my meeting with the chiefs


yesterday i took a visit to my mother's village of mbak etoi looking for my great uncle. i called and called his phone to no avail, hearing that he'd gone to a chieftancy meeting--the kind of affair that commoners dare not interrupt. it was only after finding a chief on his way to the meeting, and persuading him to pass along a message, that my great uncle finally got wind that i was around.

he appeared suddenly and practically dragged me from the car into a nearby clearing, shaded by palm trees, where the entire body of the etoi clan council of chiefs was assembled in regal attire.

i thought maybe he'd slip me into a seat in the back, but instead he brought me to the high table and introduced me to the clan head. the latter graciously offered me a seat to his left before launching into a speech about my family's history. my grandfather, late chief paul bassey okon, was the first clan head of etoi. though i never got to meet him, i felt his presence richly yesterday as the council allowed me to sit in their midst and take this picture as a memento.

an overwhelming and surreal experience. --AL.

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