Into His Arms
By Akoli Penoukou
Afadina Dotse staggered out of Vodunon Axuadegbe’s
shrine towards his BMW 525i car, mumbling “I should’ve
left them alone.” A medium-built customs clearance agent
with close-cropped hair, a thick moustache, and wearing
a rich lace dress, Afadina sagged against the car door.
He recalled Mrs. Emefa Sekaya in all her beauty and the
husband he didn’t know. And now they were dead! No, my
God! His wide chest quivered with sobs and tears
streamed down his well-filled cheeks.
Afadina slid into the car and hunched over the steering
wheel drove slowly away. Drivers on the Cotonou-Lomé
highway that Sunday blared their horns behind him and
glowered at him as if he’d walked over their
neatly-trimmed front lawns.
Afadina honked in front of his garage and his house-boy
Kofi threw the door open. He drove in and went straight
to his bedroom and hurled himself on his neatly-made bed
Minutes later, his barkeeper-neighbour Thomas de Souza
walked over, bare chest.
“Why no pii, pii, pii, or even a wave,” he said.
Afadina rubbed his palm across his face. “I’m dazed.”
“Customs officers again?”
He shook his head. “It’s worse. I’ll tell you about it
Thomas stared at Afadina and then said, “I’m home, if
you need me.”
Soon after, a slim man in freshly-ironed clothes and
clutching a Bible fingered the bell.
“Who is it again?” Afadina bellowed.
“Paul Bellow,” Kofi said.
Afadina received Paul in a straw hut adjacent to the
“You look sick.” Paul observed.
Afadina snorted and clutched his forehead. Then he
sighed loud enough to put out a candle. “I want to
convert,” he opened up like in anger.
Paul sprang up and cried, “Hallelujah! Oh,
Jehovah-Nissi, may your Holy Name be praised.”
Afadina kept his posture.
Paul glanced at his watch and sighed. “I’ve to interpret
someone on Christ dying for us. You shouldn’t miss it.”
Afadina shook his head. “I can’t stand all that noise
now.” Afadina had often fumed at the loud singing from
the Followers of Christ Church down the block, at the
other side of the T junction.
“It isn’t noise we make there,” Paul said. “We display
our joy in Him. Let’s go submit your load to Christ,
he’ll console you. ”
“Not now, I said.” Afadina’s voice rose.
“Okay,” Paul said, “I’ll come over after church with
Esenam Fiaty, a converted fetish priestess. She has the
gift of sustaining new converts.”
“Now, let’s pray.” Paul said. “Oh Lord Jesus Christ, you
know our every weakness. I’m entrusting my brother to
you: take him into your hands and let him find solace
“Amen,” Afadina said and Paul left.
felt a bit better. This was different from when Paul
showed him how to accept Jesus. He just listened. Paul
said he should admit that he had sinned, then confess
and God will cleanse his sins away. Next, he should
believe in Jesus to have eternal life. Then tell God he
wanted to receive Jesus into his life to become a child
of God. Finally he should ask God to help him live
according to His ways.
called Shitu,” Paul had said. “And when born again I
became Paul. I’ve no regrets, why should you?”
sighed and thought.
Thomas returned wearing a brewery’s T-shirt.
“Did Paul come for money?” he sneered. “He looked
Afadina shook his head. “He prayed for me.”
Prayed for you?” Thomas tittered.
Afadina nodded. “Some people died today through my
Thomas sat down, wide-eyed.
Afadina sighed like a compressor releasing steam. “I
took a woman to be charmed to become my lover. But the
Huno’s portion killed her and her
Thomas shrieked. “That’s terrible, but there’s a
purification ceremony for it. I know someone from Abomey
who can perform it.”
“Abomey again?” Afadina howled.
Thomas nodded and whipped out a business card. “Call me
this guy: Rigobert Zokpodo.”
Scowling, Afadina dialled Rigobert’s number and handed
Thomas the phone. Thomas asked Rigobert to see him
“I’ve appointment with Paul,” Afadina said.
