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A Song and a Swirl Of Dust
Fanta at the motor park
The dust hung in the air, unmoving. It seemed to cling to the inside of Fanta's nostrils as she breathed in and out and it made her want to take shallow breaths. Her boubou was not light coloured like her sister's; still, it was changed in moments by the layer of dust on it, on the bags, on everything. Her father had gone to find the vehicles that were going to Kafanchan. Fanta and her sister stood limply by the bags looking at the bustling scene before them. The barrow boys darted swiftly in between the crowds, the heels of their feet and those of the patient hawkers cracked by the harmattan into the tell-tale, carved tributaries of the less privileged.
And the song started in her head.
The same one she had heard in her dream.
O, o young girl
Beautiful young girl
Your days are numbered
Purdah is calling.
This is the last of school
The harem is waiting.
This is the last of running
With skirts at your calves
Modesty has waited for you.
Circumcision is not death
It is a little thing
It is such a little thing
For the privilege
To one who can never be yours alone.
Do not be afraid.
Can you miss the substance of dreams unknown and only whispered?
Your pleasure days are not gone -
Not at all;
For you never knew them.
The song ended with the laughter of maidens. A sand-swirl whisked up near her and Fanta saw faces of young girls in the whirl.
The setting of this is the northern section of a west-African country. Although the story per se is fictional, the area Kafanchan actually exists. There is a weather condition mentioned known as the harmattan. I have been fascinated by it for years and it still occasionally features in my writing. The harmattan presents itself as dual in character: it can be pregnant with secrets and it can also blow cold, dry winds; blowing clear through minds and spirits.
In this country, in every village, town and city there can be found places called motor parks, where people can pay for commercial buses and cars to transport them as far as the length or breadth of the country.
The song carries the main theme of the piece embedded in its calls to Fanta, our principal character. In imitation of the journey she is about to take, we are figuratively transported from our comfort zones to a strong traditional place defended for generations.
The debates, pleas, conferences and symposiums on this topic are not abating. I encourage you to follow the links to the UNFPA page and other source information to see the current statistics, NGO findings and interventions, and positions of government in affected regions.
Angélique Kidjo Raises Her Voice Against Female Genital Mutilation
Links to more on Female Genital Mutilation
Thanks to gbaku for the picture 'Eyes'.