The auditorium was a 1500 capacity type and it was packed full to the brim. The tickets were all sold out for the three days event. Everybody wanted to have a taste of the musical jamboree. The drummers had been rehearsing for a whole month. Nkanta musical event was known worldwide for the intensity of energy it carried. It was even rumoured that people who were depressed, got better once they listened to the beats and never went back to their depressive moments.
The djembe drum was manned by Zonga. Zonga’s dreadlocks shook as she pounded the drums with her bare palms. Her palms slapped the drums and electrified the audience. Her drum beats could be heard loud and clear. It seemed like she was lost in another world. She fixed her gaze at the audience and it seemed like she was responding to their chants and cheers. It was an exhaustive performance. The three days of showcasing the drum beats from Nkanta tribe was a huge success.
The grand finale of the night production was a war chant song soloed by Zonga. It was hard to differentiate her voice from that of a man’s. She sang like a man and handled the drum like a man. It was not a common sight to see a woman on the djembe drum, but to do a solo performance was even rarer and a war chant for that matter. Her drum beats were unique. It told a story, a story that could not be suppressed. The energy that flowed from her was inexhaustible and it emanated from the depths of her soul and surged through her entire body. Every bead of perspiration that formed on her forehead told a story, every ache she bore as she beat the drum signaled victory, every twist of her body was a victory dance, for indeed, she had conquered the great war. Wars were usually associated with men and not women. The smaller drums accompanied the great djembe. As she hit the last movement, it seemed as if she was possessed.
She slapped the drum for the last time as she stood. The crowd erupted into a wild standing ovation to this woman who understood what it meant to be married to the djembe drum. She stood and took a bow. She had been drumming for the entire evening. How did she do that? The energy was intense. She was heaving; a small towel was handed to her. She wiped the perspiration from her face. She smiled and moved away from the drums to the front of the stage. A bouquet of flowers was handed to her by a pretty damsel. She raised the bouquet to the sky and blew kisses to the crowd. She walked through every other drummer in her troupe and shook their hands. She turned around in a swift, and threw the bouquet to the crowd.
Zonga woke up late the following morning and flung the curtains of her hotel room open. A flood of sunlight streamed to her room. She opened the windows and stared into the fields across the street. The greenery invited her. The woods beyond the grass seemed even more inviting, it was a Sunday morning and she wanted to visit the fields and the woods. The streets looked deserted for a Sunday. Was this not a Christian nation? Would people not go to church? She had read about Martin Luther the reformer who came from Germany. She was expecting everybody to be a Lutheran heading down to the Lutheran church on a Sunday morning. A few elderly people walked down the street holding dogs. She could spot a few joggers. Cycling parties rode past and the air smelt of sunlight evaporating dews. She glanced at the clock on the wall. It was 10.30am. She quickly threw some clothes on her body and scurried to The Table Restaurant, for a buffet breakfast. In the lift a few heads nodded to her and mumbled something that sounded like “hello” or “hallo”. She breezed into the restaurant and was waiting to be seated when three gentlemen and two ladies walked up to her to take selfie. She obliged them. She wasn’t in her best mood but what could she do? She was a public figure after all.
“Thank you for the performance last night” the shorter lady said.
“Thank you for coming. Without you I would not be there” Zonga responded.
“Your performance was electrifying” the medium built gentleman said.
“You beat the drums like you were possessed by some spirit” the freckle faced lady announced.
“Yes I am possessed” she replied, “with a desire to entertain you all some more”.
They all burst into laughter and ended up sitting on the same table for their breakfast. Zonga wasn’t hoping for this. All she wanted was a quiet breakfast and to head back to her room to sleep. She had some more sleep to catch up with. It had been a crazy four days. Her hands ached, her body ached. She needed more sleep and then some massage and a good walk in the fields she saw through the window of her hotel room. She planned to take a tour across the old city of Berlin. Her flight back to Bibana republic was on Tuesday. She planned to shop for her children . She needed to find out where the equivalent of Primark store was located, but now she could see her plans dissolving right before her.
“By the way I am Anita” said the shorter of the two ladies; I must confess that it is very nice to meet you”, She added, stretching forth her hand towards Zonga.
Zonga shook her head and her braids swiped across her face. She took the outstretched hands.
“Nice to meet you too.”
“I am Clara, nice to meet you” said the second lady.
“Nice to meet you too” Zonga replied.
“This is Reuther, Williem and Lothas” Anita introduced the gentlemen.
“Nice to meet you all” Zonga said.
“If you all don’t mind, can I please be excused? I have had a very hard one month of training and performances and this is the first day I am just trying to be myself.”
“Absolutely”, they all seemed to chorus.
Zonga moved away to a table and sat alone in a corner but somehow people kept prying into her privacy, these were folks who had been in the concert the night before. They recognized her. Her braids could not be mistaken. Her chocolate skin was pristine. Her definitive figure and well sculpted hands that have slapped life into the drums were extraordinary features.
At the hallway waiting for the elevator Zonga ran into Anita again. Zonga changed her mind and decided to take the stairs. Anita changed her mind too and joined her.
