Hello everyone and welcome to “The Hundred Wells of Salaga” tour via Cassave Republic!
Today I have an extract of Ayesha Harruna Attah’s new novel.
The mallams of Dagbon set the wedding for the day of the full moon, two weeks after Wurche’s family arrived. The elite of Dagbon assembled to celebrate the union of their son with the daughter of Gonja. Cows, sheep and goats were slaughtered; new clothes were woven; drums were beaten from twilight to morning. And Etuto seemed the happiest man alive. He didn’t look like a man about to fight for his life. He drank, ate one bite of meat after another, and had acquired a girl, not much older than Wurche, who kept supplying him with drinks. Wurche’s gaze flitted from her father to her husband-to-be. Adnan was a man who didn’t break rules, the old Dagbon ladies had told her. He would be a good family man. Loyal. A traditionalist. She watched him refuse calabashes of alcohol but accept well-wishers warmly, the flesh of his cheeks rising in orbs to smile at the people who greeted him. He was pleasant enough, handsome, some might even say. But, she couldn’t imagine sharing her bed with him.
Wurche couldn’t eat, and everyone was soused with millet beer or too full to notice. Drummers pounced on their drums with increased momentum. One of them played with such skill he appeared to be wristless. His hand slapped the skin of his drum with the speed of a sunbird’s wings and he saw her looking. He approached her and rapped at the drum with everything he had. And she watched, entranced, almost forgetting where she was until she was seized from behind and dragged out of the circle of revellers. She was so startled she screamed and then, realising what was happening, burst into tears. Mma would be pleased. She thrashed her arms and lashed at the person carrying her. She scratched the skin of the arm clamping her, and the person hit her hand and flipped her. The floor became ceiling and she saw the confused, cracked, bare feet of the people in the crowd. Some of the feet lifted up and down in tune with the drumming, others shuffled about with no rhythm, but when the feet grew purposeful, all pointing in the same direction, she knew it was over. She was carried into an incense-filled room and dropped onto the bed. Adnan sat across from her in light cotton trousers. The old ladies left the room and drew the curtain across the doorway.
Wurche tried to calm down, thinking it could be pleasurable, that what the old ladies had said about pain wouldn’t apply to her. With Fatima, she’d learned of the places one had to pulse to get her heart racing. The old ladies had said to her, young men know where to put their hoses – any and everywhere. Steer him, make sure you are adequately prepared to receive him. A man like Adnan will not help, he will not take his time, he will not get you to your happy place before thinking of his pleasure. So prepare. And preparation begins in your mind. The imagination is a strong tool.
So that night she summoned two spirits: Moro’s and Fatima’s. His lean dark body, her gentle yet eager fingers. That had to be adequate preparation. She splayed her legs on the white linen sheet, toes curling and flexing. And he didn’t wait. He pounced on her and ended her girlhood with such force she had to bite her tongue to clamp down the scream that would have escaped. It was excruciating. Moro and Fatima were long gone. She had become a pounding board. But then his face crumpled in worry; the expression seemed to ask if he should stop. Wurche encouraged him to go on. The old ladies had said to get the man to his happy place.
When he stiffened above her and grunted, all she wanted was to hide in a forest. He walked out of the room. No tenderness. And not a minute had gone by before the old ladies barged in, yanking the white sheet under Wurche. Her badge of honour, proudly showing: a splotch of red.
‘Wuliwuliwuliwuli,’ sang the old ladies.