Kila, six years old, lives with her grandma in a village near the equatorial forest in Africa. It is a poor small village but rich in culture. Dance groups usually perform during celebrations like deaths and marriages and also at traditional festivals. At times masquerade, often referred to by the villagers as “jujus”, would also come out at the night and display around the neighborhoods. In their tradition, they believe that masquerades were not human beings but a type of monster.
Kila and her grandma had attended many of the village occasions and have witnessed most of the “jujus” performing. For some, women were chased away for only men were allowed to see because they were too dreadful. Some were very scary to kids of Kila’s age so much so that they would gum on their parents before watching. At one point, when they could not bear it any longer, they would close their eyes firmly because they were afraid of these creatures. Kila often wondered what these scary creatures could be. All the kids of her age wondered too. Some people say they are real monsters, some say they are ghosts and can kill. That makes many kids scared of them.
One day during the “King’s Dance”; an occasion where jujus perform In front of the king for entertainment, all the jujus wanted to present their best style, more so because prizes were to be awarded. Kila stood in an elevated position and watched keenly. It was so entertaining as some of the jujus would display, leaping, tumbling, twisting their bodies, and swinging lift and right. People would clap and scream as they show their awesome styles. Most of them looked like wild animals and others were very frightful like monsters.
Then came this moment when some showers of rain fell and got the ceremonial ground slippery. The jujus that were performing at the time started going back to their hiding places when one of them slipped and fell seriously and unfortunately, his mask came out of his head and rolled meters away. To the greatest surprise of Kila who was watching keenly, she saw with her own naked eyes that it was their neighbor under the mask. She exclaimed, “Grandma, it’s Papa Nduru! ” Her grandma held her mouth but it was too late. Kila had already discovered the juju secret. She held her head with eyes wide open to see more. “Wow!” She goes, “So Jujus are people and not monsters!”
Kila’s Grandma immediately took her home. The next day Kila could not keep this new discovery to herself despite the fact that her grandma kept cautioning her. The surprise was so great that she couldn’t wait to share it with her friends in the afternoon during their fun time. She would whisper to all her friends about her new discovery.
From the first friend Kila met that afternoon at the playground to the last one, Kila made sure she shared the good news. She told her friends all that happened in front of her at the King’s Dance and how above all the person under the mask was their neighbor. All her friends were as excited as she was when they got the news. They spent a better part of their playtime savoring the new discovery. From that time kids in that village understood the juju secret. They knew jujus can not kill them though they are that frightful. Kids being what they’re, began referring to any juju they saw from that day as “Pa Nduru”. Adults couldn’t deceive them that jujus were monsters any longer.
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