“Zonga, so when are you leaving?”
“Do you have any concerts lined up?”
“Because I would like to come and watch you in concert again”
“I have one coming up in Bibana republic in three month’s time.”
“Oh really, I have always wanted to visit Bibana, this would be a great opportunity for me to come and visit Bibana.”
“Thanks Anita. I shall forward you details of the concert.”
“Thanks, I will really appreciate that”. Anita furnished Zonga with her phone number and left.
Zonga spent the day lazing about in bed and thinking of the trajectory her life had taken. She recommitted herself to the course, the pathway she had chosen to follow in life. She felt happy with herself. She felt sad for Azota. She loved Azota but the path she had chosen was far too important for her than anything else. ‘He will never understand. No matter how I try to make him understand he won’t understand. It’s far too deep. It’s a war for me. I must win this war and never will I be a partaker to bringing somebody into this world who will perhaps end up treading such a difficult pathway like I did. Never’ she soliloquized.
Zonga’s suitcases were packed with children’s clothing. She did not buy a single item for herself. She beamed with satisfaction. She kept imagining the smiles that would be on her children’s faces when they saw the gifts. That in itself made her feel so fulfilled. Her earnings from the performance would pay the fees of about twenty children at the Endwell secondary school for five years and three university fees for a year for Zeze, Mutu and Kume. Her joys knew no bounds. She switched her mind to Azota. She was looking forward to seeing him. She enjoyed every single moment with him. Azota was her boyfriend from her university days. Azota had let her into his life but she hadn’t let him into hers. Her pathway in life was too defined to let anybody into. It was too convoluted. She didn’t want to complicate it further by admitting somebody into her space. The burden she carried was too heavy. Like the musical in Les Miserables, her soul will not find rest until she fulfilled that which she vowed to herself.
Two days later, Azota went to Bibana International Airport to pick Zonga. He gave her a sweet smile and a warm hug, “welcome back dear” he said.
“Thank you for coming to pick me” Zonga answered .
“You know I will do anything for you.”
“Yes I know, thank you.”
“You must be tired and hungry?”
“Yes. But I will be fine.”
Zonga knew that where she was heading back to, she could not rest well. But that has been her story for years. She has come to accept that reality. It was always paradoxical that when she travelled out or went for performances, she slept in nice hotels and had the best treatment and services compared to where she called home. Home to her was a total different experience. Sometimes she would wake up at night when she was sleeping in a hotel hearing the voices of her children crying. She would feel guilty, sleeping in such comfort while her children slept in squalor.
Azota had been such a great friend and she didn’t want to waste his time. She knew that she held no future with him. The task before her was too huge and she did not need any distraction.
“I might as well tell him the truth. He deserves that from me,” she told herself.
For three years Azota had proven himself to be such a reliable friend who wanted the best for Zonga. Back in the university, even though Azota read medical biochemistry he was a member of the performing group of Bibana university. To him performing arts was a hobby, something he used to calm himself down and express his innermost craving for art. He had lost his mum to cancer and studied medical biochemistry because he wanted to work in a cancer research institute to help see if that bloody deadly disease can be tracked down and finally nailed. There was something about Zonga. It was her energy, which could be captured in the emotion, liget. She never seemed to run out of energy. There was this insatiable thirst in her for something that never seemed to be fulfilled. When she was on stage, she seemed like a possessed person full of vitality and fervor and as soon as she got off the stage she was so withdrawn. Azota had befriended Zonga for three years and he knew only five percent of her. He did not know her address, where she lived and who her parents were. She always gave Azota that lovely smile. She would eat with Azota and talk about plays and performances. She would also talk about the molecular structure of some polymers with Azota and the latest advances in the biomedical field. Azota marveled at her intellect and super smartness.
“Azota, I have to tell you the truth because I do not want you to continue to waste your time with me.” She said as soon as she had some dinner.
“Yes, go ahead”
“To begin with I don’t have any boyfriend like you know and I don’t intend to enter into any relationship with any man.”
“I know this is the same question you have asked me over and over again”
“Then give me an answer Zonga.”
“I was picked up by a kind gentleman whom I do not know from the bus stop. I was taken to the orphanage at three months of age, Endwell orphanage at Nidi town. I was raised there. I started primary school there. I went to secondary school from the orphanage. I went to university from the orphanage. My holidays were spent in the orphanage. That is my home, and that is the reason why I have decided to dedicate my life to saving children like me. All the money I make, I use it to pay the fees of my wards at the orphanage. With every dime I earn, I think of food and clothing for those children because I see them as mine. They are my responsibility. It would not be fair for me to complicate anybody with this calling and burden of mine. I have decided to tread this path alone. That is why I have not let you into my life so that you can be free. I am sure you can find love, real love elsewhere. For me love is feeding those children and caring for them.”
There was a long pause. The silence was so thick that you could slice it with a knife. Then finally he spoke.
“Zonga, I will walk that path with you. It will be a blessing to do something as worthy as that, I will support you to tread that path. I will.”
“Really? In that case, give me a little while to think about your proposal and get back to you.”