Moonlight play was always a beautiful experience in the village square. It brought youths and children of the community together to engage in different kinds of folk plays. The kids (mostly below ten) often walked about naked and enjoyed their mkpok eto (traditional game) coupled with ekong nke (folk stories).
Older girls would only have pieces of clothes wrapped around their waists to cover the buttocks and private parts, leaving the upper parts of their bodies bare. They exposed their navels and breasts, except for girls of royal lineage, who were able to afford nice clothes and beads to cover their bodies.
Udo Ntafiong, my friend, took it as his point of duty to come by my hut late in the evening, when the moon began to surface, just to make sure we stroll to Anwa Idung (Village Square) together. Tonight was very special to me, and I promised myself that nothing would hinder my fun.
I was still eating the roasted yam with fresh palm oil, garnished with dry ibat (bonga fish), served by my mother for dinner, when I heard foot steps approaching me from the dark.
“Sai, Akparawa, dah! I’ve caught you today. Ma’basi!”, the voice exclaimed. I chuckled as I took a bite from the already palm oil soaked yam in my hand.
I managed to hurriedly swallow the bitten yam, as I teased, “Ikpa Udo, afo ifod ami! You should have allowed me finish my meal before coming with your strong desire for food. Anyway, there’s a piece left here. Amedi.”
Before I could utter another word, Udo sat on the raffia stool beside me, descending on the last piece of roasted yam. “Se fien iso, you wanted to finish this delicious meal alone, amenie esid,” he commented. I wasn’t interested in arguing with him, as my mind was at the village square.
“Mma o” I called my mother, “I’m done eating. I’m going to Anwa Idung”. I said it without caring if she heard or not. “Ikpa let’s go mbok,” I told Udo, then we both set out for the village square.
The village square was strategically located at a place where four bush tracks and a broader track formed a junction. Each of these tracks lead to neighbouring villages; one of them led to the ekpe forest, an abode of ekpe cult, where the famous itiat ekpe was kept.
Women and non-initiates were forbidden to ply the afang ekpe (ekpe route). Udo and I passed through the usung afe route to the village square. He hung the keg of palm wine on his shoulder, which he had taken along, so we’d drink away our worries.
Usung afe was little bit dark. Udara (star apple), mango and gmelina trees grew at both sides of the track, with their branches joining atop to form a canopy. This provided a shade along the track, and beams of light illuminated from the rays of the moonlight. Screeches from crickets and owls greeted us as we walked through the usung afe.
Approaching the village square, I could hear voices, songs, claps and laughter of children and youths. My heart began to beat faster in excitement. However, I managed to hide the feeling from Udo, who was talking endlessly, even when I barely responded.
To be continued…