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If Not This Dream
Book One: The Hausas
By Larry D. Clark
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2015 Larry D. Clark
All rights reserved.
The African moon shone full and bright, the light it cast on this giant land filtered by passing clouds as they carried their promises across the sky. A small stream gurgled in the quiet woods and then splashed its waters a few feet to the jagged rocks below, trying to find its way to the Kadejia River just a few yards away. In a clearing, a flickering fire cast shadows of tall men against small, round huts. The tallest man in the gathering, his face grim, commanded the attention of everyone as he recounted some unpleasant news. Wearing a djellaba, his abeti-aja covering his head, his strong, black arms bulged as he held his spear in both hands high above his head. He brought the heavy shaft down sideways across his uplifted knee, breaking it close to the head of the spear. Every man duplicated this act, each tossing his spear shaft into the fire.
These were proven Hausa hunters, herdsmen and farmers, prized in the slave market.
Their blood had mixed with ancient migrating Dinkas of the lower Nile hundreds of years earlier. They were taller than other Hausa tribesmen in Northeast Hausaland. The grown men stood between five feet ten inches and six feet five inches, sometimes taller, their legs and torsos strong and sinewy from long hours in the fields and bush. These Hausas knew no fear, and their keen minds made them ideal for ruling men and beasts.
Zaki, the chief of his village, had taken a scouting party to the southwest a few days earlier. On this journey, they had witnessed a slave raid by the Oyos and their white leader. He had heard about the bloody Oyo raids all around the Hausa towns of Katina, Kano, and Zaria. He wanted to see for himself. Hausaland had been free of slave raiding parties for over a year.
Sitting high on a brush-covered hill, Zaki and his warriors watched the band of Oyos wade into a Hausa village. They hacked to death all resisters. They left the village with thirty captives, leaving behind 100 dead men, women, and children. Zaki and his warriors watched their African brothers herded off toward waiting ships in the port of Lagos. The Oyo slavers continued northeast toward Zaki's village. Shocked into action, the Hausa's rose as a body and ran toward their homes and families.
Two days later a young scout came running into the village with the long-dreaded news. The slavers would surround them by daybreak. They could expect a dawn raid.
Zaki signaled the village. The Hausa's knew what to do. He had rehearsed them for such an attack, hoping his people would never have to experience one. Mothers moved their babies and small children, joining all females, to the village ceremonial area. All teenage boys circled the women and children. The older men walked around the circle, handing each member a spearhead with a short, broken shaft. This done, the older men of the tribe formed a second circle around the boys, leaving a small opening facing a path from the bush.
Zaki walked among the women and children, encouraging them. He walked around each circle, touching each spearhead to his heart, and then pushing it into the ground. He walked to the small opening, by this time aware of the unseen eyes hidden in the predawn bush. He raised his hands to the sky and emitted a long, loud, chilling cry that echoed through the Hausa kingdom. His warriors withdrew their spearheads from the rich, dark soil and turned to face the outside of the circle. Their backs to the women and children, they placed their spearheads to their hearts. Engrossed in what had to be done, they pushed their spear points through their djellabas into their flesh. Circles of blood appeared on white cloth. Zaki and his people faced the unseen enemy and waited.CHAPTER 2
Sunlight filled the sky, sunbeams piercing through the morning mist. The calm that had enveloped the night continued into the sunrise, birds refusing to settle in the trees around the Hausa village.
Zaki stared straight ahead, separating the stealthy, muffled sounds of humans from the other sounds of the bush. Tension spread throughout the two circles and to the mothers and children within.
The Oyos materialized at the edge of the bush about fifty yards from the village. The Hausa's could see their faces, glistening with war paint. Zaki gripped his spearhead tighter.
The Oyos began shrieking. After five minutes, a stout warrior stepped forward and raised his spear. The slavers began running in place, their knees lifted waist high. Every few seconds they cocked their arms and faked throwing their spears, following with a loud chant. In the background, the Oyo war drums pounded their lust for Hausa blood. They stopped, the bush echoing the remains of their cries. Two tribes stared at each other, waiting.
A short, stocky, redheaded white man appeared in the opening of the bush. Zaki sensed, by the man's demeanor that he was frightened. The stubby man spoke with two Oyo leaders. Zaki strained to hear their voices. They seemed to be arguing with the white man, gesturing toward the odd Hausa formation facing them.
The conversation halted when the white man pointed toward the Hausa circles. Both warriors walked within ten yards of Zaki and buried their spears in the earth. They stared straight into Zaki's eyes, one of them turning and motioning for the white man to join them. He walked toward them, wiping his brow, his shirt soaked with perspiration. Zaki gained confidence. His plan had confused the Oyos, but he knew the worst still faced his people.
