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Freshwater is the debut of land mark breaking author-Ekwezi Akwaeke. If you have ever wondered about what the Igbo system says about bi-sexualism, non-binary cis-, or any unusual gender classification? This is the book for you.

Mysticism is usually regarded as something of the past. An expired belief system or an Eastern phenomenon. But Ekwezi proves to us it is more than that. Everyone of us is different. And in that difference we have parts of us that few people can understand.

Ekwezi builds the Igbo Culture in a daring and beautiful way. Taking shades from Ogozie’s Orchestra of Minorities. The ogbaje becomes something more than a folktale character. They becomes us. They are even wiser, desperate of the desire for us to see Ala, the great mother’s plan for what it really is. As they say, ‘We did not come alone. With a force like ours, we dragged other things along—a pact, bits of bone, an igneous rock, worn-out velveteen, a strip of human hide tying it all together. This compound object is called the iyi-ụwa, the oath of the world. It is a promise we made when we were free and floating, before we entered the Ada. The oath says that we will come back, that we will not stay in this world, that we are loyal to the other side. When spirits like us are put inside flesh, this oath becomes a real object.’

The first emotion would be to pity Ada, to be sorry about what has befallen her. The fate the gods had dumped on her innocent frame. Then the next is the miracle of her multiple personality. ‘It’s like you’re on this thin line between being alive and being dead, like one small shift could send you in either direction.” Ekwezi explores non-binary as a natural not a forced. As Ada wants that to be her reality, we learn the purpose is not to be male exactly. But to be someone in that thin line. Yet within her; Asughara, a part of who she is, wants to be a woman. The other part says, ‘How many times had Asụghara allowed a wash of sperm into the Ada’s body? Yet each time, we hardened against it and nothing took. We were a miracle like that, a mercy to the Ada.’

Reading a text of this traditional unfamiliarity, at first strokes your lack of knowledge. You wondering what the author is driving at. But the personality of Yshwa(Yes, according to Ekwezi, Jesus) paints a picture of an innate allure. A character you know all along, yet when seen from an unnatural eye, you ask yourself, is this really him? ‘He ran his hands along the curve of her faith and felt its strength, that it would remain steadfast whether he came to her or not. And even if it did not hold, Yshwa had no intentions of manifesting. He had endured that abomination of the physical once and it was enough, never again. Not for the heartbroken children who were suffering more than her, not for the world off a cliff, not for a honey-soaked piece of bread. We resented him for it. When his fingers came too close, we snapped our teeth at them and Yshwa withdrew, amused, and went back to his watching.’ Is that merely who Jesus is? Those among us who feel his impact in our lives, is he really doing it to test us?

Modern African would ask if Indeed this character of brothersisters(masquerades), ogbaje, and more are not a step too far from reality. But there is a reminder that Ada was picked from before the womb. And that predestination and mysticism has it place. I would really love that Akwaeke recommends text for us to read to understand a background for this Igbo Dynamism.


2019 Nommo Award,won

2019 Otherwise Award, won

2019 Women’s Prize for Fiction, nominated






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