Geraldine Sinyuy projects original and ancient Africa through raw folktales that are a concoction of fantasy, identity and beautiful language. The master storyteller depicts African indigenous knowledge through old tales once told by long gone story weavers. The great stories told by great-grandmothers of her land are manifesting in her as she now wields her pen to retell, revive and resurrect them through lyrical dexterity and literary prowess. From these wonderfully weaved stories, we mine civilization and barbarism of ancient communities. We also learn with gusto the moral fabrication together with the socialization and the politicization of the human past. These folktales are grandiose revelations that the ancient communities were highly learned, creative and educative; and that their books of wisdom still exist especially through our lyrically able Geraldine Sinyuy.
The Magic Drum
There was famine in Rifem, a village near Kumbo in Cameroon. By this time, Dula was a rich farmer. He had some cocoanut trees in his farm. One day, he went out to his farm to harvest some coconuts. Unfortunately for him, one coconut fell into the river and he went in search of it.
As he was going, he saw one lady washing his sweet potatoes in the stream and asked:
“Have you seen my coconut passing here?”
“Yes go on and you’ll see a woman bathing her twin sons.”
Dula followed the river course and got to a woman who was bathing her twin sons as the former lady had told him.
“Have you seen my cocoa nut passing here?” He asked the mother of the twins.
“I saw the thing passing here and I husked it and gave to my children who were very hungry and they ate it,” she answered without looking at Dula. Dula almost got angry, but a little voice within him cautioned him to keep his peace.
“You must pay my cocoanut.” Dula said to the mother of the twins.
“There are two paths leading this way, the narrow path and the broad path. Follow the narrow path and where it ends you will see two houses, a modern house and a hut. Enter the hut. In there you’ll find two drums. One of them will say “take me”, and the other will say “don’t take me.” Please, take that which says “don’t take me” and when you’re coming back you play it here.”
Dula did all that the mother of the twins had instructed him to do. On his way back, he played the drum where the woman was. Out came a lot of prepared food of every kind. They all ate and were saturated. Dula was then commanded to play the drum and all the leftovers went back into it. The woman asked him to take the drum with him.
Dula took the drum to his house and played it there. Again there was a lot of food. They ate and were satisfied. Each time they had enough, Dula played the drum and the rest of the food went back into the drum.
Since Dula was a kind man and did not want to greedily eat this food alone, he took the drum to the palace. There in the palace, he explained everything to the king. The king was called Waika Shu. The king used his signal to summon the villagers to assemble at the palace. The town crier was sent out with a gong to go from quarter to quarter, announcing that everyone in that kingdom, old and young, was expected at the palace. Some of the villagers grumbled and refused to heed to the King’s call saying:
“Oh! Look at this our funny King, when people are dying of hunger he only calls for assemblies. I will not go.”
When the obedient villagers had all arrived at the place, they assembled together with the princes, princesses and the king’s wives. Dula commanded them to make a big circle. He went into the centre of circle and started playing his drum. The crowd was amazed at what came out from the drum. They ate the food until they could eat no more. All the containers in the palace were filled with food. The villagers also filled their pockets and their small hand bags with food. Those who did not have bags rushed into the King’s farm and cut banana leaves in order to put their own food in them. When everyone had had all that they wanted to take home, Dula played his drum and the rest of the food went back into the drum.
News spread in the whole village about the drum of food. On spreading the news, the villagers mentioned the drummer’s name. The thieves in that village heard it and were investigating.
Dula had a daughter whom he hated so much. At home, he hid the drum in the barn and advised his children never to show it to anybody. “Do to others what you want them to do for you” says the proverb. It was not long that this daughter whom Dula hated so much was left all alone in the house. That was the right day for the thieves when they arrived at Dula’s house. The thieves asked his daughter where the magic drum was kept. She silently pointed at the barn and the thieves knew that the drum was there. They went up and brought it down. Gone, gone, gone, was the drum of food.
Dula came back home and was very furious about the theft of the drum. Not knowing what to do, he went back to his coconut tree. On harvesting the coconuts, he intentionally threw one into the stream. When he came down from the coconut tree, he started looking for it along the stream. He saw the lady he had seen before washing her potatoes in the stream. He asked the lady if she had seen his coconut. He was again directed to the mother of the twins. She also said what she had said before. Dula insisted that she must pay his coconut.
The darkest part of the day is the dawn. He was directed to the drum house again, but this time he was asked to follow the broad way, to go into the modern house and to take the drum which said “Take me.” He was warned by the woman not to play it where she was. He took the drum to his house. This time around, the devil had planted the seed of selfishness in him.
In fact, when he got to his house, I took a ladder and went up triumphantly into the barn in order to play the drum and eat alone. As soon as he played the drum, a long whip and a snake came out from it. He was well tortured. He fell off the barn and struggled to climb and play the drum before the snake and the whip could go back into the drum.
“Hmmm. I must not suffer alone. All the people who ate food from my first drum must also taste these beatings from the whip and the snake. I must take this drum to the palace too,” Dula told himself.
Early the next morning, Dula took the drum to the palace. The king was happy to receive him in the palace. The king sent the town crier to carry the message far and wide that all the villagers, young and old, were needed in the palace. The people responded by gathering at the arena in the palace court yard. This time around, so many people came with big bags, expecting to receive food from Dula’s mysterious drum. King Waika Shu ordered the villagers to make a large circle and leave some room in the centre for Dula and his drum.
“Mummy, I want rice,” one of the kids told the mother.
“Don’t worry my child, there’s enough rice in the drum. Just wait for Dula to start playing the drum.” The woman assured her child.
Everyone, including the king and his wives, were eager to see the food that would come out from Dula’s second drum.
Dula walked into the centre of the circle of people and started hitting his drum in a frenzy- tam, tip, tam, tam, tip, tip, tip, tam, tam tip, tam. A long whip and a snake came out of the drum and got the villagers well beaten. The king and his wives ran for their dear lives. The second call was a terrible one. They all regretted. Dula played back the drum and the long whip and the snake got back into the drum and everyone left the palace very disappointed. It was a terrible day.
GERALDINE SINYUY earned her PhD in English (Commonwealth Literature) in May 2018 at the University of Yaoundé I, Cameroon. She earned a Secondary and High School Teacher’s Diploma at the Higher Teachers Training College, University of Yaoundé I in 2005. Geraldine Sinyuy taught English as a Foreign Language at Government Technical College Bangoulap, Bangangte from 2006-2016. During this time, she took up a part-time job as Assistant Lecturer of Medical English at Université des Montagnes, Bangangte from 2010-2014. She is currently an English Language and Literature in English teacher at Government Bilingual High School Down Town Bamenda, Cameroon. Sinyuy also taught as an English Language part-time teacher (2005-2007) at English High School Yaoundé. Sinyuy started writing poems and short stories (particularly folktales) during her secondary school days. She was often a participant and guest writer for the radio programme: Literary Workshop: a Programme for Creative Writing and Literary Criticism; CRTV Bamenda from 1993 – 2001. Sinyuy’s creative writing has taken her beyond national borders. In 2016, she performed one of her poems entitled “On a Lone and Silent Hill” during an International Conference on World Environment Day at Imo State University, Nigeria. Some of her poems are featured in online Magazines—“FIRED Up” and “ForeCreativeGirls”. It is worth noting that Sinyuy’s creative works are mostly poems and short stories. In May 2017, Sinyuy was a Featured Storyteller at World Pulse Story Awards. She has published academic articles in both local and international journals. Her research areas include culture, gender and migration in Postcolonial Literatures in English. She is a member of the Anglophone Cameroon Writers Association; Academia Edu., and Research Gate. She has published articles in both national and international journals. She is an advocate for organic farming and sustainable development.
Mbizo CHIRASHA ,TIME OF THE POET REPUBLIC CURATOR. UNESCO-RILA Affiliate Artist( University of Glasgow , School of Education, Scotland) .Africa OutReach Coordinator, IHRAF( Newyork , USA). Author of A LETTER TO THE PRESIDENT. CO-Author of Whispering Woes of Ganges of Zambezi. Co-Author of Metaphors of the Rainbow( Malawi). Co-Editor of SECOND NAME OF EARTH IS PEACE( WorldBeyondWar, USA). Co-Editor of Corpses of Unity( Cameroon) . Co- Editor of Vol7 Street Voices( Germany). Poet in Residence Fictional Cafe( Texas, USA). Poet in Residence ICACD( Ghana). African Performance Poet( Festival de Poseia Medellin, Colombia).