I was born in relatively unknown African village, in the south southern part of Nigeria. Back in those days, we didn’t have so much toys to play with. There weren’t high fences to ‘cage’ us in. In fact, there were no fences at all. As infants, we crawled on bare earth and sometimes ate of the the ‘sweet scenting’ sand. And as we grew, the sand – reddish brown earth – was our companion. We played in the sand, fought in the sand and were remarkably creative with the use of the sand. As far as the sand was concerned, there was nothing to fear – Because we were brave.
Childhood was a time of great adventure. There was nothing we couldn’t do or be and whatever our minds imagined, we gave expression to it in ways that amazed and (sometimes) terrified the adults.
Yes, the sand was our Kingdom and everything connected with it was our resources.
We were hunters, hunting grasshoppers in grown and lush grass fields.
We were actors, playing roles of ‘Father’, ‘Mother’ and children.
We were warriors, wrestling to the ‘death’ of anyone who dared challenge us to a contest.
We were chefs who could ‘cook’ the most delicious cuisines in our empty milk tins on top of our improvised ‘fireplace’.
We were movie stars too, for we could recreate and reanimate out favourite ‘Rambo’ and ‘Van Dam’ movies in the bush and uncompleted buildings.
We made pistols out of wood and made machine guns out of cocoyam stems well fitted together with broomsticks.
We scaled walls and jumped off treetops. We climbed thorny orange trees and ant-infested mango trees many times without clothes except dirty muddy pants, just to get to the fruits that our stones and sticks could not reach. We weren’t afraid of the thorns or the ants, because we were brave.
And to my personal favourite, we were ‘Olympic Medalists’ who reigned supreme in local sports and games. We would organise our teams and train ourselves in different kinds of sports ranging from high jumps to long jumps and even acrobatics (our own form of gymnastics).
I remember being a grand champion once, having become the ‘last man standing’ in our village regional contest of the one who could do any stunt that anyone else could do and yet still perform a stunt that no one else could perform.
We would mark out our competition ‘arena’ and use a spade to soften the ground by breaking them into clods and sometimes wetting it with water. We had a ‘liftoff’ constructed out of coconut branches, firmly fixed at one end of the ‘arena’ and then the games begin. We would run with maximum speed towards the ‘liftoff’ and upon takeoff, we would perform different twists and turns in the air before touching back down. If you land on your feet without falling, you scored a point, otherwise, you lost a point. And you can bet that as far those stunts went, we were fierce, we were daring and we were brave. Some would fold their hands to perform a stunt and some would even clap their hands through their styles just to be unique.
My mother would often scream at the top of her voice in fear for the safety of her dear son. She feared I might fall and break a bone and maybe lose my life. But I had no such fear and had no such care. Those were days when we were brave.
Many years have past since then and as I reminisce, I realise how much we have changed. – how much I have changed.
With the much acquired knowledge of gems and bacteria, we’re now afraid to get our hands ‘dirty’.
Now we think less of what we could do and become, and think more of what we COULDN’T do or become.
Our fear of failure restrains us more than our passion for success propels us.
And because we are afraid that if we ‘venture out’, we might lose, we focus on SAFETY. We think ‘safety’, we talk ‘safety’ and so we live (and die) in the SAFE ZONE. – Forgetting that there was a time when we were brave. Let’s be BRAVE again!
(C) Peter Akhere