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Old and rickety

Yet poised and graceful

The ijele dancer sits

In her hey-days she was

The towns shinning pride

An artefact, secret weapon

Brought out only in times

Of dire distress

When losing a dance battle with

The next village seemed imminent

And true to her praise she delivered


That was when towns

Fought good naturedly

Their guns the Udu drums

Their bullets the ekwe

Then the ogene; war cry

Dissolving deep into the

Crowd’s blood, they

Get chanting

The sweat the inspiration

They need to dance,

They tremble in response to

The beats, calling, calling


Ijele then was sacred

Only the select few were

Allowed into the upper echelon

To master its skill and precision

But she was the best of the best

And that was then


Now the ijele dancer sits

Gracefulness imbued into her

Like a second skin

Nothing she had seen in

Lifetime could mellow it

Not the death of her four sons

Not her husband’s cold scorn

Not the barrenness of her youngest daughter

Nor the slavery of her grandchildren

In faraway lands in the name

Of education and the queen

The ijele’s gracefulness keeps her

Neck upright and stiff; iron ore

There is more where it came from


She looks down now at the

Stuffed leopard skin laid out

Before her

Her eyes are not what they used to be

The leopard head roars as if

In understanding of her brooding thoughts

It is only in her mind’s eye

Her eyes move back to the open door

A moisture in it betrays her train of thoughts

They focus on the figure in the doorway

She had been expecting him


So she sits

Watching him and waiting

And as soon as he begins playing

She shuts her eyes and leans back

Allowing herself join the

Realm of reminiscing

Carried there by the mournful tone

Of the Oja, she sees herself

Younger now, unmarried

Unburdened taking daintily the

The delicate energetic steps of the ijele

Moving her feet in rhythm

She smiles

Ijele; the body never forgets


Written by Oluchi

Follow on twitter @Mizz_starzz

Leave a comment tell us what you think


“IJELE”, 5 out of 5 based on 1 ratings.


A graduate of Mech Engr from UNILORIN. Works and lives in Lagos.

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