How does the traveller see it?
(Fragment of a post from a Facebook page)
I bought this painting in Niamey, Niger, along with another painting from the artist. It’s dynamic and naturalistic.
The seller wasn’t able to tell me about the birdhunter nor about the artist, but he promised to find out more. A few days later I returned only to find out that Nunim, the author of the painting, was old already, and lived in Maradi. And that was all.
It’s been a long time since he last painted, the seller added. I replied immediately: “Are any of his brushes still around?”. When I first saw the naked lady, I knew this was a diptych. It took two months to fully investigate, and here’s what we found.
Hausa Muslims make up the majority in the region of Maradi, but the animist-Christian Igbo people also have a presence. In 2015, the French newspaper Charlie Hebdo published its infamous caricature of the prophet Muhammad, and mass protests erupted in West Africa. Two Christian churches were burned down in Maradi, and Nunim lost a close relative. He stopped painting. Thus, I reckon he drew this one in 2014. And what about that diptych, you say?
Chukwu, the supreme being of the Igbo people, created the universe and the first people – hunter Eri and his wife Namaku – and sent them from the heavens down to Earth. People did not have weapons at the time, so Eri hunted with a slingshot, while Namaku ground up a fufu (dough-like food) in her mortar and pestle. One night, the woman for some reason held the pestle up high, a gesture which struck Chukwu as offensive, and he stopped helping humans. That’s why Namaku is mired in sadness, head in hands, while Eri continues hunting in the hope of catching a Nnunu anwansi, giving this bird to Chukwu and earning his forgiveness.
Why’s it always women who get the blame in these myths?