Tuesday, November 11, 2008

When The Mask Falls Off.

Years ago I read a book called The White Man of God. There is a scene I have never forgotten concerning Big Fadda and Small Fadda. Big Fadda was an expatriate prelate working in the small village as a missionary and Small Fadda was his assistant but a man of the people. Big Fadda preached against idolatry and this included even the Shigwala (the village masquerade with occult powers). One day during the funeral celebration of Small Fada, Big Fadda was in the village, the Shigwala came to frighten him and he slapped its mask (Kibarrakoh) off its head. To his greatest dismay it was his own catechist: Pa Mathieu an autochthon carrying it. Big Fadda fell down and fainted.
African traditionalists argue that Big Fadda fainted from the shock of the powers of the Shigwala while modernists claim it is because of the shock of seeing his own convert: Pa Mathieu live a double life.
Whatever the interpretation we all feel disappointed when we realize someone we thought we knew so well is wearing a mask. In the 19th century especially female writers took nom de plume to conceal their gender because the public was reticent reading from women. That was for a good purpose for they did not insult people’s parents, and physiognomy; they dwelled on the substance and matter.
On the contrary, on the internet most of the people using pseudonyms use them as doppelgangers for their skullduggery: one is the good person and the other is the bad person. The good person is polite in real life but goes on the internet to use and spew venom, lies and hate under a fake name. They utter quidnuncs that the nebbish wears in their heads like an informative encumbrance. To an extent they derive a special schadenfreude as they inflict uncontrollable damage on the good name (something that eludes them) of their victims. They are callously diffident and egoistic braggadocios. They hide behind their masks and utter their tarradiddles.
Those in search of an identity have created an avatar that they paint and design to the ideal person that eludes their real person. Such search for identity can only be cured by accepting who we are. For monomania disappear as they came and leave us more empty than we can fill.
In ancient days boulevardiers used sobriquets because they did not know if the people will receive them and also because they were there temporarily for mischief.
When individuals use masks they are very censorious and use a language they do not want to be identified with in real life. Look at all debate forums; there are people who never use their real names, and those who never use their real names spend the bulk of their time swaggering others. If they are female, in real life they do not have the name of a woman on their faces and when male, they look like valetudinarian. The women will put their passport size photographs and the men take refuge behind their garrulity. Nonetheless, no matter how good we camouflage it is never sempiternal.
Years ago lived a man in a brave village in Manyu Division. His wife had stopped giving him care and nurture. So he resulted in dressing like a ghost to hide in a village forest as women going to another village for a funeral queued themselves in a procession led by the moonlight. Since the general belief in those days was that all ghosts dressed in white, he wore white from head to toe. He will jump from the back and make a sound. As the last woman on the line saw him, she screamed and they ran helter-skelter. He gathered and took the food to his house to enjoy.
The news has gone round the village about the ghost. And usually he did that each time he heard someone had just died in the village or in the nearby village. People then claimed that the person had appeared as a ghost. When the villagers were tired of it, a few men gathered and hid themselves amongst the women as they marched to a new funeral. As he appeared from the bush, they quickly jumped on him, stripped off his mask only to find out that it was one of their own: Ta Mbeng. Until he died the villagers added ngumenem (devil) to his middle name: Ta Mbeng Ngumenem.
Those who use nom de plume for evil purposes leave behind a mask that cannot be taken of their real person. Though they beat the world with loquaciousness; due to societal punctilio they may receive politeness but their person is damaged material with a label: Attention; Not Good For Public Consumption.

Until then; cowards write behind evil masks.

Prince & PA Hamilton Ayuk

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