The white man could speak Hausa well enough to communicate with Zaki. He looked up into Zaki's eyes, searching for an advantage.
"Do you know why we are here?" the white man asked.
Zaki watched the white man continue to perspire. "I know why you are here," he answered.
The white man made a sweeping gesture toward his Oyo warriors. "I have ten times more Oyos as there are Hausas in your village," he challenged.
"Your numbers cannot humble my people," Zaki said.
"Your strange fighting formation has kept us from already destroying your village," the white man said.
"We knew you would appear. We have watched you kill women and children and take men from their villages in chains. We are ready for you," Zaki explained.
Zaki stared down into the white man's eyes. He wanted to crush him, but he could not alter his plan.
"Why do you stand with your spears to your hearts?" The white man asked.
"All my Hausas will die if you do not agree to what I command," Zaki answered.
Beads of sweat trickled down the white man's face. He stepped back and wiped his brow and the back of his neck, looking at his Oyo companions, hoping for an explanation. They were as confused as their white partner.
The white man regained his bravado. "Nonsense. We have you far outnumbered. If you resist, all Hausas in this village will die."
"If you attack my village, all Hausas will kill themselves, and you will get nothing," Zaki said, continuing to stare into the white man's eyes.
"We will return to the bush. We shall give you one last chance to lay down your arms. If you don't, we shall kill everyone in this Hausa village," the white man challenged.
The white man started to turn.
Zaki broke the silence with a piercing cry.
The white man whirled around, stunned, just as Zaki raised his hand, pointed to a tall, muscular Hausa, and dropped his hand. The Hausa's powerful hands pulled his spearhead deep into his own chest, a burst of air escaping from his lungs as he fell to the ground in a heap.
The white man stared in horror as blood gushed from the hole in the fallen Hausa's chest.
Zaki didn't give the white man a chance to regain his composure. His fierce cry echoed again throughout the Hausa bush. He raised his hand and pointed to the next Hausa.
"No! Wait!" the Englishman yelled.
Zaki looked at the next Hausa and told him with his eyes that he would not have to take his own life. The Hausa offered no sign of relief, but relaxed his grip on the spearhead and awaited orders from his chief. They both understood.
"What are your demands?" the white man uttered as he looked at the bloody body on the ground beside him.
Zaki spoke. "Fifteen Hausa men and five Hausa women will go with you. We will keep our spears until we reach the sea. If your people try to gather those in the circle, all Hausas will die by their own hands."
"How do I know you will keep your word when we reach the sea?" the white man asked.
"I am a Hausa chief," Zaki answered.
The Englishman couldn't mask his superiority. "We shall depart at once."
"No!" Zaki boomed. "I must speak with my son and make him the new chief. You may choose your Hausas, then you must go into the bush with the Oyos; I will bring the chosen ones."
This time the Englishman did not question Zaki's resolve, or his advantage. He walked around the outer circles, pointing out fourteen males, and then he walked inside the circles and chose five females.
"These are the ones I want, along with you," the Englishman said.
The Englishman and his two companions joined the rest of the Oyos in the bush.
The two circles of Hausas remained in formation as Zaki entered the circle.
A young boy, no more than sixteen years old, emerged from the inner circle and walked toward his chief. His six-foot-three-inch frame matched his father's. He looked like his father. His high cheekbones cradled large, almond-shaped, dark eyes, evidence of the ancient Egyptian blood that had passed on to him by his migrating Dinka ancestors. He dropped to one knee, head bowed, before his father, the village chief.
"Damisa! Rise my son," Zaki commanded. "You are Damisa, the leopard, and you will now become chief of your people. You must lead them with strength."
The young boy repeated his name and new title to his father. "I am Damisa, chief of the Hausas," he said with pride.
Zaki smiled at him, placing a hand on each of the boy's shoulders. "Your first duty as chief will be to take your older brother Auta to the high place and bury him. Remember this day, my son."
Zaki pierced his son's wrist with his spear and then pierced his own. The Hausa chief and his son pressed their bleeding wrists together, raising them high above their heads, announcing the beginning of the reign of a new Hausa chief.
Damisa walked his father to the center of the circle, toward a tall Hausa girl. She pulled their wrists apart. Zaki took her hand and placed it in the bloody hand of his son.
"You have chosen well, my son," Zaki said.
Zaki turned to the girl and looked into her beautiful, dark eyes. "Zubaydah, join your new chief as queen of the Hausas. Help my son lead the people."
Zubaydah bowed before her new husband, and then she stepped back into the group of mothers and children, her mother hugging her with pride.
Zaki walked to the outer circle, the gap now widened by the death of his oldest son. He stooped down and scooped a handful of earth and put it into his empty food pouch.
He returned to his son Damisa, placing a hand on each side of the boy's head, looking into his eyes. The boy showed no sign of tears or fear, just a deep love for his father.
"I shall now make the journey to the sea, my son. I will carry with me this pouch of earth from our village and my necklace of lion's claws. I should pass this necklace to you, but I must keep it so our souls remain connected. You must journey to the west and kill a lion with your own spear and create your own necklace of lion's claws. Someday, I shall return in body or in spirit. Send someone to the high place each day with a pouch of sacred earth from this place for seven seasons to watch for my return. If I do not return in seven seasons, you may stop waiting for me. Pass this day on to your children and tell them to pass it on to theirs. Pass your own pouch of Hausa earth and your own necklace of lion's claws on to the new chief. One day, our people will be together again, either in the land of our fathers or in the land above. On that day we will combine our two pouches of Hausa earth and our two necklaces of lion's claws and be one people again. This is my dream."
Zaki raised his hands once more to offer a blessing to his people. Then, in a quiet voice, he said, "Sai an juma," until we meet again.
Damisa raised both hands high over his head, standing for the last time before his father, and said, "Sauka lafiya!" Arrive safely.
Zaki looked at the village his young son would lead. He looked at the young Hausa boys who would follow him. He looked into the eyes of Damisa and Zubaydah. He had faith in his son's ability to watch over his people. His radiant queen stood tall, powerful, and dignified. Zaki knew she would one day nurse the future Hausa chief.
Zubaydah understood Zaki's thoughts and promised herself that she would name her first son Zaki.
Without another word, Zaki walked through the gap in the circle and led his band of Hausas into the bush. He did not look back. Fifteen Hausa men and five Hausa females followed him away from their homes, toward the sea.
The Englishman and his Oyo warriors surrounded the small group and herded them deeper into the bush toward Zaria. Zaki guessed his captors would have boats waiting at a branch of the Kaduna River. They would walk about fifty miles to awaiting riverboats. Zaki squeezed the pouch of sacred earth, touched his necklace of lion's claws and, head held high, walked into a life of slavery.
Near Zaria the Englishman loaded the Hausas into large river canoes. The line of boats headed downriver to the southeast, past Kaduna, following the Kaduna to the Niger River, traveling east and northeast until they reached the confluence of the Odin River. They followed this river south until it became the Odan River, which took them due south to Epe and Lagos Lagoon and an easy paddle across to Lagos.CHAPTER 3
The caravan of Hausas marching single file from the harbor into the coastal town of Lagos, in southern Hausaland, presented a strange sight. Businessmen, laborers, and slaves stopped their work, captivated by these warriors and their women. The red blotches over the hearts of the unshackled Hausa males' djellabas stirred the curiosity of the slave owners
Embarrassed, the squat Englishman shrugged his shoulders and threw his hands into the air when one of his colleagues hooted at him. The citizens of Lagos had never seen slaves armed with spearheads herded into town without shackles. The scene offered a respite from the routine in the slave community. Several white men cocked their rifles.
Zaki yearned to lead his people back to their Hausa village. He looked straight ahead and followed the redheaded white man into a stockade.
The Englishman raised his hand, and the procession halted. Zaki looked around the stockade, devoid of huts. A raised, rectangular platform, about three feet high, stood in the exact center of the enclosure. Steps on all four sides led to the top of the platform, and imposing ten-foot poles, eight inches in diameter, comprised the walls of the stockade.
When the stockade gate slammed shut behind him, Zaki whirled around. He watched the guards pull a rusty chain around the latching pole, securing it with a padlock. Zaki and his tribesmen searched for a weak spot in the stockade walls, awaiting Zaki's command to breach them. But Zaki remained silent, looking once more at the stocky, redheaded white man.
Zaki walked toward his English captor, who had crammed ninety Hausas into the stockade. Outside the enclosure, other white men waited for the Englishman's next move, all of their guns pointed at his slaves, two cannons pointed at the gate to thwart an escape. Zaki stopped in front of the Englishman, looking into his eyes, waiting for him to speak.
"Zaki, you gave me your word you would lay down your spears when we reached the sea. As you can see, we have arrived," the Englishman said, gesturing toward Lagos' Harbor.
Zaki watched perspiration bead on the Englishman's upper lip and brow.
"I gave my word, and I will keep my word. You will make a fire on the sands next to the sea. I will lead my people to the spot and we will throw all spears into the fire," Zaki answered.
"What difference does it make where you put the spears? Just lay them on the ground and walk away from them. My men will —"
"I have spoken! I will not bargain!" Zaki said.
He turned and looked at his people. They understood he had demanded dignity one final time. He turned again and faced his enemy. Inside the stockade, all became quiet. Outside the stockade, white men grumbled.
Excerpted from If Not This Dream by Larry D. Clark. Copyright © 2015 Larry D. Clark. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
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