“Cancel it,” Thomas urged. “This isn’t a matter for
Afadina agreed and postponed the appointment.
Rigobert arrived and suggested his uncle, Huno
Glele. Thomas called him for an appointment. He gave
them nine o’clock the next day.
Thomas covered the mouthpiece. “Is nine tomorrow okay?”
he said to Afadina.
Afadina scowled. “I don’t know. Anything.”
Thomas uncovered the mouthpiece. “Agreed.”
When Thomas and Rigobert arrived at Afadina’s house at
8.30, he plodded into the garage and kicked the right,
front tire. “We can’t go,” he said. “I’ve a flat.”
“A flat isn’t a broken down car,” Thomas said and waved
to Rigobert to help him change the tire. A few minutes
later, they were on their way to Glele’s.
Glele received them in a side-room which smelled stale.
Afadina winced at the deity in a corner yet he didn’t
rule out performing the purification ceremony. As Thomas
had said, he could become Christian afterwards. He kept
on seeing Mrs. Sekaya and a man in horrible dreams. That
After receiving the consultation fee of two thousand
francs, about $4, Huno Glele recited: “I’ll need
a goat, a cock, a hen, a duck, three pigeons,—all
white—one big bottle of imported schnapps, one big
bottle of foreign gin, one beer bottle of sodabi”
—the locally brewed gin—“three bottles of soft
drinks, herbs and other ingredients that I’ll look for
myself, and a fee of one hundred thousand francs.”
Thomas nudged Afadina when the Huno finished
giving the list.
“I don’t have that much money here now,” he almost
Glele rose. “Come when you’re ready.”
“It’s too much,” Afadina whispered to Thomas as they
walked away. “I don’t think I want to do it.”
“Don’t joke with this,” Thomas advised seriously.
Afadina nodded, yet something disturbed him. “Tom,
sincerely I don’t want any purification ceremony,” he
blurted out in the car.
“Let’s clear off this blemish,” Thomas said.
Jesus will do it better, Afadina wanted to say.
“We’re in Africa, with our African realities. Supposing
the deceased’s people find out they died through
somebody’s fault. Do you think they’ll leave you alone?”
Afadina thought of that. Okay he’d purge himself of
whatever stain there was but he was bent on being born
again. “Okay,” he said quietly.
“If money is the problem—but I know it isn’t—I’ll borrow
“No,” Afadina said, “I don’t like to borrow money, even
from the bank.”
“I’ll borrow even from the devil,” Thomas said
Afadina raised his eyebrows
On Wednesday evening Afadina’s telephone rang. As he
took the call, a scowl formed on his face. Why didn’t
Paul contact him before making the arrangements to bring
Esenam Fiaty and a prayer group to his house? He fumed
although he yearned for their presence. He has been
thinking about his life and something was melting in
Now, he accepted that the inflammatory preaching from
the FCC pricked his conscience, forcing him to
reconsider his way of life. He and Thomas sneered at the
congregation’s happiness as religious opium. Yet he knew
terrible people who Christ transformed totally. Jesus
must be more than opium. But leaving the girls, drinks,
parties, night clubs, well, that was the whole snag.
Paul came in singing and dancing with three women and
four men. Afadina wondered if he could also dance, but
hadn’t he been doing so in night clubs? They prayed long
with him. Then Paul opened the Bible.
“Psalm 119:73: ‘Your hands made me and formed me; give
me understanding to learn
your commands.’ That’s what we wish for our brother.
Sśur Esenam-” Paul nodded to a
Esenam Fiaty smiled. “My brother, I know exactly what
you’re going through because I’ve been there too.”
“We’ll tear down the power of the devil today,” a slim
man cut in.
“Amen!” the others chorused.
Esenam continued. “If you’re reluctant to leave worldly
things, wondering if being in Christ is interesting, I’d
say yes it is!”
“Amen!” somebody cried.
“Nobody loves gods more than the people of my village,”
Esenam continued. “And none of them was as initiated as
me. But I’ve abandoned everything and today I’m free and
“Hallelujah!” a lady shouted.
“Amen!” the others answered.
“I no longer have to worry about animals, drinks, and
money to have my problems solved. Christ does so free of
“Hallelujah!” Paul cried.
Afadina, who had all the time been considering if he
would convert this time, stared at Esenam and lowered
his eyes again. Could he one day be able to set eyes on
a beautiful woman without desiring her?
“Let’s listen to each read a biblical verse to meditate
on,” Paul said.
“The Acts 4:12: ‘Neither is there salvation in any
other: for there is none other name under heaven given
among men, whereby we must be saved.’”
“Matthew 11:28: ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and
burdened, and I will give
“Isaiah 1:18: ‘Come now, and let us reason together,
said the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they
shall be as white as snow; though they be red like
crimson, they shall be as wool.’”
“Romans 8:6: ‘For to be carnally minded is death; but to
be spiritually minded is life and peace.’”
“Jeremiah 23:24: ‘Can any hide himself in secret places
that I shall not see him?’ said the Lord. I not fill
heaven and earth? said the Lord.’”
“II Corinthians 5:10: ‘For we must all appear before the
judgement seat of Christ, that every one may receive the
things done in his body, whether it be good or bad .”’
“Colossians 3:2: ‘Set your affection on things above,
not on things on the earth.”’
Paul added: “John 8:44: ‘You are of your father the
devil, and the lusts of your father you will do . . .
When he speaks a lie, he speaks of his own: for he is a
liar and the father of it.’ And Psalm 16:11: ‘. . . in
your presence is fullness of joy; at your right hand
there are pleasures for evermore.’”
The meditation of the citations hadn’t finished before
Afadina decided to abandon definitely the purification
ceremony and embrace Christ.
Easter Friday. Afadina laid his best suit across the
bed. Then he shuffled into the hall and was wondering if
he really wanted to go to church when Thomas slid in.
“A debtor yesterday paid me a large sum. Rigobert and I
have sent the items to Huno Glele. Warm up your
car and let’s go.”
Afadina felt like exploding at Thomas. He had told him
he hated credits. Why didn’t he contact him before
buying the items? Afadina shook his head.
“Huh?” Thomas’ eyes widened.
“I’m going to church.”
“Church? You?” Thomas laughed.
“You mean, we wouldn’t be having any more good time?
C’mon, talk sense.”
Afadina wondered why Thomas was so insensitive to what
he was feeling. Or did he think that he was joking about
going through a dark moment? “I’m serious, Thomas.”
Thomas backtracked and peered at Afadina. “What about
the ceremony?” he said quietly.
“I’m through with those things.”
The two sat lost in their thoughts and hardly noticed
Paul stride in. “Hallelujah!” he cried.
“Amen,” Afadina answered.
Thomas leered at Paul.
“The old has gone, the new has come,” Paul said. “Saved
are those who follow the Lord.”
“You’re disturbing us,” Thomas snapped. “We’re going for
“We’re going where one doesn’t need blood, oil, drink,
or money to be saved.”
“Don’t you take collection at your church? What do you
call it? Rubbish?”
“It’s for the Lord’s work.”
Thomas dragged Afadina aside. “Let that joker go away,”
he said. “Do you think I’ll invest in the purification
ceremony if I didn’t trust it?”
Back, Afadina didn’t act.
“Anyone trying to ruin this ceremony will face the wrath
of the gods,” Thomas threatened.
“I cannot be afraid of a god that one can carry about,”
Paul said and Afadina laughed. “I worship a living God."
“Go to hell with your church matters!” Thomas exploded
and left in a huff, muttering threats.
“Esenam Fiaty says such ceremonies could be dangerous,”
Paul said. “They don’t tell you everything. Why is
Thomas so insistent while you’re the one concerned. Does
he have some interest in it?”
Afadina shrugged. He didn’t know who to believe now.
“Could you give me some time to sort out my feelings?”
“This life is not ours,” Paul said. “The lord can take
it back at any time. Think about that.”
On Sunday Afadina felt like a child left to itself in
the dark. Even in the day, he sees images of Mrs. Sekaya
and a man. Is Thomas’ group not throwing charms his way?
Or does he really need the purification ceremony to
protect him? Wouldn’t conversion to Christ be better?
“Oh jeez,” Afadina sobbed and wondered what to do. Then
the bell rang. He jumped up. “Go see who it is,” he said
to Kofi, wishing it was Paul.
He parted the window curtain slightly to see Thomas and
Huno Glele hurrying in. He sighed.
“Huno Glele has an interesting proposal,” Thomas
Afadina wondered what that was.
“I’ve consulted the afa and it recommends
initiation into a powerful secret society which will
look after you.” Huno Glele smiled, revealing
Afadina wondered what prompted this seemingly busy man
to come to his house.
“You’ll have total protection, there’ll be no more
Afadina felt like bursting into laughter. If there was
such a power, Vodunon Axuadegbe would have foreseen Mr.
and Mrs. Sekaya’s death.
“The ceremonies are a little bit expensive,” Huno Glele
Just then Paul, Esenam, and their group burst in.
Afadina knew that he didn’t want to be initiated into
any secret society where strange things happen to one,
such as members of one’s family dying mysteriously at
“I want to leave a smaller evil,” Afadina said, “And you
people want to thrust me into a bigger one. “No.” He
shook his head. “Jesus is my saviour.” He waved to
Paul’s group. “Come. Come. Come.”
“Evil?” Huno Glele said and stormed out.
Thomas flashed Afadina a hurt look and followed Huno
Paul’s group sang louder and danced. Afadina rocked too.
What was the sense in worrying about the pleasures of
the ephemeral body and the vanities of this world which
will pass away? Afadina crumbled onto his knees. “Lord
Jesus Christ,” he confessed. “I’ve sinned grievously
against you and your father. Wipe away my sins and make
“Amen!” the group thundered, muttering prayers which
gave Afadina goose pimples.
“Paul lifted Afadina to his feet. “Christ is waiting for
you with wide-open arms.”
“Yes,” he said through tears, “carry me into His arms.”
Afadina felt good to have finally taken the perpetually
delayed decision for the salvation of his eternal soul.
posted 23 June 2007
* * *
Coltrane, "Alabama" /
Kalamu ya Salaam, "Alabama"
A Love Supreme
A Blues for the Birmingham Four
/ Eulogy for the Young Victims
/ Six Dead After Church
* * * *
Blacks in Hispanic Literature: Critical Essays
Blacks in Hispanic Literature is a
collection of fourteen essays by scholars and
creative writers from Africa and the Americas.
Called one of two significant critical works on
Afro-Hispanic literature to appear in the late
1970s, it includes the pioneering studies of
Carter G. Woodson and
Valaurez B. Spratlin, published in the 1930s, as
well as the essays of scholars whose interpretations
were shaped by the Black aesthetic. The early
essays, primarily of the Black-as-subject in Spanish
medieval and Golden Age literature, provide an
historical context for understanding 20th-century
creative works by African-descended, Hispanophone
writers, such as Cuban
Nicolás Guillén and Ecuadorean poet, novelist,
Adalberto Ortiz, whose essay analyzes the
significance of Negritude in Latin America. This
collaborative text set the tone for later
conferences in which writers and scholars worked
together to promote, disseminate, and critique the
literature of Spanish-speaking people of African
descent. . . .
Cited by a
literary critic in 2004 as "the seminal study in the
field of Afro-Hispanic Literature . . . on which
most scholars in the field 'cut their teeth'."
* * *
Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in
By Melissa V.
According to the
author, this society has historically exerted
considerable pressure on black females to fit into one
of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the
Matriarch or the Jezebel. The selfless
Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to
white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of
those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the
relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable
temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as
an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the
characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television
shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.
points out how the propagation of these harmful myths
have served the mainstream culture well. For instance,
the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for
black females to feel a maternal instinct towards
As for the source
of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their
own bodies during slavery given that they were being
auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless,
it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate
the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate
* * *
updated 4 November 2007