AishaWrites.

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