Nigerian Poet Inua Ellams Pens A Poem For Baga

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“My father was a Muslim when he married my mother who was a Christian and we lived in Jos, Plateau State in northern Nigeria,” Ellams told Okayafrica. “I was born into conversations about Christianity and Islam, over which sat better with the soul of Nigeria and with my family. As a kid, I knew the core similarities better than I did the differences, to such a degree that I saw no major conflicts between the faiths and went to the mosque as often as I did the church. Seeing the rise of the extremists and what has become of the towns and the places I grew up in has been heartbreaking and I think of the innocents caught in the crossfire, of those who are as I was. This poem is an attempt to shed light on who those innocents might have been, and further to raise questions on why the recent tragedy in Baga was largely ignored by mainstream western news outlets, if there are racial undertones at play.”

Read Ellam’s poem for Baga, Nigerian Pastoral, in full below.Nigerian Pastoral. What do you think?

-After Gregory Djanikian.
#Afterhours

If Adamu were leaning against a wallWhat do you think?
mouth flush with fresh coconut
when trucks screeched to a halt

and Adewunmi were writing her nameWhat do you think?
in sand, dragging the small stick
when the magazine clicked

and Afoaka were hushing her twinsWhat do you think?
waving the straw fan back and forth
when the first shots rang out

if Aliyu barefoot by the orangesWhat do you think?
were squeezing each fruit for ripeness
when the bullet shattered his cheek

if Akarachi refusing to runWhat do you think?
were praying in his room
when the rocket struck the roof

and Azuba in her new hand-stitched hijabWhat do you think?
were tucking away stray wisps
when the blast ate her skin

How long would it have to go on thenWhat do you think?
beginning with A and spilling over
into all the alphabets

before mother sister father childWhat do you think?
could bear the same weight
in any faith, in any race,

be mourned with the same tongue.1

Follow Inua Ellams on Twitter at @InuaEllams